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Who produces fake news? Russia, America, or both?

Comparing facts on the ground with the track record of the media in both countries, provides us an answer

Eric Zuesse

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(Washington’s Blog) – The biggest difference between American and Russian news-reporting has been a simple factual issue between the two sides, on what incident started the ‘New Cold War’ between the U.S. and Russia. (The original Cold War was between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and had an ideological, capitalist-versus-communist, alleged basis, but this one doesn’t — so, it’s not really a ‘New Cold War’; it is quite different, but it might be even more deadly.)

The U.S. and its allies say that what started it was in March 2014 when “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” and “the invasion of Crimea” and Russia’s “conquest of land” by means of that “invasion,” sparked America’s sanctions against Russia and NATO’s military buildup along Russia’s borders; but Russia says that what started it was in February 2014 when Ukraine was victimized, as Russian Television reported it, on 13 March 2014, by:

an armed coup. The Maidan do not appoint these people; rather, it’s the US that does it. It’s enough to look at the newly appointed officials: Parubiy, Gvozd, Nalyvaichenko are all people who followed somebody else’s orders, the orders of the US, not even Europe. They are directly linked to the American intelligence.

In the American account, Ukrainian democracy started when the democratically elected President of Ukraine was overthrown in February 2014; in the Russian account, Ukrainian democracy ended when the democratically elected President of Ukraine was overthrown in February 2014, and only after (and in response to) that, did two regions (Crimea and Donbass, both of which had voted more than 75% for that man) break away from, and refuse to be governed by, the newly installed Ukrainian Government, which was now being imposed upon them.

For nearly three years now, there has been this ‘debate’; but, there has actually been no debate at all, because the media on the two sides, have different alleged ‘historical’ accounts of what the cause of the ‘New Cold War’ is. The people on the two sides disagree about history (was it a coup that had occurred in Ukraine in February 2014, or was it instead a revolution?), and not only about the news. Fake ‘news’ isn’t the only issue here; fake ‘history’ also is.

This is an exceedingly dangerous situation to exist between the two nuclear superpowers, because it goes deeper than mere semantics (‘coup’ or else ‘revolution’) to the real evidence, to reality. One side or the other is — or else both sides are — simply ignoring crucial evidence, in this case. This could produce nuclear Armageddon. There are two mutually contradictory accounts of the history, which have been continuing unchanged for nearly three years already, and the only way that the problem is being dealt with is by there continuing to be no public adjudication of the issue on the basis of the wealth of incontrovertible evidence that exists (including crucial leaked phone-conversations such as this and this) regarding this incredibly important matter.

Was the precipitating event Obama’s ‘coup’ in February 2014, or was it instead Putin’s ‘invasion’ in March 2014? Western media don’t, at all, use the term “coup” to refer to the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014, but Russian media do.

On Saturday, October 28th, the RT (Russian Television) website used the word “coup” to refer to the overthrow and replacement that occurred in February 2014 of Ukraine’s Government. In the U.S. and its allied countries, that replacement of the Ukrainian Government is instead called a “democratic revolution” or “2014 Ukrainian revolution” or “Uprising in Ukraine”, referring to it as a supposedly not-CIA-organized operation (though the Obama Administration had actually started planning it in 2011). The U.S.-backed article “Uprising in Ukraine” described this Governmental overthrow as follows (which provides a good summary of the official U.S.-and-allied ‘news’media’s account of what had happened):

Three acts unfolded on the Maidan. First came the citizen protests. Then, the brutal government crackdown. And finally, after the first guy was killed on Hrushevsky Street, what I call “the Maidan of dignity.” At that point, it had become obvious that the people would never accept Yanukovych again. It was the beginning of his end, and the start of this journey toward Russia that is still playing out.

Once, Ukraine looked at its leaders like Olympic Gods; they know what to do, and how to do it, and we’ll just follow them. But over these last three months, the people have seen that’s not true. Politicians are no better than the rest of us. People want to participate in politics now. They demand equality, the right to assembly, and a fair court system. And they see their leaders for what they are—really old. If you asked Yanukovych or some others about Facebook, they wouldn’t understand what it can do.

I understand that the moment I posted on Facebook, I was no longer acting as a journalist; I was an activist. As a journalist, one must remain independent. On the other hand, as a citizen, I had to act. It is difficult to do nothing as your future is being destroyed right before your eyes. As the crackdown began, I realized I could no longer stand by as an unbiased observer while the government was killing people. It has been a long time coming.

