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One Step Closer To Nuclear Oblivion: US Sabotages The INF Treaty

The INF treaty aimed to create a safer global environment by seeking to avoid the prospect of a nuclear exchange.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The Trump administration announced on February 1 that the country was suspending its participation in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF treaty) for 180 days pending a final withdrawal. Vladimir Putin, in a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu, announced on Saturday that the Russian Federation is also suspending its participation in the treaty in a mirror response to Washington’s unilateral decision.

The INF treaty was signed by the US and the USSR in 1987 at the height of negotiations that had begun years earlier and directly involved the leaders of the two countries. The treaty entered into force in 1988, eliminating missiles with a range of 500-1,000 kilometers (short to medium range) and 1,000-5,500 km (intermediate range). The treaty has always concerned land-based launchers and never sea- or air-launched missiles, a legacy of a bygone era where most nuclear warheads were positioned on missiles launched from the mainland. In subsequent years, thanks to technological advances, solutions like submarines, stealth bombers and the possibility of miniaturizing nuclear warheads became increasingly important in the military doctrines of both the US and Russia, nullifying the basis on which the INF treaty was initially signed, which was to avert a direct confrontation between Washington and Moscow on the European continent.

The INF treaty, together with the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks/Treaty (SALT treaty), signed by Washington and Moscow on the issue of long-range missiles, aimed to create a safer global environment by seeking to avoid the prospect of a nuclear exchange. It was also aimed at reducing the number of nuclear warheads owned by the US and the USSR, as well as generally reducing proliferation in line with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In particular, the INF treaty guaranteed a lasting peace on the European continent through Washington not deploying nuclear weapons in Europe aimed at the USSR and Moscow in turn not deploying systems capable of eliminating these European-based US missiles. The initial promoters of an INF agreement were obviously the European countries, who would have found themselves in the middle of a nuclear apocalypse in the event of war between Moscow and Washington.

With 1970s technology, the time between the launch and impact of a missile with a range of 500-5500 km was about 10-12 minutes; that was the amount of time Moscow and Washington’s leaders had during the Cold War to decide whether to retaliate and thereby launch WWIII. With today’s technology, the time to decide would probably be reduced to less than 5 minutes, making it all the more difficult to avert a nuclear exchange in the event of an accident or miscalculation. The INF treaty was thus a life-insurance policy for humanity that decreased the statistical probability of nuclear provocation or of an accident.

During the Cold War, the concept of mutually assured destruction (MAD) was central to the nuclear doctrines of the two great powers. The INF treaty served the purpose of taking concrete steps towards greatly reducing the possibility of mutually assured destruction.

With the unilateral withdrawal from the treaty by the US, all these safeguards and guarantees are lost, with all the consequences that ensue from such a reckless as dangerous act.

The American and European mainstream media have applauded the withdrawal from the INF, in the same way that they have applauded Trump whenever he has been pro-war. Former CIA and military personnel, as well as the former CEO’s of major arms manufacturers, have been eager to share their views as “experts”, literally invading television programs and thereby showing why they are paid lots of money to lobby for the military-industrial complex. They praised Trump’s move, blaming Moscow for the ending of the treaty, but in the end revealing the covert geopolitical reason why Washington decided to end the deal, namely, the fact that China is not bound by the same treaty.

These vaunted experts on MSNBC, CNN and Fox News alluded to the danger of Washington being bound by such a treaty while Beijing was not, thereby limiting Washington’s options in the Asia-Pacific. Trump and his staff view the INF treaty as an intolerable imposition that ties America’s hands in its efforts to contain China.

US foreign policy, especially under this administration, sees every kind of agreement, past or future, as a concession, and therefore a sign of weakness. Trump and his generals drafted the National Defense Posture, stating that the time of great-power competition is back and that Washington’s peer competitors were Moscow and Beijing. The return of great-power competition is an excuse to “strengthen the military”, as Trumps loves to say, and his decision is in line with the new defense posture review Trump approved, seeking to confront every adversary in any domain by all means. The newly announced Space Force is a reflection of this, seeking to put weapons in space in violation of all existing treaties. At the same time, the development of tactical nuclear weapons also expands the use of nuclear weapons in certain circumstances, pushing the envelope on the prohibition on the use of nuclear weapons. These new programs will end up draining even more money from taxpayers to fill the coffers of shareholders, CEOs and lobbyists for the big arms manufacturers.

