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Germany begs Russia to pick up the torch that US has dropped

This is American exceptionalism in action. It means, ‘except’ America. 

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Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, who has a history of expressing anti Russian rhetoric relevant to Russia’s presence in Syria as well as an alleged cyber attack on the German Foreign Ministry which Maas says that he ‘has to assume stemmed from Russia’, has turned an about face. He has traveled, for the first time, to Moscow to discuss international diplomacy, the Iran nuclear deal, peace talks on Ukraine, and Syria.

Maas met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, where he encouraged Russia to leverage its influence with Iran to help spur the Middle Eastern state in remaining committed to the nuclear deal, which Trump abandoned earlier in the week.

Maas then declared that Germany was interested in bringing back the peace talks on the Ukraine, together with other European partners. Maas also pointed out that the Syrian conflict can’t be settled without Russia, before contributing a wreath to the tomb of the unknown soldier, which is a dedication to Russian soliders who died fighting the Germans in WW2.

Deutsche Welle reports:
Germany’s top diplomat Heiko Maas and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov both called for the nuclear deal with Iran to be upheld on Thursday, during Maas’ first official visit to Russia. The appeal marks a rare moment of unity between Moscow and Berlin just days after US walked out on the 2015 accord.

In Moscow, Maas urged Russia to influence Tehran and make it stick to the deal, which aims to limit Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons. The German foreign minister also said he was seeking details from the US on its plans for future sanctions against Iran.

US President Donald Trump has shrugged off pressurefrom allies to keep the deal in place and called the accord “defective at its core.” However, leaders of the UK, France, and Germany all contacted Iranian President Hasan Rouhani in the attempt to salvage the accord.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel called Rouhani on Thursday to reaffirm Germany’s commitment to the deal “as long as Iran continues to fulfil its obligations,” said Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert. Merkel also said she was ready to negotiate about Iran’s ballistic missiles and involvement in Syria and Yemen.

Angela Merkel is also set to visit Russia next week.

New start on Ukraine?

Visiting Moscow on Thursday, Germany’s top diplomat Maas suggested reviving the peace talks between Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia on the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Lavrov responded by saying Russia was “ready to consider” this offer.

Maas also called for “honest dialogue” with Moscow and for Russia to be included in global diplomacy, despite its differences with Berlin. Maas admitted that the conflict in Syria “cannot be solved without Russia.”

The German diplomat also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, which is dedicated to the Soviet soldiers killed during World War II.

Lavrov said on Thursday that he “appreciated” Maas’ traveling to Russia so soon after becoming foreign minister. He said talking face to face was much better than “microphone diplomacy,” in an apparent jibe at Maas’ comments on Russia in an interview with news magazine Der Spiegel.

Maas tough on Russia

Maas has struck a more forceful tone on Russia than his predecessor and fellow Social Democrat, Sigmar Gabriel.

In the Spiegel interview, he has called Russia an “aggressor” and accused the Russian government of being “increasingly hostile,” which has been met with criticism from his SPD party.

Also in a bid to get Russia to assume a leadership position relative to preserving the nuclear deal, and by extension, the European economy, Merkel got on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where he mutually voiced his concern over Trump’s action, and where Merkel also came forward about the situation in Syria. i24News International reports:

Putin has previously voiced “deep concern” over US President Donald Trump’s decision and Russian officials have said they would work with European partners to preserve the agreement.

“The importance of preserving the deal from a point of view of international and regional stability was highlighted,” the Kremlin said in a statement following a call between Putin and Merkel.

The two leaders also discussed the situation in Syria as well as Merkel’s planned working visit to Russia next week, Moscow said Merkel has previously said Germany and its European partners would “do everything” to ensure Iran remains in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

Coinciding with Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear development, and western sanctions relative thereto, and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’s visit to Moscow and German Chancellor Angela’s phone call with Putin, the German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, is set to travel to Moscow next week to discuss European, particularly German, energy cooperation efforts with Russia, notably the Nord – Stream 2 project, as the insecure future of the Iran nuclear deal and the resumption of American sanctions introduces some uncertainty for the future of the German energy sector.

TASS reports:

BERLIN, May 11. /TASS/. Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier has confirmed that he will visit Moscow at the beginning of the next week, he said in an interview with German radio station Deutschlandfunk released on Friday.

