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UK Minister: Amesbury Poisoning ‘not targeted’ or ‘linked to Skripals’

Does the UK expect people to believe a couple was accidentally poisoned with military-grade nerve agent?

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The latest reports from the Amesbury alleged “Novichok poisoning” have taken a turn for the weirder. According to several reports, UK Minister of State for Security Ben Wallace has said that the Amesbury “poisonings” were neither targetted, nor linked to the Skripals. He said that instead, he believes it is a “contamination by Novichok”.

So far, the optics seemed like it could be an obvious Skripal 2.0 scenario, which was honestly ridiculous that they would bother to invent the same baseless and insane accusations against Russia twice. Yet instead, the latest reports seem to indicate a totally different spin is being taken. For example, the BBC has reported:

The victims of the nerve agent emergency in Wiltshire were not directly targeted, the security minister has said.

[UK Minister of State for Security] Ben Wallace disclosed that the “working assumption” is that the pair were exposed to Novichok either as a result of the attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Hulia in Salisbury earlier this year, or “something else”.

It must be clear however, this does not mean the U.K. isn’t pointing the finger at Russia, as the report continues:

Mr Wallace told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think what we said at the time was that this was a brazen and reckless attack in the heart of a very peaceful part of the United Kingdom, and that is part of the anger I feel about the Russian state is that they chose to use clearly a very, very toxic, highly dangerous weapon.”

In another report, the BBC, writes that:

[UK] Home Secretary Sajid Javid has called on Russia to explain the Novichok poisoning after two people were exposed to it in Wiltshire. “It is completely unacceptable for our people to be either deliberate or accidental targets, or for our streets, our parks, our towns, to be dumping grounds for poison,” he told MPs.

The oddest aspect about the latest round of accusations, and what is potentially very dangerous, is how the U.K. is implying Russia allegedly accidentally poisoned their citizens with military grade nerve agent. Sputnik quotes UK Minister of State for Security Ben Wallace as saying:

“These people weren’t linked to the Skripals… It wasn’t an attack, it was, I think, a contamination by a Novichok,” Wallace said on Monday.

This is what is particularly bizarre, that the language the UK is using implies they are currently alleging an unintentional Novichok poisoning. We must remember, however, that these are still preliminary reports. There will be plenty of time for the UK to change their story, and of course, they are still blaming Russia, now it just seems they are saying Russia unintentionally poisoned their citizens.

This brings me to the heart of what makes these accusations so bizarre. If we apply basic common sense, how many people do you know, who were accidentally poisoned with military-grade nerve agent? Is nerve agent a common cause of death among common suburban folk? We remind our readers that neither the Skripals nor this Amesbury couple has yet died.

This contradicts basic logic, what we know about Novichok, as well as the narrative about the seemingly dangerous Russian bear, the way the West makes Russia out to be.

Novichok has been acknowledged by many reports, as being the world’s most deadly known nerve agent, with Gary Stephens, a pharmacology expert at the University of Reading, saying that Novichok “is a more dangerous and sophisticated agent than sarin or VX and is harder to identify”. A Financial Times report says that:

It has been reported that Novichok agents are five to eight times more lethal than VX, which was previously thought to be the world’s deadliest nerve agent.

New Scientist reports that:

Novichoks can be eight times as deadly as VX, the V-series agent that was used to kill North Korean exile Kim Jong-nam last year. Just 10 milligrams of VX on the skin can be lethal.

Still, despite the well-known lethality of Novichok, the UK is claiming Russia contaminated Sergei and Yulia Skripal with this incredibly lethal poisoning, which can kill in tiny droplets, and yet they survived?

They are claiming Russia, a nuclear superpower which builds the rockets American astronauts use to travel to space, and which put the first man in space, does not possess the capability to assassinate a target with a more lethal nerve agent, then one used by the weaker state of North Korea? North Korea is indescribably weaker than Russia in basically every way that matters, yet a known to be weaker nerve agent allegedly kills a man when Russia allegedly fails with an agent eight times more deadly?

Of course, Russia did not kill anyone, neither the Skripals, nor this couple, yet the accusations are now becoming even more absurd. Skripal was an ex-spy, and a traitor to Russia and the Russian people, and while Russia did not kill him, there is no evidence, Russia has always been known to defend her people and her interests. It is not illogical, to imagine that a spy who betrays any superpower, such as the US, Russia, China, etc. could theoretically face dangerous repercussions.

