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Australia’s 2018 geopolitical choice between the USA or China

Canberra has always deftly balanced between Beijing and Washington but it may soon need to choose one over the other.

Alex Christoforou

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Australia is certain to stress how it can walk the line between the United States and China.

With Trump’s White House win and China’s certain ascension as the world’s new, number one economy, Australia may be forced into making some tough decisions as to where its geopolitical future lies.

“Australia’s Hard Choice Between China and US” via The Strategic Culture Foundation…

Australia has always believed that it doesn’t have to choose between its economic relationship with China and its defense alliance with the United States. But 2018 is already shaping up to be the year of the hard choice.

It would be convenient for Australia if it was able to maintain its balancing act, but a confluence of global factors has stripped away the fiction that it can separate the economic benefits it gets from China and its post-World War II position as one of America’s closest strategic allies.

There is a lot at stake, including potentially Australia’s ongoing prosperity.
China is clearly not happy with Australia’s adherence to the US alliance and if it follows through on veiled threats to boycott Australian exports and limit investment, Canberra’s loyalty to Washington could come at the expense of significant economic pain.

China’s hawkish Global Times newspaper, widely viewed as a mouthpiece for the ruling Communist Party, spared no niceties in an op-ed last week that warned Australia against “interference” in the South China Sea (SCS) territorial disputes.

Australia was “kissing up” to the US and risked “poisoning” its relations with China, which could “adopt strong countermeasures which will seriously impact Australian economic development.” Australia hasn’t taken a position on SCS spats, but has said it favors “freedom of navigation” in the area, echoing the US’ position.

China is Australia’s biggest trading partner, taking around a third of Australia’s exports. The two countries signed a free trade agreement (FTA) which came into effect at the end of 2015 and two-way trade now exceeds US$110 billion a year.

Chinese students comprise 38% of foreign students in Australia and prop up the university sector with their fees, bringing in US$18 billion per year.

The number of Chinese tourists is also booming. In 2005, 4.9% of foreign visitors to Australia were Chinese, a number which had risen to 13% by 2016. Chinese investors are key players in commercial and residential property markets, and are major investors in sectors such as agriculture and mining.

So when Australia congratulates itself on avoiding a recession for the last 30 years, it owes a major vote of thanks to China.

Despite this, Australia’s position on China is often schizophrenic. While the business and financial community continue to see China as Australia’s future, the defense and intelligence establishment in Canberra take a different view.

They see China as manipulating its global networks, including via the Chinese diaspora in Australia, in support of its global ambitions which are at odds with Australia’s traditional alliance with the US.

From these agencies comes innuendo about Chinese “interference” in Australia, a country which has for years hosted one of the most significant US surveillance facilities at Pine Gap in the Northern Territory.

A recent ban imposed on foreign donations to Australian political parties was squarely aimed at China, and friendships with Chinese donors cost a rising star of the opposition Labor Party, Sam Dasyari, his job in December.

Driven by fear of espionage and cyber-intelligence, successive Australian governments have blocked Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei from participating in the rollout of the country’s National Broadband Network.

In December, Canberra was also poised to kill a deal for Huawei Marine Networks to lay a 4,000-kilometer submarine cable from Sydney to the Solomon Islands.

Even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who as Communications Minister was expected to overturn the Huawei ban, referred to China as a “frenemy” in comments at a public dinner last year.

Such paranoia about Chinese telecommunication companies does not extend to New Zealand, where Huawei has been a big player in new national infrastructure or in the United Kingdom, where the company is a big player in rolling out 4G wireless networks and fixed rural phone connections.

Meanwhile, Australia has spent more than US$10 billion on weapons and military equipment from the US in the last four years, according to a recent Australian National Audit Office analysis.

With Australia set to spend around US$150 billion on defense in the next decade, with big outlays earmarked to build a next generation navy and air force, that figure can be expected to rise as it further integrates into the US military supply chain with projects like the J-35 Strike Fighter.

American foreign policy, however, is fast changing under US President Donald Trump. As the US appears to shrink from the region, including through its withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, it is creating a vacuum which poses a major dilemma for Australia.

Does Australia fill that vacuum as a local enforcer of the US alliance and forge stronger alliances with other countries such as Japan and South Korea to counterbalance Chinese influence? Or does it accept China’s increased power in the world and recalibrate 70 years of foreign policy accordingly?

The fragmentation of late 20th century geopolitics is reconfiguring the world, and as a mid-ranking nation Australia is yet to find its new place.

Perhaps the only upside to this dilemma is that the US appears to be moving away from any direct confrontation with China in the Pacific as Trump looks to forge alliances against North Korea.

If US-China tensions are heightened, including by allegations that China is not acting genuine in its stated intention to isolate North Korea, it would quickly bring the polarity of Australian policy into sharp focus.

