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The US “Deep State” and the Democrats ARE the problem

The latest policy recommendations by the influential Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), one of the most well-respected and listened-to experts in Russia – to say nothing of the entire former Soviet space – is causing quite a stir by waxing nostalgically about the Obama years and even suggesting that Moscow should embrace the American “deep state”.

Andrew Korybko

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Mr. Kortunov’s Case For Russia’s “Deep State” / Democrat Partnership

Mr. Andrey Kortunov is one of the most brilliant minds in Russia and earned his place as the Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), and his words accordingly carry much weight for the fact that they set the tone for countless other analysts in the country and even an untold number of policymakers who look to him for guidance.

That’s why it caused quite a stir when he published his latest recommendation earlier this week at the famous Valdai Club titled “Russian Approaches to the United States: Algorithm Change Is Overdue”, in which he waxed nostalgically about the Obama years and even suggested that Moscow should embrace the American “deep state”.

Director of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov
Director of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov

So as not to put words in his mouth, the relevant passages are republished in their entirety below:

First, it is better to avoid demonizing the Deep State, which is perceived by many in Moscow as the center of world evil and the stronghold of the pathological haters of Russia. Of course, most of the State Department or the CIA officials, the Congress staff, experts from the main think tanks are not Vladimir Putin’s fans. But these people, at least, have considerable experience of interaction with Moscow and can hardly be considered stubborn paranoids, exalted conspiracy theorists or genetic Russophobes. Deep State consists of rationally thinking professionals, who are always easier to deal with than romantic amateurs are. With all its shortcomings, it is the Deep State that limits Donald Trump’s most exotic and potentially most dangerous foreign policy oddities.

 Second, it’s time to change the attitude toward the Democratic Party leadership. For some reason (probably because of inertia) the Barack Obama administration is constantly remembered in Russia in the worst possible way, with the two latest presidents constantly juxtaposed. How is Obama bad, and Trump is good? The stubborn facts show otherwise. For example, Obama pursued a consistent policy of rapprochement with Iran, and Trump returned to the most severe pressure on Tehran. Obama followed the international consensus on the status of Jerusalem, and Trump destroyed this consensus. Obama did not resort to direct military action against Bashar Assad, and Trump did not hesitate to give an order to launch missiles against the Syrian Al- Shayrat airbase. Well, who after all created more problems for Russia — Democrats or Republicans?

Mr. Kortunov did indeed talk about other aspects of US-Russian relations, including the need for a bottom-up approach to improving his country’s soft power in America, but none of those proposals are controversial, at least not when compared to what he wrote about above.

A diversity of respectful views in any discourse is symptomatic of a healthy democracy, and Russian society is no different in this respect, which is why the dialogue on this topic would be greatly enriched by presenting some counterpoints to Mr. Kortunov’s article.

Deciphering The “Deep State”

The first is that the US’ military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) are experienced and rational like Mr. Kortunov describes them as, but that they nevertheless bear primary responsibility for the deterioration in US-Russian relations under both the Obama and Trump Presidencies because the bulk of these professional bureaucrats always retain their jobs between leadership transitions in the country.

The President is supposed to determine the broad trajectory of their work in consultation with his closest advisors, some of whom are handpicked by him and approved by Congress to lead the relevant institutions of the “deep state” while others are more informal, but the rank-and-file members of the “deep state” are still largely more responsible for the execution of policy in practice than anyone else.

Unprecedentedly, many of them oppose President Trump’s stated desire to improve relations with Russia and have worked to unconstitutionally offset his plans, and the pressure that they’ve put on him to this end explains why he’s undertaken decisively anti-Russian policies during his first year in office despite his campaign pledge to do the opposite.

Seeing as how most of these “deep state” individuals naturally remained in the same positions that they had during the Obama Administration and would have probably still retained their jobs under Hillary’s Presidency, it’s inaccurate to attribute the deterioration of Russian-American ties to President Trump personally while overlooking the actions of the “deep state” that he’s still trying to reform to the best of his ability.

The “deep state” is rational – too rational, it can be argued – because it embraces a Neo-Realist paradigm of International Relations that sometimes correlates with Trump’s own views on certain topics but other times contradicts them like in the case of Russia, and the internal power struggle between Trump and the “deep state” is what’s really to blame for the worsening of bilateral relations, not the “amateur” President’s “romanticism” like Mr. Kortunov insists.

For these reasons, it can be argued that Mr. Kortunov’s belief that the “deep state” “can hardly be considered stubborn paranoids, exalted conspiracy theorists or genetic Russophobes” isn’t exactly accurate, since it’s indeed full of “stubborn paranoids” under the dual influence of the neoconservatives’ Neo-Realism and the Obama-Clinton worldview of “militant liberalism”.

