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Putin in Greece

Russian President Putin’s visit to Greece was more focused on emphasising Russia’s Byzantine and Orthodox roots then on political matters.

Alexander Mercouris

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On Friday 27th May 2016 Russia’s President Putin visited Greece.

President Putin’s visit lasted just two days and resulted in no important agreements provoking further speculation as to why it took place at all.  Panagiotis Lafazanis, Syriza’s former Energy Minister, who has since left the party, is accusing the Syriza government of downgrading the visit.

One thing can be said with certainty.  Contrary to some media speculation Putin’s visit had nothing to do with the pending EU decision on whether or not to renew the sanctions against Russia, which is due to be made in June. 

The Russians have said already that they fully expect the sanctions to be renewed next month.  They certainly know there is no possibility Greece will veto them.  The Syriza government made no attempt to veto renewal of the sanctions during the fraught period last year when Greece’s relations with the EU authorities appeared to be on the brink of breaking down.  There is no possibility at all that it will do so now when its priority is to move forward with the latest bailout agreement.

As I have said previously on many occasions (see for example here), EU sanctions will continue to be renewed for so long as the small group of states and persons who actually run the EU – essentially the EU Commission and the German and French governments, with the US acting at all times acting as the dominant silent partner – remain agreed they should be renewed.  Objections to their renewal by a small and weak state like Greece would be simply ignored whatever theoretical right to veto their renewal Greece might have.

Nor is it likely Putin’s visit involved energy policy.  Lafazanis whilst Greece’s Energy Minister negotiated an agreement on the creation of a gas pipeline with Russia.  Greek Prime Minister Tsipras’s realignment with the EU last summer however makes that agreement to all intents and purposes a dead letter.

As for the personal relationship between Putin and Tsipras, Tsipras’s attempt last year to play the Russians off against the Europeans in order to extract concessions from the Europeans predictably failed and – as I warned at that time – simply ended up annoying both the Europeans and the Russians.  As result it is quietly admitted in Greece that Putin no longer trusts Tsipras and may even dislike him.

So why did the visit happen?

The probability is that the visit was agreed during the false honeymoon between Russia and Greece which happened in the first half of last year after the election which brought Syriza to power.  Though that honeymoon ended badly neither the Russians nor the Greeks wanted to make the rupture public by calling the visit off.

That does not however mean that the visit had no significance at all. 

What happened is that – following the collapse of the original political and economic purpose of the visit – Putin recalibrated it to emphasise its cultural aspects.

In the 2 days of the visit, Putin seems to have given as much of his time to cultural events as he did to his political meetings with Tsipras and with the Greek President.  Thus a significant part of the first day was devoted to a visit by Putin to Athens’s Byzantine Museum, whilst the high point of the visit’s second day was Putin’s visit to the Orthodox monastic community on Mount Athos.

In both cases there was a significant Russian connection.  The Byzantine Museum is currently hosting an exhibition of works by the great Russian icon painter Andrey Rublev, whose teacher Theophanes (“Feofan Grek”) was a Greek.  As for Mount Athos, the connection of its monasteries to Russia extends back at least as far as the fifteenth century.

By contrast Putin did not visit any of the monuments or museums in Greece dedicated to Greece’s classical antiquity, which are the primary interest of Western visitors.

This appears to have been a conscious choice, with Putin choosing to emphasise the distinctively Byzantine and Orthodox roots of Russian civilisation.

This should not be seen as a turning back on Europe.  Greece is after all a European country and a member of the EU.  Rather it appears to be a reminder by Putin to both Russians and the West that Russia’s Byzantine and Orthodox roots also have their origins within European culture.

In the longer term, by emphasising the Byzantine and Orthodox connection, Putin is also reminding Greeks of Russia’s cultural closeness and affinity to them.  With popular support in Greece both for the EU and for the euro weakening, this could serve as a gentle reminder to Greeks that if a break ever comes they are now without friends.

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Britain’s Enemy Is Not Russia But It’s Own Ruling Class, UN Report Confirms

In austerity Britain, who the enemy is has never been more clear.

The Duran

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Authored by John Wright. op-ed via RT.com:


As the UK political establishment rips itself to pieces over Brexit, a far greater crisis continues to afflict millions of victims of Tory austerity…

A devastating UN report into poverty in the UK provides incontrovertible evidence that the enemy of the British people is the very ruling class that has gone out of its way these past few years to convince them it is Russia.

