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Skripal case: EU Council ditches Theresa May’s ultimatum to Russia

EU Council statement retreats from “culpable” to “highly likely”, and refers to “ongoing investigation” of Skripal case

Alexander Mercouris

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In my previous article about the failure of Britain’s allies to give Britain the strong support it expected in the Skripal case I predicted that the EU Council meeting on 22nd March 2018 would publish a statement which appeared to be strongly supportive of Britain but which on careful examination would turn out to be less than it seemed.

So it has been proved, as shown by the statement the EU Council did put out, which has now published on the Europa website

  1. The European Council condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent attack in Salisbury, expresses its deepest sympathies to all whose lives have been threatened and lends its support to the ongoing investigation. It agrees with the United Kingdom government’s assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible and that there is no plausible alternative explanation. We stand in unqualified solidarity with the United Kingdom in the face of this grave challenge to our shared security.

  2. The use of chemical weapons, including the use of any toxic chemicals as weapons under any circumstances, is completely unacceptable, must be systematically and rigorously condemned and constitutes a security threat to us all. Member States will coordinate on the consequences to be drawn in the light of the answers provided by the Russian authorities. The European Union will remain closely focused on this issue and its implications.

  3. Against this background, the European Union must strengthen its resilience to Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear-related risks, including through closer cooperation between the European Union and its Member States as well as NATO. The European Union and its Member States should also continue to bolster their capabilities to address hybrid threats, including in the areas of cyber, strategic communication and counter-intelligence. The European Council invites the European Commission and the High Representative to take this work forward and report on progress by the June European Council.

(bold italics added)

One of the great problems any person trying to make sense of the current state of international relations immediately encounters is that any news concerning Russia is immediately subjected to a vast volume of negative noise.

This is the case with this EU Council statement, which the British media – predictably enough – is presenting as a “victory” for Theresa May.

This article in The Times of London serves as a good example.

Note for example how this article misrepresents a telephone conversation on 22nd March 2018 between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as a Russian “diplomatic rearguard action to avoid further punitive measures”.

In fact, as the Kremlin’s summary of the conversation shows, it was Tsipras who called Putin, doing so – as Trump and Macron have previously done, and as the Finnish and Croatian Presidents also did on the same day – in order to congratulate Putin on his re-election.

In reality what the EU Council statement does is take the position back to what it was in Theresa May’s statement to the British House of Commons on 12th March 2018 ie. before the British ultimatum, which has been effectively annulled.

In her statement of 12th March 2018 Theresa May used the following words

Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down; our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so; Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations; the Government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Mr. Speaker, there are therefore only two plausible explanations for what happened in Salisbury on the 4th of March.

Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country.

Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.

The words “highly likely” and “plausible explanation” in the EU Council statement are obviously taken from Theresa May’s 12th March 2018 statement.

However on 14th March 2018 – following expiry of her ultimatum – Theresa May in a second statement to the British House of Commons said the following

Mr Speaker, there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter – and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey.

This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom.

What was only “highly likely” on 12th March 2018 had on 14th March 2018 become fact, so that based on Russia’s supposed failure to answer Britain’s questions by the deadline Theresa May set in her ultimatum of 12th March 2018 there was “no alternative conclusion” than that Russia “was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter” and had committed “an unlawful use of force….against the United Kingdom”.

This definite conclusion of Russian culpability in Theresa May’s 14th March 2018 statement has now been set aside.

We are now once again back in the EU Council statement – which note Theresa May has signed – to the position of Russian responsibility being no more than “highly likely” as it was in Theresa May’s statement of 12th March 2018.

Needless to say the words “highly likely” leave open the possibility that the murder attempt on Skripal was the work of someone else other than Russia.  Theresa May after all admitted as much in her statement of 12th March 2018 when she said she would only conclude the Russians were guilty if they failed within the deadline set by her ultimatum to answer her questions.

Even the words “no plausible alternative explanation” – also clearly borrowed from Theresa May’s 12th March 2018 – are qualified words.  They leave open the possibility of other “alternative explanations” which may for the moment appear “implausible” but which could turn out to be true.

Needless to say the words “highly likely” – which imply no more than suspicion – come nowhere close to meeting the test applied by British courts to determine guilt or innocence in criminal cases, which is “beyond reasonable doubt”.

As a matter of fact the EU Council statement pointedly refers to an “ongoing investigation” – something which implicitly admits that questions of guilt or innocence in the case have still not been decided – and over the course of which the Russians are expected to answer questions (“the answers provided by the Russian authorities”).

