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Russia to discuss peace initiatives for Donbass, Syria and Korea at UN General Assembly this week

Russia will also raise the pressing issue of UN organisational reform.

The Duran

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula, a UN peacekeeping mission in Donbas and Syrian civil war could be among the priority issues that the Russian delegation headed by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will raise during the high-level segment of the UN General Assembly next week.

The bilateral agenda of the Russian delegation is also expected to be eventful, as the Russian foreign minister is scheduled to hold several dozens of such meetings on the sidelines of the General Assembly. The talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are among the most anticipated, as the meeting will be held against the backdrop of the ongoing “diplomatic crisis” between the two countries. Besides, Lavrov is scheduled to meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

SIXTH MEETING WITH REX TILLERSON

Lavrov’s talks with Tillerson on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly will become the sixth meeting of the two top diplomats. Earlier this year, they held meetings in Bonn, Hamburg, Moscow, Washington and Manila.

It is expected that de-escalation zones in Syria, the Ukrainian crisis and peacekeepers deployment in Donbas, North Korea’s missile launches, as well as bilateral issues will become the central topics on the agenda of the upcoming meeting.

The upcoming talks will be held against the backdrop of the ongoing standoff regarding the work of the diplomatic missions of both countries. In July, Moscow reduced US diplomatic personnel in Russia to 455 representatives, the same number of Russian diplomatic staff in the United States at the time. In response to the move, in early September, the United States shut down Russia’s Consulate General in San Francisco and trade missions in New York City and in Washington, DC. After Russian diplomats left the diplomatic compounds, US security agents entered the premises and conducted searches there. Moscow has labeled such actions as a “raid” and said it would file a lawsuit over the situation.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov expressed hope that Lavrov and Tillerson would send the international community a “positive signal” on the possibility of solving “at least some of the existing problems” after the meeting.

NORTH KOREA NOT CARING A STRAW ABOUT SANCTIONS

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted its toughest resolution yet against North Korea over its latest nuclear test and repeated missile launches almost simultaneously with the beginning of the 72nd Regular Session of the UN General Assembly. However, just three days after the resolution was adopted, North Korea launched a ballistic missile, that flew over Japan and traveled a total of 3,700 kilometers (2,299 miles), which made it a missile capable to reach Guam, where the US military bases are located.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on Friday that his country was close to reaching its goal of “completing its nuclear force.”

During an emergency meting on Friday, the UN Security Council condemned recent highly provocative actions of North Korea. Washington called on all countries to unite to address “this global problem short of war”, while Moscow stressed the importance of holding “meaningful negotiations” as soon as possible to resolve the crisis.

The need for resuming the six-party talks on North Korea, which were not held since Pyongyang withdrew from the talks in 2009, has been mentioned in the latest UN resolution. Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also underlined their commitment for such negotiations in the latest phone talks on Monday.

In early September, Lavrov said that Guterres may be involved in mediation efforts within the framework of resolution of the Korean peninsula issue, adding that “this may be useful.” On Wednesday, Guterres said that he would be glad to provide his assistance to the UN Security Council, that was due to decide which political actions should be taken. The UN secretary-general also noted that he intended to involve in the settlement of the North Korea situation his predecessor on the UN chief’s post, Ban Ki-moon.

PROGRESS IN SYRIAN RECONCILIATION

The multilateral meeting on creating a contact group on Syria will be among the most important talks on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

“We believe that it is important to start making a transition to the political phase of the resolution of the conflict in Syria. The issue related to this contact group and its format will be discussed by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, including Russia, in New York next week,” French Ambassador to Russia Sylvie Bermann told Sputnik on Saturday.

She also announced the plans for meeting between Lavrov and Le Drian on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next week.

On Friday, the three Syrian ceasefire guarantor states – Russia, Turkey and Iran – have made a breakthrough in reducing violence in Syria by reaching an agreement on all four de-escalation zones, including the one in the Idlib province. The sides also agreed that monitoring in the de-escalation zone in Idlib would be carried out by Iranian, Russian and Turkish forces, while the remaining zones would be maintained by Russian military police.

