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Donald Trump’s and Angela Merkel’s unhappy summit

A summit meeting intended to create bridges between the leaders of the US and Germany merely highlighted their differences.

Alexander Mercouris

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As she gears up to meet Vladimir Putin in Moscow in May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel – the self-styled “Queen of Europe’ – has concluded a trip to Washington where she had her first meeting with US President Donald Trump.

Merkel previously had a very close relationship with Donald Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, and was widely seen as Obama’s most important foreign policy ally. Given the critical importance of relations with the US for Germany, there is no doubt this close relationship with Obama gave Merkel considerable political standing in Germany and played a key role in securing her position.  The political and perhaps psychological importance of this relationship for Merkel is shown by the way Merkel repeatedly sacrificed other relationships and policy positions in order to preserve it.

Thus in 2014 Merkel reversed the longstanding German policy of maintaining close political and commercial relations with Russia by imposing sanctions on Russia during the Ukrainian crisis that year, and in 2015 she backed away from a plan proposed by her Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble to eject Greece from the eurozone to which she had previously appeared to lend support.  On both occasions she did this in order to fall into line with Obama’s wishes.

Angela Merkel undoubtedly anticipated that she would be able to forge a similarly strong relationship with Hillary Clinton – a personal friend – once Hillary Clinton had been elected US President.

The election as US President of Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton therefore came as a shock, and Merkel has struggled to come up with a coherent response.

In doing so she has not been helped by absurd suggestions from Donald Trump’s opponents in the US and Europe that following Donald Trump’s election victory she is now the “leader of the free world”, or by the equally misconceived attempt by Barack Obama following the election to enlist her as the guardian of his legacy.  As Merkel undoubtedly knows, she lacks the power to do either of these things, and the attempts of others to position her into doing them risk making her relationship with Trump even more fraught than it already is.

Her meeting with Trump in Washington was therefore an attempt to build bridges to the new US President and to try to forge a working relationship with him, even if Merkel undoubtedly knows that this can never be as close as the one she had with Obama.

In the event the meeting can hardly have satisfied her.  Instead of building bridges what it showed was the colossal gulf between her and Donald Trump.

Many have spoken of the uneasy body-language and mood of the summit, and much has been made (far too much in my opinion) of Donald Trump’s failure to shake hands with her (for the record I get the impression that Trump is one of those people who simply doesn’t like shaking hands, and nothing should therefore be read into this).

A more useful insight into the lack of mutual understanding between Trump and Merkel is what the two had to say at their joint news conference, of which the official text can be found here

Firstly, it is impossible to avoid noticing the sharp contrast in styles.

As is his way Trump was spontaneous and exuberant, ranging widely over many topics in his usual uninhibited way.  Merkel, who like Obama always picks her words carefully and gives away as little as she can whilst peppering her comments with clichés, was clearly uncomfortable with this.

Beyond that however were the clear disagreements on issues of substance.  These were so great that at one point Merkel was even forced to admit them and say that she was in Washington to defend German interests and to look for compromises

Well, I’m here as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. I represent German interests.  I speak with the President of the United States, who stands up for, as is right, American interests.  That is our task, respectively.  And I must say that I was very gratified to know the very warm and gracious hospitality with which I have been received here.

We held a conversation where we were trying to address also those areas where we disagree, but to try to bring people together, try to show what is our vantage point, what is the American vantage point, and then try to find a compromise which is good for both sides.  Because we need to be fair with each other.  Each and every one is expecting for his or her leader that something good comes out of it for their own people.

For Germany, I can say, well, people are different.  People have different abilities, have different traits of character, have different origins, have found their way into politics along different pathways.  All that is diversity, which is good.  Sometimes it’s difficult to find compromises, but that’s what we’ve been elected for.  If everything just went like that and without problem, we wouldn’t need politicians to do these jobs.

This is very far from the sort of things that Merkel and Obama would say following Merkel’s meetings with Obama, when she and Obama liked to stress the US and Germany’s commonality of views and interests, not their differences and disagreements with each other.

There was also no word at any point in the news conference of any actual agreement being concluded between the two leaders.  Whilst this is not unprecedented, it is usually the case following a meeting between two leaders who are close partners and friends that they announce some agreement or at least some joint initiative, however minimal, in order to conclude the meeting with something positive.  Not only did that not happen on this occasion, but there is no evidence in anything Donald Trump said that he was interested in any such thing or was looking for it.

In fact Trump repeatedly said things during the press conference that would have been guaranteed to make Merkel worried and uncomfortable.

Firstly, as is his way, Trump qualified his (very cursory) support for NATO by presenting Merkel again with a demand for money

I reiterated to Chancellor Merkel my strong support for NATO, as well as the need for our NATO allies to pay their fair share for the cost of defense.  Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years, and it is very unfair to the United States.  These nations must pay what they owe.

