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Why Vladimir Putin was not behind the DNC email leak

Leaking the DNC emails is so contrary to Russian self-interest and policy that it is very unlikely the Russian authorities were behind it.

Alexander Mercouris

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In what is an obvious exercise in diversion the Hillary Clinton campaign and the US media have sought to still the embarrassment caused by the leak of the emails from the Democratic Party’s National Committee by conjuring up a fake storm around the issue of whether the Russian authorities (“Putin”) might have been behind the leak.

Donald Trump’s bizarre but possibly effective proposal that the Russians also publish the 30,000 emails Hillary Clinton deleted from her private server has taken the hysteria to an even higher level. 

Just to clarify, Trump did not call on the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s private emails.  Since the emails he was referring to have already been deleted there would be no point.  What he was doing was making a joke whilst reminding everybody that because of Hillary Clinton’s own negligence the Russians are almost certainly already in possession of these emails.

But were the Russians actually behind the leak of the DNC emails?

The short answer is that nobody outside the intelligence agencies knows.  Edward Snowden says that the NSA has the technical means to determine positively the identity of the hacker.  Stories have appeared in the US media sourced from the US intelligence agencies which suggest that the Russian intelligence agencies were the hackers. 

Certain private firms who claim expertise in this area also claim the hacker was probably located in Russia.  However all this information is hardly conclusive and does not seem to me to bear the weight some place on it. 

There is no doubt Russia’s various intelligence agencies have the skills to read both Hillary Clinton’s personal emails and those of the Democratic National Committee.  It is in fact overwhelmingly likely they have done so, just as we can be sure the NSA reads or tries to read the personal emails of Russian officials. 

After all it is know that the US has listened to the private telephone conversations of people like Angela Merkel and Kofi Annan.  It is naive to think the Russians don’t do the same, which is why it was beyond negligent – as well as horribly complacent and arrogant – for Hillary Clinton to treat her emails in such a careless way.

Was it however the Russians who passed on the DNC emails to Wikileaks, albeit it seems through an intermediary?

One of the great problems with discussions of Russian intelligence agencies is that because they are the subject of so many stories (including so much spy fiction) people assume they know more about them than they really do. 

Whilst much about how Russian intelligence agencies work is obviously obscure, it is clear from open sources that they bear little resemblance to their spy story image, and that they do not act in the way people in the West commonly suppose them to do.  There is little evidence for example that they commonly engage in “dirty tricks” or “black propaganda” or “wet jobs” or in fomenting coups or in other James Bond type work.  

Instead they seem to be overwhelmingly focused on intelligence gathering and analysis.  Moreover Russian handling of the collection and distribution of intelligence data appears to be highly structured and tightly controlled by the country’s political leadership, to a much greater extent than appears to be the case in the US. 

The chances of one of Russia’s intelligence agencies therefore doing something like the DNC leak on its own without consulting the political leadership are minimal.

Would the Russian political leadership however authorise such a leak?

From what one can tell the three key policy making officials involved in intelligence related decisions in Russia are Putin himself, Nikolay Patrushev who is the Secretary of the Security Council, Russia’s key decision making body, and Sergey Ivanov, who is Putin’s Chief of Staff.  Importantly all three of these men have backgrounds as professional intelligence officers. 

Whilst these three men are the key decision makers, it is a virtual certainty that a decision to leak intelligence material that might influence the electoral process in the US would be a decision of such importance that it would first have to be discussed by Russia’s Security Council at one of its regular meetings before it could happen. 

Would Putin and the Security Council authorise a leak of this kind?  Since doing so would be a political decision it would be political factors that would weigh most in making the decision.  I have to say that I think it extremely unlikely a decision to authorise such a leak would be made.  Doing so would be completely contrary to the well-established principles that govern Russia’s foreign policy.   Political factors also weigh heavily against doing it. 

I heard the principles set out in great detail by none other than Putin himself at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (“SPIEF”), which I attended a few weeks ago. Putin went out of his way at SPIEF to say that Russia would not interfere and was not taking sides in the US Presidential election and that this for the Russians was a matter of principle. 

