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EXCLUSIVE: Vladimir Putin’s FULL interview in English with France’s Le Figaro (VIDEO)

RussiaFeed has exclusively translated into English Vladimir Putin’s interview, which was obtained directly from the Kremlin’s official website.

Vladimir Rodzianko

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From RussiaFeed

The Duran’s Adam Garrie analyzed how Vladimir Putin criticized US domestic politics in a recent interview with France’s Le Figaro. Putin blasted what so many have been referring to as ‘the deep state’ for interfering in how not only how Donald Trump has conducted his business, but also how much control ‘they’ had over Barack Obama.

Putin spoke about Ukraine and touched on Syria – reaffirming Assad was not responsible for any chemical attacks, and that it was a pretext for military escalation in Syria in order to overthrow him.

Below is the full transcript translated into English from Putin’s interview by RussiaFeed. Read for yourselves – do you agree with the Russian President?

Question: Good afternoon! Thank you very much for agreeing to answer our questions for Le Figaro. I also thank you for accepting us here at the Cultural Center of Russia here in Paris. Once again, many thanks for agreeing to give us this interview.

You came here to open an exhibition that is devoted to the 300th year anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and France. Franco-Russian relations have had ups and downs. How do you assess this relationship today?

Vladimir Putin: Indeed, President Macron invited me to participate in the opening of this exhibition. But I must say that the relations between Russia and France have been developing much longer and have much deeper roots, we have already mentioned this several times with President Macron.

In the 11th century, Anna, the youngest daughter of one of our great princes Yaroslav the Wise, came here to France, and became the wife of the French King Henry I. Her name was Anna Russkaya, the queen of France. Her son Philip I became the founder of two European dynasties: Valois and Bourbon, the latter still rule in Spain.

So, we have much deeper roots as you can see, although for the last 300 years, relations have developed more intensively, it is true. I very much hope that today’s event, the opening of the exhibition, and our talks with President Macron will help give these relations new life.

Question: Mr. President, what kind of figure is Peter the Great to you, who arrived in Versailles in 1717 to commemorate diplomatic relations?

Putin: I already spoke today to my French colleagues, our French friends – Peter I is, first and foremost, a reformer, he is the person who not only introduced the best advancements, but of course, he was a patriot of his country, he fought for Russia’s worthy place in world affairs, but mainly, he transformed his country, making it more modern, mobile, and forward thinking. He did a lot, if not to say everything.

He was engaged in science, education, culture, engaged in military affairs and state construction. He left a colossal legacy after he died, to which Russia has enjoyed practically still today. I’m not talking about the fact that he founded my hometown of St. Petersburg, which for a long time was the capital of the Russian state.

Question: You said you had a meeting with Macron already. Were there any expectations from the first meeting? You said that you need to overcome the stage of distrust. Did you manage to overcome it?

As for the main issue, the issue of sanctions, can you say that you have reached some sort of understanding?

Putin: At any kind of meeting, with any contacts, at any event of this level, especially if this is the first meeting, the first contact, there are always expectations. If these expectations are missing, then it is pointless to hold this type of meeting in the first place.

Of course, there were expectations this time. They were related to issues close to me, to learn first hand the position of the incoming President of the French Republic on key issues regarding his international agenda, and the development of bilateral relations.

Of course, the newly elected President of France, who has just taken office, has his own view on things, on bilateral relations, and on international politics.

In general, this is a very pragmatic view, as it seems to me. We have precisely the points for connecting our positions, to work jointly on key areas.

Question: The implementation of the Minsk Agreements in Ukraine, as it seems to us, is in a deadlock today. Have you managed to achieve progress with President Macron towards the resolution of this conflict?

Putin: Progress on resolving any conflicts, including the conflict in southeast Ukraine, can primarily be achieved only by the conflicting parties.

The conflict in southeast Ukraine is an internal conflict, a Ukrainian conflict first of all. It occurred after an unconstitutional, power-seizing coup in Kiev in 2014. This is the source of all the problems.

The most important thing to do is to find the strength to negotiate with all the conflicting parties, and, above all, I am convinced of this, the ball, as they say, is on the side of the Kiev authorities, they must, first and foremost, implement and fulfill these Minsk Agreements.

Question: What needs to happen in order to move towards a positive outcome? Can Russia take the initiative to finally secure a truce?

