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25 things revealed about Vladimir Putin by Oliver Stone in the Putin Interviews

Russian President Vladimir Putin over the course of the Putin Interviews gives an insight into his personality such as he has never done before.

Alexander Mercouris

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I have now watched the first three episodes of the Putin Interviews, which is sufficient to give an overview of the series.

In my opinion it is by far the best and most interesting series of programmes which have appeared on Western television about Vladimir Putin.

I would say that claims that Oliver Stone fails to raise ‘difficult subjects’ with Putin are simply untrue.  All the usual stories about Putin – his KGB past, his reputed homophobia, his ‘billions’, his ‘murders’, his ‘aggressions against Georgia and Ukraine’ etc – are all there.

There is also one telling moment when Stone and Putin strongly disagree with each other.  This is in relation to a recent Russian law that requires Russian internet providers to store data for longer than previously, and to hand it over to the Russian security services if requested following a court order.

The US whistleblower Edward Snowden has denounced this law as a ‘big brother’ law.  Stone clearly agrees with him and tells Putin as much.  Putin predictably enough doesn’t agree.

The key difference between Stone and other Western interviewers is that Stone doesn’t try to get the better of Putin by bullying and hectoring him.

This more conventional approach in my experience invariably ends in disaster, resulting in the humiliation of the Western interviewers rather than Putin, as Putin invariably turns out to be far better informed about the facts than the interviewers are and is by now well practised in dealing with the absurdities they throw at him.  The recent Megyn Kelly fiasco is merely the latest example.

By contrast by letting Putin talk and by conducting what are in effect long conversations with him, Stone let Putin speak for himself, in this way revealing the man. For anyone who really wants to get to know Putin – as opposed to the comic strip villain of the Western media – these programmes are both essential and compelling viewing.

Given that we are talking about is 20 hours of interviews distilled into four programmes each lasting more than an hour, any selection of key points or highlights must be arbitrary.  I make no apology for the fact mine are.  Here they are

(1) Putin came across to me as a very Russian man.  I have seen him twice in person (at the SPIEF plenary sessions in 2014 and 2016) and I have watched many of his interviews, but I have never previously sensed this so strongly.

Putin’s initial reticence in dealing with a Westerner, his readiness to speak more freely as his trust grows, his extraordinary directness, and his worldliness, are all in my experience very Russian, as is his habit of sometimes giving terse or monosyllabic answers – “yes”, “no”, “not quite like that” etc.

In all other respects Putin as he appeared in the Putin Interviews is Putin very much as I have come to know him: humorous, extremely polite, very self-controlled (he barely reacted when Stone told him of the comparison Hillary Clinton has made between him and Hitler) and completely on top of his brief.  He never evaded any questions or appeared at a loss for an answer on any question of substance.

(2) Putin’s combination of directness and worldliness is almost certainly the quality that Western leaders who have to deal with him find most unnerving.  Not only is his conversation totally free of clichés – so unlike Western political rhetoric today – but he even says at one moment “I know how the world works”.  At another point he jokes that if Russia had the same resources for intelligence gathering as the US does “probably we would be as bad as they are”.  I cannot imagine any Western leader making a joke like that, especially on camera.

Western leaders – who know that Putin in his cynical assessments of their motives is invariably right, but who are never able to admit as much probably not even to themselves –  must find this both infuriating and alarming, and this surely is one reason why they both fear him and dislike him so much.

(3) Putin has become completely disillusioned with the US.  He makes it quite clear throughout the interviews that he feels that the US took Russia for a ride at the end of the Cold War, and has never stopped being hostile to Russia even as Russia reached out to it.  With hindsight he is astonished at the misguided trust Russia placed in the US and in its promises – for example not to expand NATO eastward – and though he clearly wants ‘dialogue’ with the US, the possibility of mutual trust and genuine friendship between the US and Russia at least whilst he is President is surely gone.

(4) Following from (3), Putin – speaking before the US election – made it quite clear that he had no expectations of any significant improvement in relations between the US and Russia regardless of who won the election on the grounds that whoever is President the US ‘bureaucracy’ (by which Putin clearly means the US political class) is single-mindedly committed to its policy of hostility towards Russia.  He provides a striking example of this by telling a story of how the CIA sent Russia a defiant letter saying it would continue its contacts with Chechen terrorists notwithstanding the disapproval of US President George W. Bush.

