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Russia cuts interest rates whilst maintaining tough monetary policy

As inflation falls, Russia’s Central Bank cuts key rate to 10% but insists its tight monetary policy intended to reduce inflation will continue.

Alexander Mercouris

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The Russian Central Bank has, as predicted, cut its key rate from 10.5% to 10%.

This is consistent with the continuing rapid fall in inflation.  With inflation zero in the first two weeks of September after being zero in the last week of July and through most of August, its annualised rate is now just 6.6%.  The Central Bank has said that it intends to keep its key rate 3% above the annualised rate of inflation for the foreseeable future, so that with annualised inflation running at 6.7% it had the space to announce this rate cut.

However that is where the good news stops.  The Central Bank has signalled that it intends no more cuts to its key rate this year, meaning that the earliest possible date for a further rate cut will not be before January next year.  The Central Bank also says that it will maintain what it calls its “moderately tight monetary policy” – a policy which is in fact giving Russia the highest real interest rates of any major economy in the world – throughout 2017 and indeed beyond.

Here in its own words is the Central Bank’s guidance from its own press release

“On 16 September 2016, the Bank of Russia Board of Directors decided to reduce the key rate from 10.50 to 10.00% p.a. given the inflation slowdown, in line with the forecast, decrease in inflation expectations and unstable economic activity. However, for the trend towards sustainable decline in inflation to strengthen, according to the Bank of Russia’s estimates, the current value of the key rate needs to be maintained till end-2016 with its further possible cuts in 2017 Q1-Q2. Considering the decision made and persistent moderately tight monetary policy, the annual consumer price growth will stand at 4.5% in September 2017 and will then go down to the 4% target in late 2017. When making its key rate decisions in the coming months, the Bank of Russia will assess inflation risks alongside economy and inflation dynamics’ consistence with the baseline forecast.”

The Central Bank admits the market is expecting cuts in the key rate to take place faster, and it even brags that it intends to cut its key rate more slowly than the market expects. 

Its rationale is that the market still expects inflation at the end of next year to be higher than 4%, which is the Central Bank’s target.  However the Central Bank says it is determined, come what may, to achieve its target, which is why it is going to keep its key rate higher than the market expects

“The Bank of Russia expects that the decision made and maintenance of the key rate at the level it reached will bring down inflation expectations. At present, the structure of market interest rates by maturity and survey findings indicate that, in contrast to the Bank of Russia, market players forecast a faster drop in interest rates. Additionally, their end-2017 inflation forecasts exceed the 4% target of the central bank. In reality, the decrease of nominal rates has a limited capacity, and the economy will maintain moderately tight monetary conditions for quite a long period of time. This is implied by the need to keep positive real interest rates at the level supporting demand for credit that does not raise inflationary pressure and keeps incentives for saving.”

In what is the single most extraordinary paragraph in the entire press release, the Central Bank admits that Russia will only achieve 1% growth next year, but denies that this has anything to do with its “moderately tight monetary policy”

“Persistent revival in production activity is still unstable and patchy across industries and regions. According to Bank of Russia estimates, the moderately tight monetary conditions do not hamper recovery in economy, whereas the main obstacles are caused by structural effects. The labour market tries to adjust to new economic conditions, and the unemployment remains stable and low. Import substitution steps up and non-commodity exports expand for certain items. Industry, including technology-intensive production types, discovers new opportunities for growth. Nonetheless, they fail to ensure an overall robust positive production dynamics. At the same time, certain industries stagnate or show slowdown in output growth, while investment continues to contract. More time is needed for positive trends to develop and get rooted.”

(bold italics added)

This is a fantastic claim, and by making it the Central Bank undermines its own credibility.  Quite simply, it is absurd to say that high real interest rates – currently the highest real interest rates of any major economy in the world – are not going to impact on growth. 

Moreover the Guidelines the Central Bank published in November last year explaining its monetary policy shows that the Central Bank is fully aware of the fact.  As the Central Bank knows the reason output is struggling to rise is because of low rates of consumption and falling investment. 

