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As Merkel Weakens, EU Sanctions Unity Cracks

As EU sanctions against Russia come up for renewal opposition against them builds both in Europe and Germany.

Alexander Mercouris

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The details are extremely murky but with Merkel’s position coming under increasing pressure and with growing dissatisfaction with the sanctions in France and southern Europe it is clear a battle of some kind over their pending renewal is underway.

The country at the centre – as always – is Germany.  Here there are visible signs of a split.

Merkel herself stated publicly on Tuesday through her spokesman that she wants to see the sanctions renewed unaltered. 

The fact Merkel felt obliged to make her stance public is itself a sign of conflict.  On every previous occasion when the question of renewing the sanctions has come up she has maintained her preferred Sphinx-like stance of silence.  She was able to do that previously because there was no pressure on her to change it.  The fact that on this occasion she has been forced to go public shows that disagreement with her sanctions policy is growing and that she has therefore felt the need to go public to hold the line.

As to where the disagreement with the sanctions policy in Germany is coming from, the signs of that are everywhere. 

The German business community is known to have been upset by the way the sanctions were renewed without discussion last January.  Meanwhile prominent members of Merkel’s own coalition are now making their disagreement with the policy increasingly clear.  Both leaders of the two parties who form Merkel’s coalition – Sigmar Gabriel of the SPD and Horst Seehofer of the CDU’s Bavarian sister-party the CSU – have in recent months travelled to Moscow where they have met with Putin and made known their desire to renew ties.  Gabriel moreover recently attended a “Russia Day” trade fair in the former East German town of Rostock where he met with representatives of the Russian business community and spoke for renewed ties .  As for Seehofer, his personal relationship with Merkel appears to have completely broken down.  Not only has he publicly criticised Merkel’s immigration policy but he is openly manoeuvring to become Chancellor-designate of the CDU/CSU coalition in place of Merkel in the forthcoming parliamentary elections which are due in 2018.  Seehofer in turn has become the target of public attacks from Merkel’s allies, such as Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble.

That there is an international political dimension to the public battle between Merkel and Seehofer – with relations with Russia at centre-stage – became obvious at the Munich Security Conference held back in February 2016.  Though most attention was given to Russian Prime Minister Medvedev’s speech warning of a renewed Cold War, the single most interesting event at the conference was actually the US delegation’s decision to boycott a public dinner hosted by Seehofer and the Bavarian government.  This very public snub was clearly intended to show US anger with Seehofer for his meeting with Putin in Moscow.

As Merkel publicly battles it out with Seehofer – with Gabriel lurking in the shadows – Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has been busy making a pitch of his own.  He is signalling that he wants the sanctions relaxed.

What Steinmeier appears to be proposing – at least according to this article in Der Spiegel – is that individual travel bans and asset freezes imposed on certain Russian businessmen and officials be lifted in return for Moscow’s help in organising local elections in the Donbass.

Nothing in this sort of diplomacy is ever straightforward and Steinmeier’s proposal – if it is being reported properly – is a case in point.

As Steinmeier certainly knows, it is Kiev not Moscow that is actually obstructing the holding of the local elections in the Donbass, just as it is Kiev not Moscow which has failed to implement any of the key political provisions of the Minsk II agreement.

Steinmeier undoubtedly also knows that the Russian government is completely indifferent to whether individual travel bans and asset freezes are lifted or not.

Steinmeier also probably knows that some at least of these travel bans and asset freezes will at some point almost certainly be declared illegal by the European Court of Justice on the grounds that the individuals involved have no discernible role or influence in the making of policy by the Russian government.

On the face of it what Steinmeier is therefore proposing is a deal whereby the Russians help with something they have always wanted – and which they actually demanded in Minsk – the holding of elections in the Donbass – in return for the lifting of sanctions they don’t care about and which the European Court of Justice is likely to declare illegal anyway.