To justify the withdrawal from the INF, the military-industrial complex, which drives US foreign policy, needed a suitable justification. Of course in a time of anti-Russia hysteria, the choice was obvious. Since 2014, the attention of so-called US experts has been focused on the 9M729 missile in particular, an evolution of the 9M728, used by the Iskander-K weapons system, a Russian technological gem with few equals.

NPO Novator, the company that produces the 9M729, reassures that the missile does not violate the INF treaty and has a range shorter than the 500 km limit (470 km). Moscow even organized an exhibition open to the public, with the missile on display along with its main features, inviting Washington to officially send its experts to view the characteristics of the 9M729. Washington refused, knowing full well that the missile does not violate the the INF, preferring instead to use the 9M729 as an excuse to abandonment the treaty.

Washington will suspend its participation in the treaty within 180 days, and Moscow has responded with an identical measure. With hysteria surrounding Russia (Russiagate) and the impossibility of Trump and Putin engaging in dialogue following the complete sabotaging of relations between Moscow and Washington, it is almost impossible that a fruitful dialogue can be created to seal a new agreement in the remaining 180 days. This, however, is not even the basic objective of the Trump administration. Unofficially, Trump says that he would rather include Beijing in the agreement with Moscow. But knowing that this goal is impossible to achieve, he is pursuing his broader objective of withdrawing the US from all major treaties, including the INF treaty.

In the specific case of withdrawing from the INF, there is little need to raise a big hue and cry as was the case with the Paris Agreement, as the media-intelligence-military apparatus has a lot to gain from this. This just goes to show how the MSM and their rolled-out “experts” thrive on war and the money that is to be made from it. There is a major psyop going on to convince the American public that the withdrawal from the INF treaty, and the resulting arms race with major nuclear-armed countries, is apparently the best way to keep America safe!

The withdrawal from the INF treaty opens the gates for a new nuclear-arms race that will bring great advantages to arms industries, with great returns for shareholders, executives and CEOs, all paid for by the American taxpayer. It is more than probable that the official defense budget in 2020, having to cover for the development of weapons previously prohibited by the INF treaty, could be more than 800 billion dollars, seeing an increase of tens of billions of dollars in the space of 12 months.

Moscow has for several years been accusing the US of malfeasance regarding various aspects of nuclear-weapons agreements. Russia’s defence minister stated to Tass News Agency:

“Two years before making public unfounded accusations against Russia of alleged INF Treaty violations, Washington not only took a decision, but also started preparations to production of missiles of intermediate and shorter range banned by the Treaty. Starting already June 2017, the program of expansion and upgrade of production facilities with the aims of developing intermediate and shorter range missiles banned by the Treaty was launched at Raytheon’s plant in the city of Tucson, Arizona. The plant is a major diversified enterprise of the US aerospace industry that produces almost all types of missile weapons. Over the past two years the space of the plant has increased by 44% – from 55,000 to 79,000 square meters, while the number of employees is going to rise by almost 2,000 people, according to official statements. Almost at the same time as production facilities expanded, on November 2017, Congress provided the first tranche amounting to $58 mln to Pentagon, directly pointing at the development of a land-based missile of intermediate range. Consequently, the nature and time of the works demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the US administration decided to withdraw from the INF Treaty several years before unfounded accusations against Russia of violating the Treaty were made public.”

The unilateral withdrawal by George W. Bush from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) in 2002, citing the need for the US to protect itself from countries belonging to the Axis of Evil (Iran, Iraq, North Korea), was an excuse to deploy the Aegis system (land- or sea-based) in strategic areas around the Russian Federation, so as to diminish Moscow’s deterrent capacity for a nuclear second strike.

