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Varoufakis meets Obama. Creditors press Greece to submit to more austerity. Greece remains defiant

Greece, once again, said it would not “renege on election pledges to end austerity measures as creditors pressed for a compromise.” The EU was not happy and immediately began to threaten Greece, once again, of a swift exit from the EZ.

Alex Christoforou

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Post originally appeared on Zerohedge.

Hopes ran high among Europe’s unelected bureaucratic oligarchy and the Troika of official creditors that the Greek government, after the ECB openly dropped hints of a Greek IOU currency in the immediate future, would finally relent over the weekend and admit that all of its promises to its voters were a lie and that the Tsipras government would finally pick up where the Samaras government left (and was booted) off. There was even a perfect venue: Washington D.C., where Varoufakis and Obama met for the first time just hours before.

The hopes were promptly dashed after Greece, once again, said it would not “renege on election pledges to end austerity measures as creditors pressed for a compromise.”

The full court assault against Greece from all sides came fast and furious.

As Bloomberg notes, both president Obama and ECB president Mario Draghi called on the Greek government to do more to resolve the standoff amid depleting cash reserves.

And for the first time, a voice formerly quite sympathetic to the Greek cause, that of France, expressed increasing frustration with the pace of negotiations and openly chided Greece.

This happened when French Finance Minister Michel Sapin spoke after the IMF meeting in Brussels yesterday saying he “doesn’t expect a resolution of Greece’s financing issues to be achieved in coming days, including at a meeting of European finance ministers in Riga April 24 and 25.”

“We’re in the same situation at the end of these meetings as at the beginning. That’s in part because Greece wasn’t on the menu,” Sapin said. “A lot of time has been lost and it won’t be recovered” he added.

Ironically, the French government is now openly criticizing the Greeks, saying the “need to work work work and work seriously” on their economic plans “out of respect for the Greek people.” Ironic,because it is “out of respect” for the people’s choice to end the Troika’s meddling in Greece that Europe is in the current dead-end.

Let’s not forget that this is the same French government that itself missed its budget deficit target two months ago and avoided a EU deficit penalty just because in Europe some are more equal than others.

The irony continued: “Greece needs to respect the rules that apply to all countries in the euro”…. except France? “Greece hasn’t only signed memorandums, but has signed treaties.” 

The criticisms escalated into threats when ECB Governing Council member Vitas Vasiliauskas said that “the situation in Greece means that we should have a limit until summer” for providing Emergency Liquidity Assistance for Greece. He added that “everyone understands what ELA means, it’s a temporary measure to give the banks liquidity. We will have to have discussions about the issue liquidity provision versus monetary financing. We will certainly have these discussions before summer.”

Once again a case of some being more equal than others, because all the ECB’s QE really is, is monetary financing of insolvent peripheral nations courtesy of an ECB backstop which makes rates so low Spain and Italy can both go on a borrowing spree, and even issue 100 year paper, and everyone will line up simply because the ECB has blessed said paper. For now.

However, when it comes to Greece and suddenly the ECB is very concerned about “monetary financing.”

Finally, the big guns came out when Mario Draghi himself said the euro area was better equipped than it had been in the past to deal with a new Greek crisis but warned of “uncharted waters” if the situation were to deteriorate badly. As the FT reported, Draghi “called for the resumption of detailed discussions aimed at resolving the country’s debt woes and urged the Greek authorities to bring forward proposals that ensured fairness, growth, fiscal stability, financial stability.

Said otherwise, to do precisely as the Troika demands.

Greek officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis, stood their ground.

“We want a viable solution within the euro,” Dragasakis said in an interview published Sunday in Athens-based To Vima newspaper. Still, “we don’t budge from our red lines.”

The Greek “red lines” are refusing to cut wages and pensions, introduce new taxes or sell state assets, Alternate Health and Social Security Minister Dimitris Stratoulis said in an interview Saturday with Athens-based Skai TV. “The Syriza-led government will carry out the reforms the Greek people need, not ones requested by our creditors,” he said. The country won’t be pressured “by euro-exit threats,” he added.

And then Greece brought out the tactical weapons: “Snap elections or a referendum are possible options should negotiations with creditors stall, Dragasakis said.