The Central Bank’s press statement actually refers to the fact that “investment continues to contract” (see above).  This is what the Central Bank said in its Guidelines about the effect of interest rates on levels of consumption, investment and inflation

“All things being equal, a downturn in interest rates stimulates lending, helps increase consumption, and leads to investment growth, but inflationary pressure can also increase. By contrast, high interest rates contribute to growth in savings and constrain lending and investment activity, but reduce inflationary pressure.”

(bold italics added)

Yet the Central Bank would have us believe that the high interest rates it is imposing, which in its Guidelines it admits “all things being equal” cause consumption and investment to fall, are not the reason why in Russia consumption and investment are continuing to fall!

What is little understood – and is scarcely ever said – about the present state of Russia’s economy is that though the underlying rate of inflation is now running at 5-6%, which is below its pre-devaluation level, interest rates are higher than they were before the devaluation, and that despite the recent cuts in the Central Bank’s key rate real interest rates in Russia are actually rising. 

This chart shows movements in the Central Bank’s key rate since 2013, the year in which Nabiullina was appointed Chairman of the Central Bank

russian-interest-rate-chart

In 2013, at the time Nabiullina took over as Chairman of the Central Bank, and before she started raising interest rates in 2014, the Central Bank’s key rate was below 6% in a year when annual inflation was 6.48%.  Today she intends to hold the key rate at 10% despite the government’s forecast that inflation this year will be 5.7-5.9%.

Annual inflation in Russia was in double figures in every single year post 1991 up to the crisis year of 2009 save for 2006, when it briefly dipped to 9.02%.  Inflation was in double figures throughout the period 1998 to 2008, when Russia was regularly achieving annual growth rates of 7% and more.

Inflation fell from double figures to single figures in 2009, and has been in single figures ever since save for the brief period of the inflation spike of 2014 to 2015, which was caused by the one-off factor of the devaluation of the rouble in 2014, which caused inflation to rise back into double figures in 2014 and 2015.

This period of single figure inflation since 2009 is the same period during which Russia’s growth rate has fallen from the annual rate of 7% it was achieving before the 2008 crisis to 4.3% in 2011, 3.5% in 2012, and 1.3% in 2013.

In other words there is a direct correlation between the decline in Russia’s growth rate post 2008, and the fall in inflation which has taken place since then – and the rise in interest rates which has happened to achieve it. 

To see how see this World Bank graph which shows movements of real as opposed to nominal interest rates in Russia since 1991.

Russia experienced negative real interest rates from the 1998 crisis until the 2008 crisis.  During the period of the 2008 crisis real interest rates briefly surged into high positive territory as part of the government’s anti-crisis measures.

They then fell back again into negative territory directly after the 2008 crisis was overcome as the Central Bank and the government looked for ways to support the recovery.  However since 2011, as the Central Bank and the government have become more focused on inflation reduction, they have been rising steadily, turning positive in 2012, and remaining positive ever since, even during the period of the 2014-2015 inflation spike when they might have been expected to go negative.

Since the end of the inflation spike in mid 2015, and despite the round of key rate cuts Nabiullina has announced since January 2015, they have been rising again.

Prior to 2008 high growth was the priority, causing the Central Bank to keep real interest rates negative and to increase the money supply in order to sustain growth and to prevent over-rapid appreciation of the rouble in conditions of rising oil prices.  The result was double digit inflation in every year between 1998 and 2008, apart from the brief dip in 2006. 

Since recovery from the 2008-2009 crisis the priority has been inflation reduction, with monetary policy being tightened steadily in order to choke off inflation.  The result is that inflation fell into single figures after 2009, and apart from the short period of the 2014-2015 inflation spike has remained so ever since, and is now falling further.   

Since Nabiullina became Chairman the Central Bank has taken the policy a whole step further, tightening monetary policy even more, so that it is now significantly tighter than it was even during the post-recovery period of 2011-2013 and before the 2014 devaluation, despite the fact that inflation is now actually below the level it was in that period.

In other words Nabiullina and the Central Bank – and indeed the whole government – are using the 2014-2015 inflation spike to give themselves political cover to carry out a policy of monetary tightening the likes of which post-Soviet Russia has not seen since Putin became President.  This objective is to bring inflation down to 4% by late 2017 in order to achieve the long term results I discussed in my previous article

As for the famous ‘structural factors’ about which we hear so much, the Central Bank’s latest press release shows what they really are: an alibi conjured up by the Central Bank and the government so they can pretend that the sharp fall in the economy’s growth rate caused by their own anti-inflation policy and the high real interest rates they are imposing has nothing to do with them. 

