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Italy Throws Down the Gauntlet to Challenge the Brussels Establishment

The Italian government has rejected the EU’s calls to revise its draft budget for 2019 that includes a 2.4% deficit of GDP.

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Authored by Arkady Savitsky via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The EU has had a lot of trouble on its hands, as its members, such as Poland and Hungary, are openly challenging the established order. This time it’s a very serious situation, because Brussels is facing defiance from Italy, the 3rd largest national economy in the eurozone and the 8th largest global economy in terms of nominal GDP. It has a population of over 60 million. It is also a Europhile country and the bloc’s founding member.

The Italian government has rejected the EU’s calls to revise its draft budget for 2019 that includes a 2.4% deficit of GDP, which could dangerously boost the nation’s public debt. The ruling coalition in Rome, which is made up of the League and the populist Five Star Movement, has decided to increase borrowing so that it can fund its campaign promises, such as lowering the retirement age and increasing welfare payments.

Last month the European Commission claimed that these spending targets went against EU rules. Rome is burdened by the second-highest amount of public debt in the eurozone. There’s a 131.8% difference between borrowing and economic output there, but the government believes it will achieve substantial economic growth, while the EU’s predictions for Italy are rather gloomy. Nov. 13 was the deadline for submitting a revised draft budget. Rome did not comply. Now the EU leadership is threatening it with sanctions it until it falls into line. Italy could be slapped with a fine of €3.4 billion.

The Italian government takes an independent stance on a multitude of issues. It is seen as Russia-friendly in its calls for lifting, or at least easing, the sanctions against the Russian Federation. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte believes Moscow should be re-admitted to the G7. The Italian PM visited Moscow in late October,  hailing Russia as an essential global player and inviting Putin to visit Italy. Despite the EU-imposed punitive measures that are in place, Mr. Conte signed a slew of trade and investment agreements. Last year, Russia’s parliamentary majority party, United Russia, and Italy’s Lega Nord (Northern League), a ruling coalition member, signed a cooperation agreement. The regional council in Veneto, where Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini holds a strong position, recognized Crimea as part of Russia in 2016.

Austria is another Russia-friendly EU member. Even the recent “spy scandal” that was obviously staged by outside forces to spoil that bilateral relationship, has failed to damage that rapport. “We are a country that has good contacts with Russia, we are aimed at dialogue, it will not change in the future,” said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, speaking to reporters on Nov .14. The conservative People’s Party and the far-right Freedom Party — the members of the ruling coalition — are well-disposed toward Moscow. They don’t support the EU sanctions policy.

Hungary is another Russia-friendly EU member. Last month, the European parliament voted to initiate the Article 7 sanctions procedure against Hungary. The government led by PM Victor Orban has been accused of silencing the media, targeting NGOs, and removing independent judges. Launching the procedures stipulated under that article  opens the door to sanctions. Hungary could eventually be temporarily deprived of its EU voting rights. In reality, the country is being punished for refusing to take in migrants.

This is the second time Article 7 procedures have been launched. The first time was last year, when the European Commission set that article into motion against Poland over its judicial reforms. A unanimous vote is required to suspend Hungary’s voting rights and introduce sanctions. That move is likely to be blocked by Poland. It turn, Hungary said it would stand by Warsaw should the EU launch procedures to punish it. The two nations are united in their efforts to support each other and fend off Brussels’ encroachments at a time when the bloc is undergoing the most difficult times in its history.

Hungary, Poland, and Russia are trying to draw Europe’s attention to the threat to democracy and peace emanating from Ukraine — a problem that has been largely hushed up by the EU leadership.

Slovakia is another EU member state to nurture what some call “special ties” with Russia. It has never been happy with the sanctions against Moscow and has openly said so. Last month, its new prime minister, Peter Pellegrini, called on the EU to revise the sanction policy.

A diplomatic row was also staged in Greece but, as in case of Austria, it may have clouded those historically close ties but has failed to sever them. Cyprus has always been friendly toward Moscow, but Nicosia and Athens are not in a position to protect their independence, as both are heavily indebted and dependent on foreign loans.

The battle between Brussels and Rome comes at a time when Europe is preparing for the European Parliament elections in May 2019. Punitive measure taken by the EU against Italy will most certainly lead to growing public support of that government that is standing up to pressure in order to defend its people. It will increase the number of Italian Eurosceptics who win seats. With so many countries dissatisfied with the EU leadership, it’s hard to predict the outcome. There will soon be other people at the helm who hold quite different views on the problems faced by the EU, as well as on the bloc’s future. Everything may change, including the relationship with Russia and the sanctions that have become so unpopular and have resulted in many national leaders openly challenging the wisdom of such policy imposed by a powerful few.