Which goes to the heart of the problem, because while the Greek population wants an end to austerity (hence the election of Syriza), it also wants to remain in the Eurozone and keep the Euro. As such a referendum and snap elections would finally push the decision away from the government and give it to the general population, something the eurocrats, who pride themselves in their “technocracy” are terrified of, and would never forgive.

Meanwhile, Greece may have no money left but it still has pride: “Greece won’t agree to any privatization, Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said in an interview published Sunday in Athens-based Real News newspaper. While “so-called” partners, including unidentified International Monetary Fund officials, want to “blackmail” the Greek government into adopting measures that would hurt the working class, “we won’t betray the people’s mandate,” he said.

While on the surface Greek defiance is inexplicable having run out of all negotiating chips, the news yesterday that none other than Vladimir Putin may be coming to the Greek rescue with a €5 billion advance gas pipeline payment may have given the Greeks a sense of leverage.

That, however, was promptly dashed subsequently when Russia denied the Spiegel report. Reuters cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who in comments made to Business FM radio and quoted by RIA news agency, said “No, there wasn’t (any agreement).”

Peskov reiterated that the Greeks had not requested financial assistance during talks in the Kremlin earlier this month between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Naturally the question of energy cooperation was raised. Naturally … it was agreed that at the expert level there would be a working-out of all issues connected with cooperation in the energy sphere, but Russia did not promise financial help because no one asked for it,” Peskov was quoted as saying.

Of course, this is merely diplomatic double talk, and all it suggests is that Russia is awaiting the official admission from Greece that it will pivot to Russia. For that to happen, Greece will have to formally state that in addition to creditor negotiations it is now openly looking to Moscow (and Beijing) for additional aid. The problem is that such a statement would promptly end any hopes of a Greek deal with its Troika creditors.

As such Greece is simply trying to delay making the choice of picking its future path, be it west or east, until the very last moment. However, since Greek liquidity is now non-existent and the government has almost run out of public funds to pillage, Tsipras will have no choice but to make that choice in the coming days.

References:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-04-19/despite-urges-and-threats-greece-remains-defiant-wont-budge-red-lines-even-russia-de

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White House planning to proceed with State of the Union

The White House is still planning to move ahead with next week’s scheduled State of the Union address, but the details remain up in the air.

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According to multiple sources, it remains unclear whether the address scheduled for Jan. 29 will in fact go forward, or what venue it would be in. The White House is even planning for the possibility of a speech outside of Washington.

“We are still in a holding pattern,” one senior source said.

But Fox News has learned that the White House sent a letter to the House Sergeant at Arms asking to schedule a walk-through for next week’s planned address. This comes after a previously scheduled walk-through last week was canceled at Pelosi’s request.

At the moment, President Trump intends to be at the Capitol next Tuesday to deliver his speech as scheduled, sources said. White House officials told Fox News they essentially are preparing for two tracks for next week’s speech. The preferred track is an address, as per custom, at the Capitol. The second track is a backup plan for a speech outside of Washington, D.C.

Ultimately, whether the speech is given on the House floor is up to Pelosi. In an appearance on Fox News on Tuesday, White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley suggested the president could move the location of the speech should Pelosi block it in the House.

“There are many ways he can deliver the State of the Union address,” Gidley said on “America’s Newsroom.” “I’m not going to get ahead of anything he would announce.”

Gidley accused Pelosi of “trying to play politics with that venue.” He also dinged the speaker for suggesting it may be difficult to provide security for the event because of the partial government shutdown.

“If the Secret Service can protect the president of the United States on a trip to Iraq, chances are they can protect the American president in the halls of Congress,” Gidley said.

A spokesman for Pelosi did not immediately return a request for comment. Neither did the House Sergeant at Arms office.

On Capitol Hill, there is immense uncertainty about what will happen. The offices of other congressional leaders referred questions about the speech to Pelosi.

“We are standing by to stand by,” one senior congressional official told Fox News when asked if the State of the Union speech would still unfold.

For that to happen in the House, both chambers of Congress must approve a resolution to use the House chamber and to have both bodies meet in a Joint Session of Congress. This has not happened yet.