Of course the fact that the Russian authorities are once again being asked to provide answers to questions – without moreover any deadline being set for their answers – further confirms that Theresa May’s ultimatum of 12th March 2018 – which demanded Russia’s answers by midnight on 13th March 2018 – has been set aside.

Unsurprisingly, since the question of Russian involvement in the Skripal attack has now once again been downgraded from certainty to mere suspicion, the “unlawful use of force” in Theresa May’s statement of 14th March 2018 has also been downgraded to a “grave challenge”.

Needless to say, the EU Council statement also says that the EU gives Britain its “unqualified solidarity”, and in a joint press conference Merkel and Macron have said that they treat the British claim that the nerve agent which was used to poison Sergey and Yulia Skripal is a Novichok to be as “well founded”.

However Merkel and Macron also spoke of the investigation being still ongoing, whilst the “unqualified solidarity” the EU is giving is with Theresa May’s position of 12th March 2018, not with her position of 14th March 2018.

The EU Council statement is in fact a typical product of compromise.

Media reports suggest that the original draft was – no doubt intentionally – much weaker.

That allowed scope for negotiations with the British over the wording of the draft in which the British were forced to respond to the objections of counties like Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece, which have all made their doubts about the British rush to judgement perfectly clear.

That set the scene for Merkel to do what she always does in these situations, which is broker an apparent compromise, which is in reality the position she has had all along.

In this case that is to put the position back to where it was in Theresa May’s statement of 12th March 2018, minus Theresa May’s ultimatum of that date, which has now been cancelled.

Meanwhile the prospect of further significant EU action against Russia has been kicked into the long grass, with any further action being apparently postponed until the conclusion of the investigation, which the British police are saying may be months away.

By that time of course Brexit will be even closer, and Britain’s diplomatic traction within the EU will be even weaker than it is now.

Of course if the investigation has not been concluded before Brexit takes place – which as of the time of writing is starting to look increasingly likely – then British diplomatic traction within the EU by the time the investigation is finally concluded will be weaker still.

In the meantime the only thing the EU for the moment is collectively prepared to do is make the token gesture of withdrawing the EU’s ambassador from Moscow for four days for consultations.

Some EU member states are supposedly considering expelling Russian diplomats.  Should that happen then the Russians will of course respond in kind.

However significant further sanctions against Russia are according to one of the EU’s Commissioners apparently being ruled out.

As the US recently concluded, further sanctions against Russia would be ineffective and counter-productive anyway.

Whilst the Skripal affair is not over, I suspect that the peak of the international aspect of this “crisis” is now passing.

If one compares what the British appeared to be threatening at the start of the crisis two weeks ago with what has actually happened, it is questionable whether there has even been a “crisis” at all.

No major Western state apart from Britain has cut off high level contacts with Russia.  No sanctions of any sort have been imposed.

Proposals to break off diplomatic relations with Russia, cut Russian banks off from SWIFT, launch cyber attacks against Russia, declare Russia a terrorist state, ban Russians from buying property in London, and for a boycott of the 2018 World Cup, appear to have been abandoned

If the British plan was to get NATO support by invoking Article 5 – as I strongly suspect – then that plan has failed.

Even talk of cancelling RT’s broadcasting licence in Britain seems to be abating.

There have been reciprocal expulsions of diplomats from London and Moscow.  As I have said previously that will hurt the British more than it will hurt the Russians.  If more tit-for-tat expulsions of Russian diplomats involving other European countries happen, that will hurt the Russians more.  However it will hardly help those countries either.

In fact the only significant step any party has so far taken during this “crisis” which will cause any other party actual injury is the Russian decision to close down the British Council in Russia.

Whilst that is hardly a major blow, for a country like Britain which relies so heavily on soft power it is a blow nonetheless.

The crisis may have damaged further Russia’s already terrible image in Britain and – though I suspect to a much lesser degree – in northern Europe (in the US this crisis appears to have barely registered, whilst perception of Russia – and of the Skripal crisis – is completely different in southern Europe).

However my impression is that the British reaction to the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal was so over the top, and so obviously violated due process, that in the long run it will be Britain whose image will have been damaged across Europe more than Russia’s.

Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s recently retired former Foreign Minister, has recently described the Skripal affair as a “bad James Bond film” and that I suspect is what many Europeans – including many European governments – privately think.

Even in Britain I am starting to sense that a reaction is starting to set in, with even some of Theresa May’s new found fans noticing that the hysteria over the Skripal case has coincided with a further cave-in by Theresa May in the Brexit talks, and some of her fans perhaps even noticing that the actual position of Britain’s Western allies in the Skripal case is essentially the same as the much despised position taken by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whom some sections of the British media have come close to branding a traitor.

