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The Philippines’ pivot in action: Can “The Punisher” withstand America’s punishment?

As the Philippines under its popular new President Rodrigo Duterte pivots away from the US, the US is intensifying its media campaign that misrepresents his anti-drugs policy in order to miscast him as a ‘dictator’. This looks like the preparation of a hybrid war scenario aimed at overthrowing Duterte’s government, which as in Syria could involve the use of Jihadist terrorists.

Andrew Korybko

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Rodrigo Duterte promised to wage a War on Drugs and return pride to the Philippines if his people elected him President, and with less than three months in office under his belt, he’s already making astounding progress on both interlinked fronts. More than 700,000 drug addicts and pushers have surrendered to the authorities, with around 3,000 being killed for violently resisting and endangering the arresting officers’ lives.

It’s thus evidently not for naught that Duterte earned the nickname “The Punisher” during his two-decade-long service as the mayor of Davao City, during which time he turned it round from being one of the most dangerous places in Asia to what is now one of the safest. 

On the foreign policy front, Duterte has stood up to the US to global applause, calling Obama a “son of a bitch” and the US Ambassador a “gay son of a whore”.

Moreover, his Foreign Minister powerfully reminded the US that the Philippines are not America’s “little brown brother”, in a moving statement that evoked memories of classic Cold War anti-imperialism.

In and of themselves, these words wouldn’t ordinarily mean much to the US and could easily be sucked up so long as Washington’s hegemony was left unchallenged.  The thing is however that Duterte is backing up his words with actions, and is rapidly moving the Philippines away from the US’ unipolar grasp and towards the open embrace of the multipolar world.

In the course of just one week Duterte’s government bravely announced that it wants the US to remove its Special Forces from the southern island of Mindanao, that the Philippines will no longer be conducting joint patrols with the US in the South China Sea, and that Manila is now looking to Beijing and Moscow for procuring its future military equipment.

All the while that this is going on, the Philippines ‘officially’ reassured the US that it was “not cutting ties” and that the authorities will respect the EDCA basing agreement that was signed under Duterte’s predecessor.

What the country however really wants is a “paradigm shift” in its relations with Washington. In fact the Philippines is pivoting away from the US at a quicker pace than even I had forecast in an earlier article for The Duran back in May, and the US’ so-called “Pivot to Asia” is direly threatened as a result.

The US for its part has moved forward with its Hybrid Warfare plans against the Philippines, beginning a nasty infowar which seeks to paint Duterte as a dictator for the way that his country is standing up to its narco-terrorists.

I spoke about all this in a recent edition of my Context Countdown radio show which was transcribed by GPolit into a stand-alone article

Just the other day a supposed ‘informant’ even alleged that the President personally ordered and took part in assassinations himself during his time as mayor. The individual has since been debunked as a fraud but the intent is clear – the US is pulling out all the stops to try to smear Duterte as a ‘rogue third-world dictator’ as the first step for preconditioning the public to his US-backed removal by any means.

The ‘problem’, however is that Duterte remains immensely popular in his country and boasted a sky-high approval rating of 91% in July during the last nationwide poll that was conducted – besting even President Putin in becoming the leader most beloved by his people.

Clearly, the US is not going to have any success at instigating a Colour Revolution in the Philippines.

However, the US has never let ‘democracy’ and the ‘people’s choice’ get in the way of regime change before, hence it is now moving past the point of mere Colour Revolution towards outright Unconventional Warfare.

Daesh-affiliated terrorist group Abu Sayyaf carried out a small-scale attack in Davao City at the beginning of the month during the same time as one of Duterte’s visits there, obviously with the intent of sending him a message that he is on their hit list.  This audacious act prompted the President to declare a state of emergency to allow the military to work more closely with local law enforcement bodies to protect the country from terrorism. 

It also led him to declare with his characteristic bravado that he “will eat [them] alive. Raw.”

It should be noted at this point that persistent rumors have abounded that the US military and intelligence services are linked to Abu Sayyaf, with reports first surfacing at the beginning of the millennium.

Duterte’s experience in governing the largest city in the violence-plagued and mineral-rich island of Mindanao might have exposed him to confidential information that confirmed these allegations, which would explain why he so confidently accused the US of “exporting terrorism” to the Middle East and why he urgently wants the US’s armed forces to leave the Abu Sayyaf-afflicted areas of the south.

Duterte’s fears about an explosion of terrorism in this periphery of the country are not unfounded.  A Philippine expert at the 2015 Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore spoke about the dangers of Daesh triggering a regional crisis through the formation of a franchise caliphate in the Mindanao-Sulawesi Arc.