Should the Senate move to host the president instead, a resolution would still be needed.

The White House and Pelosi have time to figure things out. Fox News is told Congress can actually put together the event rather quickly, though they would prefer to have at least 72 hours advance notice.

Last week, Pelosi urged Trump to delay his State of the Union address until the partial government shutdown ends, or submit the address in writing.

“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless the government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to Congress on January 29,” Pelosi wrote.

A senior Homeland Security official later told Fox News, however, that they have been preparing for months for the State of the Union event.

“We are ready,” the official said. “Despite the fact members of the Secret Service are not being paid, the protective mission has not changed.”

The official added: “It is a ‘no fail’ mission.”

On Tuesday, an official confirmed to Fox News that DHS and the Secret Service are continuing their plans for a State of the Union on Jan 29.

After Pelosi called for a delay in the speech, Trump abruptly denied military aircraft to her and other Democrats for a foreign trip just minutes before the congressional delegation was set to depart.

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Sweden: New Government, Old Policies

Swedish political leaders are opposed to the policies of the Sweden Democrats concerning immigration.

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Authored by Judith Bergman via The Gatestone Institute:


  • Keeping the Sweden Democrats away from any kind of political influence seemingly became the main reason the government crisis lasted so long. Swedish political leaders are especially opposed to the policies of the Sweden Democrats concerning immigration.
  • “Sweden needs to build a migration policy from scratch, with fixed rules, and respect for the country’s borders, citizens and laws… Fire brigades and ambulances cannot move into immigrant-dominated areas without armed escort. Those who live and work in our suburbs get their stores robbed, broken or taken over by criminals. The few perpetrators who are actually sentenced for serious crimes escape with mild punishment, while their victims do not receive support or redress. As a result of the uncontrolled immigration, terrorists… walk freely on the streets and squares and utilize our welfare and asylum systems.” — Sweden Democrats.
  • There is not a word in the new agreement about terrorism and internal security, even though the Swedish Security Service (Säpo), in a January 15 press release, stated, “The level of the terror threat remains elevated, a three on a five-point scale. This means that a terrorist act is likely to occur”.

On January 18, more than four months after Sweden’s September elections, Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven became prime minister for a second term, when he won the backing of the Swedish parliament: 115 parliamentarians from his own party and its coalition partner (the environmentalist Green Party) voted for his proposed government coalition, while 77 parliamentarians abstained and 153 voted against. There are 349 seats in the parliament.

Under Swedish parliamentary rules, a prospective prime minister can form a government even if he has not secured a majority of votes, as long as there is not a majority against him in parliament. Löfven was far from winning a majority of votes, prompting the question whether, despite becoming prime minister for a second term, he actually won the election.

The question is actually debatable: Löfven’s Social Democratic party experienced its worst election result ever, gaining only 28.3 % of the vote. It is the first time the party has ever received less than 30% of the vote; its government coalition partner, the Green Party, barely made it above the electoral threshhold, with only 4.4 % of the vote. (The electoral threshhold is 4%).

The prolonged coalition wrangling began after the results of the September 9 elections made it clear that Sweden’s traditional center-left and center-right blocs had each gained around 40% of the vote, yet were unable to find ways to build a government coalition without either involving the opposing bloc or the Sweden Democrats (SD). Keeping the Sweden Democrats away from any kind of political influence, seemingly became the main reason the government crisis lasted so long. Throughout the government’s negotiations, the Sweden Democrats, with 17.5 % of the vote, and now the third-largest party in parliament, representing the more than one million people who voted for them (out of 6.5 million votes in total) remained an isolated outsider, shunned by all political leaders.

“It is … about decency, a decent democracy. A government led by the Social Democrats guarantees that the Sweden Democrats — an extremist and racist party — do not get influence”, Löfven said on September 9, as he was casting his vote.

“My values are not SD’s”, said the leader of the center-right bloc, Ulf Kristersson, a year ago, about whether he would be willing to talk to the Sweden Democrats. “I will not cooperate, converse, collaborate, [or] co-ordinate with SD”. He repeatedthe same message in November, two months after the September 9 elections: “I do not speak to, or negotiate with, the Sweden Democrats”, he told Swedish television. “That is not because I do not respect their voters but I want to talk to those with whom I would like to cooperate.”