Putin said these words before the US election and before the Russiagate scandal well and truly got off the ground.  Reflecting on this scandal since then, Putin must feel that his words of cynicism about the US have been completely vindicated.

(5) Though Putin appears at times unwilling to discuss the motives behind US foreign policy – at one point he jokes that he will explain it all at great length and in great detail after he retires – it is in fact obvious that he feels that the so-called ‘unipolar’ moment following the end of the Cold War went to the US’s head, and caused it to embark on a megalomaniac policy of world domination.

He sees in this the cause of all the major problems in international relations, including the catastrophic breakdown in relations between Russia and the US, the chaos in the Middle East, and – as he said at length – the rise of violent Jihadism and the crises in Ukraine and Syria.

He says that as a result of this policy the US is making repeated mistakes and is becoming less efficient because this policy is unachievable and is causing the US to lose touch with reality.

(6) It is clear that for Putin the US anti-ballistic missile programme is a very big deal, and that he considers that it is clearly aimed at achieving US military dominance over Russia.  However he seems fully confident of Russia’s ability to counter this programme at a fraction of its cost.  He clearly sees this programme as another manifestation of the lack of realism of US policy and of its hegemonic drive.

(7) Notwithstanding his conviction that the US’s policy of achieving world domination is unachievable and unrealistic, Putin is seriously troubled by the fanaticism of those driving it.  When Stone tells him that the neocons scare him Putin replies that they scare him too.  It is the only moment in the Putin Interviews when Putin admits to fear.

(8) Putin takes great pride in Russia’s sovereignty and independence – by which he of course means its independence from the US.  He contrasts this with the way the US’s ‘allies’ have in effect made themselves ‘vassals’.  He points out that what this actually means is that the US has no real ‘allies’ at all.

Though the Putin Interviews never touch on relations with China, it is almost certainly a contrast with Russia’s alliance with China that Putin is making.  Pointedly, he says that ‘true’ allies never spy on each other, as the US spies on its ‘allies’ in Europe.

That incidentally provides confirmation that Russia and China do not spy on each other.

Putin points out that it is because Russia is sovereign and independent that it was able to give refuge to Edward Snowden.  He says that very few countries in the world today are truly sovereign and independent in the way that Russia is, and that Snowden was very lucky to find himself in one which was and which was therefore able to protect him.

(9) Putin also takes great pride in his success in turning round Russia’s economic situation.  He points to the transformation in real incomes in the period since he became President.  He also contrasts the heavy indebtedness of the US economy with the lack of indebtedness of Russia’s.  The first three episodes of the Putin Interviews which I have seen unfortunately touched very little on Russia’s internal situation or how Putin sees it, and this in my opinion is a major omission of the programme.

(10) Putin does however touch on some of the internal structures of Russia’s government and political system.  He refers to the Security Council – Russia’s most important policy making body – pointing out that it meets regularly every week.  There is even a brief photograph of it in session.

This is a unique reference to this key Russian institution in any Western discussion of Russia or of the Russian political system.

Contrary to Western myth the programme shows that Putin works very hard, consults widely with his officials – Stone is astonished at the number of ministers and officials who report to Putin on any particular day – and that the way the top levels of the Russian government work, far from being personalised and informal as the West imagines, are in reality highly structured.

(11) With respect to (10), Putin is however quite clear that Russia today is a democracy.  This is of course the most contentious topic of all, with the Western media and the Western political class passionately disagreeing (it is now standard practice in the British media to refer to Putin as “the dictator of Russia”).

Putin ridiculed suggestions that the Russian government controls the entire Russian media or is even able to do so, referred to Russia’s multiparty political system and corrected Stone on the alleged difficulty of registering a political party in Russia.

Western viewers might be surprised to see Russian television film incorporated in the programme showing Russian political leaders – Zyuganov, Mironov and Zhirinovsky – engaging in fiery denunciations of Putin, in Zhirinovsky’s case in the presence of Putin himself.

(12) One of the central stories of the Putin mythology – believed in even by many of Putin’s admirers as well as his detractors – is that shortly after he became President he called all the oligarchs together to a meeting and told them that they would be allowed to retain their properties and businesses provided they did not interfere in politics.

Putin alludes to this meeting but gives a different account of what he said at it.  He claims that he told the oligarchs that they would be allowed to retain their properties and businesses, even if they obtained them illegally, provided that in future they obeyed the law.