The inconsistencies and contradictions, including in strategic areas, are already apparent. While Huawei is banned from major national infrastructure contracts, its handsets have been approved for use by top defense officials and diplomats, and several thousand have been distributed.

When a Chinese company, Landbridge Group, secured a 99-year lease on the strategic Port of Darwin in 2015, top US defense officials said they were “stunned” by the decision. Critics at the time contended it gave China a “front row seat” to spy on joint US-Australian naval operations.

Australian universities have received government grants to work on collaborative research with Chinese companies on technologies which could have military applications. The University of Adelaide, for example, is working with the Beijing Institute of Aeronautical Materials, a company which is a part of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China.

All of this shows that Australia’s new hardline on China is and will inevitably be compromised by burgeoning economic relations. While the economic threats from China may simply be posturing at a tense juncture, they have called out and exposed the unresolved contradiction at the heart of Australia’s 21st century identity.

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Tape recorded evidence of Clinton-Ukraine meddling in US election surfaces (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a look at new evidence to surface from Ukraine that exposes a plot by the US Embassy in Kiev and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) to leak Paul Manafort’s corrupt dealings in the country, all for the benefit of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Hill’s John Solomon, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko

“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko said last week, according to The Hill

Lutsenko is probing a claim from a member of the Ukrainian parliament that the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Artem Sytnyk, attempted to the benefit of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A State Department spokesman told Hill.TV that officials aware of news reports regarding Sytnyk. –The Hill

“According to the member of parliament of Ukraine, he got the court decision that the NABU official conducted an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” said Lutsenko, speaking with The Hill’s John Solomon about the anti-corruption bureau chief, Artem Sytnyk.

“It means that we think Mr. Sytnyk, the NABU director, officially talked about criminal investigation with Mr. [Paul] Manafort, and at the same time, Mr. Sytnyk stressed that in such a way, he wanted to assist the campaign of Ms. Clinton,” Lutsenko continued.

Solomon asked Lutsenko about reports that a member of Ukraine’s parliament obtained a tape of the current head of the NABU saying that he was attempting to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election, as well as connections that helped release the black-ledger files that exposed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s wrongdoing in Ukraine.

“This member of parliament even attached the audio tape where several men, one of which had a voice similar to the voice of Mr. Sytnyk, discussed the matter.” –The Hill

What The Hill doesn’t mention is that Sytnyk released Manafort’s Black Book with Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko – discussed in great length by former Breitbart investigator Lee Stranahan, who has been closely monitoring this case.

Serhiy Leshchenko

T]he main spokesman for these accusations was Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian politician and journalist who works closely with both top Hillary Clinton donors George Soros and Victor Pinchuk, as well as to the US Embassy in Kyiv.

James Comey should be asked about this source that Leshchenko would not identify. Was the source someone connected to US government, either the State Department or the Department of Justice?

The New York Times should also explain why they didn’t mention that Leshchenko had direct connections to two of Hillary Clinton biggest financial backers. Victor Pinchuk, the largest donor to the Clinton Foundation at a staggering $8.6 million also happened to have paid for Leshchenko’s expenses to go to international conferences. George Soros, whose also founded the International Renaissance Foundationthat worked closely with Hillary Clinton’s State Department in Ukraine, also contributed at least $8 million to Hillary affiliated super PACs in the 2016 campaign cycle. –Lee Stranahan via Medium

Meanwhile, according to former Fusion GPS contractor Nellie Ohr, Leshchenko was a source for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, testified on Oct. 19 that Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned Ukrainian lawmaker, was a source for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

“I recall … they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian,” Ohr said when asked who Fusion GPS’s sources were, according to portions of Ohr’s testimony confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. –Daily Caller

Also absent from The Hill report is the fact that Leshchenko was convicted in December by a Kiev court of interfering in the 2016 US election.

A Kyiv court said that a Ukrainian lawmaker and a top anticorruption official’s decision in 2016 to publish documents linked to President Donald Trump’s then-campaign chairman amounted to interference in the U.S. presidential election.

The December 11 finding came in response to a complaint filed by another Ukrainian lawmaker, who alleged that Serhiy Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk illegally released the documents in August 2016, showing payments by a Ukrainian political party to Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The documents, excerpts from a secret ledger of payments by the Party of Regions, led to Manafort being fired by Trump’s election campaign.

The Kyiv court said that the documents published by Leshchenko and Sytnyk were part of an ongoing pretrial investigation in Ukraine into the operations of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The party’s head had been President Viktor Yanukovych until he fled the country amid mass protests two years earlier.

-RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty (funded by the US govt.).

So while Lutsenko – Solomon’s guest and Ukrainian Prosecutor is currently going after Artem Sytnyk, it should be noted that Leshchenko was already found to have meddled in the 2016 US election.

Watch:

Meanwhile, you can also check out Stranahan’s take on Leshchenko being left out of the loop.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Via RT


Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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