When Fareed Zakaria famously misquoted a remark Putin had made about Trump to make it seem like it contradicted this, Putin not only corrected him but – as was obvious to those of us who were physically present in the hall – became very angry.  Putin tries to conceal his anger by cracking jokes, which is why when he is angry it is not so obvious on television. 

Putin then launched into a lengthy explanation of the principle, explaining how Russia – unlike the US – never interferes in the domestic political arrangements – including the elections – of other countries.  He absolutely ruled out Russia interfering in the US election, and said the same about the Brexit referendum which at that point had not yet taken place. 

He also said that if Hillary Clinton was elected President he would strive to work with her, and that he was accustomed to the fact that individuals moderated their opinions after they took office.  He also made it clear that he looked to Hillary Clinton’s husband – ex-President Bill Clinton – to act as a restraining force on her.

Over and above the things that Putin said at SPIEF, something else that was very clear to me from the things I heard at SPIEF is that the Russians expect Hillary Clinton to win the Presidential election.  In that they merely share the common view of most foreign governments.

Given all this it makes no sense for the Russians to arrange a leak which so completely contradicts the publicly declared principles of their foreign policy, and which whilst it might temporarily embarrass Hillary Clinton would be unlikely in the end to stop her.  The one thing it would however be guaranteed to do is make her very angry.  Would the Russians, already anticipating a difficult relationship with Hillary Clinton as President, do something that would make it even more difficult especially if – as Snowden says – the NSA can trace it back to them?

In order to get round these objections some people in the US are saying that Russian intelligence agencies “farm out” operations of this sort in order to preserve “plausible deniability”.  I don’t for a moment believe that.  Would intelligence agencies carrying out secret work really be willing to “farm out” a “dirty tricks” operation in that way? 

The risks of involving outsiders in an operation of that sort where the stakes are so high seem to me so enormous that I can’t imagine them doing it.  Besides they would surely know that Hillary Clinton and the NSA would be unlikely to be fooled by it.

Whilst on such a murky subject certainty is impossible, on balance I think it is very unlikely the Russian authorities were behind the leak. 

By contrast It is highly possible that a Russian private individual or group of individuals might have been behind the leak.  There is a huge pool of people in Russia who have very high mathematical and computer skills and who do not like Hillary Clinton. 

It is by no means implausible that some of them might have hacked the DNC and passed on its emails to Wikileaks.  That might explain the Russian traces that some claim to find in the hack.  However that does not mean Putin or the Russians authorities were involved and personally I doubt that they were. 

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French opposition rejects Macron’s concessions to Yellow Vests, some demand ‘citizen revolution’

Mélenchon: “I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.”

RT

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Via RT…


Macron’s concessions to the Yellow Vests has failed to appease protesters and opposition politicians, such as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who called for “citizen’s revolution” to continue until a fair distribution of wealth is achieved.

Immediately after French President Macron declared a “social and economic state of emergency” in response to large-scale protests by members of the Yellow Vest movement, promising a range of concessions to address their grievances, left-wing opposition politician Mélenchon called on the grassroots campaign to continue their revolution next Saturday.

I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.

Macron’s promise of a €100 minimum wage increase, tax-free overtime pay and end-of-year bonuses, Mélenchon argued, will not affect any “considerable part” of the French population. Yet the leader of La France Insoumise stressed that the “decision” to rise up rests with “those who are in action.”

“We expect a real redistribution of wealth,” Benoît Hamon, a former presidential candidate and the founder of the Mouvement Génération, told BFM TV, accusing Macron’s package of measures that benefit the rich.

The Socialist Party’s first secretary, Olivier Faure, also slammed Macron’s financial concessions to struggling workers, noting that his general “course has not changed.”

Although welcoming certain tax measures, Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally (previously National Front), accused the president’s “model” of governance based on “wild globalization, financialization of the economy, unfair competition,” of failing to address the social and cultural consequences of the Yellow Vest movement.