I have no doubt that this is what really happened at the meeting, and that the story of Putin striking a bargain with the oligarchs in which he in effect coerced their loyalty by threatening to take their property if they were disloyal to him is false.

(13) Putin gives a unique insight into his style of work.  Not only is he very much a hands-on manager – Stone makes a highly pointed contrast to the lackadaisical style of management of former US President Ronald Reagan – but in the numerous meetings Putin convenes to discuss problems he is not satisfied and dislikes ending meetings until a solution is found.  He compares himself to a painter who dislikes getting up from a painting until the painting is complete.

By Putin’s own admission that means that meetings almost invariably overrun their times.  Putin is notorious in the West for his habit of turning up late to appointments.  This style of work provides the reason why.

Though it must make heavy demands on the officials who attend these meetings, this style of work does have the immense advantage of producing decisions which can then be acted on.  With Putin there is evidently no question of the can being kicked down the road.

(14) Putin takes obvious pride in the effectiveness of both Russia’s intelligence services and its military.  Though he has apparently been the target of no fewer than five assassination attempts he trusts his security services to keep him safe.  Though he was careful on camera to say nothing that might ruffle feathers, he is clearly amused – and proud – of the fact that Russia is able to field highly effective armed forces at only a tenth of the cost of those the US and at less cost than those of Saudi Arabia.

(15) Putin places a very high value on frankness and honesty, and expects his own honesty to go unquestioned.  When Stone floated the possibility of Russia releasing the CIA’s letter discussed in (4), he said his word about it should be enough.  He also hinted at the very great weight he is known to place on personal loyalty when he said that it is not right for him to discuss the faults of his predecessors – Gorbachev and Yeltsin – in the case of Yeltsin undoubtedly in part because Yeltsin was once his boss.

(16) Despite the extraordinary tension in international relations, Putin overall comes across very much an optimist.  He clearly believes that the ‘correlation of world forces’ is moving in Russia’s favour, and he repeatedly accuses Western leaders of short term thinking and of failing to see the direction of events clearly.  Though Stone never asks him to enlarge on this, it is clear that the reason for Putin’s optimism is the continued decline of US and Western power, the corresponding growth of Russia’s power, and above all the rise of a new centre of power in China.

Quite clearly, though he believes Russia is going through a difficult period at the moment, in the not so long term Putin expects the international situation to stabilise on Russia’s terms, and foresees a world in 20-30 years which is radically different from the world as it exists today.

Whilst these were for me the main points to come out of the Putin Interviews, there were also some interesting pieces of trivia, of which the ones that stood out for me were the following

(17) Putin’s office suite in the Senate Building in the Kremlin is located the same room as the one used by Stalin for his Kremlin office from 1939 until his death in 1953.  Our sister publication Russia Feed has provided the extract from the Putin Interviews in which Putin shows Stone round his office.

Pictures of the office when Stalin used it are surprisingly hard to find on the internet – the reconstruction at the Stalin Museum in Gori which is often shown is either wrong or must be of another office – but a very accurate reconstruction appears at the beginning of this episode of the Soviet spy drama Seventeen Moments of Spring.

To Russians of a certain generation Stalin’s Kremlin office is as famous as the Oval Office in the White House is to Americans, and its appearance is familiar to them from countless films, such as the Fall of Berlin (made in 1949 during Stalin’s lifetime) or from the Liberation series made in the 1960s.  The windows of this office overlook Red Square, and according to legend one of them came to be called in Stalin’s lifetime “Stalin’s window”.

I had suspected for some time that Putin’s office occupies the same room as Stalin’s office because of the obvious similarity in general dimensions and layout.  Putin has now confirmed it.

The fact that Putin’s office is located in the same room as Stalin’s office is not Putin’s choice.  The office suite in the Kremlin he uses was originally created for Boris Yeltsin, and Putin has simply taken it over.  Also, as Putin has pointed out, the room has been been reduced in size since Stalin’s time through the creation of a reading area cut off from the main office by a partition wall.

(18) Putin’s father appears to have been a much more important person in Putin’s life than had been previously realised.  Putin has a picture of him in naval uniform in his Kremlin office and is clearly proud of his father’s record in the Second World War when his father fought in an NKVD special forces unit on the Leningrad front.