In order to leave no room for ambiguity that one of the “nations” Trump was referring to is Germany, after the summit Trump followed up this comment with a tweet (see here and here)

Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!

This repeated demand for money, which has become the common refrain coming from all the officials of the Trump administration including Vice-President Pence, Defense Secretary Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson, and not just Donald Trump himself, is making NATO appear less and less like an alliance based on common values and interests, and more and more like a protection racket.

Perhaps that in truth is what NATO has been all along.  The Germans and the US’s other NATO allies do not however like to have it spelled out quite so frankly.  Merkel is known to be personally offended by it.

Whilst Trump spoke about NATO in this frankly rather threatening – even Godfatherish – way, he had absolutely nothing to say about the EU.  He has previously made no secret of his disdain for the EU.  Whilst hosting the ‘Queen of Europe’ he backed off from none of it.  Instead of uttering some word of support for the EU, however qualified, he never once mentioned it.  Merkel will have noticed, and in light of the Brexit crisis and the challenges she is now facing all across Europe, she now knows she no longer has the US President’s support, and it will cause her concern.

On relations with Russia, where some claim to see signs that Donald Trump is backing off from his desire for detente with Russia (for the record, I don’t), and on the related question of Ukraine, Trump spoke not a word of condemnation for Russia’s actions or of support for Ukraine.  His words could scarcely have been more terse or less interested, and again make a startling contrast to what Obama in an identical situation would have said

I also appreciate Chancellor Merkel’s leadership, along with the French President, to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, where we ideally seek a peaceful solution.

On this issue Merkel clearly took the hint, which Trump may have spelled out to her more clearly when they met in private, that Trump wants detente with Russia and does not want the conflict in Ukraine to stand in the way of this, though her choice of words in response were carefully ambiguous and were clearly intended to give her political space

I am very gratified to know that the American administration and also the President, personally, commits himself to the Minsk process.  We need to come to a solution of this problem.  There has to be a safe and secure solution for Ukraine, but the relationship with Russia has to be improved, as well, once the situation there on the ground is clarified.

Minsk is a good basis, but, unfortunately, we haven’t made yet the headway that we want to.  But we are going to work together with our experts in the next few months to come on this issue.

(bold italics added)

This comment is simultaneously a concession to Donald Trump’s desire for detente with Russia – making it seem that Merkel agrees with Trump that an improvement of relations with Russia is a “necessity” – whilst actually imposing a condition that this depends on “clarification” of “the situation on the ground” in Ukraine.  What Merkel is saying is that the “necessary” improvement in relations with Russia depends on “a safe and secure solution for Ukraine” to be achieved through implementation of the Minsk Agreement as she interprets it.

Essentially this is a form of words Merkel has hit on in order to justify keeping the sanctions in place.

The trouble with using this sort of coded language is that whilst someone like Obama or indeed Putin would have no difficulty understanding it, it is highly doubtful that Donald Trump – a man not known for doing subtlety – either does or can be bothered to.  The result is that by continuing to use such coded language in Trump’s presence Merkel – instead of buying herself political space as she intends – is simply highlighting the difference between herself and Trump.

In truth what this exchange actually does is show how the coming of Donald Trump has made Merkel, with her use of coded language, her intricate policies, and her indirect approach to problems, look out of date and out of touch.

By contrast with his cursory words about Ukraine Donald Trump made unambiguously clear that his foreign policy priority is defeating Jihadi terrorism and ISIS.  Thus directly after his almost off the cuff comment on Ukraine Trump said this

Most importantly, our two countries must continue to work together to protect our people from radical Islamic terrorism and to defeat ISIS.  I applaud Chancellor Merkel for Germany’s contributions, both civilian and military, as a counter-ISIS coalition member.

(bold italics added)

The problem for Merkel is that for all the brave talk of German help in the anti-ISIS coalition and in Afghanistan, on this key issue which Donald Trump considers his overriding foreign policy priority, Germany compared to Russia has little to offer and little that it can do.

That this is so is shown by how Merkel struggled to say anything about it

And we said that, obviously, defense and security has a lot of different assets and facets to it.  One the one hand, it’s supporting missions in Africa, for example.  It’s also promoting development assistance, but it’s also helping mission in Africa, for example, in trying to stand up for their own safety and security.

We continue to be in conversation.  What was important for us today was that we were able to talk about Afghanistan, talk about, as the President quite rightly said, the continuing mission of Germany in Afghanistan.  I am very glad that the United States are intending to continue to commit to the Afghan mission as well.

Together, we fight against Islamist terrorism.  Germany is going to step up its work and is going to continue its work in Afghanistan and also in Syria.  We’re going to monitor the situation there very closely.  We’re going to work on political solutions in Syria, but also in Libya — what we talked about.