Putin: We always come up with this initiative. We believe the main thing that needs to be done is to divert the armed forces from the line of contact. This is where you need to start. Two points need to be taken, otherwise the third point will not succeed at all.

And today’s Ukrainian authorities constantly refer to the fact that the other side is shooting. But if troops and heavy equipment are not diverted, of course they will shoot. We must take away heavy equipment. This is first and foremost.

Secondly, what needs to be done in the political sphere, in the end, is the necessity to introduce the law adopted by the Ukrainian parliament on the special status of these territories [Donbass]. After all, the law was passed, but it has not yet come into effect.

The law on amnesty was adopted, but the President did not sign it. The Minsk Agreements state that it is necessary to conduct social and economic rehabilitation of these territories of these unrecognized republics. Instead of doing this, on the contrary, they introduce a blockade, that is the problem.

And they imposed a blockade on the indigenous living there, blocking the railway tracks. The President of Ukraine first said that he condemned it and that he will straighten things out, tried to do it, but he did not succeed.

Instead of continuing those efforts, he officially supported the blockade, issuing a decree on the blockade. How can we speak about positive developments for the situation in such conditions? Unfortunately, we do not see this yet.

Question: Let’s slightly forget about the Eastern Europe, to talk about the Middle East, and first of all about Syria. After your military intervention in September 2015, to date, in your opinion, what basic solutions exist for this country after so many years of war?

Putin: First of all, I would like to note the constructive approach by Turkey and Iran, which together with us [Russia] achieved a ceasefire, and, of course, along with the Syrian government. This could not be done, of course, without the so-called Syrian armed opposition. This was the first very important, serious step on the road to peace.

And the second, no less important step, is the agreement on the creation of so-called de-escalation zones. Now, we are talking about four zones. It seems to us that this extremely important for road to peace, if I may say so, because it is impossible to talk about the political process without stopping the bloodshed.

Now, in my opinion, we all have another task: technically and, if you will, even technologically, to complete the process of creating these zones of de-escalation, you need to agree on the boundaries of these zones, how the institutions of power will operate there, and how communication will be organized there. These zones of de-escalation will need to communicate with the outside world.

By the way, President Macron spoke about this part of it today, when he talked about humanitarian convoys. In general, I think the President of France is correct, and here is also one of the points of contact, here we can work together with our French colleagues.

After this takes place, the formalization of de-escalation zones, I very much hope that at least some elements of interaction between the government and those people who will control the situation in these zones of de-escalation will begin.

I really wouldn’t like – it is very important that I now say – that these zones were some kind of prototype for future territorial division of Syria. On the contrary, I count on the fact that these zones of de-escalation, if peace is established there, the people here and control the situation will be communicating with the official Syrian authorities.

And so it can happen, there should be a situation of at least some elementary interaction and cooperation. And the next step is a purely political process of political reconciliation, and if possible, to elaborate on constitutional rules, the constitution and to conduct of elections.

Question: Indeed, there are differences on the Syrian issue between Russia and other parties, especially the fate of Bashar Assad, whom Western countries have accused of using chemical weapons against their own population. Mr. President, do you see a political future for Syria without Bashar Assad?

Putin: In general, I do not consider myself entitled to determine the political future of Syria with or without Assad, this is a matter solely for the Syrian people. No one has the right to assign himself any prerogatives that belong exclusively to the people of a particular country. This is the first thing I would like to mention.

Do you have any more questions?

Question: Yes. You say that you do not make any decisions – does that mean that there is a future without him [Assad]?

Putin: I repeat, this should be determined only by the Syrian people. You have now accused the government of Assad of using chemical weapons.

After this event related to chemical weapons happened, we immediately invited our American partners and all who deemed it necessary, to inspect the airfield from which the aircraft allegedly used chemical weapons.

If the chemical weapon were used by the official military structures of President Assad, there would inevitably be traces left behind on this airfield, modern technology would prove this, it is inevitable. And there would traces left on the planes, and traces would be left at the airport. But in fact, all refused to conduct this check.

We proposed to conduct an inspection at the site where the chemical weapons were allegedly struck. But they also refused to conduct an inspection, citing the fact that it was too dangerous. How is it dangerous if the explosion was allegedly inflicted on civilians and on the armed opposition which is still healthy?

In my opinion, this was done only for one purpose: to show why it is necessary to apply additional measures on Assad, including military. That’s all.