That said, the “conspiracy theories” that he references are just a “deep state” infowar distraction to deceive the voting masses while the assertion that such a thing as a “genetic Russophobe” exists wrongly implies that an individual’s political views are irreversibly predetermined by their DNA.

To flip around Mr. Kortunov’s last comment on the matter, it’s more realistic to assert that “with all his shortcomings, it is Donald Trump that limits the Deep State’s most exotic and potentially most dangerous foreign policy oddities.”

Debunking The Dreams Of Democrat Rule

Relatedly, Mr. Kortunov’s views on the “deep state” clearly influence his attitude towards the Democrats and specifically the Obama Administration, which he thinks is unfairly “remembered in Russia in the worst possible way” because “the stubborn facts show otherwise” and apparently disprove the prevailing notion that “Obama (is) bad, and Trump is good.”

Mr. Kortunov thinks that Obama had pure intentions in signing the nuclear agreement with Iran, though it can cynically be argued that his “deep state” was in fact trying to co-opt the Islamic Republic’s “moderate/reformist” ruling elite in a bid to tip the scales to their favor in the country’s own “deep state” competition for influence with the “conservative/principalist” military-security faction, the failure of which would explain why Trump was tasked with “returning to the most severe pressure on Tehran.”

The enduring presence of most of the “deep state’s” personnel between presidential administrations doesn’t preclude the US from pivoting between policies but actually allows such moves to be more smoothly executed, as can be seen from the example of Nixon’s rapprochement with China in spite of Johnson’s antagonism towards it; Bush Sr. “betraying” Iraq even though Reagan aligned with it; Obama signing the nuclear deal against the former Bush Jr. Administration’s wishes; and Trump dismantling his predecessor’s plans.

Although the President might set the tone for the overall direction that each respective policy should go in and this sometimes reverses what the previous administration did, it’s ultimately the “deep state” that puts these ideas into practice and is able to maintain a degree of strategic continuity that advances America’s national interests regardless, though the case of Trump’s vision for US-Russia relations also shows that this same “deep state” can also conspire to obstruct the President’s will.

Another “stubborn fact” at variance with Mr. Kortunov’s nostalgia for Democrat rule is the practical significance of Obama “following the international consensus on the status of Jerusalem” and Trump “destroying” it since it inaccurately hints that the former was somehow ‘pro-Palestinian’ and that the latter’s announcement tangibly changed something on the ground, neither of which are true because Obama was actually very pro-Israel and Trump’s decision only stands to affect foreign aid recipients who voted against the US and the UN.

Looking beyond Obama’s highly publicized personal rivalry with Netanyahu and his populist rhetoric on the Palestinian issue, nothing that he did during his two terms had any influence on Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and unilateral claim to the entirety of the city being its capital; likewise, Trump’s words didn’t change any of this reality either and only resulted in word games being played at the UN and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, neither of which did anything other than attempt to comfort the Palestinians.

As for Mr. Kortunov’s juxtaposition of Obama’s refusal to “resort to direct military action against Bashar Assad” with Trump “not hesitating to give an order to launch missiles against the Syrian Al- Shayrat airbase”, he’s totally overlooking the 44th President’s responsibility for the theater-wide “Arab Spring” Color Revolutions and the resultant Hybrid War of Terror on Syria which dealt incomparably more damage to Syria and its democratically elected President’s standing that Trump’s handful of one-off missiles.

In addition, Trump only ordered the attack because he was under intense “deep state” pressure to do so after having been caught in a Catch-22 trap where he was forced to “put his money where his mouth is” and respond to the false-flag chemical weapons attack that violated his “red line”, but truthfully speaking, what Mr. Kortunov might really resent is that it only took a few million dollars’ worth of missiles to call President Putin’s bluff in hinting at a military response to the exact same scenario in 2013 that got Obama to back down at the time.

To respond to Mr.Kortunov’s rhetorical question of “who after all created more problems for Russia — Democrats or Republicans?”, the reader should be reminded that the Obama Administration presided over or was outright responsible for the “Arab Spring” and its attendant regime changes, the War on Syria, the 2011-12 anti-government unrest in Moscow, EuroMaidan and the Ukrainian Civil War, the anti-Russian sanctions, and the fake news scheme of “Kremlin interference” in order to suppress Russia’s publicly funded international media outlets and harass their employees, among many other examples.

