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Obama down, Hillary Clinton out – is Angela Merkel next?

For German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has based her entire policy on loyally following the Obama administration’s policy of confrontation with Russia, the prospects of a Trump administration pursuing rapprochement with Russia creates insuperable problems which could end her career.

Alexander Mercouris

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One European leader more than any other will be concerned by Donald Trump’s victory in the US Presidential election: German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel is by some distance the single most powerful leader in the EU.  Presiding over what is by far the EU’s biggest economy, especially since the onset of the 2008 financial crisis she has been the de facto “Queen of Europe”.

Merkel has achieved this position through a combination of genuine political skill and good luck. 

She was the beneficiary of the tough economic reforms imposed on Germany by her far more talented predecessor, Gerhard Schroder, which significantly strengthened the German economy’s competitiveness at the price of permanently alienating a large part of the German working class from Schroder’s SPD party.  The result is that Merkel inherited a strong economy from Schroder, whilst in the SPD she has faced with a seriously weakened rival.

Merkel has however also shown herself a skilled wire-puller and fixer in Germany’s complex domestic politics.  She was once described to me as “power hungry and treacherous”, and in fact German politics is littered with the corpses of political figures who either were or who might have become her rivals – the most prominent amongst them being her former patron, former CDU Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Much of Merkel’s success has been based on very skilled public relations, with Merkel successfully projecting an image of herself as the sensible, thrifty, practical, no-nonsense, but always highly moral German hausfrau – a persona in reality almost totally at variance with the person she actually is, but one which plays well with the more conservative section of German society, which traditionally votes for the CDU.

The ultimate secret of Merkel’s success has however been her practice of always taking the line of least resistance.  She always tries to avoid picking fights she might lose, but makes up for this by bearing down hard on those who are weaker than herself in order to project an image of decisiveness and strength.

In practice that has meant an unwillingness to contemplate any changes in Germany itself, which might upset people in Germany, together with a rejection of any proposals during the euro crisis that might be controversial in Germany, such as for example the introduction of pan-European bonds

This approach has also involved following an exceptionally close alignment with the US.  The latter is important to Merkel since it guarantees for Merkel the support of Germany’s overwhelmingly Atlanticist news media, whose hostility to her predecessor Gerhard Schroder played a by no means insignificant part in his eventual downfall.

In my opinion the consequences of Merkel’s approach to politics is that the benefits of Schroder’s reforms have been slowly frittered away as Germany gradually lapses into stagnation, whilst the euro crisis has been deepened and extended beyond all reason as all possible solutions that might make the eurozone work are ruled out.  This will have bad long term consequences for Germany, where problems are gradually accumulating without being addressed, and has had terrible consequences for southern Europe, especially for countries like Greece, Cyprus, Ireland and Portugal, and undermining support for the EU project as a whole.

However in narrow political terms there is no doubt that Merkel’s approach to politics has been extremely effective, with Merkel’s refusal to challenge strongly held opinions leaving her for long politically unchallenged in Germany and often enjoying approval ratings at stratospheric levels.  The result is that she is now the longest serving democratically elected Chancellor in German history.  Even now, when criticism of her has become more widespread in Germany, the accumulated goodwill she has built up over the course of her long career together with her success in eliminating rivals means that there is no obvious challenger to her.

It is nonetheless the case that over the last two years Merkel’s position has weakened significantly as the problems with her approach to policy have become more apparent.

Her biggest single mistake was her decision in July 2014 to support US demands that the EU impose sectoral sanctions on Russia because of the Ukrainian crisis. 

Merkel’s predecessors – Willi Brandt, Helmut Schmidt, Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schroder – had pursued a highly successful policy of Ostpolitik, which had involved a close rapprochement with Russia. In the same situation they would have worked hard to contain the Ukrainian crisis by building diplomatic bridges to Russia, by positioning Germany as an honest broker between the US and Russia, and by genuinely seeking a diplomatic settlement to the crisis, which would of necessity have involved formal guarantees of Ukraine’s future neutrality.

Merkel instead committed herself and Germany to backing wholeheartedly a fragile and extremist regime in Kiev, which she is unable to control, placing herself and Germany in unequivocal opposition to a Russia, which she has alienated.