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kookawigginsAmanda MomtaziFlying GabrielGeorge Hartwell Recent comment authors
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Rostislav Velka Morava
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Rostislav Velka Morava

The Czech Republic with the most open Pro-Russian President in the eu, Milos Zeman, the first to recognize Crimea as rightfully part of Russia, Assad, and an end to the sanctions, should also be mentioned here. He also barred the US Ambassador from Prague Castle, which is the President’s residence. And all this was done more than a year ago.

Also please note that the Czech Republic as Poland and the UK, supported Hungary and all voted against triggering Article 7 against Hungary.

‘Cries from Neanderthal cave’: Czech Republic & Ukraine trade jibes over Crimea
https://www.rt.com/news/406521-neanderthal-czech-ukraine-crimea/

George Hartwell
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These are times of unexpected courage among the peoples. Courage wins wars and is present in great generals. Be of good courage you who choose and new and healthier path for your nation. Be of good courage.

Flying Gabriel
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Flying Gabriel

RIP EU

wiggins
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wiggins

Good riddance…..

Amanda Momtazi
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Amanda Momtazi

Interesting the use of words here….”defend their countries” – I assume this may mean against an influx of more of the peaceful ones, but being in Britain I also take it to mean…”defend your country from the EU” – I wonder if the people at the Duran have seen the furious rantings of Guy Ver Hofstadt spelling out very clearly that all member states should give their sovereignty in its entirety to the EU. One of RT’s presenters did a so-called “comic” piece about Brexit just outside Westmonster – the fact that she asked “Londoners” what the “backstop” was, was… Read more »

kooka
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kooka

2.4% of GDP are less than 3 % which is allowed by Lisbon treaty. This Brussels “theatre” is just a attempt to threaten Italy and Italies voters.Typical behaviour of EU dictatorship.

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EXPLOSIVE: Michael Cohen sentencing memo exposes serial liar with nothing to offer Mueller (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 38.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the Michael Cohen sentencing memo which paints the picture of a man who was not as close to Trump as he made it out to be…a serial liar and cheat who leveraged his thin connections to the Trump organization for money and fame.

It was Cohen himself who proudly labelled himself as Trump’s “fixer”. The sentencing memo hints at the fact that even Mueller finds no value to Cohen in relation to the ongoing Trump-Russia witch hunt investigation.

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Via Axios

Special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York have each submitted sentencing memos for President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, after Cohen pleaded guilty in two different cases related to his work for Trump and the Trump Organization.

The big picture: The Southern District of New York recommended Cohen serve a range of 51 to 63 months for four crimes — “willful tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, illegal campaign contributions, and making false statements to Congress.” Mueller, meanwhile, did not take a position on the length of Cohen’s statement, but said he has made substantial efforts to assist the investigation.

Southern District of New York

Mueller investigation

Michael J. Stern, a federal prosecutor with the Justice Department for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles noted via USA Today

In support of their request that he serve no time in prison, Cohen’s attorneys offered a series of testimonials from friends who described the private Michael Cohen as a “truly caring” man with a “huge heart” who is not only “an upstanding, honorable, salt of the earth man” but also a “selfless caretaker.”

The choirboy portrayed by Cohen’s lawyers stands in sharp opposition to Cohen’s public persona as Trump’s legal bulldog, who once threatened a reporter with: “What I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting. Do you understand me?”

Prosecutors focused their sentencing memo on Cohen as Mr. Hyde. Not only did they detail Cohen’s illegal activities, which include millions of dollars of fraud, they also recognized the public damage that stemmed from his political crimes — describing Cohen as “a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy.”

Rebuffing efforts by Cohen’s attorneys to recast him as a good guy who made a few small mistakes, prosecutors cited texts, statements of witnesses, recordings, documents and other evidence that proved Cohen got ahead by employing a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” The prosecutors attributed Cohen’s crimes to “personal greed,” an effort to “increase his power and influence,” and a desire to maintain his “opulent lifestyle.”

Perhaps the most damning reveal in the U.S. Attorney’s sentencing memo is that Cohen refused to fully cooperate. That’s despite his public relations campaign to convince us that he is a new man who will cooperate with any law enforcement authority, at any time, at any place.

As a former federal prosecutor who handled hundreds of plea deals like Cohen’s, I can say it is extremely rare for any credit to be recommended when a defendant decides not to sign a full cooperation deal. The only reason for a refusal would be to hide information. The prosecutors said as much in their sentencing memo: Cohen refused “to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in his past,” and “further declined” to discuss “other areas of investigative interest.”