The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System (Aegis BMD) is designed to be able to theoretically intercept Russian missiles in their initial boost phase, the period when they are the most vulnerable. Moscow has been openly questioning the rationale for the Aegis system deployed in Romania. According to Russian military experts, the possibility of reprogramming the system from defensive to offensive, replacing the conventional warheads used for intercepting missiles with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, could be undertaken within an hour, without the Russian Federation possibly being aware of it. Putin has cited this specific case and its technical possibility more than once when pointing out that the US is already in violation of the INF treaty by deploying such systems in Romania.

The US unilaterally withdrew from the ABM treaty in 2002 in order to be able to disguise the deployment of an offensive system under the guise of an ABM system for the purported purposes of defending against Iran, thereby de facto violating the INF treaty, an excess of arrogance and presumption. Such perfidy caused Putin to make his famous 2007 Munich speech, where he warned the US and her allies of the consequences of reneging on such treaties and agreements. Deploying defensive systems close to the Russian border that can easily be converted into offensive ones with a nuclear capacity was a red line that could not be crossed.

At the time the West ignored Putin’s warnings, dismissive of the Russian leader. But only a few months ago, the Russian Federation finally showed the world that the warnings issued in 2007 were not empty bluster. Hypersonic weapons, a submarine drone and other cutting-edge systems were presented by Putin in March 2018, shocking Western military planners and analysts who had not taken Putin seriously back in 2007. These new technological breakthroughs provide Russia with the ability to eliminate targets by kinetic, conventional or nuclear means. Such offensive deployments near the Russian border as the ABM systems in Romania can now be eliminated within the space of a few minutes, with no possibility of being intercepted.

Putin recently said:

“The (US) has announced research and development works, and we will do the same. I agree with the Defense Ministry’s proposals to start the work on ‘landing’ Kalibr missiles and developing a new area to create a land-based hypersonic missile with intermediate range.”

Putin has already put his military cards on the table, warning 10 years ago what would happen if Washington continued in its duplicitous direction. As Putin said in March 2018: “They did not listen to us in 2007. They will listen to us now”.

The consequences of withdrawing from the INF treaty fall most heavily on the shoulders of the Europeans. Federica Mogherini indicated deep concern over Washington’s decision, as well as the new super-weapons that were either being tested or were already operational in Russia, causing consternation amongst the Western military establishment that had thought that Putin was bluffing in March 2018 when he spoke about hypersonic weapons.

The US military-industrial complex is rejoicing at the prospect of money rained down as a result of this withdrawal from the INF treaty. But in Europe (with the exception of Romania and Poland), nobody is too keen to welcome US missiles that have no defense against Russian hypersonic weapons. NATO’s trans-Atlantic arms lobby will try to push as many European countries as possible towards a new Cold War, with US weapons deployed and aimed at Moscow. It will be fun to see the reactions of European citizens facing the prospect of being annihilated by Russian missiles simply to please the CEOs and shareholders of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. No doubt there will be some European politicians in countries like Poland keen to scream about the “Russian threat”, ready to throw tens of billions worth of Polish taxpayers’ money into useless and ineffective projects for the purposes of pleasing their American friends.

Are US generals even aware of how idiotic it is for the US to withdraw from the INF for Washington? Moscow is already ahead in the development of such systems, both land-based but above all sea- and air-launched, without forgetting the hypersonic variants of its conventional or nuclear missiles. Washington has a huge gap to close, exacerbated by the fact that in spite of heavy spending over many years, there is little to show for it as a result of massive corruption in the research-and-development process. This is not to mention the fact that there are few European countries willing to host offensive missile systems aimed at Russia. In reality, there is little real advantage for Washington in withdrawing from the INF treaty, other than to enrich arms manufacturers. It diminishes US military options strategically while expanding those of Beijing and Moscow, even as the latter oppose Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the treaty.

The hope of expanding the INF treaty to include the US, Russia, China and the EU appears slim due to Washington’s intransigence. Washington only aims to increase expenditure for the development of weapons prohibited by the treaty, and in strategic terms, improbably hopes to find some Asian and European countries willing to host these systems aimed against China and Russia.