In some respects Merkel’s decision to take this step was unsurprising.  She was under intense pressure from the US and from the Atlanticist lobby in Germany – which includes the German media – to take it.  It is always her practice to take the line of least resistance by do nothing which might be controversial with the strongest body of opinion in Germany.  In the summer of 2014 the strongest body of opinion in Germany appeared to be that of the Atlanticists.

Merkel also almost certainly made her decision on the basis of mistaken assumptions of Russian weakness. 

It seems Merkel was under the misapprehension – apparently fostered by a profoundly mistaken report from the German intelligence agency the BND – that the oligarchs are far more powerful in Russia than they actually are, and that they can either bend Putin to their will or can remove him from power if he doesn’t do what they want.  Like most Western politicians Merkel takes the cynicism and corruption of the Russian businessmen the West calls oligarchs for granted, and treats it as axiomatic that they will always act in their own narrow selfish financial interests rather than from patriotic motives.

Accordingly Merkel seems to have assumed that not only would the Russian economy spiral into crisis if sectoral sanctions were imposed on it, but that the oligarchs would either force Putin to back down and retreat from Ukraine and Crimea, or would remove him from power in order to get the sanctions lifted.

Merkel was not the only person in 2014 to believe these things.  On the contrary they were the common belief of many Western political leaders and officials.  As an extraordinary recent opinion piece in the Financial Times urging the oligarchs to overthrow Putin shows, they remain the belief of some people in the West still.

Needless to say Merkel’s expectations of a coup in Moscow were not fulfilled, and already by the autumn of 2014 – as became all too clear following her meetings with Putin in Milan and Brisbane – she had become aware of her mistake, as she found herself for the first time in her career pitted against an adversary she could neither bully nor intimidate. 

Ever since then Merkel has been locked in a rearguard action, trying to preserve the sanctions – which have become the symbol of her authority across Europe – without having any clear idea of the way forward, in the face of mounting criticism from the business community in Germany, and growing skepticism and hostility in much of the rest of Europe.

There is often a tipping point in a political career after which everything seems to go wrong, and Merkel’s misjudgement over the sanctions looks like being hers. 

The sanctions debacle led directly to her mismanagement of the Greek crisis and the refugee crisis, her mishandling of both crises being attempts by her to restore her reputation and reassert her authority in Europe and Germany as her judgement over the sanctions issue was increasingly been questioned.

In the event her mishandling of both crises – in which she followed her usual line of taking the line of least resistance and bullying the weaker party – has instead caused her judgement to be questioned even more, with widespread anger across southern Europe at the impossibly harsh terms imposed on Greece, and still great anger in eastern Europe and in Germany itself at the way she imposed a refugee policy no-one wanted.

However if Merkel’s problems were already becoming serious before Trump’s election, then the prospect of a Trump Presidency has hugely compounded them.

The key reason Merkel took the approach she did during the Ukrainian crisis, the Greek crisis, and the refugee crisis, is because in each case she deferred to the wishes of the Obama administration, to which in order to safeguard her position in Germany she has cultivated close ties. 

Her reward has been to make her the one European leader known to have Obama’s trust. 

Merkel is also known to have developed close personal relations with Hillary Clinton.  Indeed there are rumours she and Hillary Clinton are personal friends. Hillary Clinton has even praised her as her favourite world leader.

Merkel must now face the nightmare that instead of the Hillary Clinton administration she undoubtedly wanted and expected she now has to deal with President Trump instead. 

If Trump sees through his policy of working towards a rapprochement with Russia then Merkel, who has staked so much of her authority by pursuing a policy of confrontation with Russia, is going to have the rug pulled from under her feet. 

The Russians are already talking about the lifting of the sanctions being a condition for a genuine improvement in relations with a Trump led US.   As if to emphasise the point Russian Economics Minister Alexey Ulyukaev is now saying as much in an interview he has just given to the German newspaper Die Welt.

For Merkel that would be the biggest disaster of all: being forced to lift the sanctions – which she imposed on the EU at the behest of the US and to which her authority is tied – because the US has reversed its policy, is implicitly admitting its previous policy which she supported was wrong, and is insisting that the sanctions be lifted .

Needless to say if Trump goes further still and – as he hinted in the election campaign – recognises Crimea as part of Russia, then Merkel’s entire policy towards Russia over the last two years will be completely discredited and will have publicly failed, making her position both in Germany and Europe completely untenable.

In some ways Merkel’s plight in the aftermath of Trump’s victory reminds me of that of the East German leader Eric Honecker following Gorbachev’s emergence in the 1980s as Soviet President. 