The press gained freedoms under Yanukovych. But it wasn’t until 2013 that a group of us left our jobs at companies owned by oligarchs or political partisans and began to create a truly independent media. In the first months of the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych we formed Stop Censorship! to protest persecution of the press.

Three years later, we founded the first Internet TV channel in the country that operates through donations from our viewers — Hromadske.tv, where I work now as editor in chief. The media showed everything that was happening—helping people to believe that if we all act together, we can accomplish great things.

But the Russian media are different. They are trying to create a parallel reality. They are under Putin’s control, and he is trying to convince Russians that evil has overtaken Kyiv. The Russian people don’t have access to a free Internet, like we do. …

Wikipedia says of that writer:

Using Facebook, Nayem was one of the first activists to urge Ukrainians to gather on Independence Square in Kiev to protest Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to “pause” preparations for signing an association agreement with the European Union.[9] His summons to rally on Facebook on November 21, 2013 were the start of the Euromaidan protests which led to the overthrow of the Yanukovych government.[10]

His main financial backer was actually an American “oligarch” or aristocrat, the lifelong hater of Russians, George Soros, whose Open Society Foundation and other rabidly anti-Russian ‘non-profits’ and ‘charities’, such as the International Renaissance Foundation, had pushed that writer forward to become ultimately a member of Ukraine’s post-coup parliament or “Rada.” But in that article by him, which was published at Soros’s Open Society Foundation site on 4 April 2014, he was identified at that time as: “Mustafa Nayem is a Ukrainian journalist and co-founder of the online channel Hromadske.TV.” In other words: Nayem was very successful as a Soros employee, not only before the “uprising” but after.

Where Nayem had used in his article the phrases “the brutal government crackdown” and “the Maidan of dignity,” I thought of the event that occurred on 25 January 2014, and that was captured so well in a video uploaded that day to the Web by Russian Television, “Ukrainian rioters brutally assaulting police”, in which the terrified police, who are being beaten and worse by America’s hired masked paramilitaries, try to ward off the clubs and brickbats by means of their shields. The assault’s PR agents labelled such realites as “the Maidan of dignity,” and Soros’s Nayem parroted the phrase, for whatever trusting fools (people who don’t ‘need’ evidence) might happen to be reading Soros’s site — which is just about everyone who reads there. Those PR agents had actually been inside the Vatican (institutionally hostile toward Russia); and, in fact, on that very day (January 25th), Vatican Radio had headlined “Ukraine movement a ‘Maidan of dignity’, says bishop”, and Orthodox Churches, including the Russian one, were infuriated. But, anyway: this was the reality behind “the Maidan of dignity.”

Here was a superb article by the tech journalist Carola Frediani on 28 February 2014, the last day of the coup, in which she had explained “How Ukraine’s EuroMaidan Revolution Played Out Online” (because calling it a “coup” that early was too shocking even for her; she apparently still trusted the Western ‘news’media), and reported:

Protestors began to mobilize on Nov. 21, 2013, after the Ukrainian government suspend preparations for the EU-Ukraine Association agreement. They gathered in Independence Square (Maidan) in Kiev and used the hashtags #euromaidan and #евромайдан on Twitter and Facebook. The Facebook posts of Hromadske TV journalist Mustafa Nayem, encouraging Ukranians to gather at Maidan, received more than 1,000 shares in a few hours. At the same time, a number of independent video streams were set up, on platforms like UStream, live broadcasting what was happening on the streets.

The demonstrations swelled on November 24 when ultimately 250,000 people took to Kiev’s streets, demanding reforms as well as Ukraine’s European integration. The first social media pages also started to gain traction: the Euromaidan Facebook page gained 70,000 followers in less than a week. As noted by two NYU researchers in the Washington Post, Facebook was being used much more actively than Twitter, acting as a news hub, as well as coordinating protests by noting the location of demonstrations, providing logistical and support information, distributing flyers for printing and dissemination, giving tips on how to behave and react to police, and uploading videos of police brutality.