The idea of a spy being killed by a nerve agent is not a stretch, but Skripal was no threat to Russia, and he was not killed, even after the most deadly substance in the world was allegedly administered.

This couple, however, were not even spies. By all accounts, they are completely random people, unconnected to the Skripals, in the words of UK Minister of State for Security Ben Wallace. How they did they get contaminated by Novichok? Are we to believe military-grade nerve agent was just casually misplaced in a UK neighborhood? Military-grade nerve agent which kills instantly for all intents and purposes. Does the UK wish to imply Russia is not a great power, with the ability to attack its enemies, but one which is incapable of assassinations, and haplessly misplaces their nerve agents in little shires throughout Merry Olde England.

It seems like the UK wants to have their cake and eat it too.

I have written about this before, primarily the illogical and inconsistent way the Western Media slanders Russia and her President Vladimir Putin.

In the article, I said:

The split personality complex in the west has given rise to the two heads of the western establishment: The Neoconservatives and the Neoliberals. Together they form the Diarchy (rule of two) present in western governments, though perhaps the Latin synonym Duumvirate better describes it.

This split personality influences how they view reality.

Take for example their portrayal of Russia. There are two primary ways in which Russia is misrepresented in the west:

  1. As a toothless bear, a weak, anemic regional power nostalgic for old glory, incapable of letting go. A nation overall not unlike a destitute widow after the death of a great and powerful man, as Gogol described the Cossack lands of what we call Ukraine in Taras Bulba.

This is simply not reality.

  1. The dangerous bear, an Empire terrible and strong, ready to subject the world beneath the boot of an Imperialist, Fascist, Totalitarian, Communist, Soviet, Russian Orthodox Czar. If the West does not “do something” [the most terrifying words any third world country can hear] there will not be a free power in the world that will not kneel to the Czar of Moscow.

That statement is contradictory, primarily with the first image, but also with itself. You can not be a Communist or a Fascist, nor an Orthodox Tsarist for that matter all at once.

While the above examples are mutable to a degree, those are the prevailing stereotypes about Russia. They each serve two primary purposes:

  1. The portrayal of Russia as a declining power reduces panic when undesirable, for example when the Deep State feels comfortable with their position in society, and wish to promote their leadership as strong and stabilizing. It also reinforces overall pride and morale in the west. This is the favored personality of the Neo-Liberals.
  2. The portrayal of Russia as a resurgent, terrifying eastern horde on the verge of world dominance provides for the Military Industrial Complex, allows for increased military spending, and justifies both sabre rattling and adventurism, satisfying the warmongers. The portrayal of the Neo-Cons.

That split view of Russia is what we are seeing here again.

  1. First, we are to believe, according to Western propagandists, Russia is this great dangerous threat to the world, which poisoned the Skripals with her dangerous omnipotent power. This extends to other things they claim about Russia. For example, Russia is so powerful, she rigged the US Election, masterfully manipulating the simple minded Americans, proving Russia is so powerful, that she can determine the result of the US election. This is what they imply, when they talk about the Russian threat – the Great Russian Bear.
  2. Secondly, we are to believe, according to Western propagandists, that Russia is so weak, so incompetent, so incapable of executing her goals, that not only did she fail to assassinate the Skripals, but she misplaced some of her deadly dangerous nerve agent which is now hopelessly infecting innocent UK civilians. They claim Russia is so weak, and she is a declining power, and her leadership feels threatened, and so they lashed out at enemies, but because of weakness, she was not able to assassinate people with a more deadly nerve agent than the North Koreans used. The Mighty Czardom of Russia which stretches from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean failed where the puny hermit Kingdom succeeded?

Which one, you can’t have both

These are both ridiculous ideas. The first idea, that of Russia is this dangerous all-powerful superpower, is a reflection of the inferiority complex of the impotent West, the UK in particular.

After Brexit, the UK elite feels particularly insecure, and lacking allies, and so they wish to increase support or sympathy for themselves, by using the Russian Bear as a dangerous threat. This existed in racist Russophobic propaganda in the UK since the Crimean War in the mid 19th century. Since then, many UK publications portray Russia in a racist way.