These comments are both nervous and empty.  They give the impression of Merkel struggling to come up with something meaningful to say.  That is one reason why they range so freely and so aimlessly from Africa to Afghanistan to Syria and to Libya in a few short platitudinous sentences.  They contain no definite commitments because Germany is in no position to make any.

As if this was not all already difficult enough for Merkel, she also had to listen to a fusillade from Trump trashing her positions on immigration and trade policy.

On immigration Trump made crystal clear his complete rejection of Merkel’s stance on the refugee question, once again emphasising how unlike her he views this issue purely through the prism of anti-terrorism, national security policy and national self-interest

We also recognize that immigration security is national security.  We must protect our citizens from those who seek to spread terrorism, extremism and violence inside our borders.  Immigration is a privilege, not a right, and the safety of our citizens must always come first, without question.

On trade policy Trump made no secret of his belief that Germany has taken the US for a ride, and that he sees himself first and foremost as the CEO of United States Inc. and not as the leader of the “Free World”, and that he intends to put the US’s trade and business interests first, whilst putting the US’s trading and business rivals (including Germany) in their place.

In an extraordinary but highly revealing slip Trump even at one point referred to the US by mistake as a “very powerful company” before correcting himself and saying “country”.

First of all, I don’t believe in an isolationist policy, but I also believe a policy of trade should be a fair policy.  And the United States has been treated very, very unfairly by many countries over the years.  And that’s going to stop.

But I’m not an isolationist.  I’m a free trader, but I’m also a fair trader.  And free trade has led to a lot of bad things happening — you look at the deficits that we have and you look at all of the accumulation of debt.  We’re a very powerful company — country.  We’re a very strong, very strong country.  We’ll soon be at a level that we perhaps have never been before. Our military is going to be strengthened — it’s been depleted.

But I am a trader.  I am a fair trader.  I am a trader that wants to see good for everybody, worldwide.  But I am not an isolationist by any stretch of the imagination.  So I don’t know what newspaper you’re reading, but I guess that would be another example of, as you say, fake news…..

On trade with Germany, I think we’re going to do fantastically well.  Right now, I would say that the negotiators for Germany have done a far better job than the negotiators for the United States.  But hopefully we can even it out.  We don’t want victory, we want fairness.  All I want is fairness.

Germany has done very well in its trade deals with the United States, and I give them credit for it, but — and I can speak to many other countries.  I mean, you look at China, you look at virtually any country that we do business with.  It’s not exactly what you call good for our workers.

(bold italics added)

This is language the like of which Merkel has never heard before and which neither of the two previous US Presidents she has previously dealt with – George W. Bush and Barack Obama – would ever have used.

Merkel, whose entire career has been in politics and who has no business background, is peculiarly ill-equipped to deal with this sort of essentially mercantilist thinking, something which incidentally is also true of the rest of her cabinet.

Something else which will have added to Merkel’s concerns will be the gross insensitivity and lack of deference Trump showed to her.

Not only did Trump repeatedly cut in and answer questions before her, but he even made a joke targeting her former friend Obama at her expense when he drew a parallel between the NSA’s surveillance of her mobile phone with his claim that the Obama administration was listening in to his phone conversations

As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps.  (Laughter.)

Merkel’s irritation and embarrassment at this quip was all too obvious to those attending the news conference.  A more sensitive person than Donald Trump would have anticipated it.  He either didn’t do so, or he did but didn’t care.  In either case he showed no interest in accommodating the feelings of his guest.

Overall the general impression left from Merkel’s visit is of a strained and unhappy relationship.

On issue after issue – NATO, the EU, immigration, trade, relations with Russia – Trump conceded nothing, and the gulf between Trump and Merkel was all too clear.

On the one foreign policy issue that Trump genuinely cares about – crushing Jihadi terrorism and defeating ISIS – Merkel had nothing to offer and appeared at a loss, with nothing useful to say.

Beyond that was the complete absence of any successful personal chemistry between the two leaders.

Whilst it is going too far to say that they actively dislike each other, their personalities and philosophies are so different that it is impossible to see how they can ever be friends, or even partners.  Quite simply Merkel lacks the uninhibitedness and quickness of mind and spirit needed to keep up with Trump – whose ideas she anyway barely understands – or to forge a good relationship with him, whilst Trump for his part is all too obviously concerned not to be taken for her patsy, and finds her ideological way of speaking all but incomprehensible.

Normally when two leaders disagree about so much and have so little in common, the result – usually after various unsuccessful attempts to patch things up – is a total breakdown in their relationship.