There is no evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons. In our deep conviction, this is just a provocation: Assad did not use this weapon.

Question: Do you remember when President Macron spoke about the so-called red line regarding the use of chemical weapons? Do you agree with this?

Putin: I agree. Moreover, I believe that the issue should be broader, and President Macron agreed. Whoever applies chemical weapons against these individuals, against these structures, the international community must build a common policy, and the answer must be one that makes the use of such weapons impossible by anyone.

Question: After the election of Donald Trump in the US, many expressed their views on the relative new phase of Russian-American relations. These relations, it seems, did not have a new start. Now I quote: “There is a Russian threat,” it was said at the last NATO summit last week. Are you frustrated by this attitude on the part of the US?

Putin: No. We did not expect anything, nothing special in fact. The President of the United States conducts a traditional American policy. Of course, we heard during the election campaign the intentions of the already elected and incoming President of the United States, Mr. Trump, about his desire to normalize Russian-American relations. He talked about relations being worse than ever, we remember it well.

But we also understand and see that in fact, the internal political situation in the United States is such that people who lost the election do not want to put up with it and, unfortunately, use the anti-Russian map in the most active way possible, in an internal political struggle under far-fetched pretexts.

Therefore, we are in no hurry, we are ready to wait, but we very much hope that the normalization of Russian-American relations will happen someday.

Question: In an ideal world, what would you expect from the United States in order to improve relations between the US and Russia?

Putin: There is no ideal world, and the subjunctive mood also does not exist in politics.

I want to answer the second part of your question, about 2% or more increase in military spending, which, the United States, is well known for today, spend more on the military and defense than the budget of every countries combined.

Therefore, I fully understand the President of the United States when he wants to shift some of this burden to his NATO allies. This is a very pragmatic and understandable approach.

But what interested me? At the NATO summit they said that NATO wants to establish good relations with Russia. But then why increase military spending? Against whom did they come to fight?

There are some internal contradictions here, but in fact it’s not our business, let NATO understand who and what to pay for, we are not very worried. We provide our defenses – we do it reliably, with a prospect for the future, we are very sure of ourselves.

Question: But if we talk about NATO, they are also your neighbors, who in turn want to ensure their security thanks to NATO. Is this a sign of mistrust for you, something that causes a scandalous attitude?

Putin: For us, this is a sign that our partners, excuse me, in both Europe and the US are pursuing a short-sighted policy, they do not look forward – there is no such habit, this habit has already disappeared among our Western partners.

When the Soviet Union ceased to exist, Western politicians told us that it was not recorded on paper, but it was clearly said that NATO would not expand to the east.

And a few German politicians at that time offered a new security system in Europe that included the participation of the United States, and by the way, and Russia. If this were done, then we would not have the problems that we have faced in recent years, namely the expansion of NATO to the east up to our borders, advancing towards our borders of our military infrastructure.

There would have been, perhaps, the exit of the United States unilaterally from the ABM Treaty and the Treaty is the cornerstone of today’s and future security; there would have been, perhaps, the construction of missile defense elements in Europe – in Poland, Romania, which, of course, poses a threat to our strategic nuclear forces and violates the strategic balance, which in itself is extremely dangerous for international security.

Maybe it would not have been like this, but it happened, you can not turn the clock back, you can not unscrew the film of history, it’s not a feature film. We must proceed from how it is now. If we proceed from how it is, we need to think about what we want in the future. I think that we all want security, peace, prosperity and cooperation.

So, there is no need to push anything, we do not need to invent mythical Russian threats, hybrid wars and so on. They themselves came up with this, and then they frighten themselves on this basis, which also formulates their prospects for politics. No such policy has any prospects – there is only one perspective: cooperation in all areas, including security issues.

What is the main security problem today? Terrorism. In Europe, there are explosions in Paris, explosions in Russia, explosions in Belgium, there is war in the Middle East – that’s what we need to think about, and we are all discussing what kind of threats Russia is creating.

Question: On the issue of terrorism, on the issue of Islamism. You say that you can do more. What exactly needs to be done, what can Russia do? And why can’t we combine our efforts with Europe to achieve our goals?

Putin: Ask Europe – that’s what we want. I said this while speaking at the UN General Assembly’s 70 anniversary from the podium at the UN, and called then to unite the efforts of all countries in the fight against terror. But this is a very complex process.