Swedish political leaders are especially opposed to the policies of the Sweden Democrats concerning immigration. According to the Sweden Democrats election platform:

“For decades Sweden’s migration policy has been handled in an irresponsible and ignorant way, with serious consequences for Swedish society A very high number of asylum seekers and their relatives has divided society, cultivated exclusion and eroded welfare state. At the same time, safety has been compromised… Today tens of thousands of people are staying illegally within the country’s borders and Sweden is internationally known for unrest and citizens who are active in terrorist networks… Sweden needs to build a migration policy from scratch, with fixed rules, and respect for the country’s borders, citizens and laws”.

As part of such a policy, the Sweden Democrats say they want “to stop receiving asylum seekers in Sweden”, as well as “sharpen the requirements to become Swedish citizens” and “enable revocation of citizenship that has been granted in error”. They also say they want to give the police “tools and resources to search for people who are staying in the country illegally… and allow for longer stays in detention if expulsion cannot be enforced immediately”. In addition, they say they would “Strive for agreements with other countries to be able to expel more people…”

The Sweden Democrats also note that they want a tougher approach to law and order:

“Current and former governments have seriously harmed confidence in the judicial system. Police quit [their jobs] as a result of poor working conditions and growing threats. Fire brigades and ambulances cannot move into immigrant-dominated areas without armed escort. Those who live and work in our suburbs get their stores robbed, broken or taken over by criminals. The few perpetrators who are actually sentenced for serious crimes escape with mild punishment, while their victims do not receive support or redress. As a result of the uncontrolled immigration, terrorists… walk freely on the streets and squares and utilize our welfare and asylum systems. Jews flee Swedish cities while anti-Semitism grows stronger. The social contract is about to be broken on the part of public Sweden”.

To counter this, the Sweden Democrats want to introduce, among other things, “wide-ranging penalties and, in particular, raise the minimum penalty for repeated and serious crimes”. They also want to introduce “compulsory expulsion of grossly criminal foreigners and the possibility to recall citizenship in case of terrorist offenses”. The Sweden Democrats would also like Sweden to leave the EU, and to have a referendum on the issue, something to which almost all the other political parties are strongly opposed.

None of the other parties wants even to consider a dialogue about these issues with the Sweden Democrats. Prime Minister Löfven, in fact, on January 18, spokeas if Sweden’s political leaders, in keeping the Sweden Democrats politically isolated, had just pulled back from the edge of an abyss, the extreme irony of his words clearly lost on himself:

“More and more governments around the world are becoming dependent on parties with an anti-democratic agenda. In the 2018 election, Sweden stood before a similar threat: getting a small right-wing government in the hands of the Swedish Democrats. But in Sweden we stand up for democracy and the equality of people. Sweden chooses a different path and it is historic.

“It has not been easy, but Sweden’s centrist parties have gathered and done what is required. Through the January agreement, Sweden gets a new government based on collaboration in the center of Swedish politics. Sweden gets a powerful government that is not dependent on the Sweden Democrats… The biggest winner is Sweden”.

The January agreement to which Löfven is referring formed the basis of a new political alliance between Löfven’s party and his environmental coalition partner on one hand, and two small parties from the center-right bloc, which decided to break with traditional bloc politics and support the Social Democratic government. It will also form the basis for the new government’s policies. Annie Lööf, the leader of the Center Party (one of the two breakout center-right parties), explained why she had chosen to support Löfven’s government, which, during the elections, she had campaigned to replace:

“The 2018 election was a choice of values. The Center Party chose to stand up for humanity, equality and tolerance. We fought against xenophobia… With this agreement we stand up for our values, while at the same time putting a government in place. It is a solution where neither the Sweden Democrats nor the [far-left] Left Party is given influence over politics.”

Swedish voters appear unimpressed with the way the collective of Swedish political leaders have handled this period of coalition squabbling. A January opinion poll revealed that if elections were to take place now, the Sweden Democrats would go from 17.5% to 19.9% of the vote, becoming the second-largest party in Sweden. The Green Party, the Social Democratic Party’s government coalition partner, would not even make the electoral threshold; neither would one of the two breakout center-right parties that supported Löfven’s government. The other center-right party would lose 30% of its voters.