As for the Skripal case itself, the prospect of an impartial inquiry has been almost certainly fatally compromised by Theresa May’s disastrous decision to pre-empt the investigation’s findings by making a declaration of Russia’s guilt just days after the investigation had begun and whilst it was still underway.

Inevitably that is going to put enormous pressure on the investigators to support her conclusions, making it less likely that important clues will be followed up.

I no longer expect ever to learn the truth about this affair

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US Neocon Foreign Policy and the War Waged Against Serbia

The Serbian assault began first by a ‘financial war’; by sanctions and finished off by an aggressive unprovoked incessant NATO bombing campaign.

Richard Galustian

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The ‘witch-hunt’ against President Trump over Russian collusion has officially ended, following the submission of the Mueller Report, enabling us to now focus on the real problems of America that effects the whole world.

In the hope of a waining of the Russophobia in America, let’s look at the US’s recent war history by starting with the 20th anniversary this month of the NATO war on Serbia in 1999 which amounted to almost 100 days of bombing of historic cities and infrastructure.

Firstly, these problems are, in the main caused by the Neocons, or Deep State, whatever you wish to call them, and the continuing promotion, by the US Military-Security Industrial Complex, of wars and regime change and secondly, Trump’s unreserved support for Israel, regardless of war crimes they may continue to commit against the Palestinians.

Incredibly after that one sided unjust and illegal war that NATO executed, NATO has the audacity to invite Serbia to join it! Something that will never happen. What do they smoke in DC, in the Pentagon and Brussels based NATO?

To compound these overall problems, the US Military and Israeli Defence Forces collaborate on these US regime change policies on all continents evidenced most recently by the arrival of crack Israeli troops last month in Brazil, prepared to support an attack potentially by Brazil and Columbia on Venezuela.

As, has now come to be expected, America pursues its Venezuelan regime change with full main stream media (MSM) cooperation, using well proven sophisticated propaganda techniques along with a variety of pretexts.

From Serbia to Iraq to Libya, where does it end? Observe that Trump is now seeking a ‘NATO alliance’ offering NATO status, to President Bolsonaro of Brazil to back the invasion of Venezuela.

So it is important to remember, as an example, that after a long war of economic and financial destabilization ended with the bombing of Serbia.

Serbia was previously a part of Yugoslavia, a country which had successfully evolved after 1945 to solve the old rivalries of the 19th and early 20th Century Balkan ethnic animosities which was, prior to the advent of power of President Tito, its past history.

The United Nations, instead of supporting, in effect, so called ‘humanitarian wars’ and ‘regime change wars’ by the US, using NATO, helped and relentlessly driven home by MSM outlets like CNN and FOX NEWS into people’s heads, must finally take a stand.

So too, Yugoslavia, once the envy of many in the world, given its then ‘non-aligned’ status under President Tito, was destroyed and broken up; ‘Balkanized’ in the early 1990s.

The Serbian assault began first by a ‘financial war’; by sanctions and finished off by an aggressive unprovoked incessant NATO bombing campaign. That’s what we can expect in Venezuela next.

This ‘Balkanization’ strategy similarly applies to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria et al. It serves US Neocon interests to dismember States in the world and create smaller more ‘manageable’ countries.

‘Regime change’ runs against the intent, the very words contained in the US Constitution. No one in MSM ever reminds us of that fact. Nevertheless America’s ambition to overthrow other States continues, which they arrogantly now make no secret of. The next States will probably be Nicaragua then Iran to name but two.

A very noteworthy most recent outrageous unilateral declaration was made by President Trump, not yet formally agreed by US institutions, ‘giving’ something he has no authority to give; Syrian territory, the Golan Heights to be precise, to Israel. Something that one day could trigger a full scale Arab-Israeli War.

This is of extreme importance yet no real outcry comes from world leaders; well not so far.

The main reason for that decision given by senior US Administration figures is that “God anointed Trump to save the Jews”.

Not forgetting Trump’s need (which we the people don’t understand exactly why) to support Prime Minister Netanyahu in his difficult upcoming elections in Israel – in part because both countries failed to ‘regime change’ Syria – but more importantly to help the ‘financial terrorists’ who formed a company jointly that has already started drilling for oil in the Golan Heights. You might like to know who owns such oil drilling company which should answer a plethora of questions in one go that you must be asking yourselves.