Like Honecker Merkel now finds the unqualified support of her superpower patron upon which she has built her entire career suddenly and unexpectedly in doubt.  Just like Honecker she doesn’t seem to know what to do, and just like Honecker her ritual words of support for the new leader of the patron superpower contain thinly veiled criticisms and lack conviction.

As a highly historically minded former East German citizen who witnessed Honecker’s fall and the fall of the Wall, it is not inconceivable that Merkel is herself conscious of the parallel.

Whether she is or not, for Merkel the stakes now could not be higher.  As she confronts the prospect of a Trump Presidency her future hangs by a thread.

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Putin Keeps Cool and Averts WWIII as Israeli-French Gamble in Syria Backfires Spectacularly

Putin vowed that Russia would take extra precautions to protect its troops in Syria, saying these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

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Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


By initiating an attack on the Syrian province of Latakia, home to the Russia-operated Khmeimim Air Base, Israel, France and the United States certainly understood they were flirting with disaster. Yet they went ahead with the operation anyways.

On the pretext that Iran was preparing to deliver a shipment of weapon production systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israeli F-16s, backed by French missile launches in the Mediterranean, destroyed what is alleged to have been a Syrian Army ammunition depot.

What happened next is already well established: a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft, which the Israeli fighter jets had reportedly used for cover, was shot down by an S-200 surface-to-air missile system operated by the Syrian Army. Fifteen Russian servicemen perished in the incident, which could have been avoided had Israel provided more than just one-minute warning before the attack. As a result, chaos ensued.

Whether or not there is any truth to the claim that Iran was preparing to deliver weapon-making systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon is practically a moot point based on flawed logic. Conducting an attack against an ammunition depot in Syria – in the vicinity of Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base – to protect Israel doesn’t make much sense when the consequence of such “protective measures” could have been a conflagration on the scale of World War III. That would have been an unacceptable price to achieve such a limited objective, which could have been better accomplished with the assistance of Russia, as opposed to NATO-member France, for example. In any case, there is a so-called “de-confliction system” in place between Israel and Russia designed to prevent exactly this sort of episode from occurring.

And then there is the matter of the timing of the French-Israeli incursion.

Just hours before Israeli jets pounded the suspect Syrian ammunition storehouse, Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan were in Sochi hammering out the details on a plan to reduce civilian casualties as Russian and Syrian forces plan to retake Idlib province, the last remaining terrorist stronghold in the country. The plan envisioned the creation of a demilitarized buffer zone between government and rebel forces, with observatory units to enforce the agreement. In other words, it is designed to prevent exactly what Western observers have been fretting about, and that is unnecessary ‘collateral damage.’

So what do France and Israel do after a relative peace is declared, and an effective measure for reducing casualties? The cynically attack Syria, thus exposing those same Syrian civilians to the dangers of military conflict that Western capitals proclaim to be worried about.

Israel moves to ‘damage control’

Although Israel has taken the rare move of acknowledging its involvement in the Syrian attack, even expressing “sorrow” for the loss of Russian life, it insists that Damascus should be held responsible for the tragedy. That is a highly debatable argument.

By virtue of the fact that the French and Israeli forces were teaming up to attack the territory of a sovereign nation, thus forcing Syria to respond in self-defense, it is rather obvious where ultimate blame for the downed Russian plane lies.

“The blame for the downing of the Russian plane and the deaths of its crew members lies squarely on the Israeli side,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said. “The actions of the Israeli military were not in keeping with the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership, so we reserve the right to respond.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, took admirable efforts to prevent the blame game from reaching the boiling point, telling reporters that the downing of the Russian aircraft was the result of “a chain of tragic circumstances, because the Israeli plane didn’t shoot down our jet.”

Nevertheless, following this extremely tempered and reserved remark, Putin vowed that Russia would take extra precautions to protect its troops in Syria, saying these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

Now there is much consternation in Israel that the IDF will soon find its freedom to conduct operations against targets in Syria greatly impaired. That’s because Russia, having just suffered a ‘friendly-fire’ incident from its own antiquated S-200 system, may now be more open to the idea of providing Syria with the more advanced S-300 air-defense system.

Earlier this year, Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached an agreement that prevented those advanced defensive weapons from being employed in the Syrian theater. That deal is now in serious jeopardy. In addition to other defensive measures, Russia could effectively create the conditions for a veritable no-fly zone across Western Syria in that it would simply become too risky for foreign aircraft to venture into the zone.