“I will follow my colleague [German Foreign Minister Heiko] Maas, who attended negotiations in Moscow yesterday. I will be there on Monday and Tuesday, and Chancellor [Angela Merkel will visit Sochi – TASS] during the week,” Altmaier said.

German news agency DPA earlier reported that Altmaier plans to visit Ukraine and Russia on May 13-14 and chiefly discuss energy issues there, in particular the implementation of the Nord Stream – 2 project and Ukraine’s role as the a transit corridor for Russian gas to Europe.

The issue of German-Russian economic cooperation will dominate the Moscow visit. DPA reported that there is uncertainty in German business circles regarding the sanctions policy. Altmaier will also discuss in Moscow preparations for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Sochi on May 18, where she is due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Altmaier earlier headed the German Chancellery and is believed to be one of Merkel’s most trusted advisors.

Meanwhile, Merkel has not only reiterated Germany’s commitment to the nuclear deal, but also its word in multilateral agreements. Speaking to the Catholic Convention in Münster, she stated the importance of standing by international agreements while echoing her disappointment with the Trump withdrawal from the JCPOA.

Deutsche Welle reports:

She’s the most high-profile guest of the “Katholikentag,” Germany’s Catholic Convention: Chancellor Angela Merkel came to the five-day event in Münster as it turned its attention to international politics on Friday.

Merkel called the US decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal “a cause of great concern,” in a panel discussion and emphasized the role of international cooperation when confronting crises.

“If we always step away from multilateral agreements as soon as we don’t like something about them, that would be a bad message for the world. We want to strengthen multilateralism,” the chancellor said.

She said the US decision was a “serious incident” but not a reason to call the entire transatlantic relationship into question, adding that she would “continue to support transatlantic partnership.”

All of this, of course, in a lead up to Merkel’s visit to Sochi on the 18th with a view to urging Moscow to take up the leadership that Trump has abdicated on the international playing field by working out a way to save the nuclear deal as well as confidence in multilateral agreements. As a bonus, Merkel is promising to revive constructive diplomacy between Europe and Moscow, notably as it relates to energy cooperation, the Syria situation, and peace talks over the Ukraine.

Deutsche Welle observes:

German-Russian relations had soured because of alleged Russian cyberattacks and the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea. But the US President’s hardline policy on around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for Iran has intensified the search for common ground in Berlin and Moscow. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on May 18, and on Friday morning the two spoke on the telephone.

“The importance of preserving the deal from a point of view of international and regional stability was highlighted,” the Kremlin said in a statement following the call.

Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said that the two leaders had agreed to push for the other signatories to the deal — France, the UK and China — to continue abiding by it. Merkel also touched on the future of the agreement in remarks she made in the city of Münster on Friday.

“I believe it is not right that a deal which was agreed, which was voted upon in the UN Security Council and unanimously approved, should be unilaterally terminated,” Merkel said, adding that the US decision “damages trust in the international order.”

The foreign ministers of Germany, France and the UK will meet with their Iranian counterpart next Tuesday in Brussels. But equally important, if the JCPOA is to survive, would be coordination with Russia and China, since those two nations can offer Tehran the biggest incentives to stay in the nuclear deal. …In Sochi, Merkel is likely to lobby Putin to give Tehran guarantees of future economic cooperation in return for abiding by the provisions of the JCPOA.

…Trump’s unilateralism — and in particular a brusque tweet by the new US ambassador to Germany — have been interpreted as attempts by Washington to impose its policy and law beyond its borders. That has led some commentators to diagnose a breakdown in solidarity between the US and Western Europe.

The Financial Times newspaper postulated that Tuesday “may be remembered as the day the US abandoned its belief in allies.” Those sentiments were echoed by Elmar Brok, a conservative German Member of the European Parliament.

“We have to acknowledge that on these and other issues that Western unity is crumbling, and there is no partnership,” Brok told a German radio station. “This means that we now have to try, together with the Chinese and the Russians, to keep the Middle East free of nuclear weapons.”

Trump, in pushing his ‘America First’ campaign is doing the exact opposite. In reality, it translates to ‘America alone’, as his maneuver on the Iran deal demonstrates that America is not only concerned with its own interests first, while it possesses a position of global influence, but that this means that America’s interests are of priority, even if that means chopping off cooperation with its allies with moves that are detrimental to their interests.