Putin’s father is known to have been a staunch Communist who contrary to myth rose to a fairly senior position in the Leningrad Communist Party.   Though Putin attributes his decision to join the KGB to the influence of films like Seventeen Moments of Spring, I cannot help but wonder whether his father may have played a role in it.

The Putin Interviews by contrast have nothing to say about Putin’s grandfather, in some ways an even more interesting person than Putin’s father, who at the time of the 1917 Revolution was a chef in St. Petersburg’s Astoria Hotel, and who subsequently worked as a chef for both Lenin and Stalin.  He lived into the 1960s, and Putin is known to have known him.

(19) Despite being the son of a committed Communist, and despite having surely been a committed Communist himself when he joined the KGB and worked for it, it is clear that Putin is no longer one and that he feels no lingering loyalty towards the Communist Party or its cause.  Though he says little that is critical of the Communist period, he refers in the Putin Interviews to the “so-called 1917 Revolution” and speaks of the basis of Soviet society as having been inefficient and incapable of reform.

Putin is known to have left both the KGB and the Soviet Communist Party at the time of the August 1991 coup attempt against Gorbachev.  He gives no indication of when he lost his Communist beliefs, but it was probably at this time.

(20) Though Putin is now divorced he still wears his wedding ring.  Like many Russian men he wears it on his right hand, and his watch on his right wrist.  Here is a portrait of Tolstoy also wearing his wedding ring on his right hand.

(21) Putin is clearly a practising and even devout Orthodox Christian.  There are icons in his office and his official residence at Novo Ogaryovo contains a whole Orthodox chapel. It is not however a subject he is much given to talking about.

Putin does not say when he converted to Orthodoxy but his comments appear to link it to his loss of belief in the Communist Party and its cause.

(22) Putin is obviously one of those people who is not well in his physical or mental health unless he is physically active.  Not only does he exercise intensely every day but many of the interviews with Stone were carried out walking, with Stone trying to keep up.

Whilst this constant physical activity – including daily sessions at the gym and in the pool, judo sessions, horse riding on the estate at Novo Ogaryovo, driving his own car, and playing ice hockey – no doubt helps Putin relax and keeps him fit, it must also seriously increase the risk of physical injury, especially as he grows older.  It seems that he no longer has a personal trainer to warn him off exercises that might be dangerous, and that he has already on at least one occasion fallen head first from his horse.  However if anyone in Putin’s entourage has warned him of the risks he is running with all this activity the Putin Interviews give no hint of it.

(23) Putin was prepared to give very little information about the tangled circumstances of his rise to power.  Indeed he claims to be as mystified by the fact that Yeltsin chose him for his successor as everyone else.  He also says that he initially refused Yeltsin’s request that he become Prime Minister of Russia, something which may explain the strange and hitherto unexplained brief premiership of Putin’s immediate predecessor Sergey Stepashin.

However the fact that Putin by his own admission was seriously concerned for his own safety and for that of his family, and that he was worried of what might happen to him if Yeltsin dismissed him, points to a serious political crisis which he is clearly not willing for the moment to talk about.

(24) On the subject of Soviet history, the only previous Soviet or Russian leader of whom Putin speaks with straightforward disapproval is Nikita Khrushchev.  In this Putin echoes what in my experience is the well nigh universal view of Khrushchev in Russia.  Khrushchev has a far lower reputation in Russia than he does in the West.

(25) Certain of Putin’s humorous comments to Stone are being reported in the West as sexist and homophobic despite Putin’s strenuous attempts to appear neither.

I doubt most Russians would see them that way.  On the contrary most Russians – men and women, gay and straight – would take the way the West has reported these comments as further proof the West has lost its sense of humour.

For the record, on the subject of homophobia, I think Putin is basically right when he says in the Putin Interviews that Russian society far from being homophobic is on the contrary basically tolerant and liberal, and that it is indeed altogether more socially liberal than it is widely believed to be in the West.

Those were for me the most striking things to come out of the Putin Interviews.

Western viewers will no doubt be struck by the fluent and forceful way Putin spoke about the Chechen, South Ossetian, Ukrainian and Syrian crises and wars, all of which he discussed at length, and about which he offered a Russian perspective which Western viewers scarcely ever hear.

However the details of these crises and wars – and the differing points of view about them – are subjects with I am very familiar.  For me Putin said nothing about them which was new.