The shareholder’s names tells us everything; Dick Cheney; Baron Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch. The titular heads of neocons, bankers and media on the planet.

In ending there is no more evidence required for us, the people of the world, to rise up against the globalist dark forces wherever they exist, be it in Brussels, London, France or Washington. We must demand democratic elections or start revolutions, the latter has already begun in France in the form of ‘the yellow vests’. And Brexit, by definition, is a rejection by the British people of globalism and American Hegemony.

The pattern of US destabilization and destruction of States to loot them of their sovereign resources is the unseen history of the last 100 years, not taught in any university, anywhere in the West.

As far as Ukraine is concerned, its government was taken down by the CIA and replaced by an ultra fascist regime that has full backing from America. This is no secret. But the MSM simple don’t report it.

US led NATO is ‘the transnational war machine’ of the world, devouring almost all free countries wealth. It can extort to terrorize all into conformity to the global ‘carcinogenic’ US Neocon imperialistic strategy.

A total estimated 20m people around the world have died since the end of WW11 at the hands of US Forces. Think about that for a moment.

One of the most famous sayings attributed to America’s great President Abraham Lincoln is about deception: “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

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‘Dark day for internet freedom’: EU approves controversial copyright reform

Julia Reda, a German MEP with the Pirate Party, described it as a “dark day for internet freedom.”

RT

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Via RT


The European Parliament has voted to adopt the highly controversial Article 13 provision which would govern the production and distribution of content online under the auspices of increasing copyright protections.

Tuesday’s move will update the EU’s 20-year-old copyright rules and will govern everything from audiovisual content to memes, much to the dismay of many social media users who have already begun outpouring their grief online.

MEPs passed the legislation by 348 votes to 274 Tuesday. Opponents had hoped for last-minute amendments to be made but their efforts were in vain.

Julia Reda, a German MEP with the Pirate Party, described it as a “dark day for internet freedom.”

Article 13 or ‘The Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market’ makes all platforms legally responsible for the content hosted and shared on their platforms.

The process of updating the bloc’s copyright laws began in the European Commission two years ago, ostensibly to protect Europe’s publishers, broadcasters and artists and guarantee fair compensation from big tech companies.

By essentially forcing companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter to pay artists and publishers for the reproduction of their work online, include in meme format, the EU is effectively clamping down on online memery.

The onus will now be on tech companies to clamp down on content-sharing on their platforms, which will likely ensure yet more draconian policing of speech and content.

EU member states now have two years to pass their own laws putting Article 13 into effect.

Tens of thousands marched in protest across Germany ahead of the vote, decrying what they viewed as severe online censorship.

Tech giant Google said that while the directive is “improved” it will still lead to legal uncertainty and will damage Europe’s creative and digital economies.

Critics have argued that the only way for Article 13 to be effectively enforced would be through the use of upload filters which automatically check content to see if it’s copyrighted or not, at least in theory. However, the exact mechanics of such a system have yet to be fully debated and the potential for abuse is immediately clear.

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The conclusion of Russiagate, Part II – news fatigue across America

The daily barrage of Russiagate news may have been a tool to wear down the American public as the Deep State plays the long game for control.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Presently there is a media blitz on across the American news media networks. As was the case with the Russiagate investigation while it was ongoing, the conclusions have merely given rise to a rather unpleasant afterbirth in some ways as all the parties involve pivot their narratives. The conclusion of Russiagate appears to be heavily covered, yet if statistics here at The Duran are any indication, there is a good possibility that the public is absolutely fatigued over this situation.

And, perhaps, folks, that is by design.

Joseph Goebbels had many insights about the use of the media to deliver and enforce propaganda. One of his quotes runs thus:

The best propaganda is that which, as it were, works invisibly, penetrates the whole of life without the public having any knowledge of the propagandistic initiative.

and another:

That is of course rather painful for those involved. One should not as a rule reveal one’s secrets, since one does not know if and when one may need them again. The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, it should be a big lie, and one should stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

If there has ever been a narrative that employed these two principles, it is Russiagate.

A staggering amount of attention has been lavished on this nothing-burger issue. Axios reports that an analytics company named Newswhip tallied an astounding 533,074 web articles published about Russia and President Trump and the Mueller investigation (a number which is being driven higher even now, moment by moment, ad nauseam). Newsbusters presently reports that the networks gave 2,284 minutes to the coverage of this issue, a number which seems completely inaccurate because it is much too low (38 hours at present), and we are waiting for a correction on this estimate.