In comparison, Trump merely continued most of the policy trajectories that Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first initiated, and even then he’s tried to resist some of the “deep state’s” pressure when it comes to Russia, so as bad as he’s been for Moscow’s interests, one should wonder how much worse Hillary would have been she entered into the Presidency and allowed the “deep state” to do as it pleases.

Concluding Thoughts

Mr. Kortunov seems to have wanted to spark a serious conversation about how Russia’s “deep state” should respond to the disappointment that it experienced throughout Trump’s first year in office, and if that was his intention, then he remarkably succeeded by controversially reinterpreting the Obama years as something to apparently be nostalgic about and boldly suggesting that his government reconsider its negative attitude to Trump’s “deep state” foes.

In the spirit of dialogue that Mr. Kortunov implicitly encouraged by publishing such a provocative piece, it’s only fitting that a rebuttal be presented to challenge his premise that the Democrats and their “deep state” handlers are supposedly more preferable to Russia than Trump is, especially seeing as how he selectively pointed to a few decontextualized examples that were presumably cherry-picked in order to promote his argument.

With all due respect to this prestigious gentleman, his entire notion is flat-out wrong and shows that he doesn’t at all understand Trump’s “Kraken”-like leadership and his never-ending struggle to survive the “deep state’s” permanent Clintonian Counter-Revolution that’s being waged in trying to undermine the Second American Revolution that the President is trying to carry out in America’s domestic and foreign affairs.

Instead of ignoring the plethora of evidence proving the Obama Administration’s hostility to Russia and its international interests, Mr. Kortunov should have at least made a superficial reference to it because this glaring omission implies a deliberate partiality towards that political faction and the “deep state” in general, which is fine to have in principle but nevertheless casts doubt on how effective his proposals would be in the overall sense of things if they were ever put into practice.

Mr. Kortunov is evidently unaware that the same “deep state” that he finds attractive in contrast to Trump had a controlling influence in determining the Obama Administration’s anti-Russian policies that the 44th President’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ended up implementing with ruinous consequences for Moscow’s grand strategic interests, and that she would have given the “deep state” free rein to do whatever it wanted had she won unlike Trump’s willingness to challenge its most extreme tendencies (though with mixed results).

Having said that, pragmatic working relations between Russia and the US’ “deep states” are inevitable because there isn’t any alternative to interacting with any national counterpart’s collection of military, intelligence, and diplomatic figures no matter how much one may disagree with their policies unless ties between the two sides are formally suspended, which isn’t foreseeable but would in any case still allow for the existence of communication backchannels.

What Mr. Kortunov is lobbying for is something altogether different because he wants Russian decision makers to reconceptualize the American “deep state” as a ‘positive’, ‘moderating’, and ‘responsible’ force against what he characterizes as Trump’s ”romantic”, “amateurish”, “most exotic and potentially most dangerous foreign policy oddities”, which is ironically a very “romantic” and “exotic” view to have of the US’ most dangerous anti-Russian institutional forces.

In all actuality, however, the “deep state” and its Democrat allies are the real reason why Trump hasn’t been able to succeed in his pledge to improve Russian-American relations, and these two problems shouldn’t ever be confused as part of the solution that’s needed to reverse this downward spiral, nor should a tactical partnership with these two actors ever be considered if Moscow hopes to maintain the upper hand in the New Cold War.

Originally appeared at Oriental Review

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Airline wars heat up, as industry undergoes massive disruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 145.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the global commercial airline industry, which is undergoing massive changes, as competition creeps in from Russia and China.

Reuters reports that Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.

The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX.

*****

According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes.

It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety.

*****

Boeing said on Tuesday that aircraft orders in the first quarter fell to 95 from 180 a year earlier, with no orders for the 737 MAX following the worldwide grounding.

On April 5, it said it planned to cut monthly 737 production to 42 planes from 52, and was making progress on a 737 MAX software update to prevent further accidents.

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Via Zerohedge…

Step aside (fading) trade war with China: there is a new aggressor – at least according to the US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer – in town.

In a statement on the USTR’s website published late on Monday, the US fair trade agency announced that under Section 301 of the Trade Act, it was proposing a list of EU products to be covered by additional duties. And as justification for the incremental import taxes, the USTR said that it was in response to EU aircraft subsidies, specifically to Europea’s aerospace giant, Airbus, which “have caused adverse effects to the United States” and which the USTR estimates cause $11 billion in harm to the US each year

One can’t help but notice that the latest shot across the bow in the simmering trade war with Europe comes as i) Trump is reportedly preparing to fold in his trade war with China, punting enforcement to whoever is president in 2025, and ii) comes just as Boeing has found itself scrambling to preserve orders as the world has put its orderbook for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes on hold, which prompted Boeing to cut 737 production by 20% on Friday.