It is Putin the man I was interested in, and it is on this subject that I have chosen to concentrate here.

Though inevitably there is much about Putin that remains unknown, Oliver Stone is to be congratulated on his success in making this very proud and very private man – who is not even prepared to disclose the names of his grandchildren – open himself up to the extent that he did, and as he has never done before.

The Putin Interviews offer us at one and the same time the best biography there is of Putin, and the clearest and most accurate picture of the sort of man he is, of what he believes in, and of how his mind works.

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Schaeuble, Greece and the lessons learned from a failed GREXIT (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 117.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine a recent interview with the Financial Times given by Wolfgang Schäuble, where the former German Finance Minister, who was charged with finding a workable and sustainable solution to the Greek debt crisis, reveals that his plan for Greece to take a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone (in order to devalue its currency and save its economy) was met with fierce resistance from Brussels hard liners, and Angela Merkel herself.

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Via FT

“Look where we’re sitting!” says Wolfgang Schäuble, gesturing at the Berlin panorama stretching out beneath us. It is his crisp retort to those who say that Europe is a failure, condemned to a slow demise by its own internal contradictions. “Walk through the Reichstag, the graffiti left by the Red Army soldiers, the images of a destroyed Berlin. Until 1990 the Berlin Wall ran just below where we are now!”

We are in Käfer, a restaurant on the rooftop of the Reichstag. The views are indeed stupendous: Berlin Cathedral and the TV Tower on Alexanderplatz loom through the mist. Both were once in communist East Berlin, cut off from where we are now by the wall. Now they’re landmarks of a single, undivided city. “Without European integration, without this incredible story, we wouldn’t have come close to this point,” he says. “That’s the crazy thing.”

As Angela Merkel’s finance minister from 2009 to 2017, Schäuble was at the heart of efforts to steer the eurozone through a period of unprecedented turbulence. But at home he is most associated with Germany’s postwar political journey, having not only negotiated the 1990 treaty unifying East and West Germany but also campaigned successfully for the capital to move from Bonn.

For a man who has done so much to put Berlin — and the Reichstag — back on the world-historical map, it is hard to imagine a more fitting lunch venue. With its open-plan kitchen and grey formica tables edged in chrome, Käfer has a cool, functional aesthetic that is typical of the city. On the wall hangs a sketch by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who famously wrapped the Reichstag in silver fabric in 1995.

The restaurant has one other big advantage: it is easy to reach from Schäuble’s office. Now 76, he has been confined to a wheelchair since he was shot in an assassination attempt in 1990, and mobility is an issue. Aides say he tends to avoid restaurants if he can, especially at lunchtime.

As we take our places, we talk about Schäuble’s old dream — that German reunification would be a harbinger of European unity, a step on the road to a United States of Europe. That seems hopelessly out of reach in these days of Brexit, the gilets jaunes in France, Lega and the Five Star Movement in Italy.

Some blame Schäuble himself for that. He was, after all, the architect of austerity, a fiscal hawk whose policy prescriptions during the euro crisis caused untold hardship for millions of ordinary people, or so his critics say. He became a hate figure, especially in Greece. Posters in Athens in 2015 depicted him with a Hitler moustache below the words: “Wanted — for mass poverty and devastation”.

Schäuble rejects the criticism that austerity caused the rise of populism. “Higher spending doesn’t lead to greater contentment,” he says. The root cause lies in mass immigration, and the insecurities it has unleashed. “What European country doesn’t have this problem?” he asks. “Even Sweden. The poster child of openness and the willingness to help.”

But what of the accusation that he didn’t care enough about the suffering of the southern Europeans? Austerity divided the EU and spawned a real animus against Schäuble. I ask him how that makes him feel now. “Well I’m sad, because I played a part in all of that,” he says, wistfully. “And I think about how we could have done it differently.”

I glance at the menu — simple German classics with a contemporary twist. I’m drawn to the starters, such as Oldenburg duck pâté and the Müritz smoked trout. But true to his somewhat abstemious reputation, Schäuble has no interest in these and zeroes in on the entrées. He chooses Käfer’s signature veal meatballs, a Berlin classic. I go for the Arctic char and pumpkin.

Schäuble switches seamlessly back to the eurozone crisis. The original mistake was in trying to create a common currency without a “common economic, employment and social policy” for all eurozone member states. The fathers of the euro had decided that if they waited for political union to happen first they’d wait forever, he says.