Despite the SJW world the West lives in, in a tragic and disgusting way, racism against Russians is accepted by the West to this day. Russians are among the only groups Westerners are allowed to slander. This was touched on brilliantly by the Duran’s Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris.

Western racism and the stereotyping of Russians

Likewise, the idea that Russia somehow accidentally infected people with nerve agent (really, how do you do that) reflects the arrogance of the West. They want to portray Russia as this big dangerous country, yet their arrogance does not allow it to go so far.

Therefore, they produce an inconsistent narrative where Russia at one time, is the destroyer of worlds, and at another time, accidentally misplaces nerve agent because she is a toothless bear.

The Morning in a Pine Forest is a painting by Russian artists Ivan Shishkin and Konstantin Savitsky

The reality is, Russia is truly a mighty bear, but she only protects her young, and she will not stray too far from her Taiga.

If Russia is threatened, she will defend herself, but she never meant any harm to the world. It should be blatantly obvious Rusia had nothing to do with this, but facts don’t matter in the West. Russia can be blamed for anything by propagandists. What did Russia ever do to the West, aside from save them from Nazism, and putting the first human in space?

And the idea of military grade nerve agent accidentally poisoning a suburban couple is just ridiculous. Some reports have went as far as to say:

One of the victims is believed to be a registered heroin user and local media speculated that the poison came from a contaminated syringe.

It must be said, at this moment, that is not confirmed. Victim blaming in any case, is also not appropriate, however, neither is Russia blaming, which is all the West does. There is no proof of any Russia involvement, and it is dangerous to provoke and accuse a Nuclear Superpower constantly.

In all, it must be remembered, that Russia is neither a toothless bear, nor a scary bear. By long-standing tradition, the Bears of Russian folk legend live in their taiga. They are not dangerous beasts, nor do they attack the homes of other animals, but if you attack the Taiga, retribution is inevitable.

The baisc rule of thumb, don’t threaten the Russian people with a campaign of dominance and extermination, and likewise, Russia will not be forced to defend herself and her young.

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AM HantsIsabella JonescolumGoogle IsEvilVeeNarian (Yerevan) Recent comment authors
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AM Hants
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AM Hants

How long does it take for toxicology reports to come through? When did they fall ill? With all the Forces cleaning up Salsibury, how come they missed the syringe? Owing to the strength of the military grade nerve agent, how long would it remain in am syringe without harming the container? Go back to the Skripals, ‘novochok’ on the doorknob, of a house soon to be demolished. Father plus daughter touch door knob, go for a drive into town. Then for a drink in a pub, followed by lunch, then a walk in the park. How many people did they… Read more »

Isabella Jones
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Isabella Jones

I’d like to repeat – I keep seeing all this “novichok” being repeated as though it were an incontrovertible fact. It isn’t. All we have that these people have been exposed to a narco-paralytic of the same family as the so – called “Novichok” is the word of an increasingly discredited Government. It could be anything or nothing. Russia has repeatedly asked for access to the investigation – to be refused. Why? Why purpose does that serve, except to keep the truth hidden?. The Hospital spokesman inthe Skripals case said that [a] nobody had been admitted having suffered the symptoms… Read more »

colum
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colum

It makes a funny sense. While 2.0 is a relative non-story it does revive (kind of) the Skripal case. The latest victims are actors (accidents) there to play to the cynicism and throw things back onto the skripals by closing the circle that there was a rogue agent at play who messed up. It permits the forces to pick a target and set up an actual scapegoat that will play the whole Russia narrative. We all know it’s a fit up but what of the floaters and the disinterested?This’ll possibly nail things down and set a new platform to lie… Read more »

Google IsEvil
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Google IsEvil

Upon seeing the picture you chose to headline this article with, my first thought was “Why is Theresa May” wearing a suit & tie”? Then I noticed the Amerikunt flag on her lapel. Then I realized it was a PHOTO-SHOPPED photograph. Then I realized you people lost all credibility and that I’ll NEVER read The Duran ever again.

I ALREADY get enough fake news as it is.