While the first may be purely a coincidence, the second – which is expected to not only slam Boeing’s financials for Q1 and Q2, but may also adversely impact US GDP – had at least some impact on the decision to proceed with these tariffs at this moment.

We now await Europe’s angry response to what is Trump’s latest salvo in what is once again a global trade war. And, paradoxically, we also expect this news to send stocks blasting higher as, taking a page from the US-China trade book, every day algos will price in imminent “US-European trade deal optimism.”

Below the full statement from the USTR (link):

USTR Proposes Products for Tariff Countermeasures in Response to Harm Caused by EU Aircraft Subsidies

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found repeatedly that European Union (EU) subsidies to Airbus have caused adverse effects to the United States.  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) begins its process under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to identify products of the EU to which additional duties may be applied until the EU removes those subsidies.

USTR is releasing for public comment a preliminary list of EU products to be covered by additional duties.  USTR estimates the harm from the EU subsidies as $11 billion in trade each year.  The amount is subject to an arbitration at the WTO, the result of which is expected to be issued this summer.

“This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action. The Administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of U.S. countermeasures,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  “Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft.  When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional U.S. duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

In line with U.S. law, the preliminary list contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector, including Airbus aircraft.  Once the WTO arbitrator issues its report on the value of countermeasures, USTR will announce a final product list covering a level of trade commensurate with the adverse effects determined to exist.

Background

After many years of seeking unsuccessfully to convince the EU and four of its member States (France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) to cease their subsidization of Airbus, the United States brought a WTO challenge to EU subsidies in 2004. In 2011, the WTO found that the EU provided Airbus $18 billion in subsidized financing from 1968 to 2006.  In particular, the WTO found that European “launch aid” subsidies were instrumental in permitting Airbus to launch every model of its large civil aircraft, causing Boeing to lose sales of more than 300 aircraft and market share throughout the world.

In response, the EU removed two minor subsidies, but left most of them unchanged.  The EU also granted Airbus more than $5 billion in new subsidized “launch aid” financing for the A350 XWB.  The United States requested establishment of a compliance panel in March 2012 to address the EU’s failure to remove its old subsidies, as well as the new subsidies and their adverse effects.  That process came to a close with the issuance of an appellate report in May 2018 finding that EU subsidies to high-value, twin-aisle aircraft have caused serious prejudice to U.S. interests.  The report found that billions of dollars in launch aid to the A350 XWB and A380 cause significant lost sales to Boeing 787 and 747 aircraft, as well as lost market share for Boeing very large aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, and UAE markets.

Based on the appellate report, the United States requested authority to impose countermeasures worth $11.2 billion per year, commensurate with the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies.  The EU challenged that estimate, and a WTO arbitrator is currently evaluating those claims

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Mueller report takes ‘Russian meddling’ for granted, offers no actual evidence

RT

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Via RT…


Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report has cleared Donald Trump of ‘collusion’ charges but maintains that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Yet concrete evidence of that is nowhere to be seen.

The report by Mueller and his team, made public on Thursday by the US Department of Justice, exonerates not just Trump but all Americans of any “collusion” with Russia, “obliterating” the Russiagate conspiracy theory, as journalist Glenn Greenwald put it.

However, it asserts that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and says it consisted of a campaign on social media as well as Russian military intelligence (repeatedly referred to by its old, Soviet-era name, GRU) “hacking” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the DNC, and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

As evidence of this, the report basically offers nothing but Mueller’s indictment of “GRU agents,” delivered on the eve of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in what was surely a cosmic coincidence.

Indictments are not evidence, however, but allegations. Any time it looks like the report might be bringing up proof, it ends up being redacted, ostensibly to protect sources and methods, and out of concern it might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.”

‘Active measures’ on social media

Mueller’s report leads with the claim that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) ran an “active measures” campaign of social media influence. Citing Facebook and Twitter estimates, the report says this consisted of 470 Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts that may have been seen by up to 126 million people, between January 2015 and August 2017 (almost a year after the election), and 3,814 Twitter accounts that “may have been” in contact with about 1.4 million people.

Those numbers may seem substantial but, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out in November 2018, they should be regarded against the background of 33 trillion Facebook posts made during the same period.

According to Mueller, the IRA mind-controlled the American electorate by spending “approximately $100,000” on Facebook ads, hiring someone to walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” and getting Trump campaign affiliates to promote “dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.” Dozens!

Meanwhile, the key evidence against IRA’s alleged boss Evgeny Prigozhin is that he “appeared together in public photographs” with Putin.