The United States have not made any official statements regarding the results of the sixth round of Astana talks on Syrian reconciliation, however, on Thursday, just a day before the milestone agreement was reached, Tillerson called Lavrov and discussed the situation in Syria, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said Friday he would consult Guterres and the UN Security Council in New York on the results of the sixth Astana talks on Syria before announcing the date of the next round of Geneva talks. De Mistura added that he would also hold meeting with representatives of the countries, which were having an impact on the process of the Syrian settlement.

PEACEKEEPERS IN DONBAS

The Ukrainian issue and the initiative to deploy a UN peacekeeping mission are also likely to be among the hot topics at the upcoming discussion in the General Assembly.

In early September, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his support for the idea of sending peacekeepers to Ukraine in order to ensure the security of the OSCE observer mission in Donbas. Putin also said the issue should be decided in direct contact with representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics. However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that Russia had flexible position on the deployment of peacekeepers in Donbas.

Guterres said in an interview with RIA Novosti that the United Nations would do everything to help solve the crisis in Donbas if there is consensus regarding the idea to deploy peacekeepers to east Ukraine.

US State Department official told Sputnik on Wednesday that the option of having UN peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine is worth examining, noting that such force should have a broad mandate for peace and security throughout the occupied Donbas region.

Kiev also insists that the UN mission should be deployed up to the border with Russia. It also refuses to coordinate the parameters of work of UN peacekeepers in Donbas with local militias.

Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko said that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was expected to raise the issue of peacekeepers deployment in Donbas on Wednesday during his speech in the UN Security Council.

“The president of Ukraine will address the UN Security Council on September 20, there will be a special meeting on the peacekeepers. I think this will be another opportunity to share our view on the role of the UN mission in Donbas,” Yelchenko told the Radio Svoboda broadcaster.

Kiev and Moscow have already prepared separate draft resolutions for the UN Security Council on deployment of peacekeepers in the Donbas region.

UN REFORM

The issue of UN reform will also be brought on the table during the upcoming high-level segment of the UN General Assembly.

On Friday, US Presidential National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster said that Trump would raise the issue of the UNSC reform at the General Assembly. McMaster noted that the United Nations had huge potential, but is should be used “more efficiently and effectively.”

It was reported on Thursday that the discussion would be held during Trump’s meeting with the world leaders on Monday, a day prior to the US president’s speech at the UN headquarters. Following the meeting, the sides may adopt a declaration on broad reforms, proposed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Earlier in the day, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said that Moscow probably would not sign the resolution. He noted that none of the ideas proposed by Washington complied with what had been suggested by the Secretary-General, adding that one could not “undertake the UN reform and change the UN through a declaration.”

Nebenzya stressed that the UN reform should be reformed through the intergovernmental procedures, noting that the document prepared by the United States was a declaration of the countries who shared the same stances on the UN reform, rather that an instruction to the UN Secretary General.

On Friday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Russia supported the initiative for the UN reform and advocated “adjusting the organization to the realities of today’s world while maintaining the United Nations’ intergovernmental nature and strict compliance with the principle of separation of its main organs’ powers provided for in the UN Charter.”

“We support realistic initiatives to rationalize the activities of the UN General Assembly. We prioritize improving working methods, streamlining of overloaded agenda,” Zakharova told a briefing.

The high-level segment of the UN General Assembly session will be held on September 19-25. It will bring together heads of state, government officials and foreign ministers from nearly 200 countries.

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André De Koning
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André De Koning

And that they may finally talk about the UN changing back to an organ where international law is upheld by the UN members!

Walter Dublanica
Member
Walter Dublanica

Putin and Russia talk PEACE which is what the world wants. Our defense secretary is nicknamed ” mad dog”. The world ( most of it) used to like America. No more , much of it dislikes or hates us.

dave3200
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dave3200

Such a shame. Most of the American citizens are not aware of this and would not condone it if they knew.

Shahna
Guest

Twaddle!
All polls show they’re gung-ho happy to go bomb North Korea and their lawmakers refused to end that 9/11 shite that “allows” them to go bomb whom they want, whenever they want and wherever they please. Nothing more than a nation entire of murdering cucking funts!

tiredofthemedialies
Guest
tiredofthemedialies

and the rest revile you.