See, after the terrorist attack in Paris, a terrible, bloody event, President Hollande came to us then, and we agreed on a few joint actions. The aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle approached the banks of Syria. Then Francois [Hollande] went to Washington, and the Charles de Gaulle turned around and left, going towards the direction of the Suez Canal. And the real cooperation between us [Russia] and France stopped, never having begun.

France is involved in operations there, but within the framework of an international coalition led by the United States. You need to understand who is senior, who is not senior, who has the word, who claims what. We are ready, we are open for cooperation.

It was very difficult to negotiate with the Americans on this matter. By the way, we recently noticed a certain shift, there are practical results.

I talked with President Trump on the phone, he generally supported the idea of ​​creating zones of de-escalation. We are now thinking about how to ensure the interests of all the countries in the region in southern Syria, bearing in mind the concern of all countries that have problems in this region, namely, Jordan, Israel and Syria itself, and, of course, we are ready to listen to the opinion of the United States and our European partners. But we need to conduct a concrete dialogue, and not talk about some mutual claims and threats, we need to practice practical work.

Question: You say that it is their decision, and their action, right?

Putin: That’s right, so it is.

Question: Talking about the US. Suspicions that Russia interfered in the election campaign in the United States caused a real political storm in Washington. In France, similar suspicions also sounded. First of all, in the light of what is happening in the United States, how do you react?

Putin: I have already spoken about this many times. Today one of your colleagues also asked a question on this topic. He did so very carefully at a press conference, saying that “they say that they are allegedly Russian hackers.” “They say” – who said, on what basis? “Allegedly Russian hackers”, and maybe not Russian at all.

Mr. Trump himself once said, and spoke perfectly, in my opinion, correctly: “And maybe they’re from another country: maybe it was someone lying on their bed.” After all, anything in this virtual world can think something up. Russia never does this, we do not need this. We do not have any sense to do this. What is the point?

I already talked with one US President, and with another, and with the third – the presidents come and go, but the politics don’t change. Do you know why? Because the power of bureaucracy is very strong. A man has been elected, he comes with some ideas, people with cases come to him, well-dressed and in dark suits, like me, but not with a red tie, but with black or with dark blue, and begin to explain how necessary it is to do this, and everything changes at once. It goes from one administration to another.

For someone to change something is quite a complicated matter, I say this without any irony. This is not because someone does not want to, but because it is difficult. Here Obama is an advanced man, a man of liberal views, a democrat, who, before his election, promised to close Guantanamo Bay. Did he? No. And why? Did he not want to? I really wanted to, I’m sure I wanted to, but it did not work. He sincerely sought this. It does not work that way, it’s not that simple.

But this is not the most important question, although it is important, it is hard to imagine: people in shackles have been walking there for decades without trial and effect. You can imagine, France would have done so or Russia. But no, only in the United States this is possible and is still continuing.

I have a certain amount of reserved optimism, it seems to me that we can and should negotiate on key issues.

Question: To date, you say that such a political storm in Washington rests on absolute fiction.

Putin: It does not rely on fiction, it relies on the desire of those who lost the election in the United States, at least somehow to improve their affairs at the expense of anti-Russian attacks, due to accusation of Russian interference.

People who lost the election do not want to admit that they really lost them, that the one who won was closer to the people, he understood better what people, simple voters want. I do not want to admit this.

I want to explain myself to others and prove to others that they have nothing to do with it, that their policy was right, they did everything well, but someone from their side deceived and burned them. But this is not so, they just lost and must admit that.

Then, when this happens, I think it will be easier for us to work together. But the fact that this is done with the help of anti-Russian tools is very bad, it brings dissonance into international affairs.

Let them argue among themselves, argue and prove who is cooler, who is better, who is smarter, who is more reliable and who formulates the policy for the country better – why should third parties be involved here? This is very distressing. But also this will pass: everything passes – and this too will pass.

Question: Mr. President, we come to the end of our interview, and first of all I would like to ask a question about 2018. This is the year of elections in Russia, presidential elections, legislative elections.

Can you tell us whether you intend to nominate your candidacy, or, perhaps, the opposition will be able to nominate your candidacy in the event of this campaign in a democratic way? How do you see the development of this situation, do you want the campaign to go unconditionally, exclusively in a democratic environment? I’m talking about 2018.

