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NATO Risks War with Russia to Prolong its own Existence

NATO is deliberately engineering a conflict with Russia in Europe to raise money from its members and to justify its continued existence.

Seth Farris

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It is not difficult to see the new direction the US and its NATO apparatus are taking.  It is a commonly-used one – turning retreat into advance by changing the so-called enemy.

Following the debacles in Libya and Afghanistan, and the gradual unravelling of the Iraq and Syria adventures, the Western allies are now preparing to deploy four battalions—a force of about 4,000 troops—in Poland and the Baltic countries.

These will of course point in the other direction from the battle fronts where US and NATO troops are currently engaging in combat, thereby providing justification for removing troops from unsuccessful arenas and downgrading those conflicts before they become too much of an embarrassment.

History gives us many examples of this tactic. One is the infamous War of Jenkins’s Ear, the 1739 British-inspired conflict with Spain designed to promote more trade and protect slave markets. This resulted in heavy losses for the British, and the temporary gain of only one Spanish possession in the Caribbean. It therefore became subsumed into the War of Austrian Succession, an entirely different conflict about an entirely different question in which the same powers – Britain and Spain – just “happened” to find themselves on opposite sides.

In this case it is not just impending defeat which is causing a change in the game. It is the fact that NATO countries have long realised that they have no business being involved in places like Syria. Their own publics no longer think they are defending the free world, or protecting anyone from terrorism, or keeping out immigrants.  So they have turned into a more important issue.

Like the League of Nations and French Community before it, NATO is dying of pointlessness. It won’t survive unless it can find a higher purpose – and having failed to do so, its only option is to demonise Russia, the enemy everyone grew up with, regardless of what it might actually be doing.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

A generation or two ago, when wars broke out people would look for the causes over which they were being fought. NATO wouldn’t get involved in conflicts it couldn’t find a good reason for. For example, both sides in the hideous civil wars in Rwanda and Burundi long urged international intervention.  However their conflicts were seen as disputes between competing power groups, neither one having a better reason to be fighting, and the slaughter was left to continue unabated.

Now we live in a world where there is one global superpower, one generally agreed economic line and therefore no enemy to protect the free world from. People no longer assume that conflicts, regardless of their complexity, are between pro-Western and pro-Iron Curtain forces and therefore part of a globally fought ideological struggle over a way of life they themselves are part of.

Interventions like those in Iraq and Afghanistan are seen as the latest foreign adventures in which troops are sacrificed for no obvious reason, to overthrow governments we all remember supporting when it suited the same West to do so.

For example, it was frequently pointed out during the Gulf War that Saddam Hussein was using against the West the same weapons and training the West had given him to fight the Ayatollah Khomeini when he was the ruler of Iran. During the subsequent invasion of Iraq it was revealed this alleged WMD factory had been built by Western contractors, supposedly to produce baby milk.

These interventions keep the funding for the military-industrial complex flowing but ultimately they cost governments support rather than rallying the people round them as wars once did.

This might not be the case if nations were acting alone in pursuit of their own interests.   However the collaborative nature of NATO is itself a problem. The comment European politicians often hear on the doorsteps is, “why are you sending our troops to be killed in someone else’s war, for someone else’s issue, which nobody here cared about before you told us you were sending the troops?”

Having no more enemies was supposed to be the consequence of the Western victory in the Cold War. The publics of NATO countries, having endured that war, have taken their governments at their word. So if there is going to be a Western force, upholding Western values, it has two options: it can find completely new enemies – the reason we hear so much about “Islamic fundamentalism” –  or it can revert to the old ones.

The West is getting nowhere in its supposed assaults on Islamic terrorist groups because it is actually arming and supporting them, and always has done to suit itself. But it can’t admit this to the public, as then that same public would want to string them up.

So all that is left is to restore NATO’s original purpose and attack Russia. Maybe people will understand this, maybe not, but with nothing else to hold on to, this is the deadly gamble the West is preparing to take.   

A bit late to start worrying

Most Western countries are still struggling with the fallout of the banking crisis but persist in perpetuating the same policies that caused it – just as was the case during the Great Depression. At that time the resulting problem of unemployment was “solved” through a world war.

It can be argued that a war to stop Hitler was entirely justified, as no anti-war advocate of today would have wanted to live under the Nazis, or would have been allowed to go on doing so for very long. Why therefore did it take six years to declare that war, when Hitler’s intentions were clear from the start and his actions were entirely consistent with them?