That is unless inflation is the ‘structural factor’ which they see as limiting growth in the long term – something which it might be reasonable to say, but which for some reason no-one ever does.

In truth the wonder is that despite interest rates being so high there is any growth in the Russian economy at all, especially as there is no countervailing fiscal stimulus from the budget to offset Nabiullina’s “moderately tight monetary policy”. 

On the contrary – and though you would never know it from the way some people talk – since the start of the recession budget spending has actually been cut, so that coming out of recession Russia’s federal budget deficit in the first 8 months of this year was just 2.9% of GDP.

There are of course many people who find this policy approach commendable.  Reducing inflation to 4% is a worthy aim, and over time it may – and indeed probably will – achieve the good results people like Nabiullina and Kudrin say it will.  I must however say that I can think of no other Central Bank or government in any other G20 economy which in the same conditions would behave in this way. 

At a time when Russia has suffered a recession any other G20 Central Bank or government finding itself in such a position would surely focus on ending the recession, not on further reducing inflation from what is by Russian standards an already historically low level. 

This would be especially so given that the moderate loosening of monetary policy this would call for would be most unlikely to compromise the anti-inflation policy in any serious way.  At worst it might delay achievement of the 4% by a few months, or perhaps a year.

Russia however is different.  With unemployment very low at 5.7% at a time when the country’s labour force participation rate is at an unprecedentedly high 70%, and with political and macroeconomic conditions stable, the Central Bank and the government obviously feel they have the political and economic space to see the policy through, and it seems they are determined to see it through come what may.   Not for nothing is Nabiullina being called “the most orthodox Central Banker in Europe”. 

As for Putin, as I said in my previous article I have no doubt he supports the policy.  With the political situation in Russia stable and his popularity at stratospheric levels, he is moreover under no real pressure to change it.  If only for that reason I don’t expect the policy to change.

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May Forces Brexit Betrayal to its Crisis Point

We’re 29 months later and the U.K. is no closer to being out of the EU than the day of the vote. 

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


The only words that were left out of Theresa May’s announcement of achieving Cabinet approval over her Brexit deal were Mission Accomplished.

Theresa May was put in charge of the U.K. to betray Brexit from the beginning.  She always represented the interests of the European Union and those in British Parliament that backed remaining in the EU.

No one in British ‘high society’ wanted Brexit to pass.   No. One.

No one in Europe’s power elite wanted Brexit to pass.  No. One.

No one in the U.S.’s power elite wanted Brexit to pass.  No. One.

When it did pass The Davos Crowd began the process of sabotaging it.  The fear mongering has done nothing but intensify.  And May has done nothing but waffle back and forth, walking the political tight rope to remain in power while trying to sell EU slavery to the both sides in British Parliament.

We’re 29 months later and the U.K. is no closer to being out of the EU than the day of the vote.  Why?

Because Theresa May’s 585 page ‘deal’ is the worst of all possible outcomes.  If it passes it will leave the EU with near full control over British trade and tax policy while the British people and government have no say or vote in the matter.

It’s punishment for the people getting uppity about their future and wanting something different than what had been planned for them.

Mr. Juncker and his replacement will never have to suffer another one of Nigel Farage’s vicious farragoes detailing their venality ever again.  YouTube will get a whole lot less interesting.

It’s almost like this whole charade was designed this way.

Because it was.

May has tried to run out the clock and scare everyone into accepting a deal that is worse than the situation pre-Brexit because somehow a terrible deal is better than no deal.  But, that’s the opposite of the truth.

And she knows it.  She’s always known it but she’s gone into these negotiations like the fragile wisp of a thing she truly is.

There’s a reason I call her “The Gypsum Lady.” She’s simply the opposite of Margaret Thatcher who always knew what the EU was about and fought to her last political breath to avoid the trap the U.K. is now caught in.

