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Russiagate continues to unravel as Goldstone confirms Trump Junior’s account of Veselnitskaya meeting

British promoter backs Trump Junior on Veselnitskaya meeting as The Atlantic proved to have wrongly edited Wikileaks’ email

Alexander Mercouris

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The last was a bad week for Russiagate believers, though as always reporting of recent developments has been sparse.

There have in fact been two recent developments in the Russiagate case, both of which involve Donald Trump Junior.

One centres on the meeting Donald Trump Junior had on 9th June 2016 with the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

The other centres on the emails The Atlantic recently published which which were sent to Donald Trump Junior by Wikileaks.

(1) Veselnitskaya meeting

I discussed this meeting at length in an article I wrote back on 12th July 2017, shortly after the existence of this meeting was publicly disclosed.

I pointed out that far from supporting the allegations of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign both the circumstances and the events of the meeting pointed in the opposite direction, to the conclusion that no collusion had actually taken place

There is no evidence here of any crime or wrongdoing being committed or – contrary to what many are saying – of any intention to commit one.

What Donald Trump Junior was offered was official documents supposedly provided by the Russian government which would expose Hillary Clinton as a hypocrite in light of her dealings with Russia.  At a time when Donald Trump was already being criticised for wanting a rapprochement with Russia it is not surprising that Donald Trump Junior’s interest was piqued.

However this information – whatever it was – would have had to have been made public if it was going to be used, and since it was supposed to take the form of official Russian government documents provided to the Trump campaign by the Russian government that would have meant that the fact that the Russian government was involved and was the source would have had to be disclosed.  There was and could have been no intention to keep the fact secret.

That is what Donald Trump Junior obviously anticipated when he agreed to meet Veselnitskaya, and what he must have thought the Russian government intended.  The emails cannot be read in any other way.

This is a wholly different scenario from the one suggested in the Russiagate affair.  That alleges secret collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government as part of a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign involving an illegal hack of the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers in order to publish stolen emails which would swing the election from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump.

This by contrast was or was supposed to be a straightforward and above the board offer of information by the Russian government to the Trump campaign that might be useful in the election.

There is nothing wrong or sinister or illegal in Donald Trump Junior being interested in this.  There would have been nothing wrong or illegal in Donald Trump Junior receiving from the Russian government official Russian government documents about Hillary Clinton’s dealings with Russia in this way.

Nor would there have been anything wrong or illegal if Donald Trump Junior or the Trump campaign had made this information public, all the more so as the fact that the Russian government was the source would have had to be disclosed.

In the event, as I also pointed out in my article of 12th July 2017, the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and Natalia Veselnitskaya proved to be a total non-event when Veselnitskaya came to the meeting with no compromising information about Hillary Clinton to offer, causing Donald Trump Junior after a few minutes to show her the door.

Moreover it turned out that though Donald Trump Junior had been led to believe in email correspondence that Veselnitskaya was a “a Russian government attorney” acting on behalf of “the Crown Prosecutor of Russia”, she was in reality nothing of the sort.  Indeed her exact status, and who she was working for, has not been properly clarified to this day.

Veselnitskaya herself has recently changed her story.  Originally she corroborated Donald Trump Junior’s account of the meeting and expressed bafflement that Donald Trump Junior had appeared to expect her at the meeting to come up with “dirt” about Hillary Clinton.

Now she is apparently saying that Donald Trump Junior actively solicited “dirt” about Hillary Clinton during the meeting and and hinted that the Magnitsky sanctions would be reviewed if “dirt” was provided and Donald Trump won the election.

However the emails which preceded the email say a different story.  They make it clear that it was not Donald Trump Junior who solicited “dirt” on Hillary Clinton; but that he was baited into agreeing to the meeting by that offer.  Moreover independent evidence from one other person who attended the meeting – the British producer Rod Goldstone who set it up – corroborates Donald Trump Junior’s denial that any promise to look into lifting the Magnitsky sanctions if Donald Trump won the election was made (see below).

The person who wrote the emails was in fact Rod Goldstone, and he has now come forward and admitted that the deception in the emails about Veselnitskaya’s status and the attempt to pass her off as a “Russian government attorney” acting on behalf of the Russian government was his work.