 

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Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Huawei CFO Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


You do have to wonder about the political savvy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. The furious fallout from China over the arrest of a senior telecoms executive is going to do severe damage to Canadian national interests.

Trudeau’s fawning over American demands is already rebounding very badly for Canada’s economy and its international image.

The Canadian arrest – on behalf of Washington – of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, seems a blatant case of the Americans acting politically and vindictively. If the Americans are seen to be acting like bandits, then the Canadians are their flunkies.

Wanzhou was detained on December 1 by Canadian federal police as she was boarding a commercial airliner in Vancouver. She was reportedly handcuffed and led away in a humiliating manner which has shocked the Chinese government, media and public.

The business executive has since been released on a $7.4 million bail bond, pending further legal proceedings. She is effectively being kept under house arrest in Canada with electronic ankle tagging.

To add insult to injury, it is not even clear what Wanzhou is being prosecuted for. The US authorities have claimed that she is guilty of breaching American sanctions against Iran by conducting telecoms business with Tehran. It is presumed that the Canadians arrested Wanzhou at the request of the Americans. But so far a US extradition warrant has not been filed. That could take months. In the meantime, the Chinese businesswoman will be living under curfew, her freedom denied.

Canadian legal expert Christopher Black says there is no juridical case for Wanzhou’s detention. The issue of US sanctions on Iran is irrelevant and has no grounds in international law. It is simply the Americans applying their questionable national laws on a third party. Black contends that Canada has therefore no obligation whatsoever to impose those US laws regarding Iran in its territory, especially given that Ottawa and Beijing have their own separate bilateral diplomatic relations.

In any case, what the real issue is about is the Americans using legal mechanisms to intimidate and beat up commercial rivals. For months now, Washington has made it clear that it is targeting Chinese telecoms rivals as commercial competitors in a strategic sector. US claims about China using telecoms for “spying” and “infiltrating” American national security are bogus propaganda ruses to undermine these commercial rivals through foul means.

It also seems clear from US President Donald Trump’s unsubtle comments this week to Reuters, saying he would “personally intervene” in the Meng case “if it helped trade talks with China”, that the Huawei executive is being dangled like a bargaining chip. It was a tacit admission by Trump that the Americans really don’t have a legal case against her.

Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland bounced into damage limitation mode following Trump’s thuggish comments. She said that the case should not be “politicized” and that the legal proceedings should not be tampered with. How ironic is that?

The whole affair has been politicized from the very beginning. Meng’s arrest, or as Christopher Black calls it “hostage-taking”, is driven by Washington’s agenda of harassment against China for commercial reasons, under a legal pretext purportedly about Iranian sanctions.

When Trump revealed the cynical expediency of him “helping to free Wanzhou”, then the Canadians realized they were also being exposed for the flunkies that they are for American banditry. That’s why Freeland was obliged to quickly adopt the fastidious pretense of legal probity.

Canadian premier Justin Trudeau has claimed that he wasn’t aware of the American request for Wanzhou’s detention. Trudeau is being pseudo. For such a high-profile infringement against a senior Chinese business leader, Ottawa must have been fully briefed by the Americans. Christopher Black, the legal expert, believes that Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

What Trudeau and his government intended to get out of performing this sordid role for American thuggery is far from clear. Maybe after being verbally mauled by Trump as “weak and dishonest” at the G7 summit earlier this year, in June, Trudeau decided it was best to roll over and be a good little puppy for the Americans in their dirty deed against China.

But already it has since emerged that Canada is going to pay a very heavy price indeed for such dubious service to Washington. Beijing has warned that it will take retaliation against both Washington and Ottawa. And it is Ottawa that is more vulnerable to severe repercussions.

This week saw two Canadian citizens, one a former diplomat, detained in China on spying charges.

Canadian business analysts are also warning that Beijing can inflict harsh economic penalties on Ottawa. An incensed Chinese public have begun boycotting Canadian exports and sensitive Canadian investments in China are now at risk from being blocked by Beijing. A proposed free trade deal that was being negotiated between Ottawa and Beijing now looks dead in the water.

And if Trudeau’s government caves in to the excruciating economic pressure brought to bear by Beijing and then abides by China’s demand to immediately release Meng Wanzhou, Ottawa will look like a pathetic, gutless lackey to Washington. Canada’s reputation of being a liberal, independent state will be shredded. Even then the Chinese are unlikely to forget Trudeau’s treachery.

With comic irony, there’s a cringemaking personal dimension to this unseemly saga.

During the 197os when Trudeau’s mother Margaret was a thirty-something socialite heading for divorce from his father, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, she was often in the gossip media for indiscretions at nightclubs. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards claims in his autobiography that Margaret Trudeau was a groupie for the band, having flings with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood. Her racy escapades and louche lifestyle brought shame to many Canadians.