A recent independent research study conducted by Kyrylo Galushko and Natalia Zorba from the National Pedagogical University ‘M.P. Drahomanov’ in Kiev confirmed the predominance of Facebook in organizing the protests. According to a poll of 50 Ukrainian social media experts and Internet opinion leaders, conducted between December 2013 and January 2014, Facebook played the largest role in mobilization. Twitter came in second place, followed by the Russian social networking site, Vkontakte, which is the second most popular social networking site in Europe. “Social networking services were the leading communication feature of protesters, instrument of mobilization for taking part in different actions and establishing other forms of social support,” explains Galushko. …

Even she didn’t recognize, at the time, that she was covering a coup. But, on 12 March 2014, was uploaded to the Web this stunningly brilliant 12-minute video showing that it was actually a coup and a very bloody one; and, then, six days later, that video was used as the opening 12 minutes of a 62-minute video which added yet more videos of what had been happening behind-the-scenes there. And, then, on 27 January 2015, a deeper layer of the behind-the-scenes operation was revealed, and I picked up on it and tied it in with the other extremely reliable evidence that was by now available on the Web about the overthrow, and all of it fit into the same picture: that of its having been a U.S. coup. On 8 February 2015, I posted “New Video Evidence of America’s Coup in Ukraine — and What It Means” and linked to this video which had been taken inside the Ukrainian Rada on 20 November 2013, immediately before the “Maidan ‘Revolution’,” in which video a Rada member, Oleg Tsarev, delivered an address to the other members, providing there a detailed description of what had been happening for months already, inside the U.S. Embassy, “tech camps” training far-right paramilitary Ukrainians how to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter in order to raise a mass of ‘democracy’ demonstrators, behind which those paramilitaries would then be able to take over the Ukrainian Government by their guns, and become the country’s new rulers. Tsarev said:

In my role as a representative of the Ukrainian people, activists from the Volya Public Organization turned to me, providing clear evidence that within our country, with support and direct participation of the US Embassy in Kiev, a “TechCamp” project is under way in which preparations are being made for a civil war in Ukraine. The “TechCamp” project prepares specialists for information warfare and for the discrediting of state institutions [the Government] using modern media — potential revolutionaries for organizing protests and the toppling of the Government. This project is overseen by and currently under the responsibility of the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt. After the conversation with the Volya Organization, I learned that they actually succeeded to access facilities in the “TechCamp” project [they had hacked into it] disguised as a team of IT specialists. To their surprise, were found briefings that were held on peculiarities of modern media. American instructors explained there how social networks and Internet technologies can be used for targeted manipulation of public opinion as well as to activate potential protest to provoke violent unrest on the territory of Ukraine — radicalization of the population, and triggering of infighting. American instructors show examples of successful use of social networks to organize protests in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. “Tech Camp” representatives currently hold conferences throughout Ukraine. A total of five events have been held so far. About 300 people have been trained as operatives, who are now active throughout Ukraine. The last conference took place on 14 and 14 November 2013, in the heart of Kiev, inside the US Embassy!

That article also described Tsarev’s background, and his past and subsequent enormous courage, risking his life and losing his fortune, to protect Ukraine’s democracy — and, then, failing that, to help Donbass to protect itself from the new Ukraine’s ethnic-cleansing operation. I furthermore noted there:

The U.S. Embassy in Kiev had even posted in Spring of 2013 an announcement of its “Tech Camps.” Here is an announcement from the Embassy in Ukraine, on 1 March 2013, titled, “U.S. Embassy Hosted TechCamp Kyiv 2.0 to Build Technological Capacity of Civil Society.” (That Ambassador is now our Ambassador to Russia.)

This new evidence from Tsarev, piled on top of all the other evidence that already proved the assertion by the founder of the “private CIA” firm Stratfor, that the overthrow of Yanukovych was “the most blatant coup in history,” simply cements the reality, that all of the sanctions against Russia, and all of the “me too” statements supporting Obama’s coup and ethnic cleansing in Ukraine, by David Cameron, Stephen Harper, and Obama’s other co-nazis, are abominations, which should be loudly condemned by all decent persons in all countries. The aggressor here is Obama, not Putin; and NATO must end, now: all decent nations should quit it ASAP. (War crimes trials against Obama and his agents should follow. After all: these people are bringing the world closer to a nuclear war than has been the case since 1962, and there is no decent reason for it.)