In Goldstone’s words he “puffed” up the emails in order to get the meeting to happen.  Here is the relevant extract from the interview Goldstone has just given to The London Times Magazine, which appeared this weekend

“If I’m guilty of anything, and I hate the word guilty, it’s hyping the message and going the extra mile for my clients. Using hot-button language to puff up the information I had been given. I didn’t make up the details, I just made them sound more interesting.”…..

[In] his first email to the younger Trump [Goldstone] appeared to give a very different impression. He wrote matter-of-factly: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump — helped along by Aras and Emin.” Those words, he says now, were simply “puffery” from a publicist seeking to grab Trump Jr’s attention.

“What I was talking about there was that I’d been in Russia many times and I’d seen how both government figures and the public adored and supported Trump, and that included Emin and Aras. But because it’s a rushed email, I understand that the implication sounds like it’s me giving an official statement about Russian government support. But it wasn’t. And with hindsight, yes, I would have written it differently.”

Much has also been made of how Goldstone said Aras Agalarov had met Russia’s “crown prosecutor”. Given that Russia has not had a crown since the 1917 revolution, there was a widespread presumption that Goldstone was referring to Vladimir Putin’s prosecutor general, Yuri Chaika. It has since been reported that the lawyer Veselnitskaya met Chaika in Moscow in the run-up to her trip to New York, sharing with him the talking points that she delivered at Trump Tower. But Goldstone insists Veselnitskaya was the one described to him by Emin as a “well-connected prosecutor” and that in his haste, he had said “crown prosecutor” as that was a British term he used to use as a young reporter.

On the subject of Goldstone’s mistaken use of the expression “crown prosecutor” , here is what I wrote in my article of 12th July 2017

I am not going to try to guess who was the person behind the deception.  The one point I would make is that Goldstone is British and that though Russia has no official with the title “Crown Prosecutor of Russia” the title “crown prosecutor” is used in Britain as the official title of state officials roughly analogous to US District Attorneys.

This of course matches exactly what Goldstone now says.

As to where the initiative for the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and Natalia Veselnitskaya came from, Goldstone has now also provided an explanation

It started with a call from Emin Agalarov, the Russian pop star and businessman whose singing career he managed and whose father, Aras, is a Moscow property magnate. Goldstone had worked with Emin on the deal to bring the Miss Universe contest to Moscow in 2013 — and with it Trump, who co-owned the pageant, for a visit that is also now at the centre of US investigations. The Agalarovs staged the show at their Crocus property complex and, with other Russian entrepreneurs, laid out $20m to fund the event.

“So when people ask why some music publicist was involved in all this, well, I was always the conduit, the Mr Go-To, between the Agalarovs and the Trumps,” Goldstone says.

Although he was accustomed to unusual requests from his celebrity clients, he says he was still taken aback when Emin called him about the now infamous Trump meeting.

“I remember specifically saying to Emin, you know, we probably shouldn’t get involved in this. It’s politics, it’s Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Neither of us have any experience in this world. It’s not our forte. I deal with music. You’re a singer and a businessman.”

However, Emin was insistent that Goldstone contact the Trumps. “His mantra was always ‘Rob can do it’. All I had to do was facilitate a meeting, he said, after which I walk away from it and whatever comes of it, thank you very much.”

So Goldstone kicked into publicist mode, took the information supplied to him by Emin, “puffed up” the language, arranged the meeting — and thought little of it for more than a year until American journalists started to call his phone as he finished lunch at a Greek taverna in mid-July.

Putting the pieces together, it seems that Veselnitskaya, anxious to meet with someone senior in the Trump campaign, possibly in order to discuss the Magnitsky affair in which she is retained as a lawyer, and knowing of the connection between the Agalarovs and Donald Trump, approached Emin Agalarov, who agreed to arrange the meeting through Goldstone.  Goldstone duly arranged the meeting by “puffing up” Veselnitskaya’s importance in his emails.  In his own words

I should have listened to that little voice in my head but I never thought in a million years that an email I wrote in about three minutes to Don Jr would be examined by the world many times over. I just needed to get him to respond. I could have said that the Russian attorney believes she found a black hole, or believes Santa is real, it didn’t really matter. So when he replied, ‘If it’s what you say it is, I love it,’ I just thought my teaser had worked.