The world is certainly more dangerous following Washington’s decision, heading in a direction where there are less and less rules while there are more nuclear powers. For decades, the United States has been trying to achieve nuclear supremacy by overcoming the limitations of MAD, whereby Washington would be able to carry out a decapitating nuclear first strike without worrying about an opponent’s ability to launch a retaliatory second strike. It is precisely this type of thinking that is bringing humanity closer to the brink of destruction from a nuclear accident or miscalculation. The miniaturization of nuclear warheads and the apparently limited nature of “tactical nukes” further encourages the justification for using such weapons.

Moscow’s decision in 2007 to develop state-of-the-art weapons and focus on new technologies like hypersonic missiles guarantees that Russia and her allies have an effective deterrent against the attempts of the US to alter the nuclear balance of power, which otherwise threatens the future of humanity.

The withdrawal from the INF treaty is another worrying sign of the willingness of the US to push the world to the brink of catastrophe, simply for the purposes of enriching the CEOs and shareholders of it arms manufacturers through a nuclear arms race.

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Sally Snyder

Here is a more detailed look at the American weapon that concerns Russia:

https://viableopposition.blogspot.com/2019/02/the-russian-response-to-washingtons.html

Unfortunately, those of us that live in the West rarely get a clear understanding of both sides of the looming nuclear nightmare.

Dan Kuhn
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It is what it is. The US is an implacable enemy. Russia knows this and should expect no quarter from that nation. The only thing Russia can do in the face of such an enemy is to be ready at all times for a confrontation. Moscow should consider rearming it´s stockpiled ICBMs and deploy them. Why play around the edges, just , as the Americans say, put it all on the table. Get the American public on side by scaring the livin be jeezus out of them. It´s what finally got Reagan to the table. Certain suicide for him, his… Read more »

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CIA Director and NYT Accidentally Expose Skripal Poisoning Hoax – DUCKGATE (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 189.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the stunning, inadvertent, admission by the New York Times and CIA Director Gina Haspel that much of what we know from the Salisbury-Skripal poisoning is pure fabrication and manipulation.

‘Duckgate’, as it is now being dubbed, was used to trick US President Trump into expelling 60 Russian Diplomats over false photographic evidence presented to him by Haspel, as it was provided to her by UK authorities.

The manipulation of POTUS Trump, courtesy of CIA Director Haspel, the UK government (and accidentally documented on by the NYT), has now blown open some serious holes into the entire narrative that Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned by Russian agents with the deadly Novichok nerve agent.

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Via The Blogmire…


(SEE UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM)

Well this is interesting.

I had intended to put up a new thread for people who want to continue commenting on the Salisbury and Amesbury cases, as the last piece I did on it has reached an unmanageable 1,500+ comments. But just as I was about to do so, I was alerted to an important piece over on the Moon of Alabama website, entitled, “CIA Director Used Fake Skripal Incident Photos To Manipulate Trump“.

The gist of the piece is as follows. Back in April 2018, the Washington Post published an article about the decision taken by the United States to expel 60 Russian diplomats in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning. According to the authors, the day after the decision was made, President Trump reacted in anger when he found out that the French and the Germans were expelling just four diplomats each:

“The next day, when the expulsions were announced publicly, Trump erupted, officials said. To his shock and dismay, France and Germany were each expelling only four Russian officials — far fewer than the 60 his administration had decided on. The President, who seemed to believe that other individual countries would largely equal the United States, was furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia.”

Mr Trump, it seems, believed that he had been misled by officials, as the piece goes on to say:

“Growing angrier, Trump insisted that his aides had misled him about the magnitude of the expulsions. ‘There were curse words,’ the official said, ‘a lot of curse words.’”

Whether Mr Trump was misled about the magnitude of the expulsions is impossible to say without a transcript of that meeting. What does seem certain, however, is that he was misled in another, far more important way, as Moon of Alabama goes on to point out.