That hardly looks like a serious offer and not surprisingly the Russians have shown no interest in it.  Der Spiegel effectively admits as much:

“The Russian side has already indicated that talking is not sufficient, a message consistent with Moscow’s extreme self-confidence since the beginning of Putin’s intervention in Syria…… As such, Berlin’s new approach to Russia is not without risk. Indeed, even if the EU agrees collectively to pursue such a course in relation to Moscow, there is a danger that Russia will simply reject it as being too little, too late.”

It is difficult to avoid the impression that Steinmeier’s proposal – if Der Spiegel is reporting it correctly – is really just a tactic intended to hold the EU sanctions coalition together by giving the doubters the impression that Germany is willing to show flexibility when in reality it is showing none. 

That Merkel and Steinmeier are struggling to hold the EU sanctions coalition together is admitted by Der Spiegel:

“More and more EU member states have begun questioning the strict penalty regime, particularly given that it hasn’t always been the Russians who have blocked the Minsk process……. Indications are mounting that getting all 28 EU members to approve the extension of the sanctions at the end of June might not be quite so simple.  Berlin has received calls from concerned government officials whose governments have become increasingly skeptical of the penalties against Russia but have thus far declined to take a public stance against them.”

Der Spiegel then follows up with a long list of European countries which are making clear their growing exasperation with the sanctions policy: Austria, Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Hungary, the Czech Republic and France.

That there is a growing revolt across Europe against the sanctions policy has in fact become obvious over the last few weeks.  The Italians, the Slovaks and the Greeks have made public their insistence that there be no automatic renewal of the sanctions in June such as happened in January.  In Italy the local council in Veneto has voted to recognise Crimea’s unification with Russia.  In France the National Assembly recently voted to lift the sanctions, though with only a small number of deputies voting. The powerful French farming lobby is known to be very unhappy with the sanctions and at a time of growing unrest in France with Presidential elections pending opposition to the sanctions in France is hardening.

That it is this growing anger across Europe with the sanctions that lies behind Steinmeier’s proposal is again confirmed by Der Spiegel.  It explains it this way:

“Berlin’s argument is that, in a Europe where those in favour of sanctions and those opposed to sanctions are drifting ever further apart, it is necessary to find a way to keep the EU on the same page. Two weeks ago, Steinmeier warned that, with Brussels set to vote on an extension of the penalties soon, resistance to doing so is growing within Europe. It is becoming more difficult, he said, to arrive at a uniform EU position on the issue, which is necessary since the sanctions extension must be passed unanimously. The German line is that Putin must not be given the impression that he can divide the EU.  “The highest priority is that of preserving the EU consensus,” says Gernot Erler of the SPD, who is the German government’s special coordinator for Russia policy. “If we have to pay a price for that, we should be prepared to do so. The worst outcome would be the disintegration of European unity and the EU losing its role.””

Why Steinmeier should be taking this approach is an interesting question.  Like Gabriel he is a member of the SPD.  He is said to have once been close to the SPD’s former leader and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder who is a known friend of Putin’s and of Russia’s.  Until the start of the Ukrainian crisis it was widely assumed Steinmeier shared Schroder’s views.

There have been claims that Steinmeier’s views on Russia have hardened over the course of the Ukrainian crisis and that he is now – like Merkel – a hardliner.  It was for example widely reported that he had a difficult meeting with Putin in Moscow shortly after the G20 summit in Brisbane in the autumn of 2014, when supposedly to his dismay (and Merkel’s) he found Putin and the Russians completely immoveable.

Against that Steinmeier has spoken for Russia’s eventual readmission to the G7 – another proposal the Russians are completely uninterested in – and his latest proposal for relaxing the sanctions puts him publicly at odds with Merkel – who has come out strongly against any relaxation of the sanctions – and the US – which also strongly opposes any relaxation of the sanctions.