Matt Hol
Guest
Matt Hol

I guess the rebels dont feel that they should take Mariupol ? Hmm.. I think they should leave that option open. If the US sends weapons, take Mariupol and then call it done.

Shahna
Guest

on Friday, the UN Security Council condemned recent highly provocative actions of North Korea.
———————
It’s WAAAAY past time the UBSC (and the UNGA) condemned the provocative actions (AND THE WARS) of the United States!

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Whose Money Stoked Religious Strife in Ukraine – and Who Tried to Steal It?

Was $25 million in American tax dollars allocated for a payoff to stir up religious turmoil and violence in Ukraine?

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via Strategic Culture:


Was $25 million in American tax dollars allocated for a payoff to stir up religious turmoil and violence in Ukraine? Did Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (unsuccessfully) attempt to divert most of it into his own pocket?

Last month the worldwide Orthodox Christian communion was plunged into crisis by the decision of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Constantinople to recognize as legitimate schismatic pseudo-bishops anathematized by the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is an autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church. In so doing not only has Patriarch Bartholomew besmirched the global witness of Orthodoxy’s two-millennia old Apostolic faith, he has set the stage for religious strife in Ukraine and fratricidal violence – which has already begun.

Starting in July, when few were paying attention, this analyst warned about the impending dispute and how it facilitated the anti-Christian moral agenda of certain marginal “Orthodox” voices like “Orthodoxy in Dialogue,” Fordham University’s “Orthodox Christian Studies Center,” and The Wheel. These “self-professed teachers presume to challenge the moral teachings of the faith” (in the words of Fr. John Parker) and “prowl around, wolves in sheep’s clothing, forming and shaping false ideas about the reality of our life in Christ.” Unsurprisingly such groups have embraced Constantinople’s neopapal self-aggrandizement and support for the Ukrainian schismatics.

No one – and certainly not this analyst – would accuse Patriarch Bartholomew, most Ukrainian politicians, or even the Ukrainian schismatics of sympathizing with advocacy of such anti-Orthodox values. And yet these advocates know they cannot advance their goals if the conciliar and traditional structure of Orthodoxy remains intact. Thus they welcome efforts by Constantinople to centralize power while throwing the Church into discord, especially the Russian Church, which is vilified in some Western circles precisely because it is a global beacon of traditional Christian moral witness.

This aspect points to another reason for Western governments to support Ukrainian autocephaly as a spiritual offensive against Russia and Orthodoxy. The post-Maidan leadership harp on the “European choice” the people of Ukraine supposedly made in 2014, but they soft-pedal the accompanying moral baggage the West demands, symbolized by “gay” marches organized over Christian objections in Orthodox cities like AthensBelgradeBucharestKievOdessaPodgoricaSofia, and Tbilisi. Even under the Trump administration, the US is in lockstep with our European Union friends in pressuring countries liberated from communism to adopt such nihilistic “democratic, European values.”

Perhaps even more important to its initiators, the row over Ukraine aims to break what they see as the “soft power” of the Russian Federation, of which the Orthodox Church is the spiritual heart and soul. As explained by Valeria Z. Nollan, professor emerita of Russian Studies at Rhodes College:

‘The real goal of the quest for autocephaly [i.e., complete self-governing status independent of the Moscow Patriarchate] of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a de facto coup: a political coup already took place in 2014, poisoning the relations between western Ukraine and Russia, and thus another type of coup – a religious one – similarly seeks to undermine the canonical relationship between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Moscow.’

In furthering these twin objectives (morally, the degrading of Orthodox Christianity; politically, undermining the Russian state as Orthodoxy’s powerful traditional protector) it is increasingly clear that the United States government – and specifically the Department of State – has become a hands-on fomenter of conflict. After a short period of appropriately declaring that “any decision on autocephaly is an internal [Orthodox] church matter,” the Department within days reversed its position and issued a formal statement (in the name of Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, but clearly drafted by the European bureau) that skirted a direct call for autocephaly but gave the unmistakable impression of such backing. This is exactly how it was reported in the media, for example, “US backs Ukrainian Church bid for autocephaly.” Finally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in personally with his own endorsement as did the US Reichskommissar for UkraineKurt Volker.

