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What’s Russia looking for In Libya?

Russia’s engagement with Libya’s General Khalifa Haftar serves anti-terrorist, economic and geostrategic purposes.

Andrew Korybko

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Moscow’s unfolding strategy towards Libya could have a lot more to do with Cairo than observers realise.

The Western press’ anti-Russian hysteria has spread to North Africa, with feverish reports circulating among the Mainstream Media warning about a speculative Russian special forces deployment to Egypt.  According to the prevailing narrative that’s being pushed, Russia is considering some form of clandestine or overt low-intensity military involvement in neighbouring Libya, though this has been officially denied by Moscow. Rumours spread late last year about a possible Russian base in Sidi Barrani, which housed a Soviet-era facility during the Cold War and is also the scene of the latest chatter, but these were also refuted at the time, too.

There’s no telling exactly why the West is promulgating these same debunked reports again, but one of the reasons might have to do with Moscow’s latest diplomatic engagement with the East Libyan forces of General Khalifa Haftar. He was flown out of the country by helicopter to meet with Russian military officials aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier in early January, and it’s presumed that the two sides spoke about how Russia could aid the general in his anti-terrorist crusade in the country. Accordingly, gossip spread like wildfire soon thereafter, and the West began nervously watching Libya for signs of what some of its representatives were convinced might have been an imminent “Russian invasion”.

That scenario obviously hasn’t been forthcoming, but it’s still realistically feasible to countenance that Russia’s assistance to Haftar might one day move beyond potential arms shipments and medical treatment for wounded soldiers and into the realm of intelligence, advisory, and possibly even special forces assistance, with none other than Sidi Barrani being the most likely location for housing Russia’s operational headquarters.

To be clear, there’s no indication that this is in the works at all, though it’s curious to note that the self-proclaimed East Libyan-based House of Representatives recently extended an invitation to the members of the defence and foreign affairs committees of the Russian Duma to visit their territory.

Russian Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov also just reaffirmed that his country “is of course interested in Libya stabilising in one way or another” because it “wants (an) authority in Libya who could combat terrorism”, though he unequivocally dismissed any prospect for an “excessive intervention”.

Therefore, what’s most likely to happen is that Russia will continue intensifying its military-diplomatic contacts with Haftar but will refrain from any conventional intervention in Libya’s affairs. The most immediate and pressing purpose behind this engagement is to help clear the country of terrorists, but there are also three other supplementary imperatives driving this policy as well, the most important of which is Russia’s desire to solidify Egypt’s multipolar pivot.

Other than the anti-terrorist cooperation that was already described, here’s what Russia might be looking for in Libya:

Energy Influence

Libya hosts the world’s 10th-largest oil reserves and the biggest ones in Africa, though it’s been stuck in underproduction ever since the NATO War on Libya led to the assassination of Gaddafi and turned the bombed-out country into a clan-centric patchwork of rival Islamist factions. The subsequent civil war that erupted shortly afterwards ground most production to a halt, though it’s been steadily recovering in the years since.

Russia doesn’t want to control what it hopes to be Haftar’s post-war oil spoils, but it could understandably want to exercise a degree of influence over them in order to help regulate the global energy market and prevent another price glut such as the one which contributed to weakening the rouble over the past two years.

To this end, it’s foreseeable that Moscow’s crucial anti-terrorist assistance (weapons, diplomatic backing, and possible intelligence, advisory, and special forces) to Haftar during his forces’ liberation and unification campaign could be rewarded in the form of profitable energy contracts for rebuilding and exporting some of Libya’s oil. In that case, Russia wouldn’t just earn monetary profits, but also strategic ones as well, since it would be powerfully positioned to indirectly influence the North African state’s energy policies and affiliated relations, both with its export partners and OPEC. Therefore, it’s reasonable to infer that Russian strategists – being the far-sighted experts that they’ve proven to be over the years – might have their eyes set on Libya’s enormous oil reserves, and they understand that effective anti-terrorist cooperation is the quickest way to achieve this far-sighted objective.