It could be that Merkel and Steinmeier are playing a game of hard cop/soft cop.  However the merest hint of a relaxation of the sanctions of the sort that Steinmeier is proposing is enough to enrage the US, which begs the question of why – if Merkel and Steinmeier are in agreement – Steinmeier is agreeing to take the heat for her in this way.  Already neocon attacks on Steinmeier are appearing, such as this recent one in an article published by The Atlantic Council which all but accuses him in amazingly intemperate language of colluding in a Russian hybrid war campaign to destabilise Germany, weaken Merkel and split the Western alliance:

“Even in the face of these subversive actions, Germany has made it a matter of policy to minimize Russia’s negative approach to the West. For example, at the 2016 Munich Security Conference, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made the disturbing declaration that the world is “rapidly rolling into a period of a new Cold War.” German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier refused to acknowledge Moscow’s belief that we are once again in a Cold War, and took upon himself to clarify the Russian position in order to downplay Medvedev’s adversarial language: “What Medvedev meant to say is that we need to avoid a new Cold War.” Despite such belligerent statements by Moscow, Germany continues to work very hard to avoid provoking Putin while also encouraging other Western countries to compromise with Russia.

Current German policy continues to seek compromises that cater to Russian interests despite Moscow’s blatantly harmful behaviour. This year, the NATO-Russia Council convened for the first time since April 2014. NATO had suspended the meetings two years ago as a consequence of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. However, despite Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine, the NATO-Russia Council was held again last month because it was a priority for Germany. Steinmeier also recently declared his support to bring Russia back to the G8 grouping of states. Such policies not only cater to Russian interests, but also drastically weaken the overall European response to the Ukraine crisis.

Although the German government is aware of subversive Russian actions in its country, it continues to pursue policies in Russia’s favor. Germany’s policies of avoiding criticism and catering to Moscow are inconsistent with German national interests. Russia is actively seeking to harm Germany, destabilize the country, and weaken Chancellor Merkel. By downplaying Russia’s deliberately harmful actions, by apologizing for belligerent Russian rhetoric, and by emphasizing compromises despite Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine, Germany is ignoring a major threat to its own security.”

Possibly Steinmeier is trying to take an intermediate position between Merkel on the one hand and people like Gabriel and Seehofer on the other.  Steinmeier and Gabriel are old rivals and with the SPD slumping in the opinion polls it may be that Steinmeier is positioning himself to take over from Gabriel by pitching himself as someone who though willing to be flexible with the Russians is not prepared to sell out to them.  The furious attack on him in the article published by The Atlantic Council shows how difficult he may find that to be.

Regardless of what Steinmeier’s personal motives are, it is surely no coincidence that Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU Commission President who is known to be close to Steinmeier, has suddenly announced that he is travelling to Russia to attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, which Western officials and businesspeople had previously boycotted in 2014 at the time of the Crimean crisis.  No doubt whilst there Juncker will use the opportunity to talk to the Russian leadership who will all be there.  No doubt his task – given him by Steinmeier and by others – is to explore ways with the Russians to help the Europeans get themselves out of the hole they have dug themselves into.

Despite all the intrigues in Germany and the protests against the sanctions across Europe, it remains overwhelmingly likely the sanctions will be renewed in June without being softened. 

Merkel’s authority has become bound up with the sanctions to an extent she undoubtedly never imagined when she forced the EU to impose them in July 2014.  Were they to be relaxed or lifted now, with the Ukrainian conflict still unresolved and against her publicly stated opposition, her authority in Europe and in Germany would be shattered. 

Despite the recent slump in Merkel’s popularity (concerning which see the recent article by my colleague Alex Christoforou) it is likely she remains politically strong enough for the moment to ensure that the sanctions line holds and that this June the sanctions are renewed.

As for the intrigues that are swirling around Merkel – both in Germany and in Europe – it is impossible for an outsider who is not party to them to know all that is going on.  However it is not necessary to do so.  The fact that the intrigues are taking place at all tells its own story. 