Professor Philip Alston, in his capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, spent two weeks touring the United Kingdom. He did so investigating the impact of eight years of one of the most extreme austerity programs among advanced G20 economies in response to the 2008 financial crash and subsequent global recession.

What he found was evidence of a systematic, wilful, concerted and brutal economic war unleashed by the country’s right-wing Tory establishment against the poorest and most vulnerable section of British society– upending the lives of millions of people who were not responsible for the aforementioned financial crash and recession but who have been forced to pay the price.

From the report’s introduction:

“It…seems patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty. This is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes to see the immense growth in foodbanks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the sense of deep despair that leads even the Government to appoint a Minister for Suicide Prevention and civil society to report in depth on unheard of levels of loneliness and isolation.”

Though as a citizen of the UK I respectfully beg to differ with the professor’s claim that such social and economic carnage seems “contrary to British values,” (on the contrary it is entirely in keeping with the values of the country’s Tory establishment, an establishment for whom the dehumanization of the poor and working class is central to its ideology), the point he makes about it being “obvious to anyone who opens their eyes,” is well made.

For it is now the case that in every town and city centre in Britain, it is impossible to walk in any direction for more than a minute before coming across homeless people begging in the street. And the fact that some 13,000 of them are former soldiers, casualties of the country’s various military adventures in recent years, undertaken in service to Washington, exposes the pious platitudes peddled by politicians and the government as reverence for the troops and their ‘sacrifice,’ as insincere garbage.

Overall, 14 million people in the UK are now living in poverty, a figure which translates into an entire fifth of the population. Four million of them are children, while, according to Professor Alston, 1.5 million people are destitute – that is, unable to afford the basic necessities of life.

And this is what the ruling class of the fifth largest economy in the world, a country that parades itself on the world stage as a pillar of democracy and human rights, considers progress.

The values responsible for creating such a grim social landscape are compatible with the 18th not 21st century. They are proof positive that the network of elite private schools – Eton, Harrow, Fettes College et al. – where those responsible for this human carnage are inculcated with the sense of entitlement and born to rule ethos that defines them, are Britain’s hotbeds of extremism.

Professor Alston:

“British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach apparently designed to instill discipline where it is least useful, to impose a rigid order on the lives of those least capable of coping with today’s world, and elevating the goal of enforcing blind compliance over a genuine concern to improve the well-being of those at the lowest levels of British society.”

Here, set out above in bold relief, is the barbarism that walks hand in hand with free market capitalism. It is the same barbarism that was responsible for pushing post-Soviet Russia into a decade-long economic and social abyss in the 1990s, and the values that have pushed 14 million people in the UK into the same economic and social abyss in our time.

Austerity, it bears emphasizing, is not and never has been a viable economic response to recession in a given economy.

Instead, it is an ideological club, wielded on behalf of the rich and big business to ensure that the price paid for said economic recession is borne exclusively by those least able to bear it – namely, the poor and working people. It is class war by any other name, packaged and presented as legitimate government policy.

However, in Britain’s case in 2018, this is a war like no other because, as Professor Philip Alston’s report lays bare, only one side in this war has been throwing all the punches and only one side has been taking them.

With Christmas season upon us, the scale of human suffering across the UK ensures that the elaborate ad campaigns inviting us to shop and indulge to our heart’s content – ads depicting the middle class dream of affluence and material comfort – take on the character of a provocation. In fact, they call to mind the truism that wars take place when the government tells you who the enemy is, while revolutions take place when you work it out for yourself.

In austerity Britain, who the enemy is has never been more clear.

 

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America Has Built 800+ Military Bases Worldwide. So Why Can’t It Build a Mexican Border Wall?

How did America arrive at a place where such a fundamental element of nationhood – the ability to control borders from any and all outside illegal intruders – be considered a radical concept?

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Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The US government has constructed at tremendous cost to its taxpayers some of the most impressive structures – both architectural and organizational – of all time. Yet somehow it has failed to build a viable wall on the Mexican border.

In 1931, during the Great Depression, the US government began construction of the Hoover Dam, one of the most ambitious civil engineering projects ever attempted. Employing thousands of US laborers, some 100 of whom reportedly lost their lives in the course of the project, the dam is mind-boggling due its sheer size, rivaling that of the pyramids.

