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War With Russia?

The New Cold War is more dangerous than the one the world survived…

Stephen Cohen

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Authored by Stephen Cohen via The Nation:


The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk. — Hegel

War With Russia?, like the biography of a living person, is a book without an end. The title is a warning – akin to what the late Gore Vidal termed “a journalistic alert-system” – not a prediction. Hence the question mark. I cannot foresee the future. The book’s overarching theme is informed by past and current facts, not by any political agenda, ideological commitment, or magical prescience.

This article is adapted from the concluding section of Stephen F. Cohen’s War With Russia? From Putin and Ukraine to Trump and Russiagate, just published, in paperback and e-book, by Skyhorse Publishing.

To restate that theme: The new US-Russian Cold War is more dangerous than was its 40-year predecessor that the world survived. The chances are even greater that this one could result, inadvertently or intentionally, in actual war between the two nuclear superpowers. Herein lies another ominous indication. During the preceding Cold War, the possibility of nuclear catastrophe was in the forefront of American mainstream political and media discussion, and of policy-making. During the new one, it rarely seems to be even a concern.

In the latter months of 2018, the facts and the mounting crises they document grow worse, especially in the US political-media establishment, where, as I have argued, the new Cold War originated and has been repeatedly escalated. Consider a few examples, some of them not unlike political and media developments during the run-up to the US war in Iraq or, historians have told us, how the great powers “sleepwalked” into World War I:

Russiagate’s core allegations—US-Russian collusion, treason—all remain unproven. Yet they have become a central part of the new Cold War. If nothing else, they severely constrain President Donald Trump’s capacity to conduct crisis negotiations with Moscow while they further vilify Russian President Vladimir Putin for having, it is widely asserted, personally ordered “an attack on America” during the 2016 presidential campaign. Some Hollywood liberals had earlier omitted the question mark, declaring, “We are at war.” In October 2018, the would-be titular head of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, added her voice to this reckless allegation, flatly stating that the United States was “attacked by a foreign power” and equating it with “the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”

Clinton may have been prompted by another outburst of malpractice by The New York Times and The Washington Post. On September 20 and 23, respectively, those exceptionally influential papers devoted thousands of words, illustrated with sinister prosecutorial graphics, to special retellings of the Russiagate narrative they had assiduously promoted for nearly two years, along with the narrative’s serial fallacies, selective and questionable history, and factual errors.

Again, for example, the now-infamous Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman for several months in 2016, was said to have been “pro-Kremlin” during his time as a lobbyist for Ukraine under then-President Viktor Yanukovych, when in fact he was pro–European Union. Again, Trump’s disgraced national-security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, was accused of “troubling” contacts when he did nothing wrong or unprecedented in having conversations with a Kremlin representative on behalf of President-elect Trump. Again, the two papers criminalized the idea, as the Times put it, that “the United States and Russia should look for areas of mutual interest,” once the premise of détente. And again, the Times, while assuring readers that its “Special Report” is “what we now know with certainty,” buried a related acknowledgment deep in its some 10,000 words: “No public evidence has emerged showing that [Trump’s] campaign conspired with Russia.” (The white-collar criminal indictments and guilty pleas cited were so unrelated that they added up to Russiagate without Russia.)

Astonishingly, neither paper gave any credence to an emphatic statement by the Post’s own Bob Woodward—normally considered the most authoritative chronicler of Washington’s political secrets—that, after two years of research, he had found no evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia.

Nor were the Times, the Post, and other print media alone in these practices, which continued to slur dissenting opinions. CNN’s leading purveyor of Russiagate allegations tweeted that an American third-party presidential candidate had been “repeating Russian talking points on its interference in the 2016 election and on US foreign policy.” Another prominent CNN figure was, so to speak, more geopolitical, warning, “Only a fool takes Vladimir Putin at his word in Syria,” thereby ruling out US-Russian cooperation in that war-torn country. Much the same continued almost nightly on MSNBC.

For most mainstream-media outlets, Russiagate had become, it seemed, a kind of cult journalism that no counterevidence or analysis could dent and thus itself increasingly a major contributing factor to the new Cold War. Still more, what began two years earlier as complaints about Russian “meddling” in the US presidential election became by October 2018, for The New Yorker and other publications, an accusation that the Kremlin had actually put Donald Trump in the White House. For this seditious charge, there was also no convincing evidence—nor any precedent in American history.

