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Schulz bombs, Merkel set for re-election, Macron doomed

Merkel’s victory in the state election in North Rhine Westphalia crushes the challenge from the SPD’s Martin Schulz and dooms the hopes of reform of Emmanuel Macron.

Alexander Mercouris

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Angela Merkel’s CDU party has a won a surprise victory in the state election in North Rhine Westphalia setting the scene for what now looks like her inevitable re-election in four months time.

The CDU’s victory by a convincing margin in North Rhine Westphalia is a bitter blow to the SPD.  North Rhine Westphalia is Germany’s most populous state and is the SPD’s traditional heartland state.  It is also the state where Martin Schulz – the SPD’s Chancellor designate – was born.  Moreover the leader of the local SPD Hannelore Kraft was a well regarded local politician who is widely admitted to have outshone during the state election her CDU rival Armin Laschet.

Just a few weeks ago the SPD was universally expected to win the North Rhine Westphalia election.   Instead on an increased turnout of 65% the SPD’s share of the vote crashed by 7% from the previous election, down from 39% to 32%, whilst the CDU’s increased its share of the vote from 26% to 33%, leaving the CDU the biggest party in the state parliament.  The new right wing party the AfD won 7.7%, enough to enter the local parliament but well below its own target of 10%.

What explains this remarkable turnaround?

There is no doubt that the CDU’s victory is a personal victory for Angela Merkel over her SPD rival Martin Schulz.  Her victory shows that the “Schulz effect”, which briefly caused the SPD to surge in the polls when Schulz was nominated the SPD’s Chancellor designate, has entirely dissipated just 100 days after Schulz’s nomination.  The result is that the SPD has slumped back to the disastrous level it was polling before Schulz was nominated

That is wholly unsurprising.  The “Schulz effect” shows that many Germans are tired of Angela Merkel and would welcome a genuine alternative.  However as I pointed out previously it is difficult to see in Schulz such an alternative.  Here is what I wrote about him in January shortly after he obtained the SPD’s nomination

it has to be said that as President of the European Parliament Schulz has been a devoted follower of the EU’s current orthodoxies at the very time that they have been coming under the strongest challenge both in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.  From outside Germany that doesn’t make Schulz a very obvious candidate to lead the SPD to victory against the rising tide of the AfD.

If anything the choice of Schulz appears to show how narrow the choice has become within Germany’s two big established parties – the CDU and SPD – a fact which in part explains why the AfD and Germany alternative hard left Die Linke are continuing to make inroads.

And here is what I wrote about him in February, when the SPD briefly passed the CDU in the opinion polls

News that a recent opinion poll has put the SPD for the first time one point ahead of Angela’s Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc has inevitably triggered speculation about whether or not she is now in serious danger of losing the forthcoming German parliamentary elections.

Schulz however differs little from Merkel on foreign policy questions, and the extent of his differences with Merkel on domestic issues is for an outsider difficult to judge.  The parliamentary elections are not due till November, and it is far obvious that Schulz will be able to sustain what for the moment looks very much like a bounce.

What could turn out to be an ephemeral lead by the SPD over Merkel does however show one thing: the extent to which Merkel’s hitherto impregnable position in German politics has weakened, and the extent to which many Germans have tired of her, and long for an alternative to her.

This is not because Merkel has been Chancellor for a long time.  In Germany’s incumbency confers a huge advantage, with Helmut Kohl in 1998 being the first Chancellor to lose a parliamentary election in Germany after the Second World War.  It is rather that with growing challenges in Europe and in Germany’s dealings with Donald Trump’s US, Merkel is looking increasingly short of answers.

Whether the German people will eventually decide that Martin Schulz is the person to find those answers is open to doubt, but his sudden rise in the polls shows how much desire for an alternative to Merkel there now is.

As is clear I have been dubious about Schulz from the moment the SPD nominated him its Chancellor designate, and I was never convinced that his poll lead over Merkel would last.

The simple fact is that Angela Merkel for all her many faults – about which I have written extensively – is within the context of German electoral politics an exceptionally successful politician.  Her success stems from three factors (1) an overriding focus on remaining Chancellor to which all other considerations are sacrificed (2) her extraordinary success in disposing of potential rivals and (3) the strength of the German economy whose export oriented businesses are benefitting disproportionately from the low interest rates and weak euro caused by the loose monetary policies of the European Central Bank even as Merkel’s insistence on Germany maintaining fiscal surpluses increases German competitiveness by containing wage growth and reducing domestic demand.