Alleged hacking & release

The report claims that the GRU hacked their way into 29 DCCC computers and another 30 DNC computers, and downloaded data using software called “X-Tunnel.” It is unclear how Mueller’s investigators claim to know this, as the report makes no mention of them or FBI actually examining DNC or DCCC computers. Presumably they took the word of CrowdStrike, the Democrats’ private contractor, for it.

However obtained, the documents were published first through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – which the report claims are “fictitious online personas” created by the GRU – and later through WikiLeaks. What is Mueller’s proof that these two entities were “GRU” cutouts? In a word, this:

That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.(p. 43)

However, the report acknowledges that the “first known contact” between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks was on September 15, 2016 – months after the DNC and DCCC documents were published! Here we do get actual evidence: direct messages on Twitter obtained by investigators. Behold, these “spies” are so good, they don’t even talk – and when they do, they use unsecured channels.

Mueller notably claims “it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks” (the rest of that sentence is redacted), but the report clearly implies the investigators do not actually know how. On page 47, the report says Mueller “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Strangely, the report accuses WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange of making “public statements apparently designed to obscure the source” of the materials (p.48), notably the offer of a reward for finding the murderer of DNC staffer Seth Rich – even though this can be read as corroborating the intermediaries theory, and Assange never actually said Rich was his source.

The rest of Mueller’s report goes on to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with anyone even remotely Russian and to create torturous constructions that the president had “obstructed” justice by basically defending himself from charges of being a Russian agent – neither of which resulted in any indictments, however. But the central premise that the 22-month investigation, breathless media coverage, and the 448-page report are based on – that Russia somehow meddled in the 2016 election – remains unproven.

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Rumors of War: Washington Is Looking for a Fight

The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


It is depressing to observe how the United States of America has become the evil empire. Having served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and in the Central Intelligence Agency for the second half of the Cold War, I had an insider’s viewpoint of how an essentially pragmatic national security policy was being transformed bit by bit into a bipartisan doctrine that featured as a sine qua non global dominance for Washington. Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union collapsed the opportunity to end once and for all the bipolar nuclear confrontation that threatened global annihilation was squandered as President Bill Clinton chose instead to humiliate and use NATO to contain an already demoralized and effectively leaderless Russia.

American Exceptionalism became the battle cry for an increasingly clueless federal government as well as for a media-deluded public. When 9/11 arrived, the country was ready to lash out at the rest of the world. President George W. Bush growled that “There’s a new sheriff in town and you are either with us or against us.” Afghanistan followed, then Iraq, and, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats came up with Libya and the first serious engagement in Syria. In its current manifestation, one finds a United States that threatens Iran on a nearly weekly basis and tears up arms control agreements with Russia while also maintaining deployments of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and places like Mali. Scattered across the globe are 800 American military bases while Washington’s principal enemies du jour Russia and China have, respectively, only one and none.

Never before in my lifetime has the United States been so belligerent, and that in spite of the fact that there is no single enemy or combination of enemies that actually threaten either the geographical United States or a vital interest. Venezuela is being threatened with invasion primarily because it is in the western hemisphere and therefore subject to Washington’s claimed proconsular authority. Last Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence told the United Nations Security Council that the White House will remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power, preferably using diplomacy and sanctions, but “all options are on the table.” Pence warned that Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences.

The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.”

Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step. In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade.

But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people.

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

In a a press release by Gardner, who has long been pushing to have Russia listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, a February version of the bill is described as “…comprehensive legislation [that] seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the US government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”

The February version of the bill included Menendez, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as co-sponsors, suggesting that provoking war is truly bipartisan in today’s Washington.

Each Senator co-sponsor contributed a personal comment to the press release. Gardner observed that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” Menendez noted that “President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress” while Graham added that “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. He should cease and desist meddling in the US electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.” Cardin contributed “Congress continues to take the lead in defending US national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad” and Shaheen observed that “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”

The Senatorial commentary is, of course, greatly exaggerated and sometimes completely false regarding what is going on in the world, but it is revealing of how ignorant American legislators can be and often are. The Senators also ignore the fact that the designation of presumed Kremlin surrogate forces as “foreign terrorist organizations” is equivalent to a declaration of war against them by the US military, while hypocritically calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is bad enough, as it is demonstrably untrue. But the real damage comes from the existence of the bill itself. It will solidify support for hardliners on both sides, guaranteeing that there will be no rapprochement between Washington and Moscow for the foreseeable future, a development that is bad for everyone involved. Whether it can be characterized as an unintended consequence of unwise decision making or perhaps something more sinister involving a deeply corrupted congress and administration remains to be determined.

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