Macron’s speech was a “great comedy,”according to Debout la France chairman, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who accused the French President of “hypocrisy.”

Yet many found Melanchon’s calls to rise up against the government unreasonable, accusing the 67-year-old opposition politician of being an “opportunist” and “populist,” who is trying to hijack the social protest movement for his own gain.

Furthermore, some 54 percent of French believe the Yellow Vests achieved their goals and want rallies to stop, OpinionWay survey showed. While half of the survey respondents considered Macron’s anti-crisis measures unconvincing, another 49 percent found the president to be successful in addressing the demands of the protesters. Some 68 percent of those polled following Macron’s speech on Monday especially welcomed the increase in the minimum wage, while 78 percent favored tax cuts.

The Yellow Vest protests against pension cuts and fuel tax hikes last month were organized and kept strong via social media, without help from France’s powerful labor unions or official political parties. Some noted that such a mass mobilization of all levels of society managed to achieve unprecedented concessions from the government, which the unions failed to negotiate over the last three decades.

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Soros Mimics Hitler’s Bankers: Will Burden Europeans With Debt To ‘Save’ Them

George Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas.

The Duran

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Via GEFIRA:


After the Second World War, many economists racked their brains to answer the question of how Hitler managed to finance his armament, boost the economy and reduce unemployment.

Today his trick is well known. The economic miracle of Führer’s time became possible thanks to the so-called Mefo promissory notes.

The notes were the idea of the then President of the Reichsbank, Hjalmar Schacht, and served not only to finance the armament of the Wehrmacht for the Second World War, but also to create state jobs, which would otherwise not have been possible through the normal use of the money and capital markets, i.e. the annual increase in savings in Germany.

The Reich thus financed the armaments industry by accepting notes issued by the dummy company Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft GmbH (hence the name Mefo) rather than paying them in cash. The creation of money was in full swing from 1934 to 1938 – the total amount of notes issued at that time was 12 billion marks. The Reichsbank declared to the German banks that it was prepared to rediscount the Mefo notes, thus enabling the banks to discount them.

Because of their five-year term, the redemption of notes had to begin in 1939 at the latest. This threatened with enormous inflation. Since Schacht saw this as a threat to the Reichsmark, he expressed his doubts about the Reich Minister of Finance. But it did not help, and Schacht was quickly replaced by Economics Minister Walther Funk, who declared that the Reich would not redeem the Mefo notes, but would give Reich bonds to the Reichsbank in exchange. At the time of Funk, the autonomous Reichsbank statute was abolished, the Reichsbank was nationalized, and inflation exploded in such a way that Mefo notes with a circulation of 60 billion Reichsmark burdened the budget in post-war Germany.

George Soros also proposes such a money flurry in the style of Schacht and Funk.

Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas. He calls on the EU heads of state and governments to effectively deal with the migrant crisis through money flooding, which he calls “surge funding”.

“This would help to keep the influx of refugees at a level that Europe can absorb.”

Can absorb? Soros would be satisfied with the reception of 300,000 to 500,000 migrants per year. However, he is aware that the costs of his ethnic exchange plan are not financially feasible. In addition to the already enormous costs caused by migrants already in Europe, such a large number of new arrivals would add billions each year.

Soros calculates it at 30 billion euros a year, but argues that it would be worth it because “there is a real threat that the refugee crisis could cause the collapse of Europe’s Schengen system of open internal borders among twenty-six European states,” which would cost the EU between 47 and 100 billion euros in GDP losses.

Soros thus sees the financing of migrants and also of non-European countries that primarily receive migrants (which he also advocates) as a win-win relationship. He calls for the introduction of a new tax for the refugee crisis in the member states, including a financial transaction tax, an increase in VAT and the establishment of refugee funds. Soros knows, however, that such measures would not be accepted in the EU countries, so he proposes a different solution, which does not require a vote in the sovereign countries.