This scenario – the only plausible one, and the only one which can be reconciled both which Goldstone’s emails and with Goldstone’s and Donald Trump Junior’s account of what happened – excludes any involvement by the Russian government in the whole affair.

The Russian government did not offer Donald Trump Junior “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, and had no role in the meeting between Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Junior.  The meeting therefore cannot be used as evidence of collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

he Times Magazine interview does not make it fully clear from where the offer of “dirt” about Hillary Clinton originated from: whether it came from Emin Agalarov or Veselnitskaya or was the invention of Goldstone himself.

However Goldstone says in the interview that Veselnitskaya managed to wangle the meeting with Donald Trump Junior by engaging in a ‘bait and switch’ and that after the meeting he apologised to Donald Trump Junior for wasting his time.  That strongly suggests that the offer of “dirt” about Hillary Clinton originated with Veselnitskaya, and this does seem to be by far the most likely explanation.

If so then the fact that Veselnitskaya was also retained by Fusion GPS – the company used by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign as its go-between with Christopher, the compiler of the Trump Dossier – and the fact that is now known to have had meetings with Fusion GPS both shortly before and shortly after her meeting with Donald Trump Junior, lends weight but does not prove the theory that the meeting between Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Junior was – as I discussed in my article of 12th July 2017 – a sting.

There is even a hint of this possibility in The London Times Magazine interview itself, though it does not come from Goldstone

Murkier still, it has now been reported that Fusion GPS, the political research company for which Steele produced his report, was also the source of the negative information that Veselnitskaya wanted to give to the Trump campaign. One of Fusion’s bosses is said to have met her before and after her Trump Tower appointment.

Goldstone knows nothing of that.

As to the meeting itself, Goldstone attended it and his account fully corroborates that of Donald Trump Junior

The three men had carved time out of packed schedules to meet a delegation promising “dirt” on Clinton — a clear signal they were not surprised that the highest echelons of Russian government apparently wanted to intervene to help Trump. Across the table sat four Russians, including a high-powered female lawyer with Kremlin ties and a lobbyist who, it later emerged, was a former Soviet intelligence officer.

Goldstone, a veteran of the realm of show business but new to the world of political intrigue, was the eighth person in the room. He had not even planned to attend, but was encouraged to stay by Trump Jr. His biggest concern, he says, was that if the meeting dragged on, he would be caught in the notorious Lincoln Tunnel traffic on his journey home.

Goldstone tells me that he only half-listened to the presentation from Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer, as he checked emails on his phone. But he insists, as Trump Jr has done, that the meeting ended awkwardly after she switched tack from discussing Democratic funding to US sanctions legislation and Moscow’s retaliatory policy that restricts Americans from adopting Russian children. “It was vague, generic nonsense,” Goldstone says…..

“Within minutes of starting, Jared said to her, ‘Could you just get to the point? I’m not sure I’m following what you’re saying,’ ” Goldstone says.

It was then that she started talking in detail about the provisions of the Magnitsky legislation and adoptions, he says. “I believe that she practised a classic bait-and-switch. She got in there on one pretext and really wanted to discuss something else.”

Goldstone described Kushner as “furious” and said that Manafort did not seem to look up from checking his messages. In an interview in Moscow this month, Veselnitskaya claimed that Trump Jr offered to review the sanctions if his father won the election, and that he had asked for evidence of Russian funding for Clinton. But Goldstone says he recalls no such exchanges.

“Don Jr ended it by telling her that she should be addressing her concerns to the Obama administration, because they were the ones in power.”

As he emerged from the meeting, Goldstone says that he told Trump Jr he was “deeply embarrassed” that it had been an apparent waste of time. It never crossed his mind, he adds, that there would be any fallout about election rules or foreign influence.

As I said in my article of 12th July 2017, there is no reason to disbelieve Donald Trump Junior’s clear and straightforward account of the meeting, which is corroborated by the email chain, the fact that no further meetings between him or anyone else in the Trump campaign and Veselnitskaya subsequently took place, and by the accounts of the meeting originally given by Veselnitskaya herself before she changed her story.