Geostrategic Positioning

Another commonly held — although widely fear mongered – explanation for Russia’s upsurge of anti-terrorist interest in Libya is that Moscow wants to establish a geostrategic foothold in the Southern Mediterranean to expand its existing footprint in the Eastern portion. What this explanation fails to provide, however, is the contextual differences between what Russia has already attained in Syria and what it might be looking for in Libya. Whereas the Tartus naval station is slated to undergo modernisation and expansion in the near future, there aren’t any indications whatsoever that Russia wants something similar in Libya, despite this lying at the heart of Western fears. Instead, it’s much more likely that the extent of Russia’s potentially envisioned military influence in Libya has a lot more to do with weapons sales and the high-level strategic relationships that accompany them than conventional basing rights.

Russia is wise enough to predict that any tangible moves in the direction of opening up a military facility in Libya could be a tripwire for triggering a harsh Western reaction, up to and including another an all-out bombing campaign or even a limited ground invasion aimed at thwarting what NATO might pretend is a “threat” to its interests. This could only result in more pain and destruction for the Libyan people, so Moscow would likely seek to prevent this from happening. On top of that, conventional weaponry and related deployments are becoming increasingly less important in the era of 21st-century (post-) modern warfare, so this possibility wouldn’t be high on Russia’s list of priorities anyhow when considering the costs that it would probably entail. Therefore, what Moscow would need in order to strengthen its geostrategic position in Libya is a soft military presence that sidesteps NATO’s tripwires and avoids the heavy costs associated with much more conventional deployments.

The most effective solution which meets these conditions while also promoting Russia’s influence is the future dispatch of trainers, advisors, and military maintenance mechanics after (or maybe even before?) Libya’s War on Terror is over. This would give Russia a much more robust and flexible presence in Libya than any conventional basing rights ever could, meaning that Moscow could invariably achieve much higher geostrategic dividends through a lower-level and more indirect form of commitment than if it opted to pursue a high-level and direct one through trying to open up official naval, air, or land facilities there. In a nutshell, Russia wants to do ‘more with less’, and it might be betting on Haftar to liberate Libya from terrorists and reunify the country so that it can call upon its close relations with him afterwards in order to restore Moscow’s Soviet-era relationship with Tripoli.

Strengthening Egypt’s Pivot

The last, but most important, supplementary reason behind why Russia is so interested in lending anti-terrorist support to Haftar’s Libyan forces is because this helps Moscow to reinforce Cairo’s multipolar pivot. President Sisi has recently embarked on taking his country in the direction of multipolarity, strengthening Egypt’s historic relations with Russia and even expressing principled support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. Not only that, but he’s also working real closely with China and is supposedly in talks with Iran to normalise relations with Tehran, all of which have earned him the severe consternation of his Saudi patrons. Egypt has been progressively transitioning from the unipolar to the multipolar bloc, though smartly without doing so in the sort of radical fashion which would otherwise prompt a Hybrid War or other disruptive destabilisation (though that’s not to say that one isn’t in the cards, however).

At this very sensitive time, Egypt needs to be made aware of just how much its pivot means to Russia, and there’s no better way for Moscow to express this than to covertly join forces with Cairo in combating terrorism in neighbouring Libya. Cairo has long been suspected of backing Haftar and the House of Representatives Tobruk government in Eastern Libya, so it comes as a highly symbolic move that Russia is now in the process of supporting him as well, albeit with much more international attention than Egypt is receiving. Under these circumstances, Russia doesn’t need to deploy special forces and drones to Sidi Barrani in order to prove its allied anti-terrorist commitment to Egypt, although that theoretical eventuality could one day come in handy and be a force multiplier in decisively giving Haftar the game-changing support that he might need in liberating and reunifying his country.   

The trust-building anti-terrorist coordination between Russia and Egypt in Libya is undeclared at this time but can logically be inferred through the overlap of common interests that Moscow and Cairo have in aiding Haftar to varying degrees, the end effect of which will hopefully be to give him the boost that he needs in restoring security to this NATO-destroyed North African failed state. By helping to stabilise Libya in its own way, Russia is proving to Egypt that the latter made the right choice in its developing multipolar pivot and that there are immediate benefits for it such as the drastically improved prospects that Haftar will succeed in wiping out the terrorists next door. Conclusively, although Russia’s latest anti-terrorist moves in Libya (not the fake news that was propagated) obviously have some energy-military motivations, they’re actually predicated more on the much grander intention of cementing Egypt’s multipolar pivot and geostrategically reshaping the larger Middle EastNorth Africa region.

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution. 

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French opposition rejects Macron’s concessions to Yellow Vests, some demand ‘citizen revolution’

Mélenchon: “I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.”