The new EU debt should be made by the EU taking advantage of its largely unused AAA credit status and issuing long-term bonds, which would boost the European economy. The funds could come from the European Stability Mechanism and the EU balance of payments support institution.

 “Both also have very similar institutional structures, and they are both backed entirely by the EU budget—and therefore do not require national guarantees or national parliamentary approval.“

In this way, the ESM and the BoPA (Balance of Payments Assistance Facility) would become the new Mefo’s that could issue bills of exchange, perhaps even cheques for Turks, Soros NGOs. Soros calculates that both institutions have a credit capacity of 60 billion, which should only increase as Portugal, Ireland and Greece repay each year the loans they received during the euro crisis. According to Soros, the old debts should be used to finance the new ones in such a way that it officially does not burden the budget in any of the EU Member States. The financial institutions that are to carry out this debt fraud must extend (indeed – cancel) their status, as the leader of the refugees expressed such a wish in his speech.

That Soros is striving to replace the indigenous European population with new arrivals from Africa and Asia is clear to anyone who observes its activities in Europe. The question is: what does he want to do this for and who is the real ruler, behind him, the real leader?

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The French People Feel Screwed

For the first time in his presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

The Duran

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Authored by David Brown via The Gatestone Institute:


On December 4, French Prime Minister Édouard Phillipe told deputies of the ruling party, “La République en Marche”, that a proposed fuel tax rise, which had led to the largest protests France has seen in decades, would be suspended.

The protesters, called Gilets-Jaunes — “Yellow Vests,” because of the vests drivers are obliged by the government to carry in their vehicles in the event of a roadside breakdown — say that the fuel tax was the last straw from a president who took office with a promise to help the economically left-behind but instead has favoured the rich.

Even by French standards, the protests of the “Yellow Vests” during the weekend of December 1 were startling. Burning cars and vast plumes of grey smoke seemed to engulf the Arc De Triomphe as if Paris were at war. Comparisons were drawn with the Bread Wars of the 17th Century and the spirit of the Revolution of the 18th Century.

For more than two weeks, the “Yellow Vests” disrupted France. They paralyzed highways and forced roads to close — causing shortages across the country – and blocked fuel stations from Lille in the North to Marseilles in the South.

During protests in France’s capital, Paris, the “Yellow Vests” were soon joined by a more violent element, who began torching cars, smashing windows and looting stores. 133 were injured, 412 were arrested and more than 10,000 tear gas and stun grenades were fired.

One elderly lady was killed when she was struck by a stray grenade as she tried to shutter her windows against the melee.

There was talk of imposing a State of Emergency.

The “Yellow Vests” present the most significant opposition French President Emmanuel Macron has faced since coming to office in May 2017. Unlike previous protests in France, which have divided public opinion, these have widespread support – 72% according to a Harris Interactive Poll published December 1st.

Fuel tax rises — announced in November before being retracted on December — were intended to help bring down France’s carbon emissions by curbing the use of cars. Macron makes no secret of his wish to be seen as a global leader for environmental reform.

He forgets that back at home, among the people who elected him, fuel prices really matter to those outside big cities, where four-fifths of commuters drive to work and a third of them cover more than 30km each week.

The increases have incensed people in smaller communities, where they have already seen speed limits reduced to please the Greens and cuts to the local transport services.

These additional costs-of-living increases come at an extremely bad time for ordinary French people working outside of Paris. Lower-middle class families are not poor enough to receive welfare benefits but have seen their income flat-line whilst cost-of-living and taxes have risen.

An analysis by the Institut des Politiques Publiques think-tank shows that benefits cuts and tax changes in 2018 and 2019 will leave pensioners and the bottom fifth of households worse off, while the abolition of the wealth tax means that by far the biggest gains will go to the top 1%

This is tough to swallow. Macron is seen as being out of touch with ordinary people and is unlikely to escape his new title, “the President of the Rich.”

“People have this feeling that the Paris technocrats are doing complicated things to screw them,” said Charles Wyplosz, an economics professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

It is probably not as complex as that. The French people feel screwed.