The U.K. has had all of the leverage in Brexit talks but May has gone out of her way to not use any of it while the feckless and evil vampires in Europe purposefully complicate issues which are the height of irrelevancy.

She has caved on every issue to the point of further eroding what’s left of British sovereignty.  This deal leaves the U.K. at the mercy of Latvia or Greece in negotiating any trade agreement with Canada.  Because for a deal between member states to be approved, all members have to approve of it.

So, yeah, great job Mrs. May.  Mission Accomplished.  They are popping champagne corks in Brussels now.

But, this is a Brexit people can be proud of.

Orwell would be proud of Theresa May for this one.

You people are leaving.  Let the EU worry about controlling their borders.  And if Ireland doesn’t like the diktats coming from Brussels than they can decide for themselves if staying in the EU is worth the trouble.

The entire Irish border issue is simply not May’s problem to solve.  Neither is the customs union or any of the other stuff.  These are the EU’s problems.   They are the ones who don’t want the Brits to leave.

Let them figure out how they are going to trade with the U.K.  It is so obvious that this entire Brexit ‘negotiation’ is about protecting the European project as a proxy for the right of German automakers to export their cars at advantageous exchange rates to the U.K. at everyone’s expense.

Same as it was in the days of The Iron Lady.

If all of this wasn’t so predictable it would be comical.

Because the only people more useless than Theresa May are the Tories who care only about keeping their current level of the perks of office.

The biggest takeaway from this Brexit fiasco is that even more people will check out of the political system. They will see it even more clearly for what it is, an irredeemable miasma of pelf and privilege that has zero interest in protecting the rights of its citizens or the value of their labor.

It doesn’t matter if it’s voter fraud in the U.S. or a drawn out betrayal of a binding referendum. There comes a point where those not at the political fringes look behind the veil and realize changing the nameplate above the door doesn’t change the policy.

And once they realize that confidence fails and systems collapse.

Brexit was the last gasp of a dying empire to assert its national relevancy.  Even if this deal is rejected by parliament the process has sown deep divisions which will lead to the next trap and the next and the next and the next.

By then Theresa May will be a distant memory, being properly rewarded by her masters for a job very well done.


Please support the production of independent and alternative political and financial commentary by joining my Patreon and subscribing to the Gold Goats ‘n Guns Investment Newsletter for just $12/month.

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The DOJ Is Preparing To Indict Julian Assange

Ecuador’s relationship with Assange has deteriorated considerably with the election of President Lenin Moreno.

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Via Zerohedge…


The US Justice Department is preparing to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange which, after sensitive international negotiations, would likely trigger his extradition to the United States to stand trial, according to the Wall Street Journalciting people in Washington familiar with the matter.

Over the past year, U.S. prosecutors have discussed several types of charges they could potentially bring against Mr. Assange, the people said. Mr. Assange has lived in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since receiving political asylum from the South American country in 2012.

The people familiar with the case wouldn’t describe whether discussions were under way with the U.K. or Ecuador about Mr. Assange, but said they were encouraged by recent developments.

The exact charges Justice Department might pursue remain unclear, but they may involve the Espionage Act, which criminalizes the disclosure of national defense-related information. –WSJ

In short, the DOJ doesn’t appear to have a clear charge against Assange yet. Then there’s the optics of dragging Assange out of Ecuador’s London Embassy and into the United States, then prosecuting him, and if successful – jailing him.

Prosecuting someone for publishing truthful information would set a terrible and dangerous precedent,” said Assange lawyer Barry Pollack – who says he hasn’t heard anything about a US prosecution.

“We have heard nothing from authorities suggesting that a criminal case against Mr. Assange is imminent,” he added.

Moreover, assuming that even if the DOJ could mount a case, they would be required to prove that Russia was the source of a trove of emails damaging to Hillary Clinton that WikiLeaks released in the last few months of the 2016 election.

An indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller that portrayed WikiLeaks as a tool of Russian intelligence for releasing thousands of hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 presidential campaign has made it more difficult for Mr. Assange to mount a defense as a journalist. Public opinion of Mr. Assange in the U.S. has dropped since the campaign.