Though Merkel’s hard line on the sanctions for the moment is just about holding, it is cracking – and not just in Europe but in Germany too.

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Ron Paul: President Trump’s Iran Policy – Is It ‘Normal’?

Is it normal to threaten millions of people with starvation if their leaders refuse to bow down to US demands?

Ron Paul

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Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity:


It’s not often that US Government officials are honest when they talk about our foreign policy. The unprovoked 2003 attack on Iraq was called a “liberation.” The 2011 US-led destruction of Libya was a “humanitarian intervention.” And so on.

So, in a way, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was refreshingly honest last week when, speaking about newly-imposed US sanctions, he told the BBC that the Iranian leadership “has to make a decision that they want their people to eat.” It was an honest admission that new US sanctions are designed to starve Iranians unless the Iranian leadership accepts US demands.

His statement also reveals the lengths to which the neocons are willing to go to get their “regime change” in Iran. Just like then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said it was “worth it” that half a million Iraqi children died because of our sanctions on that country, Pompeo is letting us know that a few million dead Iranians is also “worth it” if the government in Tehran can be overthrown.

The US Secretary of State has demanded that Iran “act like a normal country” or the US would continue its pressure until Iran’s economy crumbles. How twisted is US foreign policy that Washington considers it “normal” to impose sanctions specifically designed to make life miserable – or worse – for civilians!

Is it normal to threaten millions of people with starvation if their leaders refuse to bow down to US demands? Is the neoconservative obsession with regime change “normal” behavior? Is training and arming al-Qaeda in Syria to overthrow Assad “normal” behavior? If so, then perhaps Washington’s neocons have a point. As Iran is not imposing sanctions, is not invading its neighbors, is not threatening to starve millions of Americans unless Washington is “regime-changed,” perhaps Iran is not acting “normal.”

So what is normal?

The continued Saudi genocide in Yemen does not bother Washington a bit. In fact, Saudi aggression in Yemen is viewed as just another opportunity to strike out at Iran. By making phony claims that Yemen’s Houthis are “Iran-backed,” the US government justifies literally handing the Saudis the bombs to drop on Yemeni school busses while claiming it is fighting Iranian-backed terrorism! Is that “normal”?

Millions of Yemenis face starvation after three years of Saudi attacks have destroyed the economy and a Saudi blockade prohibits aid from reaching the suffering victims, but Secretary Pompeo recently blamed Yemeni starvation on, you guessed it: Iran!

And in a shocking display of cynicism, the US government is reportedly considering listing Yemen’s Houthis as a “terrorist” organization for the “crime” of fighting back against Saudi (and US) aggression. Labeling the Yemeni resistance a “terrorist” organization would effectively “legalize” the ongoing Saudi destruction of Yemen, as it could be justified as just another battle in the “war on terror.” It would also falsely identify the real culprits in the Yemen tragedy as Iran, which is repeatedly and falsely called the “number one sponsor of terrorism” by Pompeo and the rest of the Trump Administration neocons.

So yes, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told one wicked truth last week. But before he demands that countries like Iran start acting “normal” or face starvation, perhaps he should look in the mirror. Are Pompeo and the neocons “normal”? I don’t think so.

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World War I Homage – A Triumph of Lies and Platitudes

The unilateral, lawless imperialism that engendered World War I and 20 years later World War II is still alive and dangerously vigorous.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via Strategic Culture:


World leaders gathered in Paris on Sunday under the Arc de Triomphe to mark the centennial anniversary ending World War I. In an absurd way, the Napoleon-era arc was a fitting venue – because the ceremony and the rhetoric from President Emmanuel Macron was a “triumph” of lies and platitudes.

Among the estimated 70 international leaders were US President Trump and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, each sitting on either side of Macron and his wife. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also given pride of place beside the French president.

Macron’s address to the dignitaries was supposed to be a call for international multilateralism. He urged a “brotherhood” for the cause of world peace. He also made a pointed rebuke of “nationalism” as posing a danger to peace – a remark which seemed aimed at Donald Trump who recently boasted of his politics with that very word.