Goldstone has now provided further corroboration for it.  There is no reason to disbelieve him, and there is no reason to doubt that this account and Donald Trump Junior’s account of the meeting is true.

In summary, Goldstone’s evidence shows

(1) that Veselnitskaya was not acting on behalf of the Russian government and the claim that she was is his invention;

(2) that the person who first said Veselnitskaya had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton was almost certainly Veselnitskaya herself; and

(3) that Donald Trump Junior’s account of his meeting with Veselnitskaya is true.

This wholly clears Donald Trump Junior of any suggestion of wrongdoing in relation to his meeting with Veselnitskaya.

The meeting between Donald Trump Junior and Veselnitskaya is not evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

On the contrary the fact that Donald Trump Junior, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner took part in a meeting set up under false pretences in which “dirt” about Hillary Clinton was promised but never given is evidence that no such collusion took place.

(2) Ritz Carlton orgy

Goldstone’s evidence is not limited to the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Goldstone also provides new evidence about Donald Trump’s alleged sex orgy in Moscow’s Ritz Carlton hotel which the Trump Dossier alleges took place during Donald Trump’s trip to Moscow to attend the Miss Universe competition in 2013.

Goldstone’s evidence here is not wholly conclusive.  He cannot definitely say that no such orgy took place.  However what he says does make it unlikely

[Goldstone] does recall Trump’s movements in Moscow back in 2013. He accompanied the US tycoon for many of his waking hours there. He recalls that, after a full first day, Trump headed back to the hotel after midnight following a birthday dinner for Aras Agalarov. By 8am the next morning, he was back with the entourage to film a music video with Emin, then spent the rest of the day on Miss Universe business before leaving on a friend’s private plane following the show and afterparty.

“I can’t comment about the contents of the Steele dossier, but I can tell you that there were only a few hours during a very busy schedule when Trump was back in his room at the Ritz-Carlton,” Goldstone says.

Donald Trump’s bodyguard is said to have testified to Congress that no such orgy took place, and he would presumably know.

Conceivably he is being loyal to his boss.  However the evidence against the orgy ever having happened is stacking up, whilst no evidence has been produced outside the Trump Dossier to prove it ever took place.

I don’t think the importance of this is realised.

The Trump Dossier is constructed around the premise that the Russians plotted to install Trump as President because they have leverage (‘kompromat‘) over him.

The implication in the Trump Dossier is that some of this leverage is film the Russians supposedly have of the Ritz Carlton orgy.

No evidence has come to light to support the only other alternative explanation offered to explain this leverage: illegal financial dealings between Donald Trump and Russian financial interests.

That leaves only the film of the orgy and possibly the film of another orgy the Trump Dossier speculates may have happened in St. Petersburg as the only events which could provide the leverage.

The Trump Dossier admits there is no proof the orgy in St. Petersburg.  However it asserts the Ritz Carlton orgy in Moscow as fact.

If however no such orgy took place, then the Russians cannot have film of it, and the whole theory of leverage upon which the whole Trump Dossier is based collapses.

(3) Wikileaks’ emails

I have previously written a dismissive article about the story in The Atlantic of the twitter emails Wikileaks sent to Donald Trump Junior during the 2016 election.  I stand by every word of it.

However the redoubtable blogger Caitlin Johnstone and Julian Assange himself have delved a little deeper and have struck gold.

It turns out that The Atlantic edited one of the emails Wikileaks sent to Donald Trump Junior and did so in a most misleading way.

The actual email – sent to Donald Trump Junior by Wikileaks on 21st October 2016 and recently published by Donald Trump Junior himself – reads as follows:

3. If we publish them (Donald Trump’s tax returns – AM) it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality.  This is the real kicker.   That means that the vast amount of stuff that we are publishing about Clinton will have much higher impact, because it won’t be perceived as coming from a “pro-Trump” “pro-Russian source”, which the Clinton campaign is constantly slandering us with.