At 726 feet tall, the wedge-shaped structure is 660 ft (200 m) thick at its base, narrowing to 45 ft (14 m) at the top, which provides enough room to accommodate a highway connecting Nevada and Arizona. The project required millions of cubic feet of concrete – said to be enough to pave a two-lane highway from San Francisco to New York – and tens of millions of pounds of steel.

Many decades later, the US government undertook another extensive project known as the US Embassy in Baghdad. Although rarely discussed in the US media, this 104-acre slice of American property in a foreign country is so immense that it rivals Vatican City in terms of size [the Vatican is an independent city-state, complete with its own euro-based currency and security detail, located inside of Rome].

Officially opened in 2009, the $750 million embassy, which is situated in Baghdad’s so-called Green Zone, is by far the most expansive and expensive embassy in the world. Why does a foreign nation need a footprint the size of a small country to house a few thousand diplomats and private contractors? That is a very good question, but one that was never really pursued by legislators when Congress approved plans in 2005 for the mega structure under the Bush administration.

To this day, much of the complex remains under heavy wraps due to “security concerns.” Yet this behemoth cash cow continues to suck money dry from government coffers; in 2012, just several years after its construction was finished, the Obama administration requested and got more than $100 million for a “massive” upgrade to the compound.

Speaking of Iraq, which suffered military conquest at the hands of US-led forces starting in 2003, the United States also managed to find ways to construct some 900+ military bases around the world. Needless to say, this is no cheap venture, and helps to explain why the US military budget is approaching $1 trillion dollars annually – more than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, United Kingdom, and Japan combined.

In light of these monumental projects, it goes without saying that the United States certainly possesses the technical prowess and the financial wherewithal to perform the simple task of building a wall, and more specifically, a wall on the Mexican border. Yet thus far, and despite the fact that Donald Trump pledged on the campaign trail that would be his first task in office, the wall remains – a bit like Barack Obama’s past promise to shut down Guantanamo Bay detention center – a pipe dream.

How did we Americans arrive at a place where such a fundamental element of nationhood – that is, the ability to control our borders from any and all outside illegal intruders – is considered a radical concept? Since when did the universally accepted idea of a strong national border become an issue for debate and contention among our legislators? Since when have weak, porous borders become a desired state of affairs for a global superpower, and especially one that has a habit of attacking sovereign states? Part of the answer seems to lie within the present atmosphere of political correctness and identity politics that has conflated the need for a strong border with racism and even white supremacist ideology. More on that in a moment.

Just this week, part of the South American ‘caravan’ that the US mainstream media had called a “myth” has turned up on America’s doorstep in the Mexican town of Tijuana. Images show dozens of young men straddling the top of the border fence with none of the US troops that Trump activated in sight. Now, if the US Democrats had their way, these thousands of illegal aliens would be awarded amnesty and shepherded into ‘sanctuary cities’ where these individuals would slip undetected into the fabric of American society. And for those – including the US president – who voice opposition to this invasion, they are casually branded as racist or a white supremacist. However, the real motivation for the Democrats behind such ad hominem attacks is raw political opportunism.

The Democrats are actually building part of their platform on awarding asylum to illegals, and despite the fact that many of these people are not suffering political repression back home. In fact, most of these people just want to improve their financial well-being. In other words, the great majority of these new arrivals – as was established by on-the-ground interviews – are economic migrants.

And who can blame anyone for wanting a better life? After all, it was the incentive of economic opportunity that first brought millions of migrants to America in the first place. However, the difference between the migrants from past generations and many of those arriving today is that the former went through a lengthy legal process for entering the country. Today, it’s even worse than just a matter of legality; it’s a matter of criminality on multiple fronts.

What the US mainstream media fails to inform the American public is that the overwhelming majority of people from this so-called ‘caravan’ are young, male and oftentimes dangerous. This much was confirmed by Chris Farrell of Judicial Watch, one of the only Western journalists to actually travel to South America and report on the march of migrants firsthand. In addition to reporting that, in his estimation, some 98 percent of the migrants were young and male, he added that some of them bore tattoos that identified them as members of the notorious MS13 international crime gang. To get a better understanding of this caravan and the true makeup of its participants I would encourage the reader to watch Farrell’s interview in its entirety.