At a higher level, by fall 2018, current and former US officials were making nearly unprecedented threats against Moscow. The ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, threatened to “take out” any Russian missiles she thought violated a 1987 treaty, a step that would certainly risk nuclear war. The secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, threatened a naval “blockade” of Russia. In yet another Russophobic outburst, the ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, declared that “lying, cheating and rogue behavior” are a “norm of Russian culture.”

These may have been outlandish statements by untutored political appointees, but they again inescapably raised the question: Who was making Russia policy in Washington—President Trump, with his avowed policy of “cooperation,” or someone else?

But how to explain, other than as unbridled extremism, the comments by Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Moscow, himself a longtime professor of Russian politics and favored mainstream commentator? According to McFaul, Russia had become a “rogue state,” its policies “criminal actions” and the “world’s greatest threat.” It had to be countered by “preemptive sanctions that would go into effect automatically”—“every day,” if deemed necessary. Considering the possibility of “crushing” sanctions proposed recently by a bipartisan group of US senators, this would be nothing less than a declaration of permanent war against Russia: economic war, but war nonetheless.

Meanwhile, other new Cold War fronts were becoming more fraught with hot war, none more so than Syria. On September 17, Syrian missiles accidentally shot down an allied Russian surveillance aircraft, killing all 15 crew members. The cause was combat subterfuge by Israeli warplanes in the area. The reaction in Moscow was indicative—and potentially ominous.

At first, Putin, who had developed good relations with Israel’s political leadership, said the incident was an accident caused by the fog of war. His own Defense Ministry, however, loudly protested that Israel was responsible. Putin quickly retreated to a more hard-line position, and in the end vowed to send to Syria Russia’s highly effective S-300 surface-to-air defense system, a prize long sought by both Syria and Iran.

Clearly, Putin was not the ever-“aggressive Kremlin autocrat” unrelentingly portrayed by US mainstream media. A moderate in the Russian context, he again made a major decision by balancing conflicting groups and interests. In this instance, he accommodated long-standing hard-liners in his own security establishment.

The result is yet another Cold War trip wire. With the S-300s installed in Syria, Putin could in effect impose a “no-fly zone” over large areas of the country, which has been ravaged by war due, in no small part, to the presence of several foreign powers. (Russia and Iran are there legally; the United States and Israel are not.) If so, this means a new “red line” that Washington and its ally Israel will have to decide whether or not to cross. Considering the mania in Washington and in the mainstream media, it is hard to be confident that restraint will prevail. In keeping with his Russia policy, President Trump may reasonably be inclined to join Moscow’s peace process, though it is unlikely the mostly Democrat-inspired Russiagate party would permit him to do so.

Now another Cold War front has also become more fraught, the US-Russian proxy war in Ukraine having acquired a new dimension. In addition to the civil war in Donbass, Moscow and Kiev have been challenging each other’s ships in the Sea of Azov, near the newly built bridge connecting Russia with Crimea. On November 25, this erupted into a small but potentially explosive military conflict at sea. Trump is being pressured to help Kiev escalate the maritime war—yet another potential trip wire. Here, too, the president should instead put his administration’s weight behind the long-stalled Minsk peace accords. But that approach also seems to be ruled out by Russiagate, which by October 6 included yet another Times columnist, Frank Bruni, branding all such initiatives by Trump as “pimping for Putin.”

After five years of extremism, as demonstrated by these recent examples of risking war with Russia, there remained, for the first time in decades of Cold War history, no countervailing forces in Washington—no pro-détente wing of the Democratic or Republican Party, no influential anti–Cold War opposition anywhere, no real public debate. There was only Trump, with all the loathing he inspired, and even he had not reminded the nation or his own party that the presidents who initiated major episodes of détente in the 20th century were also Republicans—Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan. This too seemed to be an inadmissible “alternative fact.”

And so the eternal question, not only for Russians: What is to be done? There is a ray of light, though scarcely more. In August 2018, Gallup asked Americans what kind of policy toward Russia they favored. Even amid the torrent of vilifying Russiagate allegations and Russophobia, 58 percent wanted “to improve relations with Russia,” as opposed to 36 percent who preferred “strong diplomatic and economic steps against Russia.”

This reminds us that the new Cold War, from 
NATO’s eastward expansion and the 2014 Ukrainian crisis to Russiagate, has been an elite project. Why US elites, after the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, ultimately chose Cold War rather than partnership with Russia is a question beyond my purpose here. As for the special role of US intelligence elites—what I have termed “Intelgate”—efforts are still underway to disclose it fully, and are still being thwarted.