(bold italics added)

The text of this email as published by The Atlantic was edited to remove the highlighted words.  It therefore reads as follows

3. If we publish them (Donald Trump’s tax returns – AM) it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality.  This is the real kicker.   That means that the vast amount of stuff that we are publishing about Clinton will have much higher impact, because it won’t be perceived as coming from a “pro-Trump” “pro-Russian source”.

The comma after the words “pro-Russian source” is replaced by a full-stop and all the words after the comma are deleted, with no indication given that the other words were there.

The discrepancy was noticed after the text of the actual email as published by Donald Trump Junior was compared with the text of the email as The Atlantic published it.

A complaint by Wikileaks that it is being slandered by being called a “pro-Russian source” is a denial by Wikileaks that it is a “pro-Russian source”.  As Caitlin Johnstone and Julian Assange rightly say, The Atlantic edited the email to make it seem that Wikileaks was admitting the opposite.

Caitlin Johnstone says this is unethical, and I agree.

In my opinion it goes a little further than this.

The collusion allegations that are at the centre of the Russiagate scandal are that the Trump campaign conspired with the Russians to publish the stolen DNC/Podesta emails via Wikileaks.

Here however is an email from Wikileaks to Donald Trump Junior – one of the supposed co-conspirators – written just two weeks before the election in which it specifically denies that it is a “pro-Russian source”.

How is that consistent with the Russians, Wikileaks and the Trump campaign working together to publish the DNC and Podesta emails?

Surely if the Russiagate collusion allegations were true Donald Trump Junior and/or other people in the Trump campaign would know that Wikileaks was in fact a “pro-Russian source” being used by Russian intelligence to publish the emails and that what the email was saying was untrue?  If Wikileaks really was part of such a conspiracy it would know that Donald Trump Junior and/or other people in the Trump campaign would know that what the email said was untrue?  Why in that case send such an email at all?

It is a small point. As Caitlin Johnstone says, at the time the email was sent Julian Assange had no internet access, so the email could not have been sent by him but must have been sent by someone else who perhaps was not fully informed about all that had been going on.

However my original point about the emails Wikileaks sent to Donald Trump Junior is that they are if anything evidence against collusion between the Trump campaign, Wikileaks and the Russians.  Here in the actual text of one of the emails is further confirmation of this.

Summary

A point I have made repeatedly in my various discussions of the Russiagate affair is that each and every ‘revelation’ which appears about it on close examination turns out to be no such thing.  On the contrary more often than not it provides evidence of no collusion having taken place.

The Veselnitskaya-Donald Trump Junior meeting and the emails sent by Wikileaks to Donald Trump Junior are cases in point.

Following Goldstone’s revelations and Caitlin Johnstone’s research it is impossible to take the claims made about them by the Russiagate theorists seriously.  On the contrary what they do is provide further evidence that no collusion took place.

On the Veselnitskaya-Donald Trump Junior meeting I think it is possible to go a little further.

Though Goldstone’s evidence does not prove that the meeting was a sting, if the claim to possess “dirt” about Hillary Clinton did originally come from Veselnitskaya as is likely then her meetings immediately before and after the meeting with Fusion-GPS require explanation.

In my article of 12th July 2017 I speculated that the meeting might have been an attempt to provide independent corroboration of the claims which subsequently found their way into the first entry of the Trump Dossier, that the Russians were looking for ways to help the Trump campaign by providing it with damaging information about Hillary Clinton that they had in a secret file they have on her.

Nothing which has appeared since refutes that speculation, which however does not mean it is true.

The fact Veselnitskaya met with Fusion-GPS shortly before and after her meeting with Donald Trump Junior does however lend a certain amount of weight to that speculation.  The second meeting in particular does have something of the look of Veselnitskaya reporting about her meeting with Donald Trump Junior to her client, Fusion-GPS.

Unlike the true believers in the Russiagate conspiracy theory I refuse to pile speculation upon speculation.  Veselnitskaya’s meetings with Fusion-GPS may have completely innocent explanations and may be wholly unconnected to the Russiagate affair.  All I am saying is that Veselnitskaya and Fusion-GPS should be asked questions about them.

Putting that aside, the revelations which appeared last week provide further confirmation of what ought to have been obvious months ago: no conspiracy between the Trump campaign, Wikileaks and the Russians took place.