I expanded on this scenario in my 2016 Trends Forecast for The Saker at the end of last year, a detailed Hybrid War vulnerability assessment that I wrote for Oriental Review this summer, and one of my latest Context Countdown episodes, in which I showed how there is a very real threat that the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia could get drawn into a convoluted mainland-maritime conflict if the terrorists are not snuffed out quickly enough.

This is precisely the type of scenario that the US hopes to engender, forecasting that it will provide the Pentagon with a convenient “anti-terror” ‘justification’ to undergird its ‘Pivot to Asia’.

In seeking to capitalise as much as possible off of this eventuality, the mainstream media in the West is already weaving a suggestive narrative to the rest of the world, hinting that any future uptick in terrorism might be attributable to ‘desperate democrats’ fighting against an ‘irredeemable dictator’.  Thereby Salafist terrorists are painted as ‘freedom fighters’ against Duterte in the same way as they were against President Assad in 2011.

The Colour Revolution infowar has failed within the Philippines itself.  However the reason it is still being viciously fought in the global media is to convince the international public that Duterte’s ‘despotic’ War on Drugs is breeding armed ‘democratic’ resistance, thus ‘legitimising’ the use of terror, and deliberately misleading the targeted foreign audience into supporting the incipient Hybrid War.

The US is unleashing Abu Sayyaf as punishment against “The Punisher”, but a War of Terror on the Philippines won’t be enough to defeat Duterte if he continues to maintain the support of his people, just as President Assad has been able to do in Syria.

Despite the dismal failure of the US’s regime change campaign in Syria, the divide-and-rule destruction that it wrought might cynically be the reason why some Brzezinski-indoctrinated ‘strategists’ are flirting with bringing it to the Philippines.

Just as the US “exported terrorism” to the Middle East, so too it might seek to do the same in Southeast Asia, which is why Duterte must be prepared break the pattern and defend his country from the oncoming onslaught whilst he still has the chance.

As things stands, the joint anti-piracy patrols between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia are a solid first step in preventing the maturation of the Mindanao-Sulawesi Arc into the transnational hotbed of terror that was first warned about during the 2015 Shangri-La Dialogue.  This multilateral initiative also serves the dual purpose of safeguarding against cross-border terrorist infiltration in one of Asia’s most hitherto unpoliced blind spots.

The latest state of emergency is also a helpful move in augmenting Duterte’s capabilities in fighting back against this threat.

However it is inevitable that the next step must eventually be the expulsion of all US military forces from the Philippines and the revocation of the EDCA on whatever grounds can plausibly be thought of – for example the typically outlandish behaviour of US servicemen or some similar scandal.

The US sees the writing on the wall and is fretful that this will happen sooner than later.  Thus the relentless mudslinging that the mainstream media is hurling against Duterte.  However its authors do not realise that it is precisely this Hybrid War activity which is inadvertently speeding up the scenario that they are so desperately trying to prevent.

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Ukraine Wants Nuclear Weapons: Will the West Bow to the Regime in Kiev?

Efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation are one of the few issues on which the great powers agree, intending to continue to limit the spread of nuclear weapons and to prevent new entrants into the exclusive nuclear club.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The former Ukrainian envoy to NATO, Major General Petro Garashchuk, recently stated in an interview with Obozrevatel TV:

“I’ll say it once more. We have the ability to develop and produce our own nuclear weapons, currently available in the world, such as the one that was built in the former USSR and which is now in independent Ukraine, located in the city of Dnipro (former Dnipropetrovsk) that can produce these kinds of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Neither the United States, nor Russia, nor China have produced a missile named Satan … At the same time, Ukraine does not have to worry about international sanctions when creating these nuclear weapons.”

The issue of nuclear weapons has always united the great powers, especially following the signing of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The decision to reduce the number of nuclear weapons towards the end of the Cold War went hand in hand with the need to prevent the spread of such weapons of mass destruction to other countries in the best interests of humanity. During the final stages of the Cold War, the scientific community expended great effort on impressing upon the American and Soviet leadership how a limited nuclear exchange would wipe out humanity. Moscow and Washington thus began START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) negotiations to reduce the risk of a nuclear winter. Following the dissolution of the USSR, the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances persuaded Ukraine to relinquish its nuclear weapons and accede to the NPT in exchange for security assurances from its signatories.