The entire situation, which certainly did not go off as planned, has forced Israel into damage control as they attempt to prevent their Russian counterparts from effectively shutting down Syria’s western border.

On Thursday, Israeli Major-General Amikam Norkin and Brigadier General Erez Maisel, as well as officers of the Intelligence and Operations directorates of the Israeli air force will pay an official visit to Moscow where they are expected to repeat their concerns of “continuous Iranian attempts to transfer strategic weapons to the Hezbollah terror organization and to establish an Iranian military presence in Syria.”

Moscow will certainly be asking their Israeli partners if it is justifiable to subject Russian servicemen to unacceptable levels of danger, up to and including death, in order to defend Israeli interests. It remains to be seen if the two sides can find, through the fog of war, an honest method for bringing an end to the Syria conflict, which would go far at relieving Israel’s concerns of Iranian influence in the region.

 

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This Man’s Incredible Story Proves Why Due Process Matters In The Kavanaugh Case

Accused of rape by a fellow student, Brian Banks accepted a plea deal and went to prison on his 18th birthday. Years later he was exonerated.

The Duran

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Authored by James Miller of The Political Insider:


Somewhere between the creation of the Magna Carta and now, leftists have forgotten why due process matters; and in some cases, such as that of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, they choose to outright ignore the judicial and civil rights put in place by the U.S. Constitution.

In this age of social media justice mobs, the accused are often convicted in the court of (liberal) public opinion long before any substantial evidence emerges to warrant an investigation or trial. This is certainly true for Kavanaugh. His accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, cannot recall the date of the alleged assault and has no supporting witnesses, yet law professors are ready to ruin his entire life and career. Not because they genuinely believe he’s guilty, but because he’s a pro-life Trump nominee for the Supreme Court.

It goes without saying: to “sink Kavanaugh even if” Ford’s allegation is untrue is unethical, unconstitutional, and undemocratic. He has a right to due process, and before liberals sharpen their pitchforks any further they would do well to remember what happened to Brian Banks.

In the summer of 2002, Banks was a highly recruited 16-year-old linebacker at Polytechnic High School in California with plans to play football on a full scholarship to the University of Southern California. However, those plans were destroyed when Banks’s classmate, Wanetta Gibson, claimed that Banks had dragged her into a stairway at their high school and raped her.

Gibson’s claim was false, but it was Banks’s word against hers. Banks had two options: go to trial and risk spending 41 years-to-life in prison, or take a plea deal that included five years in prison, five years probation, and registering as a sex offender. Banks accepted the plea deal under the counsel of his lawyer, who told him that he stood no chance at trial because the all-white jury would “automatically assume” he was guilty because he was a “big, black teenager.”

Gibson and her mother subsequently sued the Long Beach Unified School District and won a $1.5 million settlement. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later, long after Banks’s promising football career had already been tanked, that Gibson admitted she’d fabricated the entire story.

Following Gibson’s confession, Banks was exonerated with the help of the California Innocence Project. Hopeful to get his life back on track, he played for Las Vegas Locomotives of the now-defunct United Football League in 2012 and signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 2013. But while Banks finally received justice, he will never get back the years or the prospective pro football career that Gibson selfishly stole from him.

Banks’ story is timely, and it serves as a powerful warning to anyone too eager to condemn those accused of sexual assault. In fact, a film about Banks’s ordeal, Brian Banks, is set to premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival next week.

Perhaps all the #MeToo Hollywood elites and their liberal friends should attend the screening – and keep Kavanaugh in their minds as they watch.

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Clinton-Yeltsin docs shine a light on why Deep State hates Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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Bill Clinton and America ruled over Russia and Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Yeltsin showed little love for Russia and more interest in keeping power, and pleasing the oligarchs around him.

Then came Vladimir Putin, and everything changed.

Nearly 600 pages of memos and transcripts, documenting personal exchanges and telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, were made public by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dating from January 1993 to December 1999, the documents provide a historical account of a time when US relations with Russia were at their best, as Russia was at its weakest.

On September 8, 1999, weeks after promoting the head of the Russia’s top intelligence agency to the post of prime minister, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took a phone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The new prime minister was unknown, rising to the top of the Federal Security Service only a year earlier.