The Threat…

There soon became reason to believe that the State Department’s involvement was not limited to exhortations. As reported by this analyst in October, according to an unconfirmed report originating with the members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (an autonomous New York-based jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate), in July of this year State Department officials (possibly including Secretary Pompeo personally) warned the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (also based in New York but part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) that the US government was aware of the misappropriation of a large amount of money, about $10 million, from estimated $37 million raised from believers for the construction of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in New York. The State Department warning also reportedly noted that federal prosecutors have documentary evidence confirming the withdrawal of these funds abroad on the orders of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. It was suggested that Secretary Pompeo would “close his eyes” to this theft in exchange for movement by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in favor of Ukrainian autocephaly, which helped set Patriarch Bartholomew on his current course.

[Further details on the St. Nicholas scandal are available here, but in summary: Only one place of worship of any faith was destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attack in New York and only one building not part of the World Trade Center complex was completely destroyed. That was St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a small urban parish church established at the end of World War I and dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, who is very popular with Greeks as the patron of sailors. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, and following a lengthy legal battle with the Port Authority, which opposed rebuilding the church, in 2011 the Greek Archdiocese launched an extensive campaign to raise funds for a brilliant innovative design by the renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava based on traditional Byzantine forms. Wealthy donors and those of modest means alike enthusiastically contributed millions to the effort. Then – poof! In December 2017, suddenly all construction was halted for lack of funds and remains stalled to this day. Resumption would require having an estimated $2 million on hand. Despite the Archdiocese’s calling in a major accounting firm to conduct an audit, there’s been no clear answer to what happened to the money. Both the US Attorney and New York state authorities are investigating.]

This is where things get back to Ukraine. If the State Department wanted to find the right button to push to spur Patriarch Bartholomew to move on the question of autocephaly, the Greek Archdiocese in the US is it. Let’s keep in mind that in his home country, Turkey, Patriarch Bartholomew has virtually no local flock – only a few hundred mostly elderly Greeks left huddled in Istanbul’s Phanar district. (Sometimes the Patriarchate is referred to simply as “the Phanar,” much as “the Vatican” is shorthand for the Roman Catholic papacy.) Whatever funds the Patriarchate derives from other sources (the Greek government, the Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches), the Phanar’s financial lifeline is the ethnic Greek community (including this analyst) in what is still quaintly called the “Diaspora” in places like America, Australia, and New Zealand. And of these, the biggest cash cow is the Greek-Americans.

That’s why, when Patriarch Bartholomew issued a call in 2016 for what was billed as an Orthodox “Eighth Ecumenical Council” (the first one since the year 787!), the funds largely came from America, to the tune of up to $8 million according to the same confidential source as will be noted below. Intended by some as a modernizing Orthodox “Vatican II,” the event was doomed to failure by a boycott organized by Moscow over what the latter saw as Patriarch Bartholomew’s adopting papal or even imperial prerogatives – now sadly coming to bear in Ukraine.

…and the Payoff

On top of the foregoing, it now appears that the State Department’s direct hand in this sordid business may not have consisted solely of wielding the “stick” of legal threat: there’s reason to believe there was a “carrot” too. It very recently came to the attention of this analyst, via an unsolicited, confidential source in the Greek Archdiocese in New York, that a payment of $25 million in US government money was made to Constantinople to encourage Patriarch Bartholomew to move forward on Ukraine.

The source for this confidential report was unaware of earlier media reports that the same figure – $25 million – was paid by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to the Phanar as an incentive for Patriarch Bartholomew to move forward on creating an independent Ukrainian church. Moreover, Poroshenko evidently tried to shortchange the payment:

‘Peter [Petro] Poroshenko — the president of Ukraine — was obligated to return $15 million US dollars to the Patriarch of Constantinople, which he had appropriated for himself.

‘As reported by Izvestia, this occurred after the story about Bartholomew’s bribe and a “vanishing” large sum designated for the creation of a Unified Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine surfaced in the mass media.