RT

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Via RT…


Macron’s concessions to the Yellow Vests has failed to appease protesters and opposition politicians, such as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who called for “citizen’s revolution” to continue until a fair distribution of wealth is achieved.

Immediately after French President Macron declared a “social and economic state of emergency” in response to large-scale protests by members of the Yellow Vest movement, promising a range of concessions to address their grievances, left-wing opposition politician Mélenchon called on the grassroots campaign to continue their revolution next Saturday.

I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.

Macron’s promise of a €100 minimum wage increase, tax-free overtime pay and end-of-year bonuses, Mélenchon argued, will not affect any “considerable part” of the French population. Yet the leader of La France Insoumise stressed that the “decision” to rise up rests with “those who are in action.”

“We expect a real redistribution of wealth,” Benoît Hamon, a former presidential candidate and the founder of the Mouvement Génération, told BFM TV, accusing Macron’s package of measures that benefit the rich.

The Socialist Party’s first secretary, Olivier Faure, also slammed Macron’s financial concessions to struggling workers, noting that his general “course has not changed.”

Although welcoming certain tax measures, Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally (previously National Front), accused the president’s “model” of governance based on “wild globalization, financialization of the economy, unfair competition,” of failing to address the social and cultural consequences of the Yellow Vest movement.

Macron’s speech was a “great comedy,”according to Debout la France chairman, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who accused the French President of “hypocrisy.”

Yet many found Melanchon’s calls to rise up against the government unreasonable, accusing the 67-year-old opposition politician of being an “opportunist” and “populist,” who is trying to hijack the social protest movement for his own gain.

Furthermore, some 54 percent of French believe the Yellow Vests achieved their goals and want rallies to stop, OpinionWay survey showed. While half of the survey respondents considered Macron’s anti-crisis measures unconvincing, another 49 percent found the president to be successful in addressing the demands of the protesters. Some 68 percent of those polled following Macron’s speech on Monday especially welcomed the increase in the minimum wage, while 78 percent favored tax cuts.

The Yellow Vest protests against pension cuts and fuel tax hikes last month were organized and kept strong via social media, without help from France’s powerful labor unions or official political parties. Some noted that such a mass mobilization of all levels of society managed to achieve unprecedented concessions from the government, which the unions failed to negotiate over the last three decades.

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Soros Mimics Hitler’s Bankers: Will Burden Europeans With Debt To ‘Save’ Them

George Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas.

The Duran

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Via GEFIRA:


After the Second World War, many economists racked their brains to answer the question of how Hitler managed to finance his armament, boost the economy and reduce unemployment.

Today his trick is well known. The economic miracle of Führer’s time became possible thanks to the so-called Mefo promissory notes.

The notes were the idea of the then President of the Reichsbank, Hjalmar Schacht, and served not only to finance the armament of the Wehrmacht for the Second World War, but also to create state jobs, which would otherwise not have been possible through the normal use of the money and capital markets, i.e. the annual increase in savings in Germany.

The Reich thus financed the armaments industry by accepting notes issued by the dummy company Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft GmbH (hence the name Mefo) rather than paying them in cash. The creation of money was in full swing from 1934 to 1938 – the total amount of notes issued at that time was 12 billion marks. The Reichsbank declared to the German banks that it was prepared to rediscount the Mefo notes, thus enabling the banks to discount them.

Because of their five-year term, the redemption of notes had to begin in 1939 at the latest. This threatened with enormous inflation. Since Schacht saw this as a threat to the Reichsmark, he expressed his doubts about the Reich Minister of Finance. But it did not help, and Schacht was quickly replaced by Economics Minister Walther Funk, who declared that the Reich would not redeem the Mefo notes, but would give Reich bonds to the Reichsbank in exchange. At the time of Funk, the autonomous Reichsbank statute was abolished, the Reichsbank was nationalized, and inflation exploded in such a way that Mefo notes with a circulation of 60 billion Reichsmark burdened the budget in post-war Germany.

George Soros also proposes such a money flurry in the style of Schacht and Funk.

Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas. He calls on the EU heads of state and governments to effectively deal with the migrant crisis through money flooding, which he calls “surge funding”.

“This would help to keep the influx of refugees at a level that Europe can absorb.”

Can absorb? Soros would be satisfied with the reception of 300,000 to 500,000 migrants per year. However, he is aware that the costs of his ethnic exchange plan are not financially feasible. In addition to the already enormous costs caused by migrants already in Europe, such a large number of new arrivals would add billions each year.