Yeltsin wanted to reassure Clinton that Vladimir Putin was a “solid man.”

Yeltsin told Clinton….

“I would like to tell you about him so you will know what kind of man he is.”

“I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the nearly 600 pages of transcripts documenting the calls and personal conversations between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, released last month. A strong Clinton and a very weak Yeltsin underscore a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Then Vladimir Putin came along and decided to lift Russia out of the abyss, and things changed.

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Here are five must-read Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges from with the 600 pages released by the Clinton Library.

Via RT

Clinton sends ‘his people’ to get Yeltsin elected

Amid unceasing allegations of nefarious Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges reveal how the US government threw its full weight behind Boris – in Russian parliamentary elections as well as for the 1996 reelection campaign, which he approached with 1-digit ratings.

For example, a transcript from 1993 details how Clinton offered to help Yeltsin in upcoming parliamentary elections by selectively using US foreign aid to shore up support for the Russian leader’s political allies.

“What is the prevailing attitude among the regional leaders? Can we do something through our aid package to send support out to the regions?” a concerned Clinton asked.

Yeltsin liked the idea, replying that “this kind of regional support would be very useful.” Clinton then promised to have “his people” follow up on the plan.

In another exchange, Yeltsin asks his US counterpart for a bit of financial help ahead of the 1996 presidential election: “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion,” he said. Yeltsin added that he needed the money in order to pay pensions and government wages – obligations which, if left unfulfilled, would have likely led to his political ruin. Yeltsin also asks Clinton if he could “use his influence” to increase the size of an IMF loan to assist him during his re-election campaign.

Yeltsin questions NATO expansion

The future of NATO was still an open question in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and conversations between Clinton and Yeltsin provide an illuminating backdrop to the current state of the curiously offensive ‘defensive alliance’ (spoiler alert: it expanded right up to Russia’s border).

In 1995, Yeltsin told Clinton that NATO expansion would lead to “humiliation” for Russia, noting that many Russians were fearful of the possibility that the alliance could encircle their country.

“It’s a new form of encirclement if the one surviving Cold War bloc expands right up to the borders of Russia. Many Russians have a sense of fear. What do you want to achieve with this if Russia is your partner? They ask. I ask it too: Why do you want to do this?” Yeltsin asked Clinton.

As the documents show, Yeltsin insisted that Russia had “no claims on other countries,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the US was conducting naval drills near Crimea.

“It is as if we were training people in Cuba. How would you feel?” Yeltsin asked. The Russian leader then proposed a “gentleman’s agreement” that no former Soviet republics would join NATO.

Clinton refused the offer, saying: “I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO. I’ve always tried to build you up and never undermine you.”

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia turns Russia against the West

Although Clinton and Yeltsin enjoyed friendly relations, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia tempered Moscow’s enthusiastic partnership with the West.

“Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO,” the Russian president told Clinton in March 1999. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that.”

Yeltsin urged Clinton to renounce the strikes, for the sake of “our relationship” and “peace in Europe.”

“It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons,” Yeltsin reminded his US counterpart.

But Clinton wouldn’t cede ground.

“Milosevic is still a communist dictator and he would like to destroy the alliance that Russia has built up with the US and Europe and essentially destroy the whole movement of your region toward democracy and go back to ethnic alliances. We cannot allow him to dictate our future,” Clinton told Yeltsin.

Yeltsin asks US to ‘give Europe to Russia’

One exchange that has been making the rounds on Twitter appears to show Yeltsin requesting that Europe be “given” to Russia during a meeting in Istanbul in 1999. However, it’s not quite what it seems.

“I ask you one thing,” Yeltsin says, addressing Clinton. “Just give Europe to Russia. The US is not in Europe. Europe should be in the business of Europeans.”

However, the request is slightly less sinister than it sounds when put into context: The two leaders were discussing missile defense, and Yeltsin was arguing that Russia – not the US – would be a more suitable guarantor of Europe’s security.

“We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles,” Yeltsin told Clinton.

Clinton on Putin: ‘He’s very smart’

Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges takes place when Yeltsin announces to Clinton his successor, Vladimir Putin.

In a conversation with Clinton from September 1999, Yeltsin describes Putin as “a solid man,” adding: “I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

A month later, Clinton asks Yeltsin who will win the Russian presidential election.

“Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.”

“He’s very smart,” Clinton remarks.

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