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Trump on the Hamburg summit: startling realism on Putin and Russia

In interview with CBN News on the Hamburg summit President Trump speaks of Russia and its President Vladimir Putin with a respect and realism shown by scarcely any other leading US politician.

Alexander Mercouris




In the latest Crosstalk in which I appeared with Peter Lavelle I made the point at the very end that much of the US’s anger towards Russia comes from a US belief that the US won the Cold War and that Russia refuses to behave like a defeated country by submitting to this ‘fact’.

I said that if there is to be any future to the US-Russia relationship the US has to move beyond this.

I also said that much of the anger in the US towards Donald Trump is precisely because he has had the realism to move beyond it.

In President Trump’s just released interview with CBN News there is one single statement that perhaps more than any other President Trump has made since he was elected US President perfectly sums up his realism about Russia

Well he wants what’s good for Russia, and I want what’s good for the United States. And I think in a case like Syria where we can get together, do a ceasefire, and there are many other cases where getting along can be a very positive thing, but always Putin is going to want Russia and Trump is going to want the United States and that’s the way it is…..

Sometimes you’re not going to get along on things and sometimes you will. But we had a good meeting, it was a face-to-face meeting, it was a long meeting.  People said, ‘Oh they shouldn’t get along.’ Well, who are the people that are saying that? I think we get along very, very well. We are a tremendously powerful nuclear power, and so are they. It doesn’t make sense not to have some kind of a relationship

(bold italics added)

President Trump is stating the obvious, and his words show that he is genuinely baffled that so many people resist it.

The problem is that these words  – factually correct as they so obviously are  – are ideological heresy for far too many people in the political system in the US.

To say that Russia is a powerful country like the US, to say that Russia has interests that may not correspond with those of the US, and to speak of President Putin promoting Russian interests in the same way as US interests are promoted by the US President, is to say something that would be judged all but treasonous by those in the US who feel that after ‘losing’ the Cold War Russia as a defeated country has no right either to be powerful or to have national interests in conflict with those of the US.

Contrast for example President Trump’s simple admission of the obvious – that Russia is a powerful country in some ways comparable to the US – with Barack Obama’s struggles to do so.  Obama’s twisted language on this subject has been perfectly described for The Duran by Peter Lavelle

Instead of accepting the west’s unilateral decision regarding Ukraine and shortly thereafter for Syria, Russia got an upgrade. Russia went from a marginal country to a “regional power.” Recall the words of Barack Obama, “Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors — not out of strength but out of weakness.”This upgrade was not meant to be a compliment – it signalled the west’s “stability barometer” and “psychic test” had been activated. The evil Russians were back and a threat to the west’s “virtuous values” it must provide (using force if necessary) to the entire world.

As the west continued to stumble and bumble in the Middle East and Ukraine, as well as failing to cope with social unrest at home, the higher Russia profiled in the western mind. The endless and mindless mantra became: failed policies in the Middle East, Ukraine, and failing domestic policies is Russia’s fault, particularly Vladimir Putin’s fault. This warranted another update. Russia was no longer a “regional power,” it had become an “important” country. Recall Obama’s evolution: “The bottom line is, is that we think that Russia is a large important country with a military that is second only to ours, and has to be a part of the solution on the world stage, rather than part of the problem.”  This can be read as a backhanded compliment.

If Obama struggled to accept that “Russia is a large important country with a military that is secondly only to ours”, Hillary Clinton never even got that far, and almost certainly never will.

As for Putin simply being someone “who wants what’s good for Russia”, since neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton accept that Russia has a right to have national interests or even opinions that differ from those of the US, that too is something that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would never say.

On the contrary for Barack Obama the ‘problem’ is to ‘convert’ Russia so as to make it “part of the solution on the world stage, rather than part of the problem” – i.e.. Russia has somehow to be forced or ‘persuaded’ to accede to US demands so that it fits in – becomes “part of the solution” – to the US dominated world.

Hillary Clinton typically puts it more crudely: defending Russian national interests makes Putin into “Hitler”, whilst on the other side of the Democrat-Republican divide Senator McCain – the Republicans’ candidate to become US President in 2008 – speaks of Putin like this

There is no moral equivalence between that butcher and thug and KGB colonel and the United States of America. The country that Ronald Reagan used to call a shining city on a hill

In my numerous articles for The Duran concerning President Trump’s conduct of foreign policy I have never held back from criticism.  I have criticised President Trump for his handling of his meeting in Mar-a–Lago with Chinese President XI Jinping, for his conduct of the North Korean crisis, for his hasty reaction to the alleged chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun and his attack on Syria’s Al-Shayrat air base, for his dangerous hostility to Iran, and for the way he has unwisely aligned the US with the reckless policies of Saudi Arabia’s maverick Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

These however remain in my opinion mistakes of inexperience.  In time if he listens to advice and learns President Trump can grow out of them.

By contrast President Trump’s understanding of the fundamental geopolitical realities – of the reality of Russian and Chinese power and of the need for an equal dialogue in the US’s interests with the leaders of those countries – amongst US politicians today he stands almost alone.

That is the single most important reason why so many of them hate him, and are trying to destroy him, but it is also the single most important reason why at this time when the world is becoming increasingly bipolar or even multipolar he remains the best available President for the United States.

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran



Via RT

Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”



Via Zerohedge

Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 “Threat” To F-35

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

The Duran



Authored by Al Masdar News:

Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.

“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said.

While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”

The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.

Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.

Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month.

Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Washington has already slapped China with sanctions over its purchase of S-400s and Su-35 combat aircraft in September. India, however, has voiced confidence that it would not be hit with similar restrictions, which the US Treasury has pursued under the 2017 Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

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