In an article in today’s New York Times about the head of the CIA, Gina Haspel, an extraordinary piece of information is revealed — albeit unwittingly, it would seem, by authors who probably have no idea of its significance. Pointing to that same meeting mentioned in the Washington Post article, in which Mr Trump was persuaded to expel 60 diplomats, here is the NYT’s account of what took place:

“During the discussion, Ms. Haspel, then deputy C.I.A. director, turned toward Mr. Trump. She outlined possible responses in a quiet but firm voice, then leaned forward and told the president that the “strong option” was to expel 60 diplomats.

To persuade Mr. Trump, according to people briefed on the conversation, officials including Ms. Haspel also tried to show him that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were not the only victims of Russia’s attack.

Ms. Haspel showed pictures the British government had supplied her of young children hospitalized after being sickened by the Novichok nerve agent that poisoned the Skripals. She then showed a photograph of ducks that British officials said were inadvertently killed by the sloppy work of the Russian operatives [my emphasis].”

If you’re late joining the party, and don’t understand what is so extraordinary about this, let me spell it out plainly and unambiguously:

Firstly, there were no dead ducks as a result of poisoning. None. Zilch. Nada!

Secondly, there were no children sickened by nerve agent. None. Zilch. Nada!

Yet even though there were no dead ducks, and no sick children, Mr Trump was apparently persuaded by the head of the CIA to expel 60 diplomats after being shown pictures of dead ducks and sick children.

In addition to the extraordinary nature of this revelation, there is also a huge irony here. Along with many others, I have long felt that the duck feed is one of the many achilles heels of the whole story we’ve been presented with about what happened in Salisbury on 4th March 2018. And the reason for this is precisely because if it were true, there would indeed have been dead ducks and sick children.

According to the official story, Mr Skripal and his daughter became contaminated with “Novichok” by touching the handle of his front door at some point between 13:00 and 13:30 that afternoon. A few minutes later (13:45), they were filmed on CCTV camera feeding ducks, and handing bread to three local boys, one of whom ate a piece. After this they went to Zizzis, where they apparently so contaminated the table they sat at, that it had to be incinerated.

You see the problem? According to the official story, ducks should have died. According to the official story children should have become contaminated and ended up in hospital. Yet as it happens, no ducks died, and no boys got sick (all that happened was that the boys’ parents were contacted two weeks later by police, the boys were sent for tests, and they were given the all clear).

And yet despite the fact that no ducks died and no children were made sick, the director of the CIA (a.k.a. the Canard Invention Association), allegedly using information given to her agency by the British Government, showed the President of the United States pictures of dead ducks and sick children, apparently from Salisbury, to persuade him to take extreme action (Note: You can read more about the duck feed and all the other holes in the official story here). In other words, Mr Trump was lied to, and in a big way, and with potentially huge consequences.

I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the claims made in the New York Times piece, since the purpose of inserting the bit about the ducks and the children was to cast Gina Haspel as a strong leader, rather than to cast doubt on the Skripal story. My guess is that Mr Trump might be quite interested to know that he was misled, either by the director of the CIA and/or the British Government. It might even make him wonder this: if no less a person than the President of the United States was given a false version of events, what are the chances that the rest of the story stacks up?

As ever, someone got some ‘splaining to do.  Discuss among yourselves.


PS. An aside. The Independent, which is apparently a publisher of news, has picked up on this storyhere. In their piece, they basically repeat what was said in the New York Times about how Gina Haspel persuaded Mr Trump using the dead ducks and sick children pics. But here’s the thing. Whilst it doesn’t surprise me that writers in the likes of the Washington Post or New York Times might not know too many details regarding the Salisbury case, the Independent knows full well that there were no dead ducks and no sick children. And so since they are writing about it, they must know that either the CIA director or the British Government, or both, knowingly misled the US President. Yet they say nothing about this in their piece. Why? Simply because they are not journalists, but stenographers, and they have no intention of informing their readers of what is true and what is real. I’m not sure how they live with themselves, but somehow they manage.


UPDATE: The Guardian has published an article (18th April), in which the director of public health at Wiltshire Council, Tracy Daszkiewicz, was asked to comment on the New York Times report. Here is what she said:

“There were no other casualties other than those previously stated. No wildlife were impacted by the incident and no children were exposed to or became ill as a result of either incident [my emphasis].”