But, ironically, everything about the ceremony and Macron’s speech resonated with jingoistic French nationalism, not his avowed multinationalism. As the politicians sat under the Arc de Triomphe, Macron walked around its circular esplanade in a salute to assembled French military forces bearing assault rifles and bayonets. The French anthem – The Marseillaise – was played twice, once by an army brass band, the second time sung by an army choir. There was also a military plane flyover displaying the blue, red and white tricolor of the French national flag.

In his speech, Macron talked about soldiers coming from all over the world to “die for France” during the 1914-18 Great War. He even said at one point that the war was fought for “the vision of France” and its “universal values”.

This was fluent drivel, French-style. No wonder Russia’s Putin momentarily gave a look of boredom as Macron waxed lyrical.

The speechifying and commemoration was completely detached from current realities of conflict and international tensions.

Among the “brotherhood” whom Macron was appealing to were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whose military forces continue to bomb and slaughter Palestinian civilians in illegally occupied territory. Also present was Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko whose armed militias continue to terrorize the people of eastern Ukraine with the blatant objective of instigating a war between the US-led NATO alliance and Russia.

Listening to Macron one would think that World War I erupted mysteriously from no specific cause and that an estimated 10 million soldiers were all killed in heroic battles for noble principles.

There was, of course, no mention by Macron of imperialist warmongering and the barbaric sacrifice of humans as slaves in the service of national capitalist power interests.

Grotesquely, as the world leaders donned solemn faces and mouthed pious platitudes for peace, the whole occasion was a triumph in burying reality and the ongoing causes of wars, as well as whitewashing the very culprits responsible for wars. Among the war criminals wearing a mournful black suit was former French President Nicolas Sarkozy who launched the NATO blitzkrieg on Libya in 2011.

While the empty, self-indulgent rhetoric was ringing out, one couldn’t help but recall some of the most glaring contemporary contradictions that were blocked out with awesome Orwellian efficiency.

Just this week, reports emerged of the horrific civilian death toll from the American air force bombing the Syrian city of Raqqa. The city was razed to the ground by US air strikes last year – supposedly to defeat the ISIS terror group. Some 8,000 bodies of civilians, mainly women and children, have now been recovered by Syrian government forces. And that’s only from clearing away a tiny area of rubble for the whole city.

What the Americans did in Raqqa was a monumental war crime, all the more criminal because US forces, along with their NATO partners Britain and France, are illegally present in and assaulting sovereign Syrian territory.

As Macron was telling world leaders about “the vision of France”, hundreds were being killed in Yemen in a battle to strangle the entire population by taking the port city of Hodeida. The genocidal war on that country – which is putting up to 16 million people at risk from starvation – has been fully backed by France, the US and Britain, from their supply of warplanes and bombs to the Saudi and Emirati aggressive forces.

We could mention other specific conflicts where the culprits are clearly identified. For example, the multi-million-dollar support from Washington for the Azov Battalion and other Neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine, which openly emulate the genocidal conduct of Hitler’s Third Reich to exterminate ethnic Russians.

We could mention how US-led NATO forces continue to expand towards Russian territory with outrageous provocation. The mounting earlier this month of the biggest-ever NATO war drills since the Cold War in the Arctic region adjacent to Russia’s northern border was a brazen threat of rehearsing invasion. The announced tearing up of yet another nuclear arms control treaty unilaterally by Washington is a reckless undermining of global security.

Washington threatens China with naval forces marauding near Beijing’s maritime territory in the South China Sea. Washington blockades Iran with illegal economic warfare and openly agitates for regime change. Washington declares Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba a “troika of tyranny” and reserves the right to threaten each of these countries with military invasion at any time.