Subsequently, on 17 September 2016, I traced the origin of the February 2014 coup back farther, to a meeting that had occurred on 23 June 2011 between Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, Google’s Eric Schmidt, and the Hillary Clinton U.S. State Department’s Jared Cohen (now hired by Google), in which Schmidt and Cohen drilled Assange for tips on how to use social media to foment a revolution, and Assange didn’t figure out till later, that they were planning both the Arab Spring operations and the takeover of Ukraine. On 23 October 2014 Assange headlined “Google Is Not What It Seems”, and called Cohen “Google’s ‘director of regime change’.” Assange also explained his disillusionment: “I began [prior to meeting Schmidt] to think of Schmidt as a brilliant but politically hapless Californian tech billionaire who had been exploited by the very U.S. foreign-policy types he had collected to act as translators between himself and official Washington — a West Coast–East Coast illustration of the principal-agent dilemma. I was wrong.”

The great investigative historian Nafeez Ahmed took that insight even farther, in his stunning 22 January 2015 “How the CIA made Google”, which tells, in remarkable detail, the origin of the military-industrial complex’s takeover of the then-emerging digital economy — the internet, Google, the ‘news’media, and, more broadly, of Americans’ emerging fascism-accepting political attitudes and beliefs — the manipulation of the public mind (mass mind-control), starting with the mathematician William Perry’s service as U.S. Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton. Whereas the anodyne CIA-editedWikipedia article on Perry presents him by deceptive phrases such as “Perry did everything he could to improve relations with Moscow,” and ignores the deeper reality to the exact contrary (which followed through on President G.H.W. Bush’s lie issued on 24 February 1990), Ahmed recognizes this deeper reality (which I documented at the present link). Perry was doing everything he could — and not just in the former Yugoslavia — to expand America’s empire right up to Russia’s borders.

On 3 January 2015, I submitted to all U.S. newsmedia, for them to consider for possible publication, a news-report that opened:

Czech President Says ‘Only Poorly Informed People’ Don’t Know About Ukraine Coup

Eric Zuesse

The Czech Republic’s President Milos Zeman said, in an interview, in the January 3rd edition of Prague’s daily newspaper Pravo, that Czechs who think of the overthrow of Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych, on 22 February 2014, as having been like Czechoslovakia’s authentically democratic “Velvet Revolution” are seeing it in a profoundly false light, because, (as Russian Television translated his statement into English) “Maidan was not a democratic revolution.” He said that this is the reason why Ukraine now is in a condition of “civil war,” in which the residents of the Donbass region in Ukraine’s southeast have broken away from the Ukrainian Government.

He furthermore said that, “Judging by some of the statements of Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, I think that he is rather a prime minister of war because he does not want a peaceful solution, as recommended by the European Union (EU), but instead prefers to use force.”

He added, by way of contrast to Yatsenyuk, the possibility that Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko “might be a man of peace.” So: though Zeman held out no such hope regarding Yatsenyuk (who was Obama’s choice to lead Ukraine), he did for Poroshenko (who wasn’t Obama’s choice, but who became Ukraine’s President despite Obama’s having wanted Yatsenyuk’s sponsor, the hyper-aggressive Yulia Tymoshenko, to win the May 25th Presidential election, which was held only in Ukraine’s pro-coup northwest, but claimed to possess authority over the entire country). …

That news-report was published at no mainstrean news-site and was rejected by almost all alternative-news sites, but was published at the following six: RINF, washingtonsblog, thepeoplesvoice, countercurrents, blacklistednews, and pontiactribune.

If such news-reports were published in U.S. newsmedia, especially in mainstream ones, then one could reasonably trust U.S. newsmedia, but such news-reports are not published in the U.S. (nor in its allied countries)

Here is terrific journalism (click onto that link) from “The Saker” documenting both with video from Hromadske TV, and with links to that TV operation’s annual financial reports, that the three top funders of Hromadske TV — Nayem’s springboard into Ukraine’s Rada —  were, in order: the Dutch Embassy, the American Embassy, and the International Renaissance Foundation (mis-identified there as the “International Renaissance Fund” — this is one of Soros’s ‘non-profits’, not one of his hedge funds). That report by The Saker was dated 3 August 2014, and afterward the linked-to “Hromadske TV Annual Financial Report, 2013” was taken down, but here it had been web-archived, so that you can see and authenticate it for yourself, showing on its second-to-last page, exactly what the screen-shot by The Saker showed. Interestingly, the “International Renaissance Fund” error was in the original financial report itself. The error wasn’t by The Saker.