Ukraine has in recent years begun entertaining the possibility of returning to the nuclear fold, especially in light of North Korea’s recent actions. Kim Jong-un’s lesson seems to be that a nuclear deterrent remains the only way of guaranteeing complete protection against a regional hegemon. The situation in Ukraine, however, differs from that of North Korea, including in terms of alliances and power relations. Kiev’s government came into power as a result of a coup d’etat carried out by extremist nationalist elements who seek their inspiration from Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. The long arm of NATO has always been deeply involved in the dark machinations that led to Poroshenko’s ascendency to the Ukrainian presidency. From a geopolitical point of view, NATO’s operation in Ukraine (instigating a civil war in the wake of a coup) follows in the footsteps of what happened in Georgia. NATO tends to organize countries with existing anti-Russia sentiments to channel their Russophobia into concrete actions that aim to undermine Moscow. The war in the Donbass is a prime example.

However, Ukraine has been unable to subdue the rebels in the Donbass region, the conflict freezing into a stalemate and the popularity of the Kiev government falling as the population’s quality of life experiences a precipitous decline. The United States and the European Union have not kept their promises, leaving Poroshenko desperate and tempted to resort to provocations like the recent Kerch strait incident or such as those that are apparently already in the works, as recently reported by the DPR authorities.

The idea of Ukraine resuming its production of nuclear weapons is currently being floated by minor figures, but it could take hold in the coming months, especially if the conflict continues in its frozen state and Kiev becomes frustrated and desperate. The neoconservative wing of the American ruling elite, absolutely committed to the destruction of the Russian Federation, could encourage Kiev along this path, in spite of the incalculable risks involved. The EU, on the other hand, would likely be terrified at the prospect, which would also place it between a rock and a hard place. Kiev, on one side, would be able to extract from the EU much needed economic assistance in exchange for not going nuclear, while on the other side the neocons would be irresponsibly egging the Ukrainians on.

Moscow, if faced with such a possibility, would not just stand there. In spite of Russia having good relations with North Korea, it did not seem too excited at the prospect of having a nuclear-armed neighbor. With Ukraine, the response would be much more severe. A nuclear-armed Ukraine would be a red line for Moscow, just as Crimea and Sevastopol were. It is worth remembering the Russian president’s words when referring to the possibility of a NATO invasion of Crimea during the 2014 coup:

“We were ready to do it [putting Russia’s nuclear arsenal on alert]. Russian people live there, they are in danger, we cannot leave them. It was not us who committed to coup, it was the nationalists and people with extreme beliefs. I do not think this is actually anyone’s wish – to turn it into a global conflict.”

As Kiev stands on the precipice, it will be good for the neocons, the neoliberals and their European lackeys to consider the consequences of advising Kiev to jump or not. Giving the nuclear go-ahead to a Ukrainian leadership so unstable and detached from reality may just be the spark that sets off Armageddon.

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Mike Pompeo lays out his vision for American exceptionalism (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 158.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda take a look at Mike Pompeo’s shocking Brussels speech, where the U.S. Secretary of State took aim at the European Union and United Nations, citing such institutions as outdated and poorly managed, in need of a new dogma that places America at its epicenter.

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Speaking in Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unwittingly underscored why nobody takes the United States seriously on the international stage. Via The Council on Foreign Relations


In a disingenuous speech at the German Marshall Fund, Pompeo depicted the transactional and hypernationalist Trump administration as “rallying the noble nations of the world to build a new liberal order.” He did so while launching gratuitous attacks on the European Union, United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund (IMF)—pillars of the existing postwar order the United States did so much to create. He remained silent, naturally, on the body blows that the current administration has delivered to its erstwhile allies and partners, and to the institutions that once upon a time permitted the United States to legitimate rather than squander its international leadership.

In Pompeo’s telling, Donald J. Trump is simply seeking a return to the world that former Secretary of State George Marshall helped to create. In the decades after 1945, the United States “underwrote new institutions” and “entered into treaties to codify Western values of freedom and human rights.” So doing, the United States “won the Cold War” and—thanks to the late President George H. W. Bush, “we won the peace” that followed. “This is the type of leadership that President Trump is boldly reasserting.”

That leadership is needed because the United States “allowed this liberal order to begin to corrode” once the bipolar conflict ended. “Multilateralism has too often become viewed as an end unto itself,” Pompeo explained. “The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done.” What is needed is a multilateralism that once again places the nation-state front and center.