Prosecutors have considered publicly indicting Mr. Assange to try to trigger his removal from the embassy, the people said, because a detailed explanation of the evidence against Mr. Assange could give Ecuadorean authorities a reason to turn him over. –WSJ

It’s no secret that Assange and Hillary Clinton aren’t exactly exchanging Christmas cards, however would WikiLeaks’ release of damaging information that was hacked (or copied locally on a thumb drive by a well-meaning American), be illegal for Assange as a publisher?

Despite scant clues as to how the DOJ will prosecute Assange aside from rumors that it has to do with the Espionage Act, the US Government is cooking on something. John Demers – head of the DOJ’s national security division, said last week regarding an Assange case: “On that, I’ll just say, we’ll see.”

The U.S. hasn’t publicly commented on whether it has made, or plans to make, any extradition request. Any extradition request from the U.S. would likely go to British authorities, who have an outstanding arrest warrant for Mr. Assange related to a Swedish sexual assault case. Sweden has since dropped the probe, but the arrest warrant stands.

Any extradition and prosecution would involve multiple sensitive negotiations within the U.S. government and with other countries. –WSJ

Beginning in 2010, the Department of Justice beginning under the Obama administration has drawn a distinction between WikiLeaks and other news organizations – with former Attorney General Eric Holder insisting that Assange’s organization does not deserve the same first amendment protections during the Chelsea Manning case in which the former Army intelligence analyst was found guilty at a court-martial of leaking thousands of classified Afghan War Reports.

US officials have given mixed messages over Assange, with President Trump having said during the 2016 election “I love WikiLeaks,” only to have his former CIA Director, Mike Pompeo label WikiLeaks akin to a foreign “hostile intelligence service” and a US adversary. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that Assange’s arrest is a “priority.”

Ecuador’s relationship with Assange, meanwhile, has deteriorated considerably with the election of President Lenin Moreno – who called the WikiLeaks founder a “stone in our shoe,” adding that Assange’s stay at the London embassy is unsustainable.

Ecuador has been looking to improve relations with the U.S., hosting Vice President Mike Pence in 2018 amid interest in increasing trade.

Ecuador’s Foreign Relations Ministry declined to comment. This month, Foreign Relations Minister José Valencia told a radio station the government hadn’t received an extradition request for Mr. Assange.

Mr. Assange has clashed with his Ecuadorean hosts in over internet access, visitors, his cat and other issues. Last month, he sued Ecuador over the conditions of his confinement. At a hearing last month, at which a judge rejected Mr. Assange’s claims, Mr. Assange said he expected to be forced out of the embassy soon.  –WSJ

Assange and Ecuador seem to have worked things out for the time being; with his months-long communication blackout mostly lifted (with strict rules against Assange participating in political activities that would affect Ecuador’s international relations). Assange is now allowed Wi-Fi, but has to foot the bill for his own phone calls and other communication.

In October, a judge threw out a lawsuit Assange filed against Ecuador from implementing the stricter rules,.

“Ecuador hasn’t violated the rights of anyone,” Attorney General Íñigo Salvador said after the court ruling. “It has provided asylum to Mr. Assange, and he should comply with the rules to live harmoniously inside Ecuador’s public installations in London.”Assange’s attorneys say he will appeal the ruling – however it may be a moot point if he’s dragged into a US courtroom sooner than later.

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Trump Understands The Important Difference Between Nationalism And Globalism

President Trump’s nationalism heralds a return to the old U.S. doctrine of non-intervention.

The Duran

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Authored by Raheem Kassam, op-ed via The Daily Caller:


President Macron’s protests against nationalism this weekend stand in stark contrast with the words of France’s WWII resistance leader and the man who would then become president: General Charles de Gaulle.

Speaking to his men in 1913, de Gaulle reminded them:

“He who does not love his mother more than other mothers, and his fatherland more than other fatherlands, loves neither his mother nor his fatherland.”

This unquestionable invocation of nationalism reveals how far France has come in its pursuit of globalist goals, which de Gaulle described later in that same speech as the “appetite of vice.”

While this weekend the media have been sharpening their knives on Macron’s words, for use against President Trump, very few have taken the time to understand what really created the conditions for the wars of the 20th century. It was globalism’s grandfather: imperialism, not nationalism.