That article by The Saker included the 31 July 2014 video of a Ukrainian ‘journalist’ being interviewed on George Soros’s and Mustafa Nayem’s and the U.S. Government’s and the Dutch Government’s Ukrainian TV station, explaining why “You need to kill 1.5 million people in Donbass” — arguing for ethnic cleansing there, of the genocidal type. The U.S.-imposed Ukrainian regime did attempt that, and such ethnic-cleansing started being Ukrainian Government policy as soon as the new Government was installed. On 19 November 2014, I headlined “Meet Ukraine’s Master Mass-Murderer: Dmitriy Yarosh”and noted that Yarosh had been the person who not only was very active in the ethnic-cleansing program, but he had trained the paramilitaries who had executed the overthrow, and I linked to a video of Yarosh being interviewed as a hero on the new regime’s television. I also wrote:

As Yarosh said this past March in an interview with Newsweek, he has “been training paramilitary troops for almost 25 years,” and his “divisions are constantly growing all over Ukraine, but over 10,000 people for sure.” More recently, in October, a pro-Government Ukrainian site interviewed Yarosh and he mentioned specifically a “DUC,” or Volunteer Ukrainian Corps of fighters. He was then asked “How many soldiers in DUC?” and he answered, “About seven thousand men.” These would be his real military force, by far the biggest private army in Ukraine. So, in his private files are everyone’s individual background and skill-level as a “paramilitary,” or far-right mercenary, and they all respect and obey him as the top man. He is the indispensable person in this new Ukraine. Yarosh’s teams carry out the most violent operations for the CIA in Ukraine (including the coup).

Already by the time of 9 December 2014, Russian Television headlined “’They’ll try to shut you down’: Meeting Assange & the non-stop ‘War on RT’”, and RT’s chief Margarita Simonyan covered 5 specific ways in which Assange was predicting that the U.S. would try to shut down RT in America:

1. Pressuring of our employees.

2. Hordes of Western media outlets attempting to discredit our work.

3. Flogging the ‘cash cow’

4. Explicit threats to revoke our broadcasting license.

5. Pressuring independent experts who appear on RT.

Assange there scored a 100% accuracy-of-prediction; and, so, on 1 October 2017, RT headlined “‘If RT leaves the US, American media might stop broadcasting in Russia’ – RT editor-in-chief”.

On 28 October 2017, RT bannered “Budapest vetoes Ukraine-NATO summit, says Kiev’s new law a ‘stab in the back’”, and reported that some of the formerly Russia-allied European nations were turning away from the U.S. (NATO & EU) alliance. The core of that news-report was the statement from Hungary’s Foreign Minister saying “Hungary cannot support Ukraine’s integration aspirations, so it vetoed the NATO-Ukraine summit in December.” RT’s article linked to the Hungarian Government video of that person saying this. However, my Web-search of that statement “Hungary cannot support Ukraine’s integration aspirations, so it vetoed the NATO-Ukraine summit in December” brings up only the RT news-report, none other. A Web-search for that Minister’s name, Peter Szijjarto, also fails to bring it up. Perhaps his statement isn’t suitable for inclusion in “All the News That’s Fit to Print”. Apparently, it just doesn’t fit; so, it won’t be printed. Like none of this has been published in America.

On 22 August 2014, Steven Starr, who is one of the world’s leading experts on what would be the results of a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, headlined “’The Russian Aggression Prevention Act’ (RAPA): A Direct Path to Nuclear War with Russia”, and he opened:

The “Russian Aggression Prevention Act”, introduced to Congress by U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), will set the US on a path towards direct military conflict with Russia in Ukraine.

Any US-Russian war is likely to quickly escalate into a nuclear war, since neither the US nor Russia would be willing to admit defeat, both have many thousands of nuclear weapons ready for instant use, and both rely upon Counterforce military doctrine that tasks their military, in the event of war, to preemptively destroy the nuclear forces of the enemy.

RAPA provides de facto NATO membership for Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova via RAPA

The Russian Aggression Prevention Act, or RAPA, “Provides major non-NATO ally status for Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova for purposes of the transfer or possible transfer of defense articles or defense services.” Major non-NATO ally status would for practical purposes give NATO membership to these nations, as it would allow the US to move large amounts of military equipment and forces to them without the need for approval of other NATO member states. Thus RAPA would effectively bypass long-standing German opposition to the US request to make Ukraine and Georgia part of NATO.