Yet the prospects for greater political union are now worse than they have been in years. “The construction of the EU has proven to be questionable,” he says. “We should have taken the bigger steps towards integration earlier on, and now, because we can’t convince the member states to take them, they are unachievable.”

Greece was a particularly thorny problem. It should never have been admitted to the euro club in the first place, Schäuble says. But when its debt crisis first blew up, it should have taken a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone — an idea he first floated with Giorgos Papakonstantinou, his Greek counterpart between 2009 and 2011. “I told him you need to be able to devalue your currency, you’re not competitive,” he says. The reforms required to repair the Greek economy were going to be “hard to achieve in a democracy”. “That’s why you need to leave the euro for a certain period. But everyone said there was no chance of that.”

The idea didn’t go away, though. Schäuble pushed for a temporary “Grexit” in 2015, during another round of the debt crisis. But Merkel and the other EU heads of government nixed the idea. He now reveals he thought about resigning over the issue. “On the morning the decision was made, [Merkel] said to me: ‘You’ll carry on?’ . . . But that was one of the instances where we were very close [to my stepping down].”

It is an extraordinary revelation, one that highlights just how rocky his relationship with Merkel has been over the years. Schäuble has been at her side from the start, an éminence grise who has helped to resolve many of the periodic crises of her 13 years as chancellor. But it was never plain sailing.

“There were a few really bad conflicts where she knew too that we were on the edge and I would have gone,” he says. “I always had to weigh up whether to go along with things, even though I knew it was the wrong thing to do, as was the case with Greece, or whether I should go.” But his sense of duty prevailed. “We didn’t always agree — but I was always loyal.”

That might have been the case when he was a serving minister, but since becoming speaker of parliament in late 2017 he has increasingly distanced himself from Merkel. Last year, when she announced she would not seek re-election as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, the party that has governed Germany for 50 of the past 70 years, Schäuble openly backed a candidate described by the Berlin press as the “anti-Merkel”. Friedrich Merz, a millionaire corporate lawyer who is the chairman of BlackRock Germany, had once led the CDU’s parliamentary group but lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002, quitting politics a few years later. He has long been seen as one of the chancellor’s fiercest conservative critics — and is a good friend of Schäuble’s.

Ultimately, in a nail-biting election last December, Merkel’s favoured candidate, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, narrowly beat Merz. The woman universally known as “AKK” is in pole position to succeed Merkel as chancellor when her fourth and final term ends in 2021.

I ask Schäuble if it’s true that he had once again waged a battle against Merkel and once again lost. “I never went to war against Ms Merkel,” he says. “Everybody says that if I’m for Merz then I’m against Merkel. Why is that so? That’s nonsense.”

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The conclusion of Russiagate, Part I – cold, hard reality

The full text of Attorney General William P Barr’s summary is here offered, with emphases on points for further analysis.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The conclusion of the Russiagate investigation, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was a pivotal media watershed moment. Even at the time of this writing there is a great deal of what might be called “journalistic froth” as opinion makers and analysts jostle to make their takes on this known to the world. Passions are running very high in both the Democrat / anti-Trump camps, where the reactions range from despondency to determined rage to not swallow the gigantic red pill that the “no collusion with Russia” determination offers. In the pro-Trump camp, the mood is deserved relief, but many who support the President are also realists, and they know this conflict is not over.

Where the pivot will go and what all this means is something that will unfold, probably relatively quickly, over the next week or two. But we want to offer a starting point here from which to base further analysis. At this time, of course, there are few hard facts other than the fact that Robert Mueller III submitted his report to the US Attorney General, William Barr, who then wrote and released his own report to the public Sunday evening. We reproduce that report here in full, with some emphases added to points that we think will be relevant to forthcoming pieces on this topic.

The end of the Mueller investigation brings concerns, hopes and fears to many people, on topics such as:

  • Will President Trump now begin to normalize relations with President Putin at full speed?
  • In what direction will the Democrats pivot to continue their attacks against the President?
  • What does this finding to to the 2020 race?
  • What does this finding do to the credibility of the United States’ leadership establishment, both at home and abroad?
  • What can we learn about our nation and culture from this investigation?
  • How does a false narrative get maintained so easily for so long, and
  • What do we do, or what CAN we do to prevent this being repeated?