So according to Ms Daszkiewicz, not only were no children made ill (which we already knew), but nor were any exposed to the substance. How does this accord with the official narrative? In that scenario, Mr Skripal gave bread to three boys, one of whom ate a piece, less than half-an-hour after his hands had become contaminated. In which case, they would undoubtedly have been exposed to it. Then again, if he wasn’t contaminated at that time … well, that would agree with Ms Daszkiewicz’s assessment, but it would have another consequence involving cans and worms!

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Airline wars heat up, as industry undergoes massive disruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 145.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the global commercial airline industry, which is undergoing massive changes, as competition creeps in from Russia and China.

Reuters reports that Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.

The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX.

*****

According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes.

It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety.

*****

Boeing said on Tuesday that aircraft orders in the first quarter fell to 95 from 180 a year earlier, with no orders for the 737 MAX following the worldwide grounding.

On April 5, it said it planned to cut monthly 737 production to 42 planes from 52, and was making progress on a 737 MAX software update to prevent further accidents.

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Via Zerohedge…

Step aside (fading) trade war with China: there is a new aggressor – at least according to the US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer – in town.

In a statement on the USTR’s website published late on Monday, the US fair trade agency announced that under Section 301 of the Trade Act, it was proposing a list of EU products to be covered by additional duties. And as justification for the incremental import taxes, the USTR said that it was in response to EU aircraft subsidies, specifically to Europea’s aerospace giant, Airbus, which “have caused adverse effects to the United States” and which the USTR estimates cause $11 billion in harm to the US each year

One can’t help but notice that the latest shot across the bow in the simmering trade war with Europe comes as i) Trump is reportedly preparing to fold in his trade war with China, punting enforcement to whoever is president in 2025, and ii) comes just as Boeing has found itself scrambling to preserve orders as the world has put its orderbook for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes on hold, which prompted Boeing to cut 737 production by 20% on Friday.

While the first may be purely a coincidence, the second – which is expected to not only slam Boeing’s financials for Q1 and Q2, but may also adversely impact US GDP – had at least some impact on the decision to proceed with these tariffs at this moment.

We now await Europe’s angry response to what is Trump’s latest salvo in what is once again a global trade war. And, paradoxically, we also expect this news to send stocks blasting higher as, taking a page from the US-China trade book, every day algos will price in imminent “US-European trade deal optimism.”

Below the full statement from the USTR (link):

USTR Proposes Products for Tariff Countermeasures in Response to Harm Caused by EU Aircraft Subsidies

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found repeatedly that European Union (EU) subsidies to Airbus have caused adverse effects to the United States.  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) begins its process under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to identify products of the EU to which additional duties may be applied until the EU removes those subsidies.

USTR is releasing for public comment a preliminary list of EU products to be covered by additional duties.  USTR estimates the harm from the EU subsidies as $11 billion in trade each year.  The amount is subject to an arbitration at the WTO, the result of which is expected to be issued this summer.

“This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action. The Administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of U.S. countermeasures,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  “Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft.  When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional U.S. duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

In line with U.S. law, the preliminary list contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector, including Airbus aircraft.  Once the WTO arbitrator issues its report on the value of countermeasures, USTR will announce a final product list covering a level of trade commensurate with the adverse effects determined to exist.

Background

After many years of seeking unsuccessfully to convince the EU and four of its member States (France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) to cease their subsidization of Airbus, the United States brought a WTO challenge to EU subsidies in 2004. In 2011, the WTO found that the EU provided Airbus $18 billion in subsidized financing from 1968 to 2006.  In particular, the WTO found that European “launch aid” subsidies were instrumental in permitting Airbus to launch every model of its large civil aircraft, causing Boeing to lose sales of more than 300 aircraft and market share throughout the world.