Attempts to find evidence of such a conspiracy in the sporadic contacts these three very large groups of people had with each other during the 2016 election campaign are going nowhere.  On the contrary what these contacts actually show is that no conspiracy took place.

This is now so obvious that it begs the question of why the Russiagate investigation is continuing at all?

As to that I provided what I increasingly suspect is the true explanation in my article of 17th November 2017

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European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.

RT

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Via RT…


The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“When a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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The ‘America Last’ Express Hurtles On: Saudi Arabia, INF, Ukraine

Any realistic notion of American national interests comes last after the priorities of – well, pretty much everyone else with leverage in Washington.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by Jim Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


As the façade of 2016 Candidate Donald Trump’s promised “America First” continues to crumble away, the baked-into-the-cake pathologies of the foreign and security policy “experts” who monopolize President Trump’s administration plunge forward along their predetermined paths. Any realistic notion of American national interests comes last after the priorities of – well, pretty much everyone else with leverage in Washington.

Case in point, let’s start with Saudi Arabia and all the breast-beating over whether Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) really is guilty of ordering the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. (Spoiler Alert: You betcha!)

American and western media were all a-twitter last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s high five to Crown Pariah MbS at the G20. Amid the faux outrage – come on, does anyone really think MbS was the only killer in that room? – the gesture received America’s highest media tribute: a parody on “Saturday Night Live.”

What a circus. Apart from Putin’s greeting, the assembled hypocrites went out of their way to shun the leprous MbS, even shunting him to the margins of the group picture – as though the killing of one dodgy journalist outweighed their abetting MbS’s business-as-usual slaughter in Yemen. Really! I barely know the guy. We were never actually friends

Khashoggi’s gruesome death is the gift that keeps on giving, exacerbating as it does both international and domestic American fault lines. Let’s keep in mind that his affiliation was with the Muslim Brotherhood (and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan), the CIA, and (almost the same thing) the Washington Post. Internationally these line up with Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi elements currently on the outs with MbS and who would like to send him to join Khashoggi. Domestically in the US these add up to the Deep State and “the Resistance” to President Donald Trump, who are thrilled to be able to hang Khashoggi around his neck like an albatross, which he’s foolishly allowing to happen.

On the other hand, MbS is supported by Israel, which has a lot of clout on Capitol Hill (duh) and virtually owns the Trump administration (also duh). Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has Trump dancing to his tune via Jared Kushner (Trump and Kushner may now in fact be the same person), Ivanka Trump, and Sheldon Adelson, plus his entire foreign policy team, starting with National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Rather than wisely using the Khashoggi imbroglio as an opportunity to take the exit ramp away from US support for the crazed Wahhabist head-choppers in Riyadh of any faction, Team Trump is doggedly defending their the line in the sand in support of MbS personally as the spearhead of their anti-Iran, “Arab NATO” program.

The Resistance side is no less anti-Iran, but beating the Khashoggi drum and even tying it to support for Yemen slaughter (not that they really give a damn about Yemen, except for a few bleeding hearts like Senator Rand Paul and Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who even have the temerity to oppose the CIA’s arming of al-Qaeda in Syria!) is a twofer: to weaken and humiliate Trump, plus hoping at some point to install a replacement to MbS who would be a more reliable tool for their anti-Iran vendetta. The big break, if it comes, will be if Bibi’s foot soldiers around Trump decide they need to dump MbS as counterproductive to their agenda on Iran. Then they’ll stop resisting the Resistance, MbS will be removed (with extreme prejudice), and Trump will have egg on his face for having supported him for so long. For the Resistance, it’s win-win …

… if it happens that way. On the other hand, even exposed as the bloody minded killer he is, it’s not impossible MbS, with Israel backstopping him, can just tough it out. After all, those waiting in the wings in Riyadh are no angels either. At least in the short term MbS may still have the upper hand via squatter’s rights; he’s in power and the guy everybody still has to deal with. He can also still spread a lot of cash around as Khashoggi recedes into the rear view mirror.