But it’s not just America’s European allies who recognize this. As American belligerence continues to develop ever more aggressively against those regimes which America possesses little dominance over, those nations have further begun to ban together to work with each other as they become further ostracized by the West.

America has decided to conduct a trade war with China, and threatened actual war, hence China as developed its One Belt One Road initiative to unify the region in trade matters, and is presently implementing its own petroyuan to rival the dominance of the American dollar in the oil trading business.

America has decided that it doesn’t want to be friends with Russia, hitting it with multiple rounds of sanctions and threats, hence, Russia is therefore developing its options out with its neighbors.

America has decided that it will punish the Venezuelans for having their own oil sector and refusing American domination, hence they are developing a crypocurrency to conduct trade with Russia, and potentially China.

It’s a foreign policy of narcissism, where America perceives its ‘exception’ as if its own interests are the only ones that matter at all, and to hell with everyone else. This mode of action not only harms allied interests, but is pushing them into the zone of those which America is at opposition, namely, China and Russia. Once America pushes someone out of the way, they begin looking around for other options, to pursue their interests with or without America, and this time, for Europe, particularly in this case Germany, without America.

This is American exceptionalism in action. It means, ‘except’ America.

As America abandons its position of leadership on the global playing field, it is opening up the way for Russia take up the torch and bring peace and stability where America brings division and destabilization.

 

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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

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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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Rumors of War: Washington Is Looking for a Fight

The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


It is depressing to observe how the United States of America has become the evil empire. Having served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and in the Central Intelligence Agency for the second half of the Cold War, I had an insider’s viewpoint of how an essentially pragmatic national security policy was being transformed bit by bit into a bipartisan doctrine that featured as a sine qua non global dominance for Washington. Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union collapsed the opportunity to end once and for all the bipolar nuclear confrontation that threatened global annihilation was squandered as President Bill Clinton chose instead to humiliate and use NATO to contain an already demoralized and effectively leaderless Russia.

American Exceptionalism became the battle cry for an increasingly clueless federal government as well as for a media-deluded public. When 9/11 arrived, the country was ready to lash out at the rest of the world. President George W. Bush growled that “There’s a new sheriff in town and you are either with us or against us.” Afghanistan followed, then Iraq, and, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats came up with Libya and the first serious engagement in Syria. In its current manifestation, one finds a United States that threatens Iran on a nearly weekly basis and tears up arms control agreements with Russia while also maintaining deployments of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and places like Mali. Scattered across the globe are 800 American military bases while Washington’s principal enemies du jour Russia and China have, respectively, only one and none.

Never before in my lifetime has the United States been so belligerent, and that in spite of the fact that there is no single enemy or combination of enemies that actually threaten either the geographical United States or a vital interest. Venezuela is being threatened with invasion primarily because it is in the western hemisphere and therefore subject to Washington’s claimed proconsular authority. Last Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence told the United Nations Security Council that the White House will remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power, preferably using diplomacy and sanctions, but “all options are on the table.” Pence warned that Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences.

The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.”

Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step. In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade.

But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people.

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

In a a press release by Gardner, who has long been pushing to have Russia listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, a February version of the bill is described as “…comprehensive legislation [that] seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the US government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”

The February version of the bill included Menendez, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as co-sponsors, suggesting that provoking war is truly bipartisan in today’s Washington.

Each Senator co-sponsor contributed a personal comment to the press release. Gardner observed that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” Menendez noted that “President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress” while Graham added that “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. He should cease and desist meddling in the US electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.” Cardin contributed “Congress continues to take the lead in defending US national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad” and Shaheen observed that “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”

The Senatorial commentary is, of course, greatly exaggerated and sometimes completely false regarding what is going on in the world, but it is revealing of how ignorant American legislators can be and often are. The Senators also ignore the fact that the designation of presumed Kremlin surrogate forces as “foreign terrorist organizations” is equivalent to a declaration of war against them by the US military, while hypocritically calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is bad enough, as it is demonstrably untrue. But the real damage comes from the existence of the bill itself. It will solidify support for hardliners on both sides, guaranteeing that there will be no rapprochement between Washington and Moscow for the foreseeable future, a development that is bad for everyone involved. Whether it can be characterized as an unintended consequence of unwise decision making or perhaps something more sinister involving a deeply corrupted congress and administration remains to be determined.

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