Poor Margaret Trudeau later wound up divorced, disgraced, financially broke and scraping a living from scribbling tell-all books.

Justin, her eldest son, is finding out that being a groupie for Washington’s banditry is also bringing disrepute for him and his country.

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US Commits To “Indefinite” Occupation Of Syria; Controls Region The Size Of Croatia

Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005.

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Via Zerohedge


“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation” — a Syrian resident in US-controlled Raqqa told Stars and Stripes military newspaper. This as the Washington Post noted this week that “U.S. troops will now stay in Syria indefinitely, controlling a third of the country and facing peril on many fronts.”

Like the “forever war” in Afghanistan, will we be having the same discussion over the indefinite occupation of Syria stretching two decades from now? A new unusually frank assessment in Stars and Stripes bluntly lays out the basic facts concerning the White House decision to “stay the course” until the war’s close:

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000

A prior New Yorker piece described the US-occupied area east of the Euphrates as “an area about the size of Croatia.” With no Congressional vote, no public debate, and not even so much as an official presidential address to the nation, the United States is settling in for another endless occupation of sovereign foreign soil while relying on the now very familiar post-911 AUMF fig leaf of “legality”.

Like the American public and even some Pentagon officials of late have been pointing out for years regarding Afghanistan, do US forces on the ground even know what the mission is? The mission may be undefined and remain ambiguously to “counter Iran”, yet the dangers and potential for major loss in blood and treasure loom larger than ever.

According to Stars and Stripes the dangerous cross-section of powder keg conflicts and geopolitical players means “a new war” is on the horizon:

The new mission raises new questions, about the role they will play and whether their presence will risk becoming a magnet for regional conflict and insurgency.

The area is surrounded by powers hostile both to the U.S. presence and the aspirations of the Kurds, who are governing the majority-Arab area in pursuit of a leftist ideology formulated by an imprisoned Turkish Kurdish leader. Signs that the Islamic State is starting to regroup and rumblings of discontent within the Arab community point to the threat of an insurgency.

Without the presence of U.S. troops, these dangers would almost certainly ignite a new war right away, said Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Self-Administration of North and East Syria, as the self-styled government of the area is called.

“They have to stay. If they leave and there isn’t a solution for Syria, it will be catastrophic,” she said.

But staying also heralds risk, and already the challenges are starting to mount.
So a US-backed local politician says the US can’t leave or there will be war, while American defense officials simultaneously recognize they are occupying the very center of an impending insurgency from hell — all of which fits the textbook definition of quagmire perfectly.

The New Yorker: “The United States has built a dozen or more bases from Manbij to Al-Hasakah, including four airfields, and American-backed forces now control all of Syria east of the Euphrates, an area about the size of Croatia.”

But in September the White House announced a realignment of its official priorities in Syria, namely to act “as a bulwark against Iran’s expanding influence.” This means the continued potential and likelihood of war with Syria, Iran, and Russia in the region is ever present, per Stripes:

Syrian government troops and Iranian proxy fighters are to the south and west. They have threatened to take the area back by force, in pursuit of President Bashar Assad’s pledge to bring all of Syria under government control.

Already signs of an Iraq-style insurgency targeting US forces in eastern Syria are beginning to emerge.

In Raqqa, the largest Syrian city at the heart of US occupation and reconstruction efforts, the Stripes report finds the following:

The anger on the streets is palpable. Some residents are openly hostile to foreign visitors, which is rare in other towns and cities freed from Islamic State control in Syria and Iraq. Even those who support the presence of the U.S. military and the SDF say they are resentful that the United States and its partners in the anti-ISIS coalition that bombed the city aren’t helping to rebuild.

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation,” said one man, a tailor, who didn’t want to give his name because he feared the consequences of speaking his mind. “I don’t know why they had to use such a huge number of weapons and destroy the city. Yes, ISIS was here, but we paid the price. They have a responsibility.”

Recent reports out of the Pentagon suggests defense officials simply want to throw more money into US efforts in Syria, which are further focused on training and supplying the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (or Kurdish/YPG-dominated SDF), which threatens confrontation with Turkey as its forces continue making preparations for a planned attack on Kurdish enclaves in Syria this week.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005:

Everyone says the streets are not safe now. Recent months have seen an uptick in assassinations and kidnappings, mostly targeting members of the security forces or people who work with the local council. But some critics of the authorities have been gunned down, too, and at night there are abductions and robberies.

As America settles in for yet another endless and “indefinite” occupation of a Middle East country, perhaps all that remains is for the president to land on an aircraft carrier with “Mission Accomplished” banners flying overhead?

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