A full explanation of the post-Soviet Cold War choice would include the US political-media establishment’s needs—ideological, foreign-policy, and budgetary, among others—for an “enemy.” Or, with the Cold War having prevailed for more than half of US-Russian relations during the century since 1917, maybe it was habitual. Substantial “meddling” in the 2016 US election by Ukraine and Israel, to illustrate the point, did not become a political scandal. In any event, once this approach to post-Soviet Russia began, promoting it was not hard. The legendary humorist Will Rogers quipped in the 1930s, “Russia is a country that no matter what you say about it, it’s true.” Back then, before the 40-year Cold War and nuclear weapons, the quip was funny, but no longer.

Whatever the full explanation, many of the consequences I have analyzed in War With Russia? continue to unfold, not a few unintended and unfavorable to America’s real national interests. Russia’s turn away from the West, its “pivot to China,” is now widely acknowledged and embraced by leading Moscow policy thinkers. Even European allies occasionally stand with Moscow against Washington. The US-backed Kiev government still covers up who was really behind the 2014 Maidan “snipers’ massacre” that brought it to power. Mindless US sanctions have helped Putin to repatriate oligarchic assets abroad, at least $90 billion already in 2018. The mainstream media persist in distorting Putin’s foreign policies into something “that even the Soviet Union never dared to try.” And when an anonymous White House insider exposed in the Times the “amorality” of President Trump, the only actual policy he or she singled out was on Russia.

I have focused enough on the demonizing of Putin – the Post even managed to characterize popular support for his substantial contribution to improving life in Moscow as “a deal with the devil” – but it is important to note that this derangement is far from worldwide. Even a Postcorrespondent conceded that “the Putin brand has captivated anti-establishment and anti-American politicians all over the world.” A British journalist confirmed that, as a result, “many countries in the world now look for a reinsurance policy with Russia.” And an American journalist living in Moscow reported that the “ceaseless demonization of Putin personally has in fact sanctified him, turned him into the Patron Saint of Russia.”

Again, in light of all this, what can be done? Sentimentally, and with some historical precedents, we of democratic beliefs traditionally look to “the people,” to voters, to bring about change. But foreign policy has long been the special prerogative of elites. In order to change Cold War policy fundamentally, leaders are needed. When the times beckon, they may emerge out of established, even deeply conservative, elites, as did unexpectedly the now-pro-détente Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in the mid-1980s. But given the looming danger of war with Russia, is there time? Is any leader visible on the American political landscape who will say to his or her elites and party, as Gorbachev did, “If not now, when? If not us, who?”

We also know that such leaders, though embedded in and insulated by their elites, hear and read other, nonconformist voices, other thinking. The once-venerated American journalist Walter Lippmann observed, “Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” This book is my modest attempt to inspire more thinking.

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Maninhemoon
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Maninhemoon

Stephen Cohen is always insightful, but he makes depressing reading. It’s obvious by now that no one in the United States will have the guts to advocate a change in policy towards Russia even if they believe it necessary. However, surely the key question is the one Cohen won’t answer “Why US elites, after the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, ultimately chose Cold War rather than partnership with Russia is a question beyond my purpose”. Without understanding this, we can’t begin to find a solution. It will mean tacking some very powerful lobbies, but if we can’t name… Read more »

RobertX5
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RobertX5

It’s interesting to see how far Stephen Cohen has traveled in his understanding of both russiaphobia and then russiagate. I remember first watching and reading his work several years ago when his position appeared to be ‘both sides are at fault and all that is really needed is for the adults to sit down and talk, and most of the issues can be resolved’. He now appears to realise that the problems are being exacerbated by one side. the U.S.A. but I worry that he still doesn’t fully understand or accept that this is deliberate policy, created by powerful vested… Read more »

Veth
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Veth

Whe Putin ordered the downing of MH17, this fake journalist smiled.

Tom Dicanarry
Guest
Tom Dicanarry

Idiot! MH17 was entirely the doing of you Ukronazis. You numbskulks, the most stupid people in Europe, if not the whole world, have turned the Ukraine into the most abysmal, bankrupt, failed state in Europe. You should be proud of your achievements.
Before too long, the Ukraine will be begging Russia to take you back under its fold.