Putin: You know, all the campaigns are in strict accordance with the Russian Constitution, in strict accordance. And I will do everything to ensure that the 2018 election campaigns are held in the same way – I repeat again, in strict accordance with the law and the Constitution.

Everyone will have the right to do so, and everyone will undergo the relevant procedures prescribed by law, can and will certainly participate, if they so wish, in elections of all levels: from legislative assemblies, to parliament, and even presidential elections. As for the candidates, it’s still too early to talk about it.

Question: Many thanks. I hope we’ll see each other soon. Thank you very much for this conversation for Le Figaro.

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Theresa May survives another week in ongoing Brexit fiasco (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 153.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit survival, as the UK Prime Ministers appears to be heading to Brussels so she can coordinate with EU technocrats in order to meet a November deadline to move the unpopular agreement through all channels of British government.

It is still a very fluid situation. May has made it through a tough weekend where support to oust her never materialized, but the week ahead is anything but certain. For now May’s Brexit position looks secure.

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“Brexit. A Deal That Pleases No One,” authored by Daniel Lacalle via dlacalle.com…

The agreement announced between the British government and the European Union has been received in the United Kingdom with criticism from all sides. The defenders of staying in the European Union consider it very negative, of course. However, and this is the most important part, it is unlikely that the conservative party itself will support this agreement in parliament. Jacob Rees-Mogg has called the agreement “a failure of the negotiators and a failure to deliver Brexit.” Boris Johnson has said that it turns the United Kingdom into a “vassal state” and Nigel Farage has described it as “the worst agreement in history”.

Including the entire United Kingdom in the customs union and maintaining the payment of 10 billion pounds a year to give the European Union veto rights to the most important decisions is something that most conservative members of parliament will reject and that does not satisfy the Labor Party – which is also not pro-EU, let’s be clear – nor the liberal-democrats.

That is the great problem facing the government of Theresa May. That not even the government as a whole supports this agreement. The resignations that have been registered prove it. Even if the rest of the government decides to accept this agreement as a lesser evil, it is very difficult for the parliament to approve it.

At the centre of the controversy is a negotiating process that the European Union has left as a United Kingdom issue. But by letting the United Kingdom deal with its own divisions and problems, the EU also lost the perfect opportunity to offer British citizens and the rest of Europe a refreshing, leading and exciting project. And that is the big problem. That Brexit has been seen in many circles in Brussels as an opportunity to advance in the political and interventionist project, instead of moving towards a union in freedom for global, economic and political leadership.

The problem of the UK government is that it is led by a person, Theresa May, who must present a proposal to leave the EU when she has always been an advocate of remaining (Theresa May initially campaigned for the “Remain”). Thus, it is not surprising that the parliament arithmetics in favor of this agreement is not at all clear.

The British Parliament has more members in favor of Brexit than against, but it cannot be THIS Brexit.

Boris Johnson and the pro-Brexit hardliners may see an opportunity to weaken Theresa May and force a change of leadership that will bring a new leader more committed to a better deal.

Moderate Labour, who have been terrified for months with the radical drift of the Corbyn team, may also see an opportunity to weaken the leader who tries to take Labour to the far left.

My perception is that if there were a second referendum the result would probably be the same. In the United Kingdom there are no voices with political weight and real popular support to defend the European Union project. In the United Kingdom, the debate is either seeing the European Union as an annoying partner or as an impossible danger to solve.

Citizens in Europe see Brexit with sadness, logically. In the United Kingdom, news arriving from the European Union do not encourage a remain stance. High unemployment, unresolved immigration problems, lack of global leadership, high taxes, the specter of a new debt crisis in Italy and other risks. Pro-Europe UK leaders offer no other argument to citizens than the so-called Project Fear, a massive economic risk. However, British citizens see UK unemployment at 75-year lows, while in Europe they see the slowdown of the eurozone and the budget crisis of other countries, and do not find an unquestionable reason to stay in the club.

The UK citizen who votes for Brexit does not seem convinced that the only solution is to belong to a union that demands more control but offers less growth and employment.

The reactions to the agreement have not been very euphoric in any case. It seems something that was presented to fail. The pound and stock market did not react as the EU negotiators would think once the deal was seen as unlikely to pass parliament. In the bond market, Gilts strengthened as UK bond spreads fell while eurozone peripheral yields soared. The opposite of what would be seen as an EU victory.

