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Putin, Trump and the New Normalcy

The one thing Putin and Trump have in common is that they are both genuine conservatives averse to revolutionary policies who seek to normalise conditions in their respective countries.

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In politics there are at a fundamental level, three kinds of revolutions:

  1. Those which radically overturn a political system in order to replace it with one based on an ideologically driven antithesis
  2. Those which drive out a group of powerful leaders but essentially maintain the existing power structure
  3. Those which challenge prevailing and generally failed political views and operational methods in order to return the country in question to a more traditional modus operandi of governance.

It is the third form of revolution which Putin has quietly led in Russia and which Donald Trump may well lead in the United States.

To understand this, one can objectively summarise the accomplishments of Vladimir Putin during his period as President and Prime Minister. Putin inherited a country which was experiencing an identity crisis, an economic crisis and a crisis of geo-political positioning.  Whilst Putin and his closest comrades have indeed pulled off what historians might one day call ‘The Russian Miracle’ (though unlike Konrad Adenauer he accomplished it without generous Marshall Plan aid and do so in a country that dwarfs the geographical size of the former West Germany), where Putin’s most profound legacy lies is in helping Russia to solve her post 1991 identity crisis and indeed in doing so he helped solve the economic and geo-political crises of the 1990s.

Putin understands about the Russian character what Nietzsche did. Nietzsche claimed that the virtue of the Russian spirit was found in her slowness, her steadfastness; the ability to be confident in traditions as the rest of the world ripped itself apart in fits of ideological storm and stress with all of the bloodshed this entailed. After all, in the 19th century, Russia and Britain, the two powers who bookend Europe were the only two major countries in the northern hemisphere not to undergo a change in governance at the hands of revolutionaries.   

In this sense, the events of 1917 were aberrational in terms of Russian history up to that point, although in the context of European history of the period, 1917 simply anticipated the violent revolutions and competition of ideologies from the far left to far right which plagued virtually all of Europe after 1918 and would continue to do so till 1945.

This helps to understand why Leonid Brezhnev remains the most popular Soviet leader amongst the population of the Russian Federation at the present time. Brezhnev may have led the Communist Party but far from the radicalism of the early Soviet period, Brezhnev emphasised stability over drastic change, gradual improvements in living standards over obtuse schemes and an enhanced standing of Soviet power in the world over the provocative remarks  associated with his predecessor, Khrushchev. 

It was under the assured stability of Brezhnev (almost comically derided as stagnation by many in Western Europe and America), that Soviet Citizens achieved their highest living standards in history up to that point and that the Soviet Union stood as a superpower which even many hawkish American politicians couldn’t dream of challenging. If hawkish American politicians in the 1960s spoke of peace through strength, it was ironically Brezhnev who accomplished it in the 1970s, making events like the Helsinki accords possible. In this sense too, when at the 24th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Brezhnev talked about a new Soviet Citizen free from the weight of the past, what may have sounded like a rhetorically radical statement was actually one of assured normalcy. It meant that the Russian identity based on a yearning for stability, community values and a loyal patriotism could now comfortably manifest itself amongst the fraternal ethnicities of the Union.

Putin’s actions and indeed his words make it clear that he understands these profound historical and metaphysical truths. Putin has tapped into the fact that contemporary pride in the history and culture of both Imperial and Soviet periods is not incompatible, but rather, it is desirable. This has been combined with an approach to the terror of the 1990s which has been firm yet not vindictive. Russia in the 20th century had far too much political upheaval for the liking of the average person (1905, February and October of 1917, 1991 and 1993).  Putin has made sure to stay clear repeating such tensions, even though frankly he would have been in a strong position to do so in the aftermath of the darkest decade for Russians since the early days of the Great Patriotic War.  This approach has helped Putin to restore and revive the Russian economy, restore Russia’s role as a respected voice on the global stage, bring stability to the North Caucasus, see off aggression against civilians in South Ossetia quickly and with minimal carnage, restore Crimea without a single shot fired and currently helping to bring order to war torn Syria.

How then does this relate to the increasingly likely reality of Donald Trump becoming the President of the United States? Radical interventionists (neo-Trotskyists fighting for neo-liberalism rather than Marxism) have become alarmed by Trump’s skepticism towards NATO, his refusal to endorse the funding and arming of fascistic groups in Europe and his proclamation that it would be better to work with rather than against Russia in trying to bring peace to Syria and the wider middle east. The surreal implication is that Trump and Putin have behind closed doors, conspired to bring the world to the brink of peace.

The only real connection between the two men is a fundamental understanding that a country, in order to be prosperous and safe, must return to its traditional method of conducting itself both globally and internally.  Trump also seems to realise the dangers of a ‘one size fits all’ ideology as articulated by Tony Blair in Chicago in 1999 when he claimed his country and the United States had a mission to bring a specific kind of neo-liberal government to places where it does not exist. This approach if applied to the human body would suggest proscribing cancer drugs to a patient suffering from heart failure simply because one has come to the view that cancer is a bad condition and that the particular drug in question is effective.

To understand the real political parallel to Trump one needn’t look to Putin but to former US Senator Robert Taft. Taft who never fulfilled his ambition to become President,  had a traditional view of America’s role in the world. He was opposed to foreign wars, opposed to NATO and opposed to the policy of every President since Truman that the United States is somehow directly threatened by the events of sovereign countries on the other side of the world. Taft whilst known as a quintessential pre-Cold War American conservative was ironically once accused of being sympathetic to socialism because he was not wedded to ideological conservatism (itself a kind of contradiction in language) but rather was conservative by temperament. This can be compared with Putin who does not categorically reject any specific solution to a crises based on dogmatic ideology.