VeeNarian (Yerevan)
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VeeNarian (Yerevan)

I feel I must again apologise for the disgraceful, deceitful and pathetic conduct of our LYING and incompetent so called British government. Their ancestors ran a world-wide empire while this lot could not organise a “piss-up at the brewery”.
Just ignore this bunch of LYING sh…. bags and bring a fumigation kit when your are near them.

fartytowels
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fartytowels

IF there was a syringe… who the heck touches a dirty syringe lying in a park. To suggest they used it to shoot up with is beyond ridiculous. As he was a registered heroin addict he gets free sterile syringes on the NHS. D’oh! There goes another stupid theory…

tiredofthemedialies
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tiredofthemedialies

a more lethal nerve agent, then one used by the weaker state of North Korea?

That makes lots of sense. How about using THAN??? Or is it too difficult?

Ger
Guest
Ger

The mysterious ‘syringe’ …. a prop in this bizarre saga? Perhaps next week with Putin’s fingerprints on it! Until recently I believed we Americans had a lock on morons. Thanks to the Brits, we have lost another important position on the world stage.

Jack
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Jack

A lots of words but not necessarily convincing. Let me tell you about Scripal. He is a Russian. traitor who sold for a very little their former friends and coops who seems to got what he deserved but who did it is rather very vage and uncertain and most likely he fell victim from quite different side and from other reason as a scores for his new activities rather than his old job therefore not connected to Moscow as depicted by UK officials aiming to achieve their own end but the true story is yet to unfold and this most… Read more »

Gonzogal
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Gonzogal

comment image

comment image comment image

Gonzogal
Guest
Gonzogal

Remember in Skripal 1 the UK delayed forever calling in the OPCW, and now AFTER they have been successful in adding to the OPCW the power to “assign blame”, the UK has called in the OPCW.

You cant make this s$it up!

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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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Parliament Seizes Control Of Brexit From Theresa May

Zerohedge

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Schaeuble, Greece and the lessons learned from a failed GREXIT (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 117.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine a recent interview with the Financial Times given by Wolfgang Schäuble, where the former German Finance Minister, who was charged with finding a workable and sustainable solution to the Greek debt crisis, reveals that his plan for Greece to take a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone (in order to devalue its currency and save its economy) was met with fierce resistance from Brussels hard liners, and Angela Merkel herself.

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Via FT

“Look where we’re sitting!” says Wolfgang Schäuble, gesturing at the Berlin panorama stretching out beneath us. It is his crisp retort to those who say that Europe is a failure, condemned to a slow demise by its own internal contradictions. “Walk through the Reichstag, the graffiti left by the Red Army soldiers, the images of a destroyed Berlin. Until 1990 the Berlin Wall ran just below where we are now!”

We are in Käfer, a restaurant on the rooftop of the Reichstag. The views are indeed stupendous: Berlin Cathedral and the TV Tower on Alexanderplatz loom through the mist. Both were once in communist East Berlin, cut off from where we are now by the wall. Now they’re landmarks of a single, undivided city. “Without European integration, without this incredible story, we wouldn’t have come close to this point,” he says. “That’s the crazy thing.”

As Angela Merkel’s finance minister from 2009 to 2017, Schäuble was at the heart of efforts to steer the eurozone through a period of unprecedented turbulence. But at home he is most associated with Germany’s postwar political journey, having not only negotiated the 1990 treaty unifying East and West Germany but also campaigned successfully for the capital to move from Bonn.

For a man who has done so much to put Berlin — and the Reichstag — back on the world-historical map, it is hard to imagine a more fitting lunch venue. With its open-plan kitchen and grey formica tables edged in chrome, Käfer has a cool, functional aesthetic that is typical of the city. On the wall hangs a sketch by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who famously wrapped the Reichstag in silver fabric in 1995.

The restaurant has one other big advantage: it is easy to reach from Schäuble’s office. Now 76, he has been confined to a wheelchair since he was shot in an assassination attempt in 1990, and mobility is an issue. Aides say he tends to avoid restaurants if he can, especially at lunchtime.

As we take our places, we talk about Schäuble’s old dream — that German reunification would be a harbinger of European unity, a step on the road to a United States of Europe. That seems hopelessly out of reach in these days of Brexit, the gilets jaunes in France, Lega and the Five Star Movement in Italy.