Soros calculates it at 30 billion euros a year, but argues that it would be worth it because “there is a real threat that the refugee crisis could cause the collapse of Europe’s Schengen system of open internal borders among twenty-six European states,” which would cost the EU between 47 and 100 billion euros in GDP losses.

Soros thus sees the financing of migrants and also of non-European countries that primarily receive migrants (which he also advocates) as a win-win relationship. He calls for the introduction of a new tax for the refugee crisis in the member states, including a financial transaction tax, an increase in VAT and the establishment of refugee funds. Soros knows, however, that such measures would not be accepted in the EU countries, so he proposes a different solution, which does not require a vote in the sovereign countries.

The new EU debt should be made by the EU taking advantage of its largely unused AAA credit status and issuing long-term bonds, which would boost the European economy. The funds could come from the European Stability Mechanism and the EU balance of payments support institution.

 “Both also have very similar institutional structures, and they are both backed entirely by the EU budget—and therefore do not require national guarantees or national parliamentary approval.“

In this way, the ESM and the BoPA (Balance of Payments Assistance Facility) would become the new Mefo’s that could issue bills of exchange, perhaps even cheques for Turks, Soros NGOs. Soros calculates that both institutions have a credit capacity of 60 billion, which should only increase as Portugal, Ireland and Greece repay each year the loans they received during the euro crisis. According to Soros, the old debts should be used to finance the new ones in such a way that it officially does not burden the budget in any of the EU Member States. The financial institutions that are to carry out this debt fraud must extend (indeed – cancel) their status, as the leader of the refugees expressed such a wish in his speech.

That Soros is striving to replace the indigenous European population with new arrivals from Africa and Asia is clear to anyone who observes its activities in Europe. The question is: what does he want to do this for and who is the real ruler, behind him, the real leader?

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The French People Feel Screwed

For the first time in his presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

The Duran

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Authored by David Brown via The Gatestone Institute:


On December 4, French Prime Minister Édouard Phillipe told deputies of the ruling party, “La République en Marche”, that a proposed fuel tax rise, which had led to the largest protests France has seen in decades, would be suspended.

The protesters, called Gilets-Jaunes — “Yellow Vests,” because of the vests drivers are obliged by the government to carry in their vehicles in the event of a roadside breakdown — say that the fuel tax was the last straw from a president who took office with a promise to help the economically left-behind but instead has favoured the rich.

Even by French standards, the protests of the “Yellow Vests” during the weekend of December 1 were startling. Burning cars and vast plumes of grey smoke seemed to engulf the Arc De Triomphe as if Paris were at war. Comparisons were drawn with the Bread Wars of the 17th Century and the spirit of the Revolution of the 18th Century.

For more than two weeks, the “Yellow Vests” disrupted France. They paralyzed highways and forced roads to close — causing shortages across the country – and blocked fuel stations from Lille in the North to Marseilles in the South.

During protests in France’s capital, Paris, the “Yellow Vests” were soon joined by a more violent element, who began torching cars, smashing windows and looting stores. 133 were injured, 412 were arrested and more than 10,000 tear gas and stun grenades were fired.

One elderly lady was killed when she was struck by a stray grenade as she tried to shutter her windows against the melee.

There was talk of imposing a State of Emergency.

The “Yellow Vests” present the most significant opposition French President Emmanuel Macron has faced since coming to office in May 2017. Unlike previous protests in France, which have divided public opinion, these have widespread support – 72% according to a Harris Interactive Poll published December 1st.

Fuel tax rises — announced in November before being retracted on December — were intended to help bring down France’s carbon emissions by curbing the use of cars. Macron makes no secret of his wish to be seen as a global leader for environmental reform.

He forgets that back at home, among the people who elected him, fuel prices really matter to those outside big cities, where four-fifths of commuters drive to work and a third of them cover more than 30km each week.

The increases have incensed people in smaller communities, where they have already seen speed limits reduced to please the Greens and cuts to the local transport services.

These additional costs-of-living increases come at an extremely bad time for ordinary French people working outside of Paris. Lower-middle class families are not poor enough to receive welfare benefits but have seen their income flat-line whilst cost-of-living and taxes have risen.