A different January poll showed that 70% of the Swedes have lost confidence in politicians. “The low level of confidence is startling but not completely unexpected”, said Torbjörn Sjöström, from Novus, the company behind the poll.

“There has been a crisis of confidence for quite some time. The high voter mobility that we have had during the last mandate periods and that SD [Sweden Democrats] has increased so strongly is a sign of a reduced confidence in the political system.

“During the four months that have passed, politics has shown that power seems to be most important, and that political solutions are subordinate. [Politicians] talked about a fateful election but then the country managed and kept on managing for four months without a government, so [politicians] have also shown that politics is not as important as they claimed”.

The loss of confidence in politicians was particularly high — 93% — among people who had voted for the Sweden Democrats. “They think they have seen evidence that democracy does not work. They are the third-largest party, but have been completely outmaneuvered,” said Sjöström, referring to the fact that every single political leader in Swedish politics refused even to talk to the Sweden Democrats.

So, what does the new government promise to do on the most pressing issues, such as immigration and law and order? According to the January agreementbetween the Social Democratic government and its center-right supporters:

“Sweden is a fantastic country but we are facing great challenges together: climate change, lack of integration, segregation and dependency, globalization, which continues to test our competitiveness… increased polarization and racism, gang crime… housing shortages … The proposals in this agreement can vigorously meet these challenges by untying old knots and bringing about systemic changes… Our parties have different ideological starting points but are united in the defense of the liberal foundations of democracy; a strong rule of law, an unwavering protection of the individual’s freedom and rights, resistance to xenophobia, independent free media, equality and equal conditions regardless of background”.

The agreement mentions the issue of migration on page 15 of its 16 pages. It does not, however, mention any of the problematic issues that migration has brought upon Sweden — although it does talk about ideas to get more immigrants into the job market and learning Swedish, as well as proposals to deal with honor killings. Ironically, it actually creates a basis for even more immigration. According to the agreement, Sweden will reintroduce the right to family reunion for those people granted asylum in Sweden who do not have refugee status. This means that they will be able to bring their spouses and children to Sweden, while unaccompanied children will be able to bring their parents. This repatriation is estimated to bring at least 8,000 more people to Sweden in the coming three years. According to Henrik Emilsson, Ph.D of international migration at Malmö University, the change will affect asylum immigration:

“Family reunification is something that is very important for people seeking asylum. The information about which countries have which rules spreads quickly and affects where people apply”.

The issues of “safety, security and democracy” are mentioned only on the last page of the agreement, perhaps indicative of the assigned priority. (By comparison, there are two pages about climate change and the environment).

Here is what the new government plans, but without a word as to how it intends to do it:

“Security throughout Sweden will increase… We take action against organized crime, strengthen the police and combat both crimes and causes of crimes. Democracy must be safeguarded, both here and in the world. The work against violent extremism, anti-gypsyism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and any other forms of racism must be strengthened”.

The agreement also promises “ten thousand more police officers” and pledges, “Sweden’s [foreign] aid will be raised to 1% of the gross national income”.

There is not a word in the agreement about the threat from Islamic terrorism, even though the Swedish Security Service’s (Säpo) January 15 press release stated, “Violence-promoting Islamist extremism currently constitutes the biggest threat to Sweden” and, “The level of the terror threat remains elevated, a three on a five-point scale. This means that a terrorist act is likely to occur”.

Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

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Fake news media FREAK OUT over Trump and NATO (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 172.

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the media meltdown over remarks that U.S. President Trump may have made with regard to NATO, and how neo-liberal war hawks championing the alliance as some sort of foreign policy projection of peace and democracy, are really just supporting aggression, war, and the eventual weakening of the United States.

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Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO, Authored by David Swanson:


The New York Times loves NATO, but should you?

Judging by comments in social media and the real world, millions of people in the United States have gone from having little or no opinion on NATO, or from opposing NATO as the world’s biggest military force responsible for disastrous wars in places like Afghanistan (for Democrats) or Libya (for Republicans), to believing NATO to be a tremendous force for good in the world.