Meanwhile, this weekend, Russia hosted peace talks in Moscow between the warring parties of Afghanistan. It was seen as a major breakthrough in trying to bring peace to the Central Asia country which has been wracked by 17 years of violence since US forces began their ongoing military occupation – allegedly to defeat terrorism.

Elsewhere, Russia has engaged with Turkey, Germany and France to convene a summit for peaceful reconstruction of Syria. The latest summit held in Ankara at the end of last month follows several other such meetings in Astana and Sochi, largely at the behest of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, to find a political settlement to the nearly eight-year war in Syria – a war that was fomented covertly by Washington and its allies for regime change.

France’s Macron talks about “multilateralism” for world peace, yet the two countries which have arguably supported and implemented multilateralism in practice are Russia and China in their calls and policies for global partnership and economic development.

And yet it is Russia and China that are being harassed with American and European sanctions, and US military provocations.

The unilateral, lawless imperialism that engendered World War I and 20 years later World War II is still alive and dangerously vigorous. We only have to look around the present world to realize that. But when the culprits indulge in a triumph of bullshit then we also know that the world is once again in very grave danger.

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Creepy Porn Lawyers’ disgusting assault on Tucker Carlson and his 19 year old daughter (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 14.

Alex Christoforou

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Days after ANTIFA targeted Fox News’ Tucker Carlson’s home, trying to intimidate and scare the TV host into curbing his free speech against totalitarian mob rule propagated by ANTIFA and their paymasters, it appears that the SJW establishment swamp is going after Tucker with everything they got…sending in the expendable, and always eager to get publicity, Creepy Porn Lawyer, Michael Avenatti, to try and ensnare Carlson in some sort of racist assault scandal.

The entire event appears to be a staged, purposefully hitting upon all the right identity politics buttons…so as to maximize full SJW pressure on Tucker and Fox News.

The Gateway Pundit reports that Tucker Carlson has denied Michael Avenatti’s charges of assault, and explains that his actions were prompted by an unhinged gay man calling his daughter a wh*re and a c**t…

Creepy porn star Michael Avenatti made headlines again this weekend with trumped up charges of assault against FOX News host Tucker Carlson.

On Saturday Avenatti released video of Tucker Carlson in an argument with a crowd of people at a country club in Virginia.

Avenatti claims Tucker assaulted a gay Latino immigrant for no reason.

Avenatti posted this video made the allegations on Saturday.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at the SJW swamps’ latest attempt to smear Tucker Carlson, by going after his 19-year old daughter, in a disgusting display of misogyny and hate towards the very women that establishment liberal claims to defend.

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Here’s Carlson’s full statement about the incident:

“On October 13, I had dinner with two of my children and some family friends at the Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville, Virginia. Toward the end of the meal, my 19-year-old daughter went to the bathroom with a friend. On their way back through the bar, a middle aged man stopped my daughter and asked if she was sitting with Tucker Carlson. My daughter had never seen the man before. She answered: ‘That’s my dad,’ and pointed to me. The man responded, ‘Are you Tucker’s whore?’ He then called her a ‘f—— c—.’

“My daughter returned to the table in tears. She soon left the table and the club. My son, who is also a student, went into the bar to confront the man. I followed. My son asked the man if he’d called his sister a ‘whore’ and a ‘cunt.’ The man admitted he had, and again become profane. My son threw a glass of red wine in the man’s face and told him to leave the bar, which he soon did.

“Immediately after the incident, I described these events to the management of the Farmington Country Club. The club spent more than three weeks investigating the incident. Last week, they revoked the man’s membership and threw him out of the club.

“I love my children. It took enormous self-control not to beat the man with a chair, which is what I wanted to do. I think any father can understand the overwhelming rage and shock that I felt seeing my teenage daughter attacked by a stranger. But I restrained myself. I did not assault this man, and neither did my son. That is a lie. Nor did I know the man was gay or Latino, not that it would have mattered. What happened on October 13 has nothing to do with identity politics. It was a grotesque violation of decency. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”

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