The nature of the relationship between the US and Germany however makes that impossible.  Unless Merkel ceases to be Chancellor soon or Trump is somehow removed from the White House, then for the next four years they will be stuck with each other in what will almost certainly become an increasingly unhappy and strained relationship.  Though almost certainly it is still too early for them to dislike each other, before long they probably will.

The alternative is for one of them to go soon.  Since it is becoming increasingly unlikely that Trump is going to be removed from the White House as a result of the ‘Russiagate’ scandal, that puts the question mark on Merkel’s future.

The German elite has had to endure for three years a Chancellor who has done serious damage to Germany’s critical relationship with Russia, and who has brought Germany’s relations with many of its EU partners to the point of crisis.  As elections in Germany loom, will they stick with their current Chancellor as Germany’s relations with Washington also now start to become more difficult, or will they finally start to look for someone new?

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Russian Il-20 downed by Syrian missile. Russia blames Israel. Israel blames Syria (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The unthinkable has happened in Syria.

The world now teeters on the brink of all out war in Syria as a Russian Il-20 was downed by Syrian missile after Israeli F-16s used it as cover during attack, according to statements made by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

President Vladimir Putin, answering a reporter’s question during a press conference with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, said the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the tripwire triggered that has the potential to tip the fragile balance in Syria towards conflict between Russia, Iran and Israel.

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The Russian military says an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its Il-20 plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said…

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via a hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

The statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean.

The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region.”

The statement further said that 15 Russian military service members have died as a result…

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile.”

According to reports from RT, the Russian military said that the French Navy’s frigate ‘Auvergne,’ as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area during the Israeli operation.

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

The Russian ministry said the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation.” Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,”the statement said.

The statement gives a larger death toll than earlier reports by the Russian military, which said there were 14 crew members on board the missing Il-20. It said a search and rescue operation for the shot-down plane is underway.

A later update said debris from the downed plane was found some 27km off the Latakia coast. The search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane.

Meanwhile Israel has come out to blame the Syrian government for the downing of the military plane, according to an IDF statement.

Israel said that it “expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members” of the Russian plane. However, it stated that the government of Bashar Assad “whose military shot down the Russian plane,” is “fully responsible” for the incident.

Israel further blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained that its jets were targeting a Syrian facility “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Israel claimed that the weapons were “meant to attack Israel.”

Via RT

The IDF assumed that the Syrian anti-air batteries “fired indiscriminately” and didn’t “bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.” The Israelis said that when the Syrian military launched the missiles which hit the Russian plane, its own jets were already within Israeli airspace. “During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation.”

According to the Israeli military, both IDF and Russia have “a deconfliction system,” which was agreed upon by the leadership of both states, and “has proven itself many times over recent years.” The system was in use when the incident happened, the IDF stated. The IDF promised to share “all the relevant information” with Russia “to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

The military presented a four-point initial inquiry into events in Latakia. It insisted that “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian anti-aircraft fire caused the Russian jet “to be hit and downed.”

The Russian Il-20 aircraft, with 15 crew on board, went off radar during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province late Monday. Later on Tuesday the Russian Defense Ministry said that an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile.

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Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

Trump has ordered the DOJ to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions.

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Via Zerohedge

President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also released will be specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The statement reads in full:

“At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

***

As we reported last Monday, Trump had been expected to release the documents any time – with specific attention to the Page documents and the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship  with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.

  • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election — a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.)
  • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page — all to take down Trump. –Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele.

Last month Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions  “Justice” Department? A total joke!”

Trump’s threat came one day after two tweets about Ohr, noting a connection to former FBI agent Peter Strzok, as well as a text sent by Ohr after former FBI Director James Comey was fired in which Ohr says “afraid they will be exposed.”

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”

“After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly,” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

In early August, journalist Paul Sperry tweeted that Trump may use his presidential authority to declassify “20 redacted pages of a June, 2017 FISA renewal, “and possibly” 63 pages of emails and notes between “Ohr & Steele,” and FD-302 summaries of 12 interviews.”

President Trump threatened to declassify documents two weeks ago – one day after the New York Times allegedly published an anonymous Op-Ed claiming to be from a White House official claiming to be part of an unelected “resistance” cabal within the Trump administration.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

Trump’s threat comes as calls by frustrated GOP legislators to release the documents have hit a fevered pitch. Spearheading the effort are Republican Reps. Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin – who have repeatedly asked Trump to declassify more of the heavily redacted FISA surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late 2016.

In June, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asked President Trump to declassify key sections of Carter Page’s FISA warrant application, according to a letter obtained by Fox News.

Carter Page, the DOJ/FBI’s person of interest, weighed in on the matter in late August, tweeting: “The Corrupt DOJ, co-conspirators in the DNC and their high-priced consultants correctly believed they had American democracy and the FISA Court over a barrel in 2016.”

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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