The present Russian administration is the same one the West sought to “reset” relations with when Obama took office. It even has the same foreign minister. If the West has suddenly discovered something new and disturbing about this administration, what is it?

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defence Robert Work has explained the deployment of more NATO troops near Russia as a “response to increased Russian activity near the Baltics”—Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. He maintains that tensions have been rising there due to an upswing in the holding of Russian military exercises in the vicinity, which he described as being “extraordinarily provocative behaviour.”

Russia has frequently pointed out that NATO holds exercises near Russia’s borders on a regular basis, has surrounded Russia with military installations armed with weapons pointed at Russia and has told countries bordering Russia that they cannot maintain equally strong ties to Russia as with the West.

That insistence was one of the root causes of the Ukrainian conflict. 

If Russia is simply doing the same as the West, the West should explain why such behaviour is regarded as “extraordinarily provocative” when done by Russia but not when done by the West.

Any such argument rests on the question of Russia’s intent. The implication of Work’s comments is that if Russia holds exercises near the Baltic states it is getting ready to take them over again.

These countries declared their independence at a critical time in East-West relations. They were later – in 2004 – accepted into NATO, becoming an encouragement to others to continue to behave as if the  Soviet Union had never existed. If Russia had had any intention to attack the Baltics at any time after the USSR broke up in 1991, it would have been obliged to take on the whole of NATO, not the fractured individual states of 1940. Russia has at all times known this – never more so than now.

Furthermore, Russia does have ample grounds for concern over the treatment of ethnic Russians in the Baltics.  However it has not used their situation as a pretext for military action.

There are lot of absurd situations connected to the situation of ethnic Russians in the Baltics. For example, one of the first actions Latvia took after gaining independence was to establish a national rugby team, because it was not a sport favoured by the Olympic medal-hungry Soviets. However over half its team, including the captain, were not entitled to Latvian citizenship because they were of ethnic Russian origin and their families had not lived in Latvia before 1939, as the new Latvian citizenship law required. Thus these players could not travel on their national passports having no Latvian citizenship, and this did not allow them to represent their country properly.

Russia’s “provocative action” is simply to be Russia. When all else fails, it is the standing enemy Westerners can understand. They may not be too interested at present, but the remaining subliminal  instinct that Russian expansion is a bad thing may still kick in to help NATO out. However, it is NATO that is moving its membership to Russia’s borders and not the other way round.

Bottom lines aren’t straight

One fact about the end of the Cold War which Westerners are not presented with is that Western governments before 1991 had agreed with Gorbachev that NATO would not move eastward after the Berlin Wall fell. This was part of an attempt to do the opposite: if a newly-constituted Russia could live in peace with the West it could actually join NATO itself, thus making a conflict irrelevant.

However before Russia had the chance to reconstitute itself, NATO went back on the deal and took in several former Eastern bloc states, including the Baltics.

These countries had genuine concerns about being left at the mercy of new Russian domination, but NATO nevertheless breached the agreement by making them members,rather than providing other support – thereby itself becoming the aggressor in East-West affairs.

Now NATO is going out of its way to show it is still united in facing the outcome of its own aggression.

According to Western officials the U.S. is likely to provide two battalions for this new retreat-become-attack and Germany and the UK a battalion each. It would have to be Germany and the UK – traditional powerhouses and belligerents – to show NATO is serious. But 4,000 or 5,000 soldiers will not be able to resist any real action. They are there to ready the public for the idea of future action, and suck more NATO countries into it because they can’t be seen to go against an action spearheaded by the US, the UK and Germany. 

NATO’s former commander, General Breedlove, is calling for an increase in defence spending, saying that the U.S. has too few intelligence assets focused on the threat from Russia and should concentrate its technical capabilities to counter Moscow’s “growing military might.”

This is an attempt to create the same scenario we saw with the year 2000 with the so-called Millennium Bug, when we were told computers would stop working when their internal clocks showed 00:00:00 and millions had to be spent to fix the problem to protect ourselves. 

But there is another reason NATO has to create a new enemy for the sake of it. NATO has to pay for any action it takes. At present, it is having difficulty doing this in an official, over-the-counter way.

NATO recommends each ally spends at least 2 percent of its GDP on defence, but in 2015 Germany spent just 1.2 percent, Italy less than 1 percent and France 1.8 percent, levels which are symptoms of the pointlessness consuming NATO.

So by its own reckoning, there is a hole in NATO’s finances which makes it difficult to conduct official operations, paid for by taxes rather than illegal oil and drug sales.