Some blame Schäuble himself for that. He was, after all, the architect of austerity, a fiscal hawk whose policy prescriptions during the euro crisis caused untold hardship for millions of ordinary people, or so his critics say. He became a hate figure, especially in Greece. Posters in Athens in 2015 depicted him with a Hitler moustache below the words: “Wanted — for mass poverty and devastation”.

Schäuble rejects the criticism that austerity caused the rise of populism. “Higher spending doesn’t lead to greater contentment,” he says. The root cause lies in mass immigration, and the insecurities it has unleashed. “What European country doesn’t have this problem?” he asks. “Even Sweden. The poster child of openness and the willingness to help.”

But what of the accusation that he didn’t care enough about the suffering of the southern Europeans? Austerity divided the EU and spawned a real animus against Schäuble. I ask him how that makes him feel now. “Well I’m sad, because I played a part in all of that,” he says, wistfully. “And I think about how we could have done it differently.”

I glance at the menu — simple German classics with a contemporary twist. I’m drawn to the starters, such as Oldenburg duck pâté and the Müritz smoked trout. But true to his somewhat abstemious reputation, Schäuble has no interest in these and zeroes in on the entrées. He chooses Käfer’s signature veal meatballs, a Berlin classic. I go for the Arctic char and pumpkin.

Schäuble switches seamlessly back to the eurozone crisis. The original mistake was in trying to create a common currency without a “common economic, employment and social policy” for all eurozone member states. The fathers of the euro had decided that if they waited for political union to happen first they’d wait forever, he says.

Yet the prospects for greater political union are now worse than they have been in years. “The construction of the EU has proven to be questionable,” he says. “We should have taken the bigger steps towards integration earlier on, and now, because we can’t convince the member states to take them, they are unachievable.”

Greece was a particularly thorny problem. It should never have been admitted to the euro club in the first place, Schäuble says. But when its debt crisis first blew up, it should have taken a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone — an idea he first floated with Giorgos Papakonstantinou, his Greek counterpart between 2009 and 2011. “I told him you need to be able to devalue your currency, you’re not competitive,” he says. The reforms required to repair the Greek economy were going to be “hard to achieve in a democracy”. “That’s why you need to leave the euro for a certain period. But everyone said there was no chance of that.”

The idea didn’t go away, though. Schäuble pushed for a temporary “Grexit” in 2015, during another round of the debt crisis. But Merkel and the other EU heads of government nixed the idea. He now reveals he thought about resigning over the issue. “On the morning the decision was made, [Merkel] said to me: ‘You’ll carry on?’ . . . But that was one of the instances where we were very close [to my stepping down].”

It is an extraordinary revelation, one that highlights just how rocky his relationship with Merkel has been over the years. Schäuble has been at her side from the start, an éminence grise who has helped to resolve many of the periodic crises of her 13 years as chancellor. But it was never plain sailing.

“There were a few really bad conflicts where she knew too that we were on the edge and I would have gone,” he says. “I always had to weigh up whether to go along with things, even though I knew it was the wrong thing to do, as was the case with Greece, or whether I should go.” But his sense of duty prevailed. “We didn’t always agree — but I was always loyal.”

That might have been the case when he was a serving minister, but since becoming speaker of parliament in late 2017 he has increasingly distanced himself from Merkel. Last year, when she announced she would not seek re-election as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, the party that has governed Germany for 50 of the past 70 years, Schäuble openly backed a candidate described by the Berlin press as the “anti-Merkel”. Friedrich Merz, a millionaire corporate lawyer who is the chairman of BlackRock Germany, had once led the CDU’s parliamentary group but lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002, quitting politics a few years later. He has long been seen as one of the chancellor’s fiercest conservative critics — and is a good friend of Schäuble’s.

Ultimately, in a nail-biting election last December, Merkel’s favoured candidate, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, narrowly beat Merz. The woman universally known as “AKK” is in pole position to succeed Merkel as chancellor when her fourth and final term ends in 2021.

I ask Schäuble if it’s true that he had once again waged a battle against Merkel and once again lost. “I never went to war against Ms Merkel,” he says. “Everybody says that if I’m for Merz then I’m against Merkel. Why is that so? That’s nonsense.”

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