‘As reported, on the eve of Poroshenko’s visit in Istanbul, a few wealthy people of Ukraine “chipped in” in order to hasten the process of creating a Unified Local Orthodox Church. About $25 million was collected. They were supposed to go to the award ceremony for Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople for the issuing of a tomos of autocephaly. [A tomos is a small book containing a formal announcement.] However, in the words of people close to the backer, during the visit on April 9, Poroshenko handed over only $10 million.

‘As a result, having learned of the deal, Bartholomew cancelled the participation of the delegation of the Phanar – the residence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, in the celebration of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia on July 27 in Kiev.

‘”Such a decision from Bartholomew’s side was nothing other than a strong ultimatum to Poroshenko to return the stolen money. Of course, in order to not lose his face in light of the stark revelations of the creation of the tomos of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Peter Alexeevich [Poroshenko] had to just return those $15 million for the needs of Constantinople,” a trusted source explained to reporters.

‘For preliminary information, only after receiving the remaining sum, did Bartholomew finally give his consent to sending a delegation of the Phanar to Kiev … ‘

Now, it’s possible that the two identical figures of $25 million refer to two different pots of money (a cool $50 million!) but that seems unlikely. It’s more probable the reports refer to the same sum as viewed from the sending side (the State Department, the Greek Archdiocese) and the delivery side (Poroshenko, Constantinople).

Lending credibility to the confidential information from New York and pointing to the probability that it refers to the same payment that Poroshenko reportedly sought to raid for himself are the following observations:

  • When Poroshenko generously offered Patriarch Bartholomew $10 million, the latter was aware that the full amount was $25 million and demanded the $15 million Poroshenko had held back. How did the Patriarch know that, unless he was informed via New York of the full sum?
  • If the earlier-reported $25 million was really collected from “a few wealthy people of Ukraine” who “chipped in,” given the cutthroat nature of disputes among Ukrainian oligarchs would Poroshenko (an oligarch in his own right) have risked trying to shortchange the payment? Why has not even one such Ukrainian donor been identified?
  • Without going into all the details, the Phanar and the Greek Archdiocese have a long relationship with US administrations of both parties going back at least to the Truman administration, encompassing some decidedly unattractive episodes. In such a history, a mere bribe for a geopolitical shot against Moscow would hardly be a first instance or the worst.

As one of this analyst’s Greek-American connections puts it: “It’s easy to comprehend the Patriarchate bowing to the pressure of State Dept. blackmail… not overly savory, but understandable. However, it’s another thing altogether if Kiev truly “purchased” their autocephalous status from an all too willing Patriarchate … which would relegate the Patriarch to ‘salesman’ status and leave the faithful wondering what else might be offered to the highest bidder the next time it became convenient to hold a Patriarchal ‘fire sale’ at the Phanar?!”

To add insult to injury, you’d think Constantinople at least could pay back some of the $7-8 million wasted on the Crete 2016 debacle to restart the St. Nicholas project in New York. Evidently the Phanar has better things to spend it on, like the demonstrative environmentalism of “the Green Patriarch” and, together with Pope Francis, welcoming Muslim migrants to Europe through Greece. Of course maybe there’s no need to worry, as the Ukraine “sale” was consistent with Constantinople’s papal ambitions, an uncanonical claim to “universal” status, and misuse of incarnational language and adoption of a breathtakingly arrogant tone that would cause even the most ultramontane proponent of the Rome’s supremacy to blush.

Finally, it seems that, for the time being at least, Constantinople doesn’t intend to create an independent Ukrainian church but rather an autonomous church under its own authority. It’s unclear whether or not Poroshenko or the State Department, in such event, would believe they had gotten their money’s worth. Perhaps they would. After all, the issue here is less what is appropriate for Ukraine than what strikes at Russia and injures the worldwide Christian witness of the Orthodox Church. To that end, it doesn’t matter whether the new illegal body is Constantinopolitan or Kievan, just so long as it isn’t a “Moskal church” linked to Russia.

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EU Army: Fact or Fiction? (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda discuss the possibility, and feasibility, of putting together an EU army, as French President Macron is now boasting about.

Will an EU Army replace, rival, or fold into NATO? How will the US respond to Europe’s military initiative, and how will Russia deal an EU army?