Veth
Guest
Veth

The jit team concluded on all evidence Russia downed it. The Kursk brigade in occupied Donbass. When the Russian Army invaded ans started the genocide in Donbass your Russians miled

fred
Guest
fred

hallelujah contact with a parallel universe

Veth
Guest
Veth

https://www.icc-cpi.int/itemsDocuments/2018-otp-rep-PE-Ukraine.pdf

Interim ruling ICC THE HAGUE ON CRIMEA……………5-12-2018….CRIMEA IS UKRAINE, DESPITE THE ILLEGAL ANNEXATION BY RUSSIA..THE SO-CALLED REFERENDUM HAS BEEN DECLARED VOID!

SLAVA UKRAINA!

Klink
Guest
Klink

and the USA belongs to the Indians……

Ross Graham
Guest
Ross Graham

Excellent piece and as usual Stephen Cohen hits the bulls eye .
America is a crumbling empire and her elites know its only a matter of time .
Its wounded , badly, and a wounded animal is often much more dangerous than a healthy one .
Their outcry becomes louder, their belligerence heavier, their hubris grows to extraordinary levels, the war cry more threatening.
Unfortunately this death knell awaits not just them but the whole world as well.

Olivia Kroth, author and journalist
Member

“Crumbling empire”, that is wonderful. If only it could crumble a lot faster because it does so much damage to the rest of the world.

Veth
Guest
Veth

Russia will be gone soon……………………….the Fascist State is nearly bankrot!

Veth
Guest
Veth

lIKE PUTINS DECISION TO DOWN MH17 SHOWED!

fred
Guest
fred

At first, Putin, who had developed good relations with Israel’s political leadership, said the incident was an accident caused by the fog of war.
so the west/US mainstream media woud not portray him as a “aggressive Kremlin autocrat”

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CIA Director and NYT Accidentally Expose Skripal Poisoning Hoax – DUCKGATE (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 189.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the stunning, inadvertent, admission by the New York Times and CIA Director Gina Haspel that much of what we know from the Salisbury-Skripal poisoning is pure fabrication and manipulation.

‘Duckgate’, as it is now being dubbed, was used to trick US President Trump into expelling 60 Russian Diplomats over false photographic evidence presented to him by Haspel, as it was provided to her by UK authorities.

The manipulation of POTUS Trump, courtesy of CIA Director Haspel, the UK government (and accidentally documented on by the NYT), has now blown open some serious holes into the entire narrative that Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned by Russian agents with the deadly Novichok nerve agent.

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Via The Blogmire…


(SEE UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM)

Well this is interesting.

I had intended to put up a new thread for people who want to continue commenting on the Salisbury and Amesbury cases, as the last piece I did on it has reached an unmanageable 1,500+ comments. But just as I was about to do so, I was alerted to an important piece over on the Moon of Alabama website, entitled, “CIA Director Used Fake Skripal Incident Photos To Manipulate Trump“.

The gist of the piece is as follows. Back in April 2018, the Washington Post published an article about the decision taken by the United States to expel 60 Russian diplomats in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning. According to the authors, the day after the decision was made, President Trump reacted in anger when he found out that the French and the Germans were expelling just four diplomats each:

“The next day, when the expulsions were announced publicly, Trump erupted, officials said. To his shock and dismay, France and Germany were each expelling only four Russian officials — far fewer than the 60 his administration had decided on. The President, who seemed to believe that other individual countries would largely equal the United States, was furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia.”

Mr Trump, it seems, believed that he had been misled by officials, as the piece goes on to say:

“Growing angrier, Trump insisted that his aides had misled him about the magnitude of the expulsions. ‘There were curse words,’ the official said, ‘a lot of curse words.’”

Whether Mr Trump was misled about the magnitude of the expulsions is impossible to say without a transcript of that meeting. What does seem certain, however, is that he was misled in another, far more important way, as Moon of Alabama goes on to point out.

In an article in today’s New York Times about the head of the CIA, Gina Haspel, an extraordinary piece of information is revealed — albeit unwittingly, it would seem, by authors who probably have no idea of its significance. Pointing to that same meeting mentioned in the Washington Post article, in which Mr Trump was persuaded to expel 60 diplomats, here is the NYT’s account of what took place:

“During the discussion, Ms. Haspel, then deputy C.I.A. director, turned toward Mr. Trump. She outlined possible responses in a quiet but firm voice, then leaned forward and told the president that the “strong option” was to expel 60 diplomats.

To persuade Mr. Trump, according to people briefed on the conversation, officials including Ms. Haspel also tried to show him that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were not the only victims of Russia’s attack.

