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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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Putin’s State of the Nation Part III – Raising Russians

President Putin’s State of the Nation talk began with the most important element of any society – the family.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Parts I and II of this series outline much of Russia’s “face towards the world” in terms of both economic / trade and military matters. Part III actually comprises the great majority of what President Putin addressed in the Russian State of the Nation Address on Wednesday, 20 February. As he pledged upon his re-election to his fourth presidential term, the 66-year old leader focused primarily on domestic affairs within the Russian Federation.

The whole speech is available at Kremlin.ru, and by following this hyperlink.

We have selected excerpts along the reasoning of illuminating those parts of domestic policy in Russia that reveal why the globalist and secularist elíte in the West are so determined to block Russia’s success as a nation, even to isolate it and destroy it if possible. We will emphasize and comment on various points from the speech.

One of the biggest differences in Russia from the US is the centrality of traditional families, with children. Children are wanted and needed in the Russian Federation, and President Putin started his speech by addressing the matter of raising new Russians:

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Members of the Federation Council, State Duma deputies, citizens of Russia,

Today’s Address is primarily devoted to matters of domestic social and economic development. I would like to focus on the objectives set forth in the May 2018 Executive Order and detailed in the national projects. Their content and the targets they set are a reflection of the demands and expectations of Russia’s citizens. People are at the core of the national projects, which are designed to bring about a new quality of life for all generations. This can only be achieved by generating momentum in Russia’s development…

Therefore, the work of the executive branch at all levels should be coordinated, meaningful and energetic. The Government of Russia must set the tone.

At the same time, I would like to emphasise and repeat: our development projects are not federal and even less so agency-based. They are national. Their results must be visible in each region of the Federation, in every municipality. It is here, on the ground, that the majority of specific tasks is implemented.

Here, President Putin seems to be alluding to the importance of nation. While Russia has a much more openly socialist style government than the US does, it is nonetheless also much more efficient in its work in many ways. Communism failed, but it did teach some lessons about how to do a lot of work with few resources. There is a reason the largest nation on earth does not have to go into huge debt year after year.

Let me now share some specifics on our objectives. I will begin with the key objective of , which means providing all-around support to families.

Family, childbirth, procreation and respect for the elderly have always served as a powerful moral framework for Russia and its multi-ethnic people. We have been doing everything in our power to strengthen family values and are committed to doing so in the future. In fact, our future is at stake. This is a task shared by the state, civil society, religious organisations, political parties and the media.

This, while states in the US are trying to pass radical abortion laws to even be able to kill babies who survive abortions.

Russia has entered an extremely challenging period in terms of demographics. As you know, the birth rate is declining…

We succeeded in overcoming the negative demographic trends in the early 2000s, when our country faced extreme challenges. This seemed to be an impossible challenge at the time. Nevertheless, we succeeded, and I strongly believe that we can do it again by returning to natural population growth by late 2023 – early 2024.

Today, I wanted to talk about a new package of measures that has already been prepared to support families.

First: It is important that having children and bringing them up do not put families at the risk of poverty or undermine their wellbeing. As you know, we have already provided for the payment of subsidies for the first two children until they reach 18 months…

Starting January 1, 2020, I propose raising the bar to two subsistence wages per family member. This is what people have requested and these requests come directly into the Executive Office. This measure will increase the number of families entitled to additional benefits by almost 50 percent. Some 70 percent of families with one or two children will be able to benefit from help from the Government.

Second: At present, carers looking after children with disabilities and people disabled since childhood receive an allowance of only 5,500 rubles. I suggest increasing this to 10,000 rubles, starting July 1. Of course, I understand that it is still a small amount. However, it will be an additional measure of support for families with a child who needs special care.

Third: The income of Russian families must, of course, increase. This is a serious task that requires a comprehensive solution. I will speak about this in greater detail later. But we need direct measures. First of all, the tax burden on families needs to be relieved. The approach should be very simple: the more children there are, the lower the tax. I propose increasing federal tax relief on real estate for families with many children. I also propose lifting taxes on 5 square metres in a flat and 7 square metres in a house per each child…

Fourth: The Government and the Central Bank need to consistently maintain the policy to lower mortgage rates to 9 percent, and then to 8 percent or below, as stipulated in the May 2018 Executive Order. At the same time, special measures of support should be provided for families with children, of course… A family making a decision to buy housing certainly makes plans for a long or at least medium term, a lasting investment. But with this [present] programm, they take out a loan, start paying the installments, and the grace period ends. The interest is actually subsidized only for the first 3 or 5 years. I propose extending the benefit for the entire term of the mortgage loan.

Yes, of course, it will require additional funding, and the cost will be rather high: 7.6 billion rubles in 2019, 21.7 billion rubles in 2020, and 30.6 billion rubles in 2021. But the programme is estimated to reach as many as 600,000 families. We certainly need to find the money. We know where to get it. We have it, and we just need to use it in the areas that are of major importance to us.

And one more direct action solution. Considering the sustainability and stability of the macroeconomic situation in the country and the growth of the state’s revenues, I consider it possible to introduce another measure of support for families having a third and subsequent children. I suggest paying 450,000 rubles directly from the federal budget to cover this sum from their mortgage. Importantly, I propose backdating this payment starting January 1, 2019, recalculating it and allocating relevant sums in this year’s budget.