NATO knows how to get the money to pay for its current entanglements. If it is to survive operationally as well as politically, it has to provoke a conflict within Europe, by which its allies will be forced to join the fray.

The people in the former Soviet countries (unlike their Western-financed elites) are the last to want more conflict with Russia. They were promised that NATO membership would help them to avoid such a conflict. But in order to get them pay their “recommended” contribution, they may just have a conflict imposed upon them, however limited in scope. And then they will be forced to take risks for the sake of a Western Paradise, which fewer and fewer of them believe in.

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FBI recommended Michael Flynn not have lawyer present during interview, did not warn of false statement consequences

Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 18.

Washington Examiner

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Via The Washington Examiner…


Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who arranged the bureau’s interview with then-national security adviser Michael Flynn at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017 — the interview that ultimately led to Flynn’s guilty plea on one count of making false statements — suggested Flynn not have a lawyer present at the session, according to newly-filed court documents. In addition, FBI officials, along with the two agents who interviewed Flynn, decided specifically not to warn him that there would be penalties for making false statements because the agents wanted to ensure that Flynn was “relaxed” during the session.

The new information, drawn from McCabe’s account of events plus the FBI agents’ writeup of the interview — the so-called 302 report — is contained in a sentencing memo filed Tuesday by Flynn’s defense team.

Citing McCabe’s account, the sentencing memo says that shortly after noon on Jan. 24 — the fourth day of the new Trump administration — McCabe called Flynn on a secure phone in Flynn’s West Wing office. The two men discussed business briefly and then McCabe said that he “felt that we needed to have two of our agents sit down” with Flynn to discuss Flynn’s talks with Russian officials during the presidential transition.

McCabe, by his own account, urged Flynn to talk to the agents alone, without a lawyer present. “I explained that I thought the quickest way to get this done was to have a conversation between [Flynn] and the agents only,” McCabe wrote. “I further stated that if LTG Flynn wished to include anyone else in the meeting, like the White House counsel for instance, that I would need to involve the Department of Justice. [Flynn] stated that this would not be necessary and agreed to meet with the agents without any additional participants.”

Within two hours, the agents were in Flynn’s office. According to the 302 report quoted in the Flynn sentencing document, the agents said Flynn was “relaxed and jocular” and offered the agents “a little tour” of his part of the White House.

“The agents did not provide Gen. Flynn with a warning of the penalties for making a false statement under 18 U.S.C. 1001 before, during, or after the interview,” the Flynn memo says. According to the 302, before the interview, McCabe and other FBI officials “decided the agents would not warn Flynn that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed, and they were concerned that giving the warnings might adversely affect the rapport.”

The agents had, of course, seen transcripts of Flynn’s wiretapped conversations with Russian then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak. “Before the interview, FBI officials had also decided that if ‘Flynn said he did not remember something they knew he said, they would use the exact words Flynn used … to try to refresh his recollection. If Flynn still would not confirm what he said … they would not confront him or talk him through it,'” the Flynn memo says, citing the FBI 302.

“One of the agents reported that Gen. Flynn was ‘unguarded’ during the interview and ‘clearly saw the FBI agents as allies,'” the Flynn memo says, again citing the 302.

Later in the memo, Flynn’s lawyers argue that the FBI treated Flynn differently from two other Trump-Russia figures who have pleaded guilty to and been sentenced for making false statements. One of them, Alexander Van der Zwaan, “was represented by counsel during the interview; he was interviewed at a time when there was a publicly disclosed, full-bore investigation regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election; and he was given a warning that it is a federal crime to lie during the interview,” according to the memo. The other, George Papadopoulos, “was specifically notified of the seriousness of the investigation…was warned that lying to investigators was a ‘federal offense’…had time to reflect on his answers…and met with the FBI the following month for a further set of interviews, accompanied by his counsel, and did not correct his false statements.”

The message of the sentencing memo is clear: Flynn, his lawyers suggest, was surprised, rushed, not warned of the context or seriousness of the questioning, and discouraged from having a lawyer present.

That is all the sentencing document contains about the interview itself. In a footnote, Flynn’s lawyers noted that the government did not object to the quotations from the FBI 302 report.

In one striking detail, footnotes in the Flynn memo say the 302 report cited was dated Aug. 22, 2017 — nearly seven months after the Flynn interview. It is not clear why the report would be written so long after the interview itself.

The brief excerpts from the 302 used in the Flynn defense memo will likely spur more requests