Points (1) and (3) incidentally seal the fate of Emmanuel Macron.  He has been elected President of France on an agenda of reforming the eurozone in order to adapt it to French needs.  However as Tsipras and Varoufakis discovered after Syriza won the 2015 elections in Greece, so Macron before long will discover that behind the honeyed words Merkel always uses to defuse opposition she is implacably opposed to any reform of the eurozone, since that might negatively effect, if only in the short term, the performance of the German economy upon whose continued growth her position as Chancellor depends.  Since Merkel’s overriding priority is to remain Chancellor at all costs that means that Macron’s hopes of reforming the eurozone are going to be stillborn.  Only if France had elected a President who gave the impression of being willing to take France out of the eurozone might Merkel have been panicked into carrying out the reforms Macron says he wants.  Since no one believes Macron will do that his fate and that of his reforms is sealed.

Which brings me to the larger point about Merkel.  I have previously discussed how her conservatism differs profoundly from that of her great rival Vladimir Putin

Though Putin and Merkel are often referred to as conservatives, in reality that does neither of them justice.

Though in many of his professed attitudes Putin is a conservative, he is also the leader of a dynamic and purposeful government which in the years he has been in power has transformed Russia, changing it more completely than any other country during the same period apart from China.

Merkel is more truly conservative in the sense that she sees herself as essentially Germany’s caretaker, preserving the German political and economic system unchanged from the way she found it.  Where Putin’s policies are marked by dynamism and change, her policies can be best described as immobilism bordering on stagnation.

Briefly, both in Germany and Europe Merkel is the great defender of the status quo, ensuring that nothing changes, and that things continue as they are.  Her whole position as Germany’s Chancellor depends on it.  It is a type of conservatism Europe has not seen since the age of Metternich.

Just as Metternich’s system was stifling for Europe, so Merkel’s is.  Metternich’s system, since it could not be changed, ended in crisis and revolution.  Perhaps in time the Europe of Angela Merkel – Europe’s present day Metternich – will go the same way.  However if that happens, it will be a long time before it does.  In the meantime those looking for a change of direction in Germany or Europe, whether in terms of economic or foreign policy, are about to have their hopes dashed.

 

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Sergey Lavrov SLAMS new US sanctions over Skripal case

Ruble continues to tank under the spectre of looming American sanctions imposed on the basis of circumstantial evidence and insinuation.

Seraphim Hanisch

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TASS News Agency reported on Sunday, 12 August that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov slammed the US Department of State’s accusation against Russia regarding the attack on Sergey and Yuliya Skripal in Salisbury, England earlier this year.

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The State Department made the decision to impose new and very painful sanctions against Russia based on this premise.

This new round of sanctions is hitting the Russian economy very hard. The Ruble slid against the dollar from about 63 rubles on Thursday to more than 67.6 rubles as of 1:30pm UTC (Greenwich Summer Time) on Sunday.

Foreign Minister Lavrov had this to say:

“I think that all who know even a little bit about the so-called Skripal case, understand the absurdity of the statement in the official document of the US. Department of State that the US has established it was Russia behind the Salisbury incident.”

TASS went on to outline the circumstances:

On Wednesday, the US Department of State said in a statement that Washington was imposing new sanctions on Moscow over its alleged involvement in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the British city of Salisbury. The first round of sanctions will take effect on August 22, while a second round may be introduced in 90 days in case Russia fails to meet certain conditions, the State Department said. Moscow has on numerous occasions rejected all the allegations about its involvement in the Salisbury incident.

The current round of sanctions goes into effect on 22 August, and is directed as follows, according to Bloomberg.com:

The initial round of these sanctions will limit exports to Russia of U.S. goods and technology considered sensitive on national security grounds, including electronics, lasers and some specialized oil and gas production technologies, according to a State Department official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity Thursday. The official said the action could block hundreds of millions of dollars in exports. Waivers will be allowed for space-flight activities and U.S. foreign assistance.

Under the 1991 law — invoked previously only against North Korea and Syria — a second, far more extensive round of sanctions would follow later unless Russia meets conditions including providing assurances it will no longer use chemical or biological weapons and will allow on-site inspections to verify it has stopped doing so, the official said.

Russia Thursday repeated its denials that it has the weapons or used them and held out little hope for compromise.

The added sanctions could include a downgrading in diplomatic relations, blanket bans on the import of Russian oil and exports of “all other goods and technology” aside from agricultural products, as well as limits on loans from U.S. banks. The U.S. also would have to suspend aviation agreements and oppose any multilateral development bank assistance.

The additional sanctions also could be averted if Trump declared that waiving them would be in the U.S. national interest, a politically risky move in light of criticism that he’s been too soft on Russia on issues including interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The action by the US State Department is being viewed as an internal political counterattack against US President Donald Trump in response to his overtures to President Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki Summit in July of this year. In that summit, the two leaders had very frank discussions that looked incredibly positive for the prospect of a true thawing out of the troubled relations between the two great world powers.