This appears to have been understood at least until the 1980s, though forgotten now. With historical revisionism applied to nationalism and the great wars, it is much harder to understand what President Trump means when he calls himself a “nationalist.” Though the fault is with us, not him.

Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism … By pursuing our own interests first, with no regard to others,’ we erase the very thing that a nation holds most precious, that which gives it life and makes it great: its moral values,” President Macron declared from the pulpit of the Armistice 100 commemorations.

Had this been in reverse, there would no doubt have been shrieks of disgust aimed at Mr. Trump for “politicizing” such a somber occasion. No such shrieks for Mr. Macron, however, who languishes below 20 percent in national approval ratings in France.

With some context applied, it is remarkably easy to see how President Macron was being disingenuous.

Nationalism and patriotism are indeed distinct. But they are not opposites.

Nationalism is a philosophy of governance, or how human beings organize their affairs. Patriotism isn’t a governing philosophy. Sometimes viewed as subsidiary to the philosophy of nationalism, patriotism is better described as a form of devotion.

For all the grandstanding, Mr. Macron may as well have asserted that chicken is the opposite of hot sauce,so meaningless was the comparison.

Imperialism, we so quickly forget, was the order of the day heading into the 20th century. Humanity has known little else but empire since 2400 B.C. The advent of globalism, replete with its foreign power capitals and multi-national institutions is scarcely distinct.

Imperialism — as opposed to nationalism — seeks to impose a nation’s way of life, its currency, its traditions, its flags, its anthems, its demographics, and its rules and laws upon others wherever they may be.

Truly, President Trump’s nationalism heralds a return to the old U.S. doctrine of non-intervention, expounded by President George Washington in his farewell address of 1796:

” … It must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of [Europe’s] politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.”

It should not have to be pointed out that the great wars of the 20th century could not be considered “ordinary vicissitudes”, but rather, that imperialism had begun to run amok on the continent.

It was an imperialism rooted in nihilism, putting the totality of the state at its heart. Often using nationalism as nothing more than a method of appeal, socialism as a doctrine of governance, and Jews as a subject of derision and scapegoating.

Today’s imperialism is known as globalism.

It is what drives nations to project outward their will, usually with force; causes armies to cross borders in the hope of subjugating other human beings or the invaded nation’s natural resources; and defines a world, or region, or continent by its use of central authority and foreign capital control.

Instead of armies of soldiers, imperialists seek to dominate using armies of economists and bureaucrats. Instead of forced payments to a foreign capital, globalism figured out how to create economic reliance: first on sterling, then on the dollar, now for many on the Euro. This will soon be leapfrogged by China’s designs.

And while imperialism has served some good purposes throughout human history, it is only when grounded in something larger than man; whether that be natural law, God, or otherwise. But such things are scarcely long-lived.

While benevolent imperialism can create better conditions over a period of time, humanity’s instincts will always lean towards freedom and self-governance.

It is this fundamental distinction between the United States’ founding and that of the modern Republic of France that defines the two nations.

The people of France are “granted” their freedoms by the government, and the government creates the conditions and dictates the terms upon which those freedoms are exercised.

As Charles Kesler wrote for the Claremont Review of Books in May, “As a result, there are fewer and fewer levers by which the governed can make its consent count”.

France is the archetypal administrative state, while the United States was founded on natural law, a topic that scarcely gets enough attention anymore.

Nationalism – or nationism, if you will – therefore represents a break from the war-hungry norm of human history. Its presence in the 20th century has been rewritten and bastardized.

A nationalist has no intention of invading your country or changing your society. A nationalist cares just as much as anyone else about the plights of others around the world but believes putting one’s own country first is the way to progress. A nationalist would never seek to divide by race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual preference, or otherwise. This runs contrary to the idea of a united, contiguous nation at ease with itself.

Certainly nationalism’s could-be bastard child of chauvinism can give root to imperialistic tendencies. But if the nation can and indeed does look after its own, and says to the world around it, “these are our affairs, you may learn from them, you may seek advice, we may even assist if you so desperately need it and our affairs are in order,” then nationalism can be a great gift to the 21st century and beyond.

This is what President Trump understands.

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