Fortunately, Corker’s bill turned out to have ended on 1 May 2014 when it was sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and failed to be voted on even there. Corker is that extreme a neoconservative. No one in the U.S. Government can be more fascist than that. He was even more of a fascist than U.S. President Barack Obama was.

On 28 October 2017, the AP bannered “Corker: Possible 2020 run against Trump not ruled out” and reported that Senator Corker, who had earlier announced that he won’t be running for another term in the Senate, is now leaving open the possibility of a primary campaign to block Donald Trump from again receiving his Party’s nomination. The article said: “And any impeachment of Trump isn’t realistic today and is not going to happen, Corked added.” So: maybe the reason why he wanted not to be a Senator after 2018, is that he had decided he wants to be free during 2019 and 2020 to campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination for himself. The AP noted that, “Early this month, Corker charged that Trump had turned the White House into an ‘adult day care center’ and was setting the U.S. ‘on the path to World War III’.” But, of course, Corker was actually describing himself there (regardless of whether he was also describing the current President), and no one in the U.S. ‘news’media was pointing out this important fact about him. Corker was already running for the White House. He seemed already to be aiming to be the Republican version of Hillary Clinton who would win what she had failed to win: the White House.

This article, like every article that I do, is being sent free-of-charge for publication, to all U.S. newsmedia that cover international issues; but, all of the major newsmedia, and almost all of the “alternative news” sites, have refused to publish any among the many hundreds like this that I have submitted to them in the past. Perhaps the reason for this is the same reason why the U.S. ‘news’media never admitted that they had entirely uncritically reported to the American people, in stenographic fashion, really as propaganda instead of as a democratic newsmedia, the lies that George W. Bush and his Administration asserted in 2002 and 2003 regarding ‘Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction’ etc., as if it those lies weren’t clear, even at that time the lies were made. How does a ‘news’media which has a record of deceiving its public into invasions, ever admit that this is what they long have been doing, and continue even now to do? Any of them that would publish the present article would be making a fundamental change-of-course, to becoming finally part of the press in a democracy, no longer part of the propaganda-operation in a dictatorship. Can a leopard change its spots? We’ll see, by web-searching the title here, “Does Russia Produce ‘Fake News’? Or Does America? Or Both?” and seeing where this article has been published — and where it hasn’t.

Perhaps the people who run America’s ‘news’ media don’t care whether they are participants in bringing about nuclear Armageddon. We’ll soon see.

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While US seeks to up the ante on pressure on the DPRK, Russia proposes easing sanctions

These proposals show the dichotomy between the philosophy of US and Russian foreign policy

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The United States last week accused the DPRK of violating refined petroleum caps imposed as a part of UN nuclear sanctions dating back to 2006, and is therefore submitting a proposal to cut all petroleum product sales to North Korea.

The Trump administration is keen on not only preserving pressure on North Korea over its nuclear arms development, but in increasing that pressure even as DPRK Chairman, Kim Jong-Un, is serially meeting with world leaders in a bid to secure North Korea’s security and potential nuclear disarmament, a major move that could deescalate tensions in the region, end the war with the South, and ease global apprehensions about the North’s nuclear arsenal.

Meanwhile, Russia is proposing to the UNSC sanctions relief in some form due to the North’s expressed commitment to nuclear disarmament in the light of recent developments.

Reuters reports:

MOSCOW/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia’s envoy to North Korea said on Wednesday it would be logical to raise the question of easing sanctions on North Korea with the United Nations Security Council, as the United States pushes for a halt to refined petroleum exports to Pyongyang.

“The positive change on the Korean peninsula is now obvious,” said the ambassador, Alexander Matsegora, according to the RIA news agency, adding that Russia was ready to help modernize North Korea’s energy system if sanctions were lifted and if Pyongyang can find funding for the modernization.

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

China tried late last month to get the Security Council to issue a statement praising the June 12 Singapore meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and expressing its “willingness to adjust the measures on the DPRK in light of the DPRK’s compliance with the resolutions.”