If things really look as though they are going south on him, MbS might think to take leaf from the playbook of Georgia’s Mikheil Saakashvili in 2008 and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko a couple of weeks ago (more below) and provoke an incident with Iran on his own to force Washington back him up. That would be risky, to say the least. It’s unlikely that even Bolton and Pompeo are ready for war – yet. They seem to believe their own propaganda about regime change via sanctions and economic collapse and the supposedly yuge popularity of the “People’s Mojahedin” (MEK), our designated replacement waiting to be parachuted into Tehran. They’ll at least want to run the sanctions game a while longer to weaken Iran (and humiliate the Europeans some more) before they go for Plan B if necessary. Also, they’d need a phony pretext along the lines of Iraqi WMDs, Benghazi, Racak, and it’s uncertain MbS is competent give them one all by himself.

If MbS does hazard to strike out on his own before they (Donald Kushner and Boltpeo) are ready, he may end up chewing on his tie like Saakashvili (or whatever the equivalent of that is with a thobe and gutra). At that point he would be universally seen as a liability and removed. Nothing can be ruled out of course, and if MbS thinks are getting really shaky he just might do it, figuring he’s got nothing to lose … but his head.

Shifting gears to the big league between the US and Russia, it’s virtually certain the Trump administration will follow through on its threat to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, originally concluded between the US and the USSR in 1987. Pompeo’s ultimatum to Russia to confess they were cheating and dispose of the offending 9M729 missiles was couched in a laundry list of “admit when you stopped beating your wife” charges: “These violations of the INF treaty cannot be viewed in isolation from the larger pattern of Russian lawlessness on the world stage. The list of Russia’s infamous acts is long: Georgia, Ukraine, Syria, election meddling, Skripal and now the Kerch Strait, to name just a few.”

Pompeo’s ultimatum came literally one day after Trump signaled in a Tweet that he does not want a new arms race:

‘I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!’

Ha! Who does this Trump fellow think he is – the President? He doesn’t want a “crazy” arms race? Too bad. He’d better check with the guys he’s picked to run his administration for him. They’re completely copasetic with crazy – and then some!

Perhaps we can hold out a desperate hope that Trump’s intention is to replicate his tentative win on Korea, that threatening to pull out of the INF Treaty and accusing Moscow of every sin under the sun is just part of the “art of the deal,” “little rocket man” versus “mentally deranged dotard,” etc., with the real goal a new and better deal with Russia, maybe including China as well. But if that were so (there’s no evidence for it) there’s no need to trash the current agreement or even to threaten to do so. There is a lot that has changed technologically since 1987, and updates and revisions, perhaps in a protocol to the existing treaty might make sense.

That’s unlikely to happen though. Instead, not only will there be a new arms race in the intermediate range – which Moscow declares its willingness to undertake, however reluctantly – the flaccidity of America’s European so-called allies is again relevant. US threats to deploy intermediate-range missiles in Europe would be meaningless if European countries refused to host them because doing so would make them a target for Russian weapons. But while the European Union whines it would be better to keep the Treaty (just like it whined impotently about the JCPOA), NATO – mainly the same countries as belong to the EU – dutifully backed up the US position. There’s no evidence Europeans are prepared to confront Washington with a firm Ohne uns! if the INF agreement is terminated. Servility to their Transatlantic hegemon outweighs even their instinct for self-preservation. Whereas in the 1980s the first intermediate-range deployment of US Pershing missiles sparked a huge, mainly Leftist, European peace movement – which in turn helped lead to the INF Treaty in the first place – nothing of the sort exists now. This perhaps reflects the fact that today’s Left, which has little affinity with ordinary working people and is obsessed with Cultural Marxist identity politics, has become quite anti-Russian with the demise of communism.

Finally, moving to Ukraine, one would think the Trump Administration would not be particularly friendly towards a government that was complicit in the attempt to use the Christopher Steele dossier to put Hillary Clinton in the White House and then, when that failed, to cripple the Trump administration through the witch hunt known as Russiagate. While the major players were intelligence and law enforcement agencies of the United States and the United Kingdom(not necessarily in that order), other countries were involved too. One of the prominent ones was Ukraine, whose President Petro Poroshenko feared could be left out in the cold if Trump improved ties with Russia per his oft-stated intent– since after all, nobody in Washington could care less about Ukraine except as a club to beat Russia with. Steps were taken to avert that:

‘Andrii Telizhenko, a former high-ranking Ukrainian diplomat known well in Washington circles, had vital information about collusion between elements of Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko administration and the US’ Democratic National Committee (DNC) to dig up – or create – dirt on Donald Trump, but he has been chronically ignored by US investigators.