These questions and more will be addressed in forthcoming pieces. But for now, here is the full text of the letter written by Attorney General William Barr concerning the Russia collusion investigation.

Dear Chairman Graham, Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Ranking Member Collins:
As a supplement to the notification provided on Friday, March 22, 2019, I am writing today to advise you of the principal conclusions reached by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller and to inform you about the status of my initial review of the report he has prepared.
The Special Counsel’s Report
On Friday, the Special Counsel submitted to me a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions” he has reached, as required by 28 C.F.R. § 600.8(c). This report is entitled “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.” Although my review is ongoing, I believe that it is in the public interest to describe the report and to summarize the principal conclusions reached by the Special Counsel and the results of his investigation.
The report explains that the Special Counsel and his staff thoroughly investigated allegations that members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, and others associated with it, conspired with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, or sought to obstruct the related federal investigations. In the report, the Special Counsel noted that, in completing his investigation, he employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.
The Special Counsel obtained a number of indictments and convictions of individuals and entities in connection with his investigation, all of which have been publicly disclosed. During the course of his investigation, the Special Counsel also referred several matters to other offices for further action. The report does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public. Below, I summarize the principal conclusions set out in the Special Counsel’s report.
Russian Interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.
The Special Counsel’s report is divided into two parts. The first describes the results of the Special Counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The report outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts. The report further explains that a primary consideration for the Special Counsel’s investigation was whether any Americans including individuals associated with the Trump campaign joined the Russian conspiracies to influence the election, which would be a federal crime. The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The Special Counsel’s investigation determined that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. The first involved attempts by a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election. As noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that any U.S. person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated with the IRA in its efforts, although the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian nationals and entities in connection with these activities.
The second element involved the Russian government’s efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election. But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.
Obstruction of Justice.
The report’s second part addresses a number of actions by the President most of which have been the subject of public reporting that the Special Counsel investigated as potentially raising obstruction-of-justice concerns. After making a “thorough factual investigation” into these matters, the Special Counsel considered whether to evaluate the conduct under Department standards governing prosecution and declination decisions but ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment. The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion one way or the other as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
The Special Counsel’s decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime. Over the course of the investigation, the Special Counsel’s office engaged in discussions with certain Department officials regarding many of the legal and factual matters at issue in the Special Counsel’s obstruction investigation. After reviewing the Special Counsel’s final report on these issues; consulting with Department officials, including the Office of Legal Counsel; and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.
In making this determination, we noted that the Special Counsel recognized that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,” and that, while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction. Generally speaking, to obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding. In cataloguing the President’s actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent, each of which, under the Department’s principles of federal prosecution guiding charging decisions, would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an obstruction-of-justice offense.
Status of the Department’s Review
The relevant regulations contemplate that the Special Counsel’s report will be a “confidential report” to the Attorney General. See Office of Special Counsel, 64 Fed. Reg. 37,038, 37,040-41 (July 9, 1999). As I have previously stated, however, I am mindful of the public interest in this matter. For that reason, my goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel’s report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.
Based on my discussions with the Special Counsel and my initial review, it is apparent that the report contains material that is or could be subject to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure which imposes restrictions on the use and disclosure of information relating to “matter[s] occurring before grand jury.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(2)(B) Rule 6(e) generally limits disclosure of certain grand jury information in a criminal investigation and prosecution. Id. Disclosure of 6(e) material beyond the strict limits set forth in the rule is a crime in certain circumstances. See, e.g. 18 U.S.C. 401(3). This restriction protects the integrity of grand jury proceedings and ensures that the unique and invaluable investigative powers of a grand jury are used strictly for their intended criminal justice function.
Given these restrictions, the schedule for processing the report depends in part on how quickly the Department can identify the 6(e) material that by law cannot be made public. I have requested the assistance of the Special Counsel in identifying all 6(e) information contained in the report as quickly as possible. Separately, I also must identify any information that could impact other ongoing matters, including those that the Special Counsel has referred to other offices. As soon as that process is complete, I will be in a position to move forward expeditiously in determining what can be released in light of applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.
* * *
As I observed in my initial notification, the Special Counsel regulations provide that “the Attorney General may determine that public release of” notifications to your respective Committees “would be in the public interest.” 28 C.F.R. § 600.9(c). I have so determined, and I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you.
Sincerely,
William P. Barr
Attorney General

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The consolidation of power of the global military industrial complex

Do Europeans support the notion that the countries of the EU be the nuclear war playground of the United States?