Reaching an agreement that benefits everyone is difficult, but not impossible

The problem in the United Kingdom is that the agreement that would satisfy the pro-Brexit is impossible, and that the agreement that would please the pro-EU is impractical. That the message of economic ruin is not bought by Brexiters and not even the Remainers see the marvels of the EU membership.

Economically, it has been a mistake to present British citizens with the idea of “either the EU or the chaos”, because it does not work when there is not a clear, exciting and global leadership project.

The United Kingdom, one of the voices that defended economic freedom and open markets in an increasingly bureaucratic European Union is an essential partner to advance in Europe. Reaching an agreement that benefits everyone is difficult, but not impossible.

I have never bought the “EU or chaos” argument. I believe that both parts can benefit from a mutually beneficial deal. I am convinced that, even if this agreement is not approved, the British government will reconsider and present a solid plan for its citizens.

 

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Rise of the Western Dissidents

The only reason Assange is being targeted is that he tangled with the highest levels of the western establishment. He is far from alone.

The Duran

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Authored by Allum Bokhari via Breitbart:


We’re used to Russian dissidents, Chinese dissidents, Iranian dissidents, and Saudi Arabian dissidents. But those who rightly believe the west is superior to authoritarian regimes must now contend with a troubling trend — the rise of the western dissident.

Chief among them is Julian Assange, who for a half-decade has been forced to live in the tiny Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has claimed political asylum since 2011. Assange claimed that he would be extradited to the U.S. to face charges over his work at WikiLeaks if he left the embassy, and was routinely mocked as paranoid for doing so.

This week, we learned that Assange was right and his critics were wrong. Thanks to a clerical error by the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, reporters were able to confirm the existence of sealed criminal charges against the WikiLeaks founder.

Because the charges are sealed and the evidence is unknown, it’s impossible to say if the case has merit. But it likely relates to WikiLeaks’ release of unredacted diplomatic cables in 2011, which forced the U.S. to relocate several of its foreign sources.

Some allegations are more serious. While he was alive, neoconservative Senator John McCain maintained that leaks provided to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning, which included the diplomatic cables, caused U.S sources to be murdered.

Those who see Assange as a villain will end the story here. What is typically left out is that WikiLeaks originally released the diplomatic cables in piecemeal form, with names redacted to prevent loss of life and minimize harm.

It was only after a Guardian journalist’s error led to the full unredacted cables leaking to third parties on the web that WikiLeaks published them as well — and not before Assange attempted to warn the office of Hillary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State.

In other words, WikiLeaks behaved precisely as any responsible publisher handling sensitive material should, redacting information that could cause harm. The redactions only stopped when they became pointless. Assange is unlikely to have won more than a dozen journalism awards if he were completely reckless in his publications.

The Pentagon later admitted under oath that they could not find any instances of individuals being killed as a result of being named in Manning’s leaks to WikiLeaks, contradicting Sen. McCain’s allegations.

At worst, Assange and WikiLeaks can be accused of negligence, not deliberate recklessness, in the way it handled sensitive material. But as Breitbart Tech reporter Lucas Nolan points out, a far stronger case can be made against Hillary Clinton for the way she handled State Department emails — yet we see no criminal charges against her.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the only reason Assange is being targeted is that he tangled with the highest levels of the western establishment. In that, he is far from alone.

In the late 2000s to early 2010s, western governments targeted all manner of individuals associated with Assange and the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, including Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda, and The Guardian newspaper.

This was the early growth period of the internet, when the web had become a truly popular medium but had yet to be censored by pliant social media corporations. It was a time of profound unease at the power of the internet to undermine authority, both through the dissemination of information as in the case of WikiLeaks and Snowden, and in the new mobilization of political forces, as in the case of Occupy Wall Street and the SOPA/PIPA protests. Heavy-handed crackdowns against individuals and groups that were seen, rightly or wrongly, as symbols of the web’s early anarchic tendencies, like Kim DotcomAaron SwartzAnonymous, and LulzSec, were not uncommon.

These days, however, a new class of western dissident has emerged — the populist dissident.

Populist Dissidents

Who would have thought that the highest court in Europe, home of the enlightenment, would uphold a case in which a woman was prosecuted for blasphemy against Islam?

Who would have thought that Britain, the birthplace of liberalism and the free press, would ban an independent journalist from its shores for satirizing the same religion?

Who would have thought that Germany, whose living memory of the totalitarian Stasi is just three decades old, would put its largest opposition party under surveillance?