In this sense Trump isn’t new, but he is a new normal. People in countries like the United States but also Britain and France have grown weary of a Bourbon attitude to war. The coffers are empty and un-winnable wars continue unabated and that’s before one makes an emotional appeal based on the deaths of innocent civilians and soldiers fighting wars with no meaning, no real goal and no end in sight. One can look to another example from American history to explain Trump. The often forgotten President Warren G. Harding. After the First World War, he called for a ‘return to normalcy’, likewise in Britain the equally forgotten Andrew Bonar Law set himself out against the radical policies pursued by the war time government of David Lloyd George.

This is what Trump represents, not radicalism but conservatism in its truest sense, a return to calm after a storm. His policies are amongst the most moderate in recent history. He is anti-interventionist, opposed to the apparatuses that should have been forgotten after the Cold War and his fiscal policies could easily be confused with those of a pre-Goldwater East Coast Republican.

This is what so frightens an establishment who have built  careers thinking that the neo-Liberalism of the Blairs and Clintons would be here to stay. The truth now is that history is against them. Ironically Trump isn’t anti-establishment per se, he is opposed to the current establishment. He is not calling for revaluation but for a re-establishment.   As The Who song goes, ‘meet the new boss same as the old boss’…the old boss did seem more sensible after all.

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Russian Il-20 downed by Syrian missile. Russia blames Israel. Israel blames Syria (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The unthinkable has happened in Syria.

The world now teeters on the brink of all out war in Syria as a Russian Il-20 was downed by Syrian missile after Israeli F-16s used it as cover during attack, according to statements made by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

President Vladimir Putin, answering a reporter’s question during a press conference with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, said the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the tripwire triggered that has the potential to tip the fragile balance in Syria towards conflict between Russia, Iran and Israel.

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The Russian military says an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its Il-20 plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said…

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via a hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

The statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean.

The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region.”

The statement further said that 15 Russian military service members have died as a result…

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile.”

According to reports from RT, the Russian military said that the French Navy’s frigate ‘Auvergne,’ as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area during the Israeli operation.

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

The Russian ministry said the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation.” Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,”the statement said.

The statement gives a larger death toll than earlier reports by the Russian military, which said there were 14 crew members on board the missing Il-20. It said a search and rescue operation for the shot-down plane is underway.

A later update said debris from the downed plane was found some 27km off the Latakia coast. The search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane.

Meanwhile Israel has come out to blame the Syrian government for the downing of the military plane, according to an IDF statement.

Israel said that it “expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members” of the Russian plane. However, it stated that the government of Bashar Assad “whose military shot down the Russian plane,” is “fully responsible” for the incident.

Israel further blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained that its jets were targeting a Syrian facility “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Israel claimed that the weapons were “meant to attack Israel.”

Via RT

The IDF assumed that the Syrian anti-air batteries “fired indiscriminately” and didn’t “bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.” The Israelis said that when the Syrian military launched the missiles which hit the Russian plane, its own jets were already within Israeli airspace. “During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation.”

According to the Israeli military, both IDF and Russia have “a deconfliction system,” which was agreed upon by the leadership of both states, and “has proven itself many times over recent years.” The system was in use when the incident happened, the IDF stated. The IDF promised to share “all the relevant information” with Russia “to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

The military presented a four-point initial inquiry into events in Latakia. It insisted that “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian anti-aircraft fire caused the Russian jet “to be hit and downed.”

The Russian Il-20 aircraft, with 15 crew on board, went off radar during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province late Monday. Later on Tuesday the Russian Defense Ministry said that an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile.

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Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

Trump has ordered the DOJ to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions.

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Via Zerohedge

President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also released will be specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The statement reads in full:

“At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

***

As we reported last Monday, Trump had been expected to release the documents any time – with specific attention to the Page documents and the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship  with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.

  • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election — a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.)
  • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page — all to take down Trump. –Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele.

Last month Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions  “Justice” Department? A total joke!”

Trump’s threat came one day after two tweets about Ohr, noting a connection to former FBI agent Peter Strzok, as well as a text sent by Ohr after former FBI Director James Comey was fired in which Ohr says “afraid they will be exposed.”

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”

“After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly,” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

In early August, journalist Paul Sperry tweeted that Trump may use his presidential authority to declassify “20 redacted pages of a June, 2017 FISA renewal, “and possibly” 63 pages of emails and notes between “Ohr & Steele,” and FD-302 summaries of 12 interviews.”

President Trump threatened to declassify documents two weeks ago – one day after the New York Times allegedly published an anonymous Op-Ed claiming to be from a White House official claiming to be part of an unelected “resistance” cabal within the Trump administration.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

Trump’s threat comes as calls by frustrated GOP legislators to release the documents have hit a fevered pitch. Spearheading the effort are Republican Reps. Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin – who have repeatedly asked Trump to declassify more of the heavily redacted FISA surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late 2016.

In June, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asked President Trump to declassify key sections of Carter Page’s FISA warrant application, according to a letter obtained by Fox News.

Carter Page, the DOJ/FBI’s person of interest, weighed in on the matter in late August, tweeting: “The Corrupt DOJ, co-conspirators in the DNC and their high-priced consultants correctly believed they had American democracy and the FISA Court over a barrel in 2016.”

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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