However, the event appears to have drawn out the elements within the American power establishment which presently comprises most of Congress and almost all of the news media. Even some conservative media outlets joined briefly in condemning Mr. Trump for “selling out” to Vladimir Putin by saying he had no reason to believe Russia would interfere with the American elections.

While Mr. Trump tried to politically backpedal this remark, the die had been cast and now much of this establishment has invested their time and energy into branding Mr. Trump a traitor to the USA. In a similar vein, as reported by Jim Jatras in his piece here, US Senator Rand Paul also made overtures that were warmly received by Russian senators, and now he too, has been marked as a traitor.

In that light, plus even British media acknowledgement that there is no hard evidence whatsoever that ties the Russian Federation to the poisoning of the Skripals or the second couple in Amesbury more recently, it is clear that all deductions have been made on spurious reasoning and no hard facts.

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War is coming – to the United States and to the world

The all-but-inevitable Second American Civil War is likely to be fought away from US soil if the globalists have their way.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Jim Jatras’ piece, reposted in The Duran framed the political mess that Donald Trump – and the United States –  is in, extremely accurately:

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First US President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and appears to make some progress towards his stated goal of putting ties between Washington and Moscow on a positive course. Immediately, all hell breaks loose. Trump is a called a traitor. The “sanctions bill from hell” is introduced in the Senate. Trump is forced on the defensive.

Next Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky visits Moscow, where he meets with Putin and gives him a letter from Trump proposing moderate steps towards rapprochement. Paul also talks with Russian Senators and invites them to come to Washington to continue the dialogue. Immediately, all hell breaks loose. Paul is called a traitor. The State Department “finds” the Russians guilty of the using illegal chemical weapons (CW) in the United Kingdom and imposes sanctions. Trump is forced even more on the defensive.

It is debatable how much of the US government Trump actually controls. This is the crux of the problem.

One President and one US Senator standing alone against all the Democrats and almost all Republicans in both Houses of Congress. Standing alone against a media culture dominated in the West by interests along the lines of cultural Marxism and anti-Christianity at any and all costs.

The truly fearsome power of the globalists appears to have the upper hand.

President Trump and President Putin are both dedicated and brilliant men. They have been trying to make a difference despite the enormous power being brought to bear against them. Rand Paul, for his part is also contributing to this.

The effort to marginalize President Trump has met with great success, though not total. The Russiagate investigation may be coming to its end; certainly a lot of information has revealed that the matter of election interference was never a Republican, much less Trump-related, phenomenon.

But the matter continues not to die.

The changes in prosperity and economic growth in the United States are astounding, especially in light of former President Obama’s insistence that it could never happen.

But the midterm elections approach, and there is not a clearly resounding wave to get more people who are on the Trump Train so to speak to continue to make and widen the impact of domestic change, as well as geopolitical change.

The inevitable outcome appears to be only one thing: War.

This war will be the Second American Civil War. 

While it must be said that the attribution of fault made is utterly incorrect, the New Yorker piece linked above does correctly list five conditions that set the table for such a conflict:

[Keith] Mines [with the US State Department] cited five conditions that support his prediction [of a new American civil war]:

  • entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution
  • increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows
  • weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary
  • a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership
  • the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes

It is not hard to see how these conditions have come to be so in the US.

The only problem is that it is very unlikely to be fought in the United States. It is likely to end up in Europe, Russia, Ukraine, perhaps parts of the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia.

We might well be faced with the prospect of a “government in exile” as Mr. Trump and those supporting his viewpoints are forced to flee the US.

The ideological viewpoints about Russia are not very important to many American people, but the home front will pit two sides that are both destined to lose.

One side is the ideological Left – like those people we consider “loony California liberals”, whose belief in open borders and the rejection of any sort of Christianity-based or traditional family values will cause their side to eventually implode.

The other side is what we might call the “right” or the Americans that support President Trump. However, they too are somewhat influenced by the very pervasive anti-Russian propaganda and it is likely that this group will be divided within itself, though they will be allied against the left.

For this reason, this opposition group will also suffer from a great deal of internal weakness.

This would normally lead to a bloody and protracted conflict. However, the greater danger with this lies in the pervasive power of the Western Media. It is extremely likely that the media will work to deflect attention from the true nature of the war and incite American forces to strike at Russia in some sort of direct, or by-proxy military action.

The picture the American people will be presented with is that Russia is trying to take over the world, when in reality Russia is simply trying to hold her own territory and her own ways.

Is there a way to stop this?

Yes. There is a way to stop it. The election of President Trump bought the US and the world a bit of time because Mr. Trump is so dynamic that it is difficult to truly stop him. The hallmark of his presidency is success in just about every aspect he has paid attention to.