Leave aside for the moment that nobody actually believes what Pompeo alleges: that multilateralism should be an end in itself; that paper commitments are credible absent implementation, verification, and enforcement; or that the yardstick of success is how many bureaucrats get hired. What sensible people do believe is that multilateral cooperation is often (though not always) the best way for nations to advance their interests in an interconnected world of complicated problems. Working with others is typically superior to unilateralism, since going it alone leaves the United States with the choice of trying to do everything itself (with uncertain results) or doing nothing. Multilateralism also provides far more bang for the buck than President Trump’s favored approach to diplomacy, bilateralism.

Much of Pompeo’s address was a selective and tendentious critique of international institutions that depicts them as invariably antithetical to national sovereignty. Sure, he conceded, the European Union has “delivered a great deal of prosperity to the continent.” But it has since gone badly off track, as the “political wake-up call” of Brexit showed. All this raised a question in his mind: “Is the EU ensuring that the interests of countries and their citizens are placed before those of bureaucrats and Brussels?”

The answer, as one listener shouted out, is “Yes!” The secretary, like many U.S. conservative critics of European integration, is unaware that EU member states continue to hold the lion’s share of power in the bloc, which remains more intergovernmental than supranational. Pompeo seems equally unaware of how disastrously Brexit is playing out. With each passing day, the costs of this catastrophic, self-inflicted wound are clearer. In its quest for complete policy autonomy—on ostensible “sovereignty” grounds—the United Kingdom will likely have to accept, as the price for EU market access, an entire body of law and regulations that it will have no say in shaping. So much for advancing British sovereignty.

Pompeo similarly mischaracterizes the World Bank and IMF as having gone badly off track. “Today, these institutions often counsel countries who have mismanaged their economic affairs to impose austerity measures that inhibit growth and crowd out private sector actors.” This is an odd, hybrid critique. It combines a shopworn, leftist criticism from the 1990s—that the international financial institutions (IFIs) punish poor countries with structural adjustment programs—with the conservative accusation that the IFIs are socialist, big-government behemoths. Both are ridiculous caricatures. They ignore how much soul-searching the IFIs have done since the 1990s, as well as how focused they are on nurturing an enabling institutional environment for the private sector in partner countries.

Pompeo also aims his blunderbuss at the United Nations. He complains that the United Nations’ “peacekeeping missions drag on for decades, no closer to peace,” ignoring the indispensable role that blue helmets play in preventing atrocities, as well as a recent Government Accountability Office report documenting how cost-effective such operations are compared to U.S. troops. Similarly, Pompeo claims, “The UN’s climate-related treaties are viewed by some nations simply as a vehicle to redistribute wealth”—an accusation that is both unsubstantiated and ignores the urgent need to mobilize global climate financing to save the planet.

Bizarrely, Pompeo also turns his sights on the Organization of American States (OAS) and the African Union (AU), for alleged shortcomings. Has the OAS, he asks, done enough “to promote its four pillars of democracy, human rights, security, and economic development?” Um, no. Could that have something to do with the lack of U.S. leadership in the Americas on democracy and human rights? Yes. Might it have helped if the Trump administration had filled the position of assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs before October 15 of this year? Probably.

Equally puzzling is Pompeo’s single line riff on the AU. “In Africa, does the African Union advance the mutual interest of its nation-state members?” Presumably the answer is yes, or its members would be headed for the door. The AU continues to struggle in financing its budget, but it has made great strides since its founding in 2002 to better advance security, stability, and good governance on the continent.

“International bodies must help facilitate cooperation that bolsters the security and values of the free world, or they must be reformed or eliminated,” Pompeo declared. Sounds reasonable. But where is this “free world” of which the secretary speaks, and what standing does the United States today have to defend, much less reform it? In the two years since he took office, Donald Trump has never expressed any interest in defending the international order, much less “returning [the United States] to its traditional, central leadership role in the world,” as Pompeo claims. Indeed, the phrase “U.S. leadership” has rarely escaped Trump’s lips, and he has gone out of his way to alienate longstanding Western allies and partners in venues from NATO to the G7.

When he looks at the world, the president cares only about what’s in it for the United States (and, naturally, for him). That cynicism explains the president’s deafening silence on human rights violations and indeed his readiness to cozy up to strongmen and killers from Vladimir Putin to Rodrigo Duterte to Mohammed bin Salman to too many more to list. Given Trump’s authoritarian sympathies and instincts, Pompeo’s warnings about “Orwellian human rights violations” in China and “suppressed opposition voices” in Russia ring hollow.

“The central question that we face,” Pompeo asked in Brussels, “is the question of whether the system as currently configured, as it exists today—does it work? Does it work for all the people of the world?” The answer, of course, is not as well as it should, and not for nearly enough of them. But if the secretary is seeking to identify impediments to a better functioning multilateral system, he can look to his left in his next Cabinet meeting.