In response, the EU removed two minor subsidies, but left most of them unchanged.  The EU also granted Airbus more than $5 billion in new subsidized “launch aid” financing for the A350 XWB.  The United States requested establishment of a compliance panel in March 2012 to address the EU’s failure to remove its old subsidies, as well as the new subsidies and their adverse effects.  That process came to a close with the issuance of an appellate report in May 2018 finding that EU subsidies to high-value, twin-aisle aircraft have caused serious prejudice to U.S. interests.  The report found that billions of dollars in launch aid to the A350 XWB and A380 cause significant lost sales to Boeing 787 and 747 aircraft, as well as lost market share for Boeing very large aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, and UAE markets.

Based on the appellate report, the United States requested authority to impose countermeasures worth $11.2 billion per year, commensurate with the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies.  The EU challenged that estimate, and a WTO arbitrator is currently evaluating those claims

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Mueller report takes ‘Russian meddling’ for granted, offers no actual evidence

RT

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Via RT…


Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report has cleared Donald Trump of ‘collusion’ charges but maintains that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Yet concrete evidence of that is nowhere to be seen.

The report by Mueller and his team, made public on Thursday by the US Department of Justice, exonerates not just Trump but all Americans of any “collusion” with Russia, “obliterating” the Russiagate conspiracy theory, as journalist Glenn Greenwald put it.

However, it asserts that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and says it consisted of a campaign on social media as well as Russian military intelligence (repeatedly referred to by its old, Soviet-era name, GRU) “hacking” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the DNC, and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

As evidence of this, the report basically offers nothing but Mueller’s indictment of “GRU agents,” delivered on the eve of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in what was surely a cosmic coincidence.

Indictments are not evidence, however, but allegations. Any time it looks like the report might be bringing up proof, it ends up being redacted, ostensibly to protect sources and methods, and out of concern it might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.”

‘Active measures’ on social media

Mueller’s report leads with the claim that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) ran an “active measures” campaign of social media influence. Citing Facebook and Twitter estimates, the report says this consisted of 470 Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts that may have been seen by up to 126 million people, between January 2015 and August 2017 (almost a year after the election), and 3,814 Twitter accounts that “may have been” in contact with about 1.4 million people.

Those numbers may seem substantial but, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out in November 2018, they should be regarded against the background of 33 trillion Facebook posts made during the same period.

According to Mueller, the IRA mind-controlled the American electorate by spending “approximately $100,000” on Facebook ads, hiring someone to walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” and getting Trump campaign affiliates to promote “dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.” Dozens!

Meanwhile, the key evidence against IRA’s alleged boss Evgeny Prigozhin is that he “appeared together in public photographs” with Putin.

Alleged hacking & release

The report claims that the GRU hacked their way into 29 DCCC computers and another 30 DNC computers, and downloaded data using software called “X-Tunnel.” It is unclear how Mueller’s investigators claim to know this, as the report makes no mention of them or FBI actually examining DNC or DCCC computers. Presumably they took the word of CrowdStrike, the Democrats’ private contractor, for it.

However obtained, the documents were published first through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – which the report claims are “fictitious online personas” created by the GRU – and later through WikiLeaks. What is Mueller’s proof that these two entities were “GRU” cutouts? In a word, this:

That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.(p. 43)

However, the report acknowledges that the “first known contact” between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks was on September 15, 2016 – months after the DNC and DCCC documents were published! Here we do get actual evidence: direct messages on Twitter obtained by investigators. Behold, these “spies” are so good, they don’t even talk – and when they do, they use unsecured channels.

Mueller notably claims “it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks” (the rest of that sentence is redacted), but the report clearly implies the investigators do not actually know how. On page 47, the report says Mueller “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Strangely, the report accuses WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange of making “public statements apparently designed to obscure the source” of the materials (p.48), notably the offer of a reward for finding the murderer of DNC staffer Seth Rich – even though this can be read as corroborating the intermediaries theory, and Assange never actually said Rich was his source.

The rest of Mueller’s report goes on to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with anyone even remotely Russian and to create torturous constructions that the president had “obstructed” justice by basically defending himself from charges of being a Russian agent – neither of which resulted in any indictments, however. But the central premise that the 22-month investigation, breathless media coverage, and the 448-page report are based on – that Russia somehow meddled in the 2016 election – remains unproven.

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