North Korea’s official name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

But the United States blocked the statement on June 28 given “ongoing and very sensitive talks between the United States and the DPRK at this time,” diplomats said. The same day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi about the importance of sanctions enforcement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to informally brief U.N. Security Council envoys along with South Korea and Japan on Friday.

Diplomats say they expect Pompeo to stress the need to maintain pressure on North Korea during his briefing on Friday.

In a tweet on Wednesday Trump said he elicited a promise from Russian President Vladimir Putin to help negotiate with North Korea but did not say how. He also said: “There is no rush, the sanctions remain!”

The United States accused North Korea last week of breaching a U.N. sanctions cap on refined petroleum by making illicit transfers between ships at sea and demanded an immediate end to all sales of the fuel.

The United States submitted the complaint to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee, which is due to decide by Thursday whether it will tell all U.N. member states to halt all transfers of refined petroleum to Pyongyang.

Such decisions are made by consensus and some diplomats said they expected China or Russia to delay or block the move.

When asked on June 13 about whether sanctions should be loosened, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “We should be thinking about steps in that direction because inevitably there is progress on the track that should be reciprocal, that should be a two-way street. The other side should see encouragement to go forward.”

The proposals of both the United States and Russia are likely to be vetoed by each other, resulting no real changes, but what it displays is the foreign policy positions of both nuclear powers towards the relative position of the DPRK and its rhetorical move towards denuclearization. The US demonstrates that its campaign of increased pressure on the North is necessary to accomplishing the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula, while Russia’s philosophy on the matter is to show a mutual willingness to follow through on verbal commitment with a real show of action towards an improved relationship, mirroring on the ground what is happening in politics.

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EU and Japan ink free trade deal representing over 30% of global GDP

The free trade agreement represents a victory for free trade in the face of growing protectionism

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In a bid to preserve free trade and strengthen their trade partnership, the European Union and Japan have finished a free trade zone agreement that has been sitting in the pipeline for years.

The present global economic outlook provided the needed spur to action to get the ball rolling again and now it has finally reached the end zone and scored another point for free and open trade against the growing influence of protectionism, which has been creeping up with alarming rapidity and far reaching consequences in recent months.

Under the deal, Japan will scrap tariffs on some 94% of goods imported from Europe and the EU in turn is canning 99% of tariffs on Japanese goods.

Between the European Union and Japan, the trade deal impacts about 37% of the world’s GDP, making it one of the largest and impactful of such agreements.

The Japan Times reports:

Top European Union leaders and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed an economic partnership agreement Tuesday in Tokyo, a pact that will create a massive free trade zone accounting for 37 percent of the world’s trade by value.

European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hastily arranged their visit to Tokyo after Abe was forced to abruptly cancel plans to attend a July 11 signing ceremony in Brussels in the aftermath of flooding and mudslides in western Japan.

Japanese officials said the signing is particularly important to counter intensifying protectionism worldwide triggered by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Negotiations on the pact between Japan and the EU, which started in 2013, had stagnated for a time but regained momentum after Trump took office in January 2017.

“We are sending a clear message that we stand together against protectionism,” Tusk said at a joint news conference with Abe after they signed the agreement.

“The relationship between the EU and Japan has never been stronger. Geographically we are far apart, but politically and economically we could be hardly any closer,” Tusk said. “I’m proud today we are taking our strategic partnership to a new level.”

Tusk stressed that the EU and Japan are partners sharing the same basic values, such as liberal democracy, human rights and rule-based order.

Abe also emphasized the importance of free and fair trade.

“Right now, concerns are rising over protectionism all around the world. We are sending out a message emphasizing the importance of a trade system based on free and fair rules,” he said.

The pact will create a free trade bloc accounting for roughly 30 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. Japan and the EU hope to have the agreement, which still needs to be ratified by both parties, come into force by March.

Under the EPA, tariffs on about 99 percent of Japan’s exported goods to the EU will eventually be eliminated, while duties on 94 percent of EU’s exported items to Japan will be abolished, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The EPA will eliminate duties of 10 percent on Japan’s auto exports to the EU seven years after the pact takes effect. The current 15 percent duties on wine imports from the EU will be eliminated immediately, while those on cheese, pork and beef will be sharply cut.

In total, the EPA will push up domestic GDP by 1 percent, or ¥5 trillion a year, and create 290,000 new jobs nationwide, according to the government.