I believe this notion to be propped up by a series of misconceptions that stand in dire need of correction.

1. NATO is not a war-legalizing body, quite the opposite. NATO, like the United Nations, is an international institution that has something or other to do with war, but transferring the UN’s claimed authority to legalize a war to NATO has no support whatsoever in reality. The crime of attacking another nation maintains an absolutely unaltered legal status whether or not NATO is involved. Yet NATO is used within the U.S. and by other NATO members as cover to wage wars under the pretense that they are somehow more legal or acceptable. This misconception is not the only way in which NATO works against the rule of law. Placing a primarily-U.S. war under the banner of NATO also helps to prevent Congressional oversight of that war. Placing nuclear weapons in “non-nuclear” nations, in violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty, is also excused with the claim that the nations are NATO members (so what?). And NATO, of course, assigns nations the responsibility to go to war if other nations go to war — a responsibility that requires them to be prepared for war, with all the damage such preparation does.

2. NATO is not a defensive institution. According to the New York Times, NATO has “deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” This is an article of faith, based on the unsubstantiated belief that Soviet and Russian aggression toward NATO members has existed for 70 years and that NATO has deterred it rather than provoked it. In violation of a promise made, NATO has expanded eastward, right up to the border of Russia, and installed missiles there. Russia has not done the reverse. The Soviet Union has, of course, ended. NATO has waged aggressive wars far from the North Atlantic, bombing Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya. NATO has added a partnership with Colombia, abandoning all pretense of its purpose being in the North Atlantic. No NATO member has been attacked or credibly threatened with attack, apart from small-scale non-state blowback from NATO’s wars of aggression.

3. Trump is not trying to destroy NATO. Donald Trump, as a candidate and as U.S. President, has wondered aloud and even promised all kinds of things and, in many cases, the exact opposite as well. When it comes to actions, Trump has not taken any actions to limit or end or withdraw from NATO. He has demanded that NATO members buy more weapons, which is of course a horrible idea. Even in the realm of rhetoric, when European officials have discussed creating a European military, independent of the United States, Trump has replied by demanding that they instead support NATO.

4. If Trump were trying to destroy NATO, that would tell us nothing about NATO. Trump has claimed to want to destroy lots of things, good and bad. Should I support NAFTA or corporate media or the Cold War or the F35 or anything at all, simply because some negative comment about it escapes Trump’s mouth? Should I cheer for every abuse ever committed by the CIA or the FBI because they investigate Trump? Should I long for hostility between nuclear-armed governments because Democrats claim Trump is a Russian agent? When Trump defies Russia to expand NATO, or to withdraw from a disarmament treaty or from an agreement with Iran, or to ship weapons to Ukraine, or to try to block Russian energy deals in Europe, or to oppose Russian initiatives on banning cyber-war or weapons in space, should I cheer for such consistent defiance of Trump’s Russian master, and do so simply because Russia is, so implausibly, his so-inept master? Or should I form my own opinion of things, including of NATO?

5. Trump is not working for, and was not elected by, Russia.According to the New York Times, “Russia’s meddling in American elections and its efforts to prevent former satellite states from joining the alliance have aimed to weaken what it views as an enemy next door, the American officials said.” But are anonymous “American officials” really needed to acquire Russia’s openly expressed opinion that NATO is a threatening military alliance that has moved weapons and troops to states on Russia’s border? And has anyone produced the slightest documentation of the Russian government’s aims in an activity it has never admitted to, namely “meddling in American elections,” — an activity the United States has of course openly admitted to in regard to Russian elections? We have yet to see any evidence that Russia stole or otherwise acquired any of the Democratic Party emails that documented that party’s rigging of its primary elections in favor of Clinton over Sanders, or even any claim that the tiny amount of weird Facebook ads purchased by Russians could possibly have influenced the outcome of anything. Supposedly Trump is even serving Russia by demanding that Turkey not attack Kurds. But is using non-military means to discourage Turkish war-making necessarily the worst thing? Would it be if your favorite party or politician did it? If Trump encouraged a Turkish war, would that also be a bad thing because Trump did it, or would it be a bad thing for substantive reasons?