Ms. Haspel showed pictures the British government had supplied her of young children hospitalized after being sickened by the Novichok nerve agent that poisoned the Skripals. She then showed a photograph of ducks that British officials said were inadvertently killed by the sloppy work of the Russian operatives [my emphasis].”

If you’re late joining the party, and don’t understand what is so extraordinary about this, let me spell it out plainly and unambiguously:

Firstly, there were no dead ducks as a result of poisoning. None. Zilch. Nada!

Secondly, there were no children sickened by nerve agent. None. Zilch. Nada!

Yet even though there were no dead ducks, and no sick children, Mr Trump was apparently persuaded by the head of the CIA to expel 60 diplomats after being shown pictures of dead ducks and sick children.

In addition to the extraordinary nature of this revelation, there is also a huge irony here. Along with many others, I have long felt that the duck feed is one of the many achilles heels of the whole story we’ve been presented with about what happened in Salisbury on 4th March 2018. And the reason for this is precisely because if it were true, there would indeed have been dead ducks and sick children.

According to the official story, Mr Skripal and his daughter became contaminated with “Novichok” by touching the handle of his front door at some point between 13:00 and 13:30 that afternoon. A few minutes later (13:45), they were filmed on CCTV camera feeding ducks, and handing bread to three local boys, one of whom ate a piece. After this they went to Zizzis, where they apparently so contaminated the table they sat at, that it had to be incinerated.

You see the problem? According to the official story, ducks should have died. According to the official story children should have become contaminated and ended up in hospital. Yet as it happens, no ducks died, and no boys got sick (all that happened was that the boys’ parents were contacted two weeks later by police, the boys were sent for tests, and they were given the all clear).

And yet despite the fact that no ducks died and no children were made sick, the director of the CIA (a.k.a. the Canard Invention Association), allegedly using information given to her agency by the British Government, showed the President of the United States pictures of dead ducks and sick children, apparently from Salisbury, to persuade him to take extreme action (Note: You can read more about the duck feed and all the other holes in the official story here). In other words, Mr Trump was lied to, and in a big way, and with potentially huge consequences.

I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the claims made in the New York Times piece, since the purpose of inserting the bit about the ducks and the children was to cast Gina Haspel as a strong leader, rather than to cast doubt on the Skripal story. My guess is that Mr Trump might be quite interested to know that he was misled, either by the director of the CIA and/or the British Government. It might even make him wonder this: if no less a person than the President of the United States was given a false version of events, what are the chances that the rest of the story stacks up?

As ever, someone got some ‘splaining to do.  Discuss among yourselves.


PS. An aside. The Independent, which is apparently a publisher of news, has picked up on this storyhere. In their piece, they basically repeat what was said in the New York Times about how Gina Haspel persuaded Mr Trump using the dead ducks and sick children pics. But here’s the thing. Whilst it doesn’t surprise me that writers in the likes of the Washington Post or New York Times might not know too many details regarding the Salisbury case, the Independent knows full well that there were no dead ducks and no sick children. And so since they are writing about it, they must know that either the CIA director or the British Government, or both, knowingly misled the US President. Yet they say nothing about this in their piece. Why? Simply because they are not journalists, but stenographers, and they have no intention of informing their readers of what is true and what is real. I’m not sure how they live with themselves, but somehow they manage.


UPDATE: The Guardian has published an article (18th April), in which the director of public health at Wiltshire Council, Tracy Daszkiewicz, was asked to comment on the New York Times report. Here is what she said:

“There were no other casualties other than those previously stated. No wildlife were impacted by the incident and no children were exposed to or became ill as a result of either incident [my emphasis].”

So according to Ms Daszkiewicz, not only were no children made ill (which we already knew), but nor were any exposed to the substance. How does this accord with the official narrative? In that scenario, Mr Skripal gave bread to three boys, one of whom ate a piece, less than half-an-hour after his hands had become contaminated. In which case, they would undoubtedly have been exposed to it. Then again, if he wasn’t contaminated at that time … well, that would agree with Ms Daszkiewicz’s assessment, but it would have another consequence involving cans and worms!

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

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 145.

Alex Christoforou

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

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

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

*****

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

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

*****

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

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

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Via Zerohedge…

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

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

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

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

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

Below the full statement from the USTR (link):

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

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

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

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

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

Background

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

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

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

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

RT

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Via RT…


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

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

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

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

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

‘Active measures’ on social media

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

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

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

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

Alleged hacking & release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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