“The world is now facing raging waves of protectionism. So the signing ceremony at this time is particularly meaningful,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said earlier this month on condition of anonymity.

“The impact for Japan is big,” the official said.

Fukunari Kimura, an economics professor at Keio University, said the EU is now trying to accelerate the ratification process.

“This is a repercussion of President Trump’s policies. They will try to ratify it before Brexit in March of next year,” he said in an interview with The Japan Times last week.

But the deal has raised concerns among some domestic farmers, in particular those from Hokkaido, the country’s major dairy producer.

According to an estimate by the Hokkaido Prefectural Government, the EPA will cut national production in the agriculture, fishery and forestry industries by up to ¥114.3 billion a year, with Hokkaido accounting for 34 percent of the predicted losses.

“The sustainable development of the prefecture’s agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries is our top priority. We need to make efforts to raise our international competitiveness,” Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi said during a news conference July 10.

Japan and the EU had reached a basic agreement on the EPA in December.

Tokyo also led negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal in January 2017.

In March, 11 countries including Japan signed the so-called TPP11, or a revised TPP pact that does not include the U.S.

“The Japan-EU EPA is another important step for Japan to strengthen its trade relationship with key trading partners, and demonstrate that trade liberalization is alive and well, even if the United States is taking a different stance,” wrote Wendy Cutler, a former acting deputy U.S. Trade Representative, in an email sent to The Japan Times last week.

“The EU deal also reduces Japanese dependence on the U.S. market and thus increases its leverage to resist unreasonable trade demands by the United States,” she wrote.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the EU, which accounts for 22 percent of the world’s GDP, was the destination for 11.4 percent of Japanese exports in 2016. In the same year, the figure for the U.S. was 20.2 percent and 17.7 percent for China.

In 2016, Japan’s exports to the EU totaled ¥8 trillion, while reciprocal trade was ¥8.2 trillion.

The deal provides tariff relief for both parties and can improve the quantity of trade between them, expand the economy and create many jobs. It also helps to further diversify their trade portfolios in order to mitigate the prospect of a single global trade partner wielding too much influence, which in turn provides a certain amount of cover from any adverse actions or demands from a single actor. In this way, current trade dependencies can be reduced and free and diversified trade is further bolstered.

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Russia just DUMPED $80 billion in US debt

The US Treasury published a report naming those countries that are the largest holders of US bonds. The list includes 33 countries, and for the first time Russia is no longer in it.

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Russia has stopped “inching towards de-dollarization” as I wrote about on July 3rd, and has now energetically walked out of the list of largest holders of US government bonds, hence this update. For the two months ending in May 2018, Moscow has offloaded more than $80 billion in US Government debt obligations.

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The $30 billion “minimum” listing Rubicon has been crossed by Russia.

As of the end of May, Russia had bonds worth only $ 14.9 billion. For comparison: in April, Russia was on the Treasury list with bonds totaling $48.7 billion. Even then it was offloading US$ debt securities as Russia owned in March over $96 billion. At the end of 2017, Russia had US treasury securities worth $102.2 billion. It is anyones guess what Russia will own when the June and July figures are released in August and September – probably less than today.

This simply serves as a confirmation that Russia is steadfastly following a conservative policy of risk diversification in several areas such as financial, economic, and geopolitical. The US public debt and spend is increasingly viewed as a heightened risk area, deserving sober assessment.

So where have all the dollars gone? The total reserves of the Russian Central Bank have not changed and remain at approximately the equivalent of $ 457 billion, so what we are seeing is a shift of assets to other central banks, other asset classes, just not US$ government bonds.

During the same time (April-May) as this US$ shift happened, the Russian Central Bank bought more than 1 million troy ounces of gold in 60 days, and continues.

For comparison sake, the maximum Russia investment in US public debt was in October 2010 totaling $176.3 billion. Today it is $14.9 billion.

The largest holders of US government bonds as of May are China ($ 1,183.1 billion), Japan ($ 1048.8 billion), Ireland ($ 301 billion), Brazil ($ 299.2 billion), Great Britain ($ 265 billion).

Using the similar conservative metrics that the Russian Central Bank has been rather successfully applying through this geopolitically and economically challenging period with the US and the US Dollar, it may not stretch the imagination too much that other countries such as China may eventually follow suit. Who will finance the debt/spend then?

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