But what he needs is congressional support.

It is very unlikely that the upcoming 2018 midterm elections offer a chance to create a truly pro-Trump agenda majority in Congress. But it can raise the number of dissenting voices to a number greater than one (Rand Paul). A strong vocal bloc of senators and representatives that speak with one voice about this issue could be enough to break through the wall of censorship of the American media. It could give voice to millions of Americans who also believe that this fight is coming, and who want to stop it.

Avoidance of this war will certainly not happen if establishment candidates or worse – liberal Democrats – win the midterm. With such a situation, the President will be marginalized greatly, and the rhetoric against Russia as a scapegoat will only increase.

The outcome is mercilessly logical.

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Saudi Crackdown On Canada Could Backfire

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not apologizing for his country’s call that the Saudis release human rights activists.

The Duran

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Authored by Tsvetana Paraskova via Oilprice.com.


Like many spats these days, the Saudi Arabia/Canada one started with a tweet. Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland called for the release of Samar Badawi, a women’s rights activist who is the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, whose wife is a Canadian citizen.

The arrests had taken place in OPEC’s largest producer and leading exporter Saudi Arabia, which has amassed its wealth from oil and now looks to attract foreign investors as it seeks to diversify its economy away from too much reliance of crude oil sales.

Canada’s foreign ministry’s global affairs office urged “the Saudi authorities to immediately release” civil society and women’s rights activists.

Saudi Arabia—often criticized for its far from perfect human rights and women’s rights record—didn’t take the Canadian urge lightly. Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador, stopped direct Saudi flights to Canada, stopped buying Canadian wheat, ordered Saudi students and patients to leave Canada, froze all new trade and investment transactions, and ordered its wealth funds to sell their Canadian stock and bond holdings in a sweeping move that surprised with its harshness many analysts, Canada itself, and reportedly, even the U.S.

The Saudi reaction shows, on the one hand, the sensitivity of the Kingdom to criticism for its human rights record. On the other hand, it sent a message to Canada and to everyone else that Saudi Arabia won’t stand any country meddling in its domestic affairs, or as its foreign ministry put it “an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom.”

The Saudi reaction is also evidence of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s harsher international diplomacy compared to the previous, ‘softer’ diplomacy, analysts say. Saudi Arabia is also emboldened by its very good relations with the current U.S. Administration, and picking a fight with Canada wouldn’t have happened if “Trump wasn’t at the White House,” Haizam Amirah-Fernández, an analyst at Madrid-based think tank Elcano Royal Institute, told Bloomberg.

The United States hadn’t been warned in advance of the Saudi reaction to Canada and is now trying to persuade Riyadh not to escalate the row further, a senior official involved in talks to mediate the dispute told Bloomberg.

The row, however, will not affect crude oil exports from the Kingdom, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih has said, adding that Riyadh’s policy has always been to keep politics and energy exports separate.

Canada imports around 75,000-80,000 bpd of Saudi oil, and these barrels can easily be replaced, CBC quoted analyst Judith Dwarkin as saying earlier this week. The chief economist of RS Energy Group referred to this amount as “a drop in the bucket” at less than a tenth of Canadian crude imports compared with imports from the United States, which amount to about 66 percent of the total. The United States could easily replace Saudi crude thanks to its growing production, Dwarkin said.

Still, the strong Saudi message to Canada (and to the world) is not entirely reassuring for the investor climate in Saudi Arabia, which is looking to attract funds for its economic overhaul and mega infrastructure projects worth hundreds of billions of dollars each.

“The Saudi leadership wants to drive home a message that it’s fine to invest in Saudi Arabia and bring your money to Saudi Arabia, but that there are red lines that should not be crossed,” Riccardo Fabiani, a geopolitical analyst at Energy Aspects, told Bloomberg, but warned that such strategy could backfire.

Analysts are currently not sure how the feud will unfold, but Aurel Braun, a professor of political science and international relations at the University of Toronto, told Canada’s Global News that Saudi Arabia is unlikely to back down and reverse all its retaliatory measures without getting something back from Canada.Related: The Unforeseen Consequences Of China’s Insatiable Oil Demand

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not apologizing for his country’s call that the Saudis release human rights activists.

“We have respect for their importance in the world and recognize that they have made progress on a number of important issues, but we will, at the same time, continue to speak clearly and firmly on issues of human rights, at home and abroad, wherever we see the need,” Trudeau told a news conference this week.

The economic impact of the Saudi retaliation on Canada is unlikely to be large, but the fact that Saudi Arabia is whipping the oil wealth stick to punish economically what it sees as “blatant” interference with its affairs is sending a message to other countries, and a not-so-positive message to foreign investors.

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