Put it another way: Are you sick of Russiagate? That is because it has dominated the news for over 675 days of nearly wall-to-wall news cycles. The political junkies on both sides are still pretty jazzed up about this story – the Pro-Trump folks rejoicing over the presently ‘cleared’ status, while of course preparing for the upcoming Democrat / Deep State pivot, and the Dems in various levels of stress as they try to figure out exactly how to pivot in such a manner that they do not lose face – or pace – in continuing their efforts to rid their lives of the “Irritant-in-Chief” who now looks like he is in the best position of his entire presidency.

But a lot of people do not care. They are tired.

I hate to say it (and yes, I am speaking personally and directly), but this may be a dangerous fatigue. Here is why:

The barrage of propaganda on this issue was never predicated on any facts. It still isn’t. However, as we noted a few days ago, courtesy of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, at present, 53% of US registered voters believe that the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

That means 53% of the voting public now believes something that is totally false.

Many of these people are probably simply exhausted from the constant coverage of this allegation as well. So when the news came out Sunday night that there was no evidence of collusion and no conclusive evidence, hence, of obstruction of justice by the Trump Administration – in other words, this whole thing was a nothing burger – will this snap those 53% back into reality?

Probably not. Many of them may well be so worn down that they no longer care. Or worse, they are so worn out that they will continue to believe the things they are told that sustain the lie, despite its being called out as such.

C.S. Lewis wrote about this peculiarity of human nature, in particular in the seventh book of his Chronicles of Narnia. After a prolonged and fierce assault on the sensibilities of the Narnians with the story that Aslan, the Christ figure of this world, was in fact an angry overlord, selling the Narnians themselves into slavery, and selling the whole country out to its enemy, with the final touch being that Aslan and the devilish deity of the enemy nation were in fact one and the same, the Narnians were unable to snap back to reality when it was shown conclusively and clearly that this was in fact not the case.

The fear that was instilled from the use of false narratives persisted and blocked the animals from reality.

Lewis summarized it this way through the thoughts of Tirian, the lead character in this tale:

Tirian had never dreamed that one of the results of an Ape’s setting up as a false Aslan would be to stop people from believing in the real one. He had felt quite sure that the Dwarfs would rally to his side the moment he showed them how they had been deceived. And then next night he would have led them to Stable Hill and shown Puzzle to all the creatures and everyone would have turned against the Ape and, perhaps after a scuffle with the Calormenes, the whole thing would have been over. But now, it seemed, he could count on nothing. How many other Narnians might turn the same way as the Dwarfs?

This is part of the toll this very long propaganda campaign is very likely to take on many Americans. It takes being strongly informed and educated on facts to withstand the withering force of a narrative that never goes away. Indeed, if anything, it takes even more effort now, because the temptation of the pro-Trump side will be to retreat to a set of political talking points that, interestingly enough, validate Robert Mueller’s “integrity” when only a week ago they were attacking this as a false notion.

This is very dangerous, and even though Mr. Trump and his supporters won this battle, if they do not come at this matter in a way that shows education, and not merely the restating of platitudes and talking points that “should be more comfortable, now that we’ve won!”

The cost of Russiagate may be far higher than anyone wants it to be. And yes, speaking personally, I understand the fatigue. I am tired of this issue too. But the temptation to go silent may have already taken a lot of people so far that they will not accept the reality that has just been revealed.

Politics is a very fickle subject. Truth is extremely malleable for many politicians, and that is saying it very nicely. But this issue was not just politics. It was slander with a purpose, and that purpose is unchanged now. In fact things may even be more dangerous for the President – even risking his very life – because if the powers that are working behind the people trying to get rid of President Trump come to realize that they have no political support, they will move to more extreme measures. In fact this may have already been attempted.

We at The Duran reported a few months ago on a very strange but very compelling story that suggested that there was an attempted assassination and coup that was supposed to have taken place on January 17th of this year. It did not happen, but there was a parallel story that noted that the President may have been targeted for assassination already no fewer than twelve times.  Hopefully this is just tinfoil-hat stuff. But we have seen that this effort to be rid of President Trump is fierce and it is extremely well-supported within its group. There is no reason to think that the pressure will lighten now that this battle has been lost.

The stakes are much too high, and even this long investigation may well have been part of the weaponry of the group we sometimes refer to as the “Deep State” in their effort to reacquire power, and in their effort to continue to pursue both a domestic and geopolitical agenda that has so far shown itself to be destructive to both individuals and nations all over the world.

Speculation? Yes. Needless? We hope so. This is a terrible possibility that hopefully no reasonable person wants to consider.

Honestly, folks, we do not know. But we had to put this out there for your consideration.

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