Just a few years ago, all three would sound far-fetched. But cases like these have become common as elites in virtually every western country mount a panicked attempt to contain the rise of populism (the goal, in the words of a Google executive, is to render it a “hiccup”in history’s march towards progress).

Look at the case of Tommy Robinson, the British critic of Islam who was dragged through Britain’s courts on fuzzy contempt-of-court charges. Sentenced to an astonishing thirteen-month imprisonment, Robinson was eventually freed after a successful appeal and now awaits a final trial before Britain’s Attorney General. Shaky charges that have been successfully appealed were exploited to persecute a British citizen who was inconvenient to the establishment. And there’s still a further trial to come.

Then again, Britain is a country that routinely bans foreign politicians and media figures from the country for being too right-wing. Michael SavageGeert WildersLauren SouthernPamela Geller, and Robert Spencer all enjoy this dubious distinction. Theresa May, who was responsible for internal affairs and immigration when Spencer and Geller were banned, is now the Prime Minister.

But it’s not just Britain. Not only has Trump’s White House, supposedly an ally of populists, failed to publicly intervene on behalf of the American citizens banned from the U.K. for expressing populist viewpoints, but it hasn’t even investigated allegations that far-left Antifa activists were able to stop conservative Rebel Media personality Jack Buckbyfrom entering the country by spreading false criminal allegations.

Julian Assange, a left-libertarian may share little ideological ground with right-wing critics of Islam. But they all share at least one thing: persecution by western states coupled with anti-establishment political speech or activities. They are also targets of the security establishment — Assange because of leaks that have exposed their secrets, and the populists because they refuse to censor themselves to avoid angering Muslims. (The UK justified its attempted ban of Geert Wilders by arguing that his presence in the country could lead to “inter-faith violence.”)

We also see attacks on free speech, with governments and politicians across the west pressuring Silicon Valley to suppress its critics. An unaccountable, unelected elite can sweep away a person’s livelihood in minutes, and cut their political message off from millions of American citizens. As I wrote in my column two weeks ago, the overarching trend is the gradual destruction or delegitimization of every tool, digital or otherwise, that non-elites use to express their preferences. Does that sound like a free society, or a controlled one?

You don’t have to agree with any of the individuals or groups listed above to see that surveilling political parties, blocking journalists from entering countries, jailing critics of religion, upholding blasphemy laws and censoring the net is the behavior of authoritarian nations, not liberal democracies. Yet this is the disturbing pattern we now see in the west.

Worse, foreign authoritarian regimes now provide safe harbor for western dissidents, in the same way that the west does for foreign dissidents. Edward Snowden, accused of violating the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917 for blowing the whistle on the NSA’s mass surveillance of Americans, has for years resided safely in Russia, a country that persecutes and even kills its own journalists. Before that, he sought refuge in Hong Kong, a “Special Administrative Region” of the People’s Republic of China, an even more terrifyingly totalitarian state.

Will there now be a quid pro quo, with Russia and other authoritarian regimes protecting our dissidents while the west protects theirs? Or will western countries remain true to their liberal traditions, and stop its alarming attempts to surveil, suppress, and persecute a growing number of its own citizens? On present trends, a dark and dystopian future seems to loom on the horizon.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. You can follow him on TwitterGab.ai and add him on Facebook. Email tips and suggestions to [email protected].

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Zuckerberg’s “War Face” Has Driven Key Executives Away, Stoked Tension With Sandberg

About a dozen senior or highly visible executives disclosed their resignations or left Facebook in 2018.

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Via Zerohedge


Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gathered around 50 of his key executives and told them that the company was at war – more specifically, under siege from lawmakers, investors and angry users over the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal and Russian influence on the platform.

Zuckerberg, according to the Wall Street Journal, told his top lieutenants during that June meeting that while executives can move more slowly and methodically on key decisions during “peacetime,” he would be acting more decisively going forward, said people familiar with the remarks.

The result? Tension which has boiled over to the point where several key executives have left the country – as well as friction between Zuckerberg and longtime COO, Sheryl Sandberg.

The 34-year-old CEO believes Facebook didn’t move quickly enough at key moments this year and increasingly is pressing senior executives to “make progress faster” on resolving problems such as slowing user growth and securing the platform, said people familiar with the matter. Mr. Zuckerberg also at times has expressed frustration at how the company managed the waves of criticism it faced this year.