Richard Galustian

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Humanity faces two imminent existential threats: environmental catastrophe and nuclear war.

America has elected to completely ignore scientists warnings that we have 12 years to reverse an environmental disaster.

As far as nuclear obliteration, Trump announced that the US is withdrawing from the INF treaty, which eliminated short range missiles deployed in Western Europe, on Russia’s doorstep. It’s the equivalent of Russia placing nuclear missiles in Venezuela.

A provocation, which enables US supplied missiles to be launched, only a few minutes flight time to Moscow.

That, of course sharply increases the nuclear danger. Historically on both sides, attack warnings given by automated systems have often proved faulty in the past; that, if enacted upon, would have meant the end of life as we know it.

Anyone familiar with contemporary military history knows that it’s a virtual miracle that we have so far avoided nuclear war.

Politically within Europe, the attack on democracy is very clear. Unchallenged undemocratic institutions in Brussels exist that is, in the main, part of the problem of the UK BREXIT negotiations.

Why does the public readily accept wars, engineered by our morally bankrupt governments to create ‘regime change’ in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, the Ukraine and soon to be Venezuela followed by Nicaragua and Iran, with such a muted outcry?

That preemptive nuclear attacks are even thought of shows the insanity of Western leadership controlled by vested financial interests led by the Military/Security Industrial Complex and bankers. Those same interests created both ‘industrialised’ World Wars in the 20th Century.

Our governments do not listen to the people. When two million hit the streets of London before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it made not an iota of difference to Tony Blair’s government.

Today, people’s apathy is notably caused by conditioning’, maybe better described as we’ve been ‘disciplined’ by MSM propaganda and family’s economic necessity to focus on their income, have made us so, due to our governments mismanagement of our economies.

Example, our university students are saddled with impossible to repay debt for a reason; to keep future generations ‘disciplined’.

No one has time or dare show any dissent especially given the Orwellian ‘newspeak’ environment that is created by ‘political correctness’.

Back to the subject of Russia phobia. The Western narrative against Russia is, in the main, the below:

* that Russia tried to murder the Skripals. Let the British government, who seem to be holding the Skripals against their will, prove they are not, by letting them be interviewed by the World’s Press.

* Ukraine – For over four years, the governments of NATO and the MSM have been waging the new cold war against Russia. This began with the ‘Maidan’ protests in Kyiv, Ukraine in early 2014 that culminated in the overthrow, universally acknowledged to have been engineered by the CIA, of Ukraine’s elected president and Parliament in February 2014. Putting in power an ultra neo-Nazi government, that in particular voiced hatred against all things Russian…and Jewish. Which MSM, TV news or newspapers, says so?

* That almost 100% of Crimea’s population are glad and grateful to be part of Russia. US, UK and EU says that is untrue, which is nonsense.

The demonisation of Russia is central to the multinational corporate interests that control our governments; the bankers protecting the steeply declining US Dollar, the institutions of the EU that are really controlled by Washington, who are preparing world public opinion to accept what the United States are now gearing up for, the “defence” of Europe.

At this point let us reflect on history by quoting one of America’s most distinguished soldiers, maybe of its entire history, General Smedley D. Butler, from his book ‘War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier.’

“No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with US patents.”

It is recommended to read more about General Smedley Butler, as he was the man chosen by US bankers and particularly the Bush family in the 1930s, to be the new fascist leader of the USA by overthrowing, in a coup, the then President Roosevelt during the period of Hitler’s rise to power. A coincidence one wonders. Butler was a true patriot; he bided his time then revealed the plot to both Congress and President Roosevelt. If you doubt this, it is suggested you research the subject.

We can stop the consolidation of power of the global military/security industrial complex, its war party associates, and specifically the US, UK and EU deep state political and financial elite that no doubt exists. We must elect new leaders, it’s that simple.

To quote Noam Chomsky “….power is always illegitimate, unless it proves itself to be legitimate. So the burden of proof is always on those who claim that some authoritarian hierarchic government is legitimate. If they can’t prove it, then it should be dismantled.”

Implicit in this statement is change by either elections or revolutions.

The French people have shown us when enough is enough by their persistent resistance to their government.

Do Europeans support the notion that the countries of the EU be the nuclear war playground of the United States?

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