“Principled realism” is the label Pompeo has given Trump’s foreign policy. Alas, it betrays few principles and its connection to reality is tenuous. The president has abandoned any pursuit of universal values, and his single-minded obsession to “reassert our sovereignty” (as Pompeo characterizes it) is actually depriving the United States of joining with others to build the prosperous, secure, and sustainable world that Americans want.

“Bad actors have exploited our lack of leadership for their own gain,” the secretary of state declared in Belgium. “This is the poisoned fruit of American retreat.” How true. Pompeo’s next sentence—“President Trump is determined to reverse that”—was less persuasive.

 

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Russia calls on US to put a leash on Petro Poroshenko

The West’s pass for Mr. Poroshenko may blow up in NATO’s and the US’s face if the Ukrainian President tries to start a war with Russia.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Russia called on Washington not to ignore the Poroshenko directives creating an active military buildup along the Ukrainian-Donbass frontier, this buildup consisting of Ukrainian forces and right-wing ultranationalists, lest it “trigger the implementation of a bloody scenario”, according to a Dec 11 report from TASS.

The [Russian] Embassy [to the US] urges the US State Department to recognize the presence of US instructors in the zone of combat actions, who are involved in a command and staff and field training of Ukraine’s assault airborne brigades. “We expect that the US will bring to reason its proteges. Their aggressive plans are not only doomed to failure but also run counter to the statements of the administration on its commitment to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine by political and diplomatic means,” the statement said.

This warning came after Eduard Basurin, the deputy defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic noted that the Ukrainian army was massing troops and materiel for a possible large-scale offensive at the Mariupol section of the contact line in Donbass. According to Basurin, this action is expected to take place on 14 December. TASS offered more details:

According to the DPR’s reconnaissance data, Ukrainian troops plan to seize the DPR’s Novoazovsky and Temanovsky districts and take control over the border section with Russia. The main attack force of over 12,000 servicemen has been deployed along the contact line near the settlements of Novotroitskoye, Shirokino, and Rovnopol. Moreover, more than 50 tanks, 40 multiple missile launcher systems, 180 artillery systems and mortars have been reportedly pulled to the area, Basurin added. Besides, 12 BM-30 Smerch heavy multiple rocket launchers have been sent near Volodarsky.

The DPR has warned about possible provocations plotted by Ukrainian troops several times. Thus, in early December, the DPR’s defense ministry cited reconnaissance data indicating that the Ukrainian military was planning to stage an offensive and deliver an airstrike. At a Contact Group meeting on December 5, DPR’s Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova raised the issue of Kiev’s possible use of chemical weapons in the conflict area.

This is a continuation of the reported buildup The Duran reported in this article linked here, and it is a continuation of the full-scale drama that started with the Kerch Strait incident, which itself appears to have been staged by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko. Following that incident, the president was able to get about half of Ukraine placed under a 30-day period of martial law, citing “imminent Russian aggression.”

President Poroshenko is arguably a dangerous man. He appears to be desperate to maintain a hold on power, though his approval numbers and support is abysmally low in Ukraine. While he presents himself as a hero, agitating for armed conflict with Russia and simultaneously interfering in the affairs of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, he is actually one of the most dangerous leaders the world has to contend with, precisely because he is unfit to lead.

Such men and women are dangerous because their desperation makes them short-sighted, only concerned about their power and standing.

An irony about this matter is that President Poroshenko appears to be exactly what the EuroMaidan was “supposed” to free Ukraine of; that is, a stooge puppet leader that marches to orders from a foreign power and does nothing for the improvement of the nation and its citizens.

The ouster of Viktor Yanukovich was seen as the sure ticket to “freedom from Russia” for Ukraine, and it may well have been that Mr. Yanukovich was an incompetent leader. However, his removal resulted in a tryannical regíme coming into power, that resulting in the secession of two Ukrainian regions into independent republics and a third secession of strategically super-important Crimea, who voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.

While this activity was used by the West to try to bolster its own narrative that Russia remains the evil henchman in Europe, the reality of life in Ukraine doesn’t match this allegation at all. A nation that demonstrates such behavior shows that there are many problems, and the nature of these secessions points at a great deal of fear from Russian-speaking Ukrainian people about the government that is supposed to be their own.

President Poroshenko presents a face to the world that the West is apparently willing to support, but the in-country approval of this man as leader speaks volumes. The West’s blind support of him “against Russia” may be one of the most tragic errors yet in Western foreign policy.

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