On Friday, that tension was on display when, during a question-and-answer session with employees at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., he blasted a fresh round of critical news coverage as “bullshit,” according to the people familiar with the remarks. –WSJ

One Facebook employee at the Friday session asked if the company could mitigate leaks by publishing internal reports on how frequently offenders are found and fired. While Zuckerberg said that Facebook does fire leakers, the root cause is “bad morale” thanks to negative press coverage.

And while the WSJ notes Zuckerberg has taken on ambitious annual goals, such as learning Mandarin and reading 25 books, this year his biggest challenge is fixing Facebook through his tougher management style, according to a person familiar with his thinking (so says the WSJ). Perhaps the Facebook CEO hired a drill sergeant to coach him on bringing out his inner-Alpha?

According to the Journal, Zuckerberg and Sandberg have had confrontations over his new management style, after she had long been afforded considerable autonomy over the company’s teams which handle communications and policy.

This spring, Mr. Zuckerberg told Ms. Sandberg, 49, that he blamed her and her teams for the public fallout over Cambridge Analytica, the research firm that inappropriately accessed private data on Facebook users and used it for political research, according to people familiar with the exchange.

Ms. Sandberg later confided in friends that the exchange rattled her, and she wondered if she should be worried about her job.

Mr. Zuckerberg also has told Ms. Sandberg she should have been more aggressive in allocating resources to review troublesome content on the site, said one person familiar with the matter, a problem that the company still struggles to fix. –WSJ

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg seems to be pleased of late with internal improvements, telling reporters last week that Sandberg is a “very important partner to me, and continues to be, and will continue to be.”

Privately, Zuckerberg has told executives that some of the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal was just “hysteria,” to which Facebook simply didn’t mount an effective response.

Clash of the tech titans

Zuckerberg famously has butted heads with the co-founders of photo-sharing app Instagram, over his desire to share user location data on the main Facebook platform in order to help better target ads. The now-resigned Instagram founders strongly opposed the idea, and abruptly left the company in September.

The founders of WhatsApp similarly bailed on Facebook after disagreements over how to best extract revenue from the messaging service, according to people familiar with the matter.

And most recently, was the departure of Oculus VR co-founder Brendan Iribe, who was forced out by Zuckerberg in part due to a disagreement over the future of the virtual-reality handset, the people said. The decision to leave was reportedly “mutual.”

All told, about a dozen senior or highly visible executives disclosed their resignations or left Facebook in 2018. In May, Facebook announced a major reshuffling of top product executives in a way that helped free up Mr. Zuckerberg to oversee a broader portfolio within the company.

This turmoil at the top of Facebook has made it difficult for the company to execute on some product decisions and shore up employee morale, which has been sinking over the last year along with the stock price, which has fallen 36% since its peak. Many employees are frustrated by the bad press and constant reorganizations, including of the security team, which can disrupt their work, according to current and former employees. –WSJ

Doing whatever it takes

Facebook has come under fire recently – most notably after a New York Times report that the company used GOP operatives to smear the company’s detractors and promote negative news about competitors Google and Apple.

When the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal broke – the resultant rebukes from Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google executives sent Zuckerberg ballistic. The Facebook CEO “later ordered his management team to use only Android phones —arguing that the operating system had far more users than Apple’s,” according to the Times.

Facebook then went on the offensive against the fellow tech giants.

On the advice of Joel Kaplan – a well-connected Republican friend, Bush administration official, and former Harvard classmate of Sandberg, Facebook began to go after Google and Apple.

Mr. Kaplan prevailed on Ms. Sandberg to promote Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman and fellow Bush administration veteran, to lead the company’s American lobbying efforts. Facebook also expanded its work with Definers.

On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google and Apple for unsavory business practices. One story called Mr. Cook hypocritical for chiding Facebook over privacy, noting that Apple also collects reams of data from users. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.

The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. –NYT

Facebook has responded, initially saying they didn’t put out “fake news” against their competitors, and they had no idea what their marketing department was doing. On Friday, however, Sandberg said she took full responsibility for the actions of the communications team.

Facebook has tried to move forward following its various scandals; spearheading efforts to reign in data harvesting, and looking for someone to oversee its corporate, external and legal affairs.

Hopefully whoever is ultimately in charge of oversight won’t be scared away by Zuckerberg’s war face.

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