‘Telizhenko appeared as a key source in a January 2017 Politico article by Ken Vogel titled, “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire: Kiev officials are scrambling to make amends with the president-elect after quietly working to boost Clinton.”’

Whatever concerns Poroshenko might have had that his complicity in the anti-Trump US-UK Deep State plot would hurt his standing with the administration of his target have long since been put to rest. Trump’s turning his administration into a haven for Bush-era recidivists and others of the sort who have turned American policy into a shambles for the past three decades has seen to that. Hostility to Russia is and will remain a lodestar of US policy, whichipso facto makes Poroshenko our “friend.”

That means that Poroshenko need only poke the bear to get a growl and kneejerk pledges of support will click into place. While Ukraine may not be a full member of the golden circle of countries like Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom that have the US on a leash, it’s not too far from it either.

With his reelection prospects in March 2019 appearing dismal, Poroshenko decided to “wag the dog” with a stunt in the Kerch Strait connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland that he knew would provoke a Russian response. As Moon of Alabama reports:

‘The Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko sent the boats with the order not to coordinate their passage with Russian authorities. The captured sailors confirm that. He obviously wanted to provoke a violent Russian reaction.

‘The government of Ukraine practically admitted that the mission had nefarious intent:

“Ukraine’s state security service [SBU] says that its intelligence officers were among the crew on Ukrainian naval ships seized by Russia in a standoff near Crimea.

“The SBU agency said in a statement Tuesday that the officers were fulfilling counterintelligence operations for the Ukrainian navy, in response to ‘psychological and physical pressure’ by Russian spy services. It didn’t elaborate, but demanded that Russia stop such activity.”

“Russia’s FSB intelligence agency said late Monday that that there were SBU officers on board the Ukrainian ships, calling that proof of a “provocation” staged by Ukraine.”

Moscow is acutely aware of the danger of an attack to disable the Kerch Strait Bridge, built quickly and at great expense (a fact that undermines the oft-repeated anti-Russian claim that Moscow is plotting to seize Mariupol, Zaporozhye Oblast, and part of Kherson Oblast to establish a mainland route from Donbas to Crimea from the north). There have been rumors (perhaps no more than that) that Ukraine seeks to deploy a Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM), a small, man-portable, low-yield (circa one kiloton) device developed by NATO in the 1950s for destroying European infrastructure in advance of a Soviet invasion. Such a device would be deployable by divers if they had access to the bridge. Whether or not there’s any factual basis for such concerns, Moscow takes threats to the bridge seriously. In May 2018 the Russian Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against establishment commentator Tom Rogan and his Washington Examiner editor for advocating blowing up of the bridge, which Russian officials called incitement to terrorism.

Right on cue, Washington is preparing new sanctions, planning to send US warships into the Black Sea in a show of support for a country to which we are not allied (amid a lunatic call from the Atlantic Council to force an entry into the Sea of Azov as well!), and conducting “extraordinary” observation flight over Ukraine. What could possibly go wrong?

The bottom line is that Poroshenko now can jerk our chain and we will respond. While this time he failed to get a nationwide, 60-day martial law declaration approved by a Rada concerned he’d use it to cancel next year’s election, he did get 30 days in oblasts bordering Russia and Pridnestrovie. This will be useful not only for hampering electoral activities of his opponents in areas where he is even more unpopular than in the rest of Ukraine, it will facilitate seizures of churches and monasteries from the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church – a process that has already begun. He is secure in the knowledge that another provocation is always an option, in Kerch again, or the Donbas, or a grab against a major Church site like Pochaev or Pechersk.

Perhaps the saddest thing is that it has now become all so predictable. We were told that Donald Trump’s administration would put America and American interests first. But instead, those acting in his name tell us through their actions: “Get in line, peasants.”

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