Let us see what we have. If we add this sum to the maternity capital, which can also be used for mortgage payments, we will get over 900,000 rubles. In many regions, this is a substantial part of the cost of a flat. I would like to draw the attention of the Government and the State Duma to this issue. If need be, the budget will have to be adjusted accordingly. An additional 26.2 billion rubles will be required for this in 2019. The relevant figures for 2020 and 2021 are 28.6 billion rubles and 30.1 billion rubles, respectively. These are huge funds but they should be allocated and used in what I have already described as a very important area.

There is a great deal more detail on the notion of various tax breaks for families with children. It is worth a read, and it is also worth noting the very clear language set forth here. It appears rather refreshing to hear these ideas laid out in such a blunt fashion.

 

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Pressure mounts on Theresa May to agree to 3 month Brexit extension (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 181.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at how the EU, in coordination with forces inside the British Parliament, are pushing for Theresa May to agree to a three month “Brexit day” extension.

According to a Bloomberg, Theresa May must resign as British prime minister and Conservative leader later this year after delivering Brexit, according to politicians at the highest levels of her own government.  May has promised her party she will stand down before the next general election, slated for 2022, but she’s likely to face pressure to go within the next three months. Once the U.K. is out of the European Union, and local district elections on May 2 are over, the premier will have no reason to stay in office, one senior minister said, speaking privately. Britain is scheduled to leave the bloc on March 29.

A person familiar with another minister’s views agreed with the timescale, arguing that the prime minister should leave in the summer, so a new leader can be in place in time for the party’s annual conference in October. A third senior member of May’s administration pointed out that Tories had no way of formally seeking to remove May before December under the party’s internal leadership rules. May will never voluntarily resign, despite her previous pledge, the person said.

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Via Zerohedge

Theresa May once again failed to extract concessions from the EU27 on Wednesday after yet another meeting with Juncker (surprise, surprise) as the Continent refuses to budge on May’s demands for “legally binding changes” to the deal – specifically to the troublesome Irish backstop, which many Brexiteers fear could result in the UK being reduced to a “vassal state” of the EU by becoming interminably trapped in the customs union, with zero say over its rules. Talks between Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and EU27 chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Thursday were similarly inconclusive.

And with only 36 days left until “Brexit Day”, it’s becoming increasingly clear that May will need to ask her EU colleagues for an extension to the two-year negotiating period, something that would cut against her commitment to take the UK out of the EU “as scheduled”, though she has never explicitly ruled it out. According to Bloombergthe EU expects May to request a 3-month “technical extension,” which would be the first, and hopefully only, delay, (because anything further would ratchet up the pressure for the UK to participate in the upcoming European Parliament elections…an unnecessary complication).

Still, without meaningful concessions on the backstop, it’s difficult to see a way forward. Rebellious Tories and the “Independent Group” have so far focused their efforts on securing a legally-binding commitment to take a “no-deal” exit off the table. And with the deadline unlikely to be extended past this point, if a deal isn’t reached during the March 21-22 UK-EU summit, he way forward will appear impossibly vague.

But with dozens of Tories reportedly ready to rebel unless the PM offers concrete reassurances that ‘no deal’ isn’t an option, and that rebellion will likely take the form of support for an amendment tabled by former minister Sir Oliver Letwin and Labour’s Yvette Cooper to give Parliament the power to delay Brexit Day if no deal is reached by mid-March.

Meanwhile, thanks to the latest round of defections, the “Independent Group” has become the fourth-largest party in Parliament.

But all of these threats likely won’t take on real significance until the March summit with the EU, thanks to the Continent’s reputation for holding out until the last minute. Meanwhile, MPs have told the media that a vote on May’s Brexit “Plan B” deal – which had been set for next week – is unlikely.

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Trump’s Syria military pullout, not under John Bolton’s watch (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 89.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at the announcement from the Trump White House that the United States has decided to station a ‘peacekeeping group’ of roughly 200 US soldiers in Syria for a ‘period of time’ after the much hyped withdrawal.

Once again we see that once the US enters a country for a regime change mission, it becomes nearly impossible to fully disengage, ultimately leaving America in the role of invader and occupier, for an indefinite amount of time.

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Via RT…

Despite President Donald Trump’s promises to withdraw American troops out of Syria, the US intends to maintain presence on the ground with a “small peacekeeping group” for an unspecified “period” of time, the White House said.

“A small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement without elaborating.

Trump took the world by surprise back in December, when he announced the US withdrawal from Syria without specifying a timetable. The initiative was not well received in the Pentagon, even forcing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign after clashing with Trump, as both the generals and politicians have been claiming that US presence in Syria is vital and that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group would inevitably reemerge if all of some 2,000 Americans leave.

The US withdrawal is being stalled by concerns about potential Turkish incursion into the territories currently controlled by the US-backed Syrian Kurds. On Thursday, Trump had another phone call with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the issue. Washington wants Turkey to agree to a buffer ‘safe zone’ in northeastern Syria and is also contemplating arming the Syrian Kurds, despite Ankara’s strong opposition.

While the US continues its diplomatic maneuvering, some noted the irony, wondering if the White House was using the term ‘peacekeeping’ correctly or was even aware of what it actually means. Others questioned the logic and the motive of maintaining such a contingent on the ground, noting that 200 troops could serve as a human shield, but is unlikely to really sway the outcome of the conflict.

Traditionally, the term peacekeeping has been used to describe the UN Blue Helmets whose missions are strictly mandated by the Security Council. American troops, however, hardly have any legal basis to remain in Syria, as they had never been invited by the official government in Damascus.

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