Now this leads us to the question of constructing a wall on the US-Mexico border. To date, those efforts have gone fizzled. In March, Congress passed its trillion-dollar spending bill; glaringly missing from the numerous pages was funding for construction of Trump’s wall. Instead, $1.6 billion was put aside for “border security,” as well as replacing parts of the existing fence. In other words, nothing that will prevent illegals from entering the United States.

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan said this week that the Trump White House has one last chance – with a lame duck Republican Congress still in place – to secure funding for the US-Mexican border wall.

“We should be focused on that one main thing over the next several weeks as we still have a few weeks left while Republicans control all of government,” Jordan said in an interview.

Time is ticking like a bomb for the American people to restore control over its southern border, and there is no good excuse for not completing this monumental project. Americans should not be cowered by accusations of ‘racism,’ when the country itself has been founded on the blood, sweat and tears of migrants throughout history. Much of the so-called racism that exists in America is a figment of the media’s hyperactive imagination. Nor should the expense of the project – considering the price tag for so many other US adventures and misadventures, up to and including wars abroad – be a reason for preventing it.

The overall cost of failing to protect America’s border will far excel the total price of a wall if action is not taken now. It’s time for America to act like a real nation – a superpower with a backbone – and protect its border.

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US Meddles in Interpol Election in Effort to Stop Russian Leadership Role (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 19.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Interpol elections, which may result in Alexander Prokopchuk (a general in the Russian Interior Ministry and Interpol’s current Vice President) taking over as the President of the international police organization.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated that the US endorses acting Interpol head Kim for Interpol Chief, while four US Senators are urging nations to vote against Russian front-runner Prokopchuk.

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Via Zerohedge


Four US senators, and their mainstream media mouthpieces, are enraged at the idea that Alexander Prokopchuk – a general in the Russian Interior Ministry who is currently a vice president of Interpol – is the front-runner to become its next president; and have urged nations to vote against him.

The position in question became vacant after Interpol’s President Meng Hongwei was detained in his homeland China, pending a corruption investigation.

Based in the French city of Lyon, Interpol is a clearinghouse for police agencies around the world, helping them cooperate outside their borders. It is best-known for issuing red notices, or alerts that identify a suspect pursued by another country, effectively putting them on the world’s “most-wanted” list.

As AP reports, the Interpol presidency is more of a ceremonial position compared to the hands-on leadership role of the secretary-general. The president oversees the executive committee, which meets a few times a year and makes decisions on Interpol’s strategy and direction.

Interpol’s charter explicitly proclaims its neutrality, and two years ago it introduced measures aimed at strengthening the legal framework around the red notice system. As part of the changes, an international team of lawyers and experts first check a notice’s compliance with Interpol rules and regulations before it goes out.

But the potential of a Putin loyalist in such a prominent role has prompted concern among those critical of the Russian president’s leadership.

AP reports that Kremlin foes including financier Bill Browder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Alexei Navalny have warned that naming a top Russian police official to lead the international law enforcement agency will undermine Interpol and politicize police cooperation across borders.

As RT reports, the four US senators said in a statement, released on Monday, that electing Prokopchuk as the head of Interpol is “akin to putting a fox in charge of a henhouse.”

Along with the senators, media mouthpieces also added to the arguments:

Last week, a report in The Times named Prokopchuk, who currently serves as one of Interpol’s vice-presidents, “favorite” to lead the organization. The official also heads the nation’s Interpol bureau. His election as Interpol’s president will signify a “victory” for the Kremlin, the paper reported.

As soon as the report surfaced, the Western media published several opinion pieces, blasting Prokopchuk’s candidacy.

A Forbes contributor called him an “abuser-in-chief,” while the piece, published by the Washington Post editorial board on Monday, referred to him as “a wolf at Interpol’s door.”

Prokopchuk’s election would be “a colossal mistake and would imperil the organization’s integrity,” the Post editorial board wrote.

The Kremlin branded this “intervention” in the voting process, accusing unnamed Kremlin critics of trying to politicize the upcoming election of the Interpol president.

In a Tuesday statement Russian Interior Ministry spokesman Irina Volk lashed out at critics, which she did not name, accusing them of running a “campaign to discredit” the Russian candidate Alexander Prokopchuk.She said that Prokopchuk, who is an Interpol vice-president, is a respected professional, and, if elected, he will be leading the organization “in the interests of the international police community.”

Interpol’s general assembly is expected to elect its new president on Wednesday.

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