6. If Trump were elected by and working for Russia, that would tell us nothing about NATO. Imagine if Boris Yeltsin were indebted to the United States and ended the Soviet Union. Would that tell us whether ending the Soviet Union was a good thing, or whether the Soviet Union was obsolete for serious reasons? If Trump were a Russian pawn and began reversing all of his policies on Russia to match that status, including restoring his support for the INF Treaty and engaging in major disarmament negotiations, and we ended up with a world of dramatically reduced military spending and nuclear armaments, with the possibility of all dying in a nuclear apocalypse significantly lowered, would that too simply be a bad thing because Trump?

7. Russia is not a military threat to the world. That Russia would cheer NATO’s demise tells us nothing about whether we should cheer too. Numerous individuals and entities who indisputably helped to put Trump in the White House would dramatically oppose and others support NATO’s demise. We can’t go by their opinions either, since they don’t all agree. We really are obliged to think for ourselves. Russia is a heavily armed militarized nation that commits the crime of war not infrequently. Russia is a top weapons supplier to the world. All of that should be denounced for what it is, not because of who Russia is or who Trump is. But Russia spends a tiny fraction of what the United States does on militarism. Russia has been reducing its military spending each year, while the United States has been increasing its military spending. U.S. annual increases have sometimes exceeded Russia’s entire military budget. The United States has bombed nine nations in the past year, Russia one. The United States has troops in 175 nations, Russia in 3. Gallup and Pew find populations around the world viewing the United States, not Russia, as the top threat to peace in the world. Russia has asked to join NATO and the EU and been rejected, NATO members placing more value on Russia as an enemy. Anonymous U.S. military officials describe the current cold war as driven by weapons profits. Those profits are massive, and NATO now accounts for about three-quarters of military spending and weapons dealing on the globe.

8. Crimea has not been seized. According to the New York Times, “American national security officials believe that Russia has largely focused on undermining solidarity between the United States and Europe after it annexed Crimea in 2014. Its goal was to upend NATO, which Moscow views as a threat.” Again we have an anonymous claim as to a goal of a government in committing an action that never occurred. We can be fairly certain such things are simply made up. The vote by the people of Crimea to re-join Russia is commonly called the Seizure of Crimea. This infamous seizure is hard to grasp. It involved a grand total of zero casualties. The vote itself has never been re-done. In fact, to my knowledge, not a single believer in the Seizure of Crimea has ever advocated for re-doing the vote. Coincidentally, polling has repeatedly found the people of Crimea to be happy with their vote. I’ve not seen any written or oral statement from Russia threatening war or violence in Crimea. If the threat was implicit, there remains the problem of being unable to find Crimeans who say they felt threatened. (Although I have seen reports of discrimination against Tartars during the past 4 years.) If the vote was influenced by the implicit threat, there remains the problem that polls consistently get the same result. Of course, a U.S.-backed coup had just occurred in Kiev, meaning that Crimea — just like a Honduran immigrant — was voting to secede from a coup government, by no means an action consistently frowned upon by the United States.

9. NATO is not an engaged alternative to isolationism. The notion that supporting NATO is a way to cooperate with the world ignores superior non-deadly ways to cooperate with the world. A nonviolent, cooperative, treaty-joining, law-enforcing alternative to the imperialism-or-isolationism trap is no more difficult to think of or to act on than treating drug addiction or crime or poverty as reason to help people rather than to punish them. The opposite of bombing people is not ignoring them. The opposite of bombing people is embracing them. By the standards of the U.S. communications corporations Switzerland must be the most isolationist land because it doesn’t join in bombing anyone. The fact that it supports the rule of law and global cooperation, and hosts gatherings of nations seeking to work together is simply not relevant.

10. April 4 belongs to Martin Luther King, Jr., not militarism. War is a leading contributor to the growing global refugee and climate crises, the basis for the militarization of the police, a top cause of the erosion of civil liberties, and a catalyst for racism and bigotry. A growing coalition is calling for the abolition of NATO, the promotion of peace, the redirection of resources to human and environmental needs, and the demilitarization of our cultures. Instead of celebrating NATO’s 70thanniversary, we’re celebrating peace on April 4, in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech against war on April 4, 1967, as well as his assassination on April 4, 1968.

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