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Via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


“Insulting” – that’s how US President Donald Trump sharply reacted to the idea of a “real European army” proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

And it was how Macron rationalized the need for an independent military force for Europe that perhaps most irked the American leader.

Speaking on a tour of World War I battlefields in northern France last week, Macron said that Europe needed to defend itself from “China, Russia and even the United States of America”.

It was a pretty extraordinary choice of words by the French leader. To frame the US among an array of perceived foreign enemy powers was a devastating blow to the concept of a much-vaunted transatlantic alliance.

Since the Second World War, ending 1945, the concept of an American-European alliance has been the bedrock of a supposed inviolable, mutual defense pact. That nearly seven-decade alliance is now being questioned more than ever.

Macron’s call for a European army was further backed up by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who also pointedly said this week that Europe can no longer rely on the US for its defense.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has welcomed the proposal for Europe to form its own military organization, independent from Washington. No doubt, Moscow views such a development as augmenting a move towards a multipolar international order, which Russia and China, among others, have been advocating in opposition to American ambitions of unipolar dominance.

When Trump arrived in Paris last weekend along with dozens of other world leaders, including Putin, to commemorate the centennial anniversary marking the end of World War I, there was a notable frostiness between Macron and the American president. Only a few months ago, Macron and Trump had appeared the best of friends in what some observers referred to as a “bromance”.

During the Paris events, Macron sought to placate Trump by saying that the European army proposal would have a “complementary” role to the US-led NATO military alliance. However, their relationship further soured when Macron later delivered a speech in which he made a veiled rebuke of Trump’s “nationalist” politics.

Days later, on returning to Washington, Trump then fired off a fusillade of angry tweets attacking Macron in very personal terms over a range of issues, including “unfair” economic trade and France’s alleged ungrateful attitude towards the US liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The rift between the US and Europe has been brewing even before Trump’s presidency. For years, Washington has been carping that the Europeans need to spend more on military defense, claiming that the US has been shouldering the burden for too long. Trump has taken the griping to a new, higher level. Recall that he has threatened to pull out of NATO because the Europeans were “free loading” on American “protection”.

The irony is that now the French and German leaders are talking about setting up their own military defenses, Trump has blown a fuse.

Evidently, the American contention is not about “burden sharing” of defense. If Washington was genuinely aggrieved about supposedly defending Europe at too much of its own expense, then Trump, one would think, would be only too glad to hear that the Europeans were at last making their own military arrangements, and taking the burden off Washington.

This gets to the heart of the matter about the real purpose of NATO and presence of tens of thousands of US troops stationed in bases across Europe since 1945. American military presence in Europe is not about “protecting” its supposed allies. It is, and always has been, about projecting American power over Europe. In reality, American troops and bases in Europe are more functioning as an occupying force, keeping the Europeans in line with Washington’s strategic objectives of hegemony over the continent.

Macron and Merkel’s vision of a European army is probably fanciful anyway, without any real prospect of materializing. How such a new defense arrangement would work independently from the 29-member NATO alliance led by the US seems unwieldy and impractical.

But the latest tensions between Washington and European leaders over military organization demonstrate the real nature of America’s relationship to Europe. It is about domination by Washington over Europe and has little to do with partnership and protection.

When Trump and previous US presidents have urged greater military spending by Europe the ulterior agenda is for Europeans to pay more to underpin American military presence, not for Europeans to find their own independent defense arrangement.

Tensions in the transatlantic axis seem to be coming to a head, heightened by Trump’s nationalistic “America First” policy. Rivalries are sharpening over trade, US sanctions on Iran, Trump’s threats against European energy plans with Russia, the Paris Climate Accord, and squabbling over NATO expenditures.

There is nothing progressive about Macron or Merkel’s call for a European army. It is more to do with France and Germany wanting to assert themselves as great powers and to shake off American tutelage out of frustration with Trump’s domineering petulance.

Only last week, Macron caused controversy when he praised French military general Philippe Pétain who collaborated with Nazi Germany as leader of Vichy France (1940-44). Macron wants a European army to satisfy his own nationalistic ambitions of revamping French global power. This week, he spent the night onboard a refurbished French aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, from which he gave a media interview saying that being “an ally of America meant not being a vassal”. Touché!