As employment and growth are slowing, Macron, for the first time in his presidency, is under serious pressure. Unemployment is at 9%; his efforts to reform Europe are stalling, and his approval rating has plummeted to just 23% according to a recent opinion poll by IFOP.

Images of Macron at the Arc De Triomphe daubed in graffiti calling for him to step down, or worse, have done little to bolster his image abroad.

So far, Macron had said he would not bow to street protests. To underline his point, in September 2017, he called protestors against French labour-market reform “slackers”.

The political U-Turn on the fuel tax is a turning point for the Macron presidency. The question is : What next, both for Macron and the “Yellow Vests”?

Macron most likely needs to plough ahead with his reform agenda, and doubtless knows he has the support of a solid majority in the National Assembly to do so. France is crippled by debt (nearly 100% of GDP) and its grossly bloated public sector. There are 5.2 million civil servants in France, and their number has increased by 36% since 1983. These represent 22% of the workforce compared to an OCDE average of 15%.

Tax-expert Jean-Philippe Delsol says France has 1.5 million too many “fonctionnaires [officials]. When you consider that public spending in France now accounts for 57 per cent of gross domestic product. Soon the system will no longer function as there will be less and less people working to support more and more people working less”.

Macron’s mistake, in addition to a seeming inclination for arrogance, is not to have made national economic reform his absolute priority right from his initial grace period after his election. Lower public expenses would have made it possible to lower taxes, hence creating what economists call a virtuous circle. Instead, he waited.

Now, at a time when he is deeply unpopular and social unrest is in full sway he is looking to make further reforms in unemployment benefits, scaling them back by reducing the payments and the length of time beneficiaries can receive the money. The “President of the Rich” strikes again.

There is talk that he may also re-introduce the wealth tax to try to placate the protestors.

Macron’s presidential term lasts until May 13, 2022. Understandably, Macron will be focused on the elections to the European Parliament expected to be held May 23-26, 2019. Headlines have signalled that Marine Le Pen and the National Rally (formally National Front) are ahead in the polls at 20%, compared to Macron’s En Marche at 19%.

The shift is understandable, given the divide between the countryside, where Le Pen has solid support, and the cities, where Macron’s centre-left prevail.

In contrast, the “Yellow Vests” have galvanised support after standing up for the “impotent ordinary”, and seem much buoyed by the solidarity they have been shown by both fire fighters and the police. There are images online of police removing their helmets and firefighters turning their backs on political authority to show their support for the protestors.

Whilst Macron’s political opposition may be fragmented, this new breed of coherent public opposition is something new. Leaderless, unstructured and organised online, the “Yellow Vests” have gained support from the left and right, yet resisted subjugation by either.

Being leaderless makes them difficult to negotiate withor to reason with in private. The “Yellow Vests” seem acutely aware of this strength, given their firm rebuttal of overtures for peace talks from the Macron government.

Enjoying huge support from the public and with reforms to the social welfare system on the horizon, the “Yellow Vests” are not going away.

For the first time in his Presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

After Macron rebuked nationalism during his speech at the armistice ceremony, Trump was quick to remind the French President of his low approval rating and unemployment rate near 10%. A stinging broadside from Trump on twitter suggests that Macron may well be relegated to Trump’s list of global “Losers“:

“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”

The “impotent ordinary” in the United Kingdom, who might feel betrayed over Brexit, and the nationalists in Germany, who have suffered under Merkel , are no doubt staring in wonder at the “Yellow Vests”, wishing for the same moxie.

The historian Thomas Carlyle, chronicler of the French Revolution, said the French were unrivaled practitioners in the “art of insurrection”, and characterised the French mob as the “liveliest phenomena of our world”.

Mobs in other countries, by comparison, he argued were “dull masses” lacking audacity and inventiveness. The blazing yellow vests of the French protest movement , however, have made Macron appear increasingly dull and weak too.

David Brown is based in the United Kingdom.

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