An analysis by the Institut des Politiques Publiques think-tank shows that benefits cuts and tax changes in 2018 and 2019 will leave pensioners and the bottom fifth of households worse off, while the abolition of the wealth tax means that by far the biggest gains will go to the top 1%

This is tough to swallow. Macron is seen as being out of touch with ordinary people and is unlikely to escape his new title, “the President of the Rich.”

“People have this feeling that the Paris technocrats are doing complicated things to screw them,” said Charles Wyplosz, an economics professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

It is probably not as complex as that. The French people feel screwed.

As employment and growth are slowing, Macron, for the first time in his presidency, is under serious pressure. Unemployment is at 9%; his efforts to reform Europe are stalling, and his approval rating has plummeted to just 23% according to a recent opinion poll by IFOP.

Images of Macron at the Arc De Triomphe daubed in graffiti calling for him to step down, or worse, have done little to bolster his image abroad.

So far, Macron had said he would not bow to street protests. To underline his point, in September 2017, he called protestors against French labour-market reform “slackers”.

The political U-Turn on the fuel tax is a turning point for the Macron presidency. The question is : What next, both for Macron and the “Yellow Vests”?

Macron most likely needs to plough ahead with his reform agenda, and doubtless knows he has the support of a solid majority in the National Assembly to do so. France is crippled by debt (nearly 100% of GDP) and its grossly bloated public sector. There are 5.2 million civil servants in France, and their number has increased by 36% since 1983. These represent 22% of the workforce compared to an OCDE average of 15%.

Tax-expert Jean-Philippe Delsol says France has 1.5 million too many “fonctionnaires [officials]. When you consider that public spending in France now accounts for 57 per cent of gross domestic product. Soon the system will no longer function as there will be less and less people working to support more and more people working less”.

Macron’s mistake, in addition to a seeming inclination for arrogance, is not to have made national economic reform his absolute priority right from his initial grace period after his election. Lower public expenses would have made it possible to lower taxes, hence creating what economists call a virtuous circle. Instead, he waited.

Now, at a time when he is deeply unpopular and social unrest is in full sway he is looking to make further reforms in unemployment benefits, scaling them back by reducing the payments and the length of time beneficiaries can receive the money. The “President of the Rich” strikes again.

There is talk that he may also re-introduce the wealth tax to try to placate the protestors.

Macron’s presidential term lasts until May 13, 2022. Understandably, Macron will be focused on the elections to the European Parliament expected to be held May 23-26, 2019. Headlines have signalled that Marine Le Pen and the National Rally (formally National Front) are ahead in the polls at 20%, compared to Macron’s En Marche at 19%.

The shift is understandable, given the divide between the countryside, where Le Pen has solid support, and the cities, where Macron’s centre-left prevail.

In contrast, the “Yellow Vests” have galvanised support after standing up for the “impotent ordinary”, and seem much buoyed by the solidarity they have been shown by both fire fighters and the police. There are images online of police removing their helmets and firefighters turning their backs on political authority to show their support for the protestors.

Whilst Macron’s political opposition may be fragmented, this new breed of coherent public opposition is something new. Leaderless, unstructured and organised online, the “Yellow Vests” have gained support from the left and right, yet resisted subjugation by either.

Being leaderless makes them difficult to negotiate withor to reason with in private. The “Yellow Vests” seem acutely aware of this strength, given their firm rebuttal of overtures for peace talks from the Macron government.

Enjoying huge support from the public and with reforms to the social welfare system on the horizon, the “Yellow Vests” are not going away.

For the first time in his Presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

After Macron rebuked nationalism during his speech at the armistice ceremony, Trump was quick to remind the French President of his low approval rating and unemployment rate near 10%. A stinging broadside from Trump on twitter suggests that Macron may well be relegated to Trump’s list of global “Losers“:

“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”

The “impotent ordinary” in the United Kingdom, who might feel betrayed over Brexit, and the nationalists in Germany, who have suffered under Merkel , are no doubt staring in wonder at the “Yellow Vests”, wishing for the same moxie.

The historian Thomas Carlyle, chronicler of the French Revolution, said the French were unrivaled practitioners in the “art of insurrection”, and characterised the French mob as the “liveliest phenomena of our world”.

Mobs in other countries, by comparison, he argued were “dull masses” lacking audacity and inventiveness. The blazing yellow vests of the French protest movement , however, have made Macron appear increasingly dull and weak too.

David Brown is based in the United Kingdom.

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