A progressive challenge from Europe to American power would not involve setting up a new army. Instead it would involve Europeans pushing for the disbandment of NATO as an obsolete organization and for the withdrawal of US-led forces which are dangerously amassing on Russia’s border.

Nonetheless, the one positive thing to emerge from the transatlantic spat over military defenses is that it illustrates more than ever how European protection is not the real purpose of Washington’s relationship to the continent. The purpose is one of using Europe as a platform for projecting America’s power, in particular against Russia.

The recent announcement by the Trump administration that it is willing to rip up yet another nuclear arms control treaty – the INF following the ABM in 2002 – clearly shows that Washington, ultimately, has recklessly scant concern for Europe’s security with regard to a possible future war with Russia.

For Washington, despite all the chivalrous rhetoric, Europe is not a partner nor even an ally. It is a vassal. Admittedly, thousands of American troops died while bravely fighting wars in Europe. But they are distinct from the US ruling class. At bottom, Europe is merely a battlefield for American military power, just as it was in two previous world wars. One hundred years after the end of World War I, the same callous calculus for the imperial planners in Washington is at play.

European ideas for independent defense is why Washington has reacted so furiously. It’s not willing to give up its European front.

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Zuckerberg Clings To Power While Sandberg Claims Ignorance After Damaging NYT Report

The New York Times reported that Facebook hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, to smear liberal detractors as Soros operatives. 

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Facebook executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are battling backlash over an explosive investigation by the New York Times into Facebook’s mercenary damage control tactics in the wake of several major scandals.

Despite fresh calls from investors for Zuckerberg to step down in his dual role as CEO and chairman and appoint an independent director to oversee the board, the 34-year-old tech titan brushed off the suggestion during a Thursday call with journalists.

“A company with Facebook’s massive reach and influence requires robust oversight and that can only be achieved through an independent chair who is empowered to provide critical checks on company leadership,” said New York City comptroller, Scott Stringer.

Zuckerberg disagrees. “I don’t think that that specific proposal is the right way to go,” said the Facebook CEO when asked if he would consider stepping down, adding that other initiatives had been launched to “get more independence into our systems.”

The measures include creating an independent body to advise the company on decisions over whether controversial content should remain on the site.

Ultimately, he said Facebook is never going to eradicate mistakes. “We’re never going to get to the point where there are no errors,” he told reporters. “I’m trying to set up the company so that way we have our board, and we report on our financial results and do a call every quarter, but that also we have this independent oversight that is just focused on the community.” –Business Insider

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, meanwhile, is claiming ignorance – telling CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell “we absolutely did not pay anyone to create fake news – that they have assured me was not happening.”

In their Wednesday exposé – the culmination of interviews with over 50 current and former company executives, lawmakers, government officials, lobbyists and congressional staff members,the New York Times reported that Facebook had hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, which smeared liberal detractors as Soros operatives – and worked with a sister company to create negative propaganda about competitors Google and Apple.

Mr. Kaplan prevailed on Ms. Sandberg to promote Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman and fellow Bush administration veteran, to lead the company’s American lobbying efforts. Facebook also expanded its work with Definers.

On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google and Apple for unsavory business practices. One story called Mr. Cook hypocritical for chiding Facebook over privacy, noting that Apple also collects reams of data from users. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.

The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. –NYT

Meanwhile, Sandberg stressed that Facebook was undertaking new security measures, telling O’Donnell: “Our strategy was to shore up the security on Facebook and make major investments there,” and that the company had made significant investments in combatting fake news and foreign influence.

“It was not what I was doing nor was it the company’s strategy to deflect, to deny or to hire PR firms to do things. That’s not the strategy. And I was part of none of that. We’ve taken great steps, we’ve made huge investments. We’ve invested a ton in AI and technology and if you were following us before the election you saw those efforts pay off. We were able to take down lots of stuff over and over, over and over because we were now focused on this,” said Sandberg.

When asked if rank-and-file employees are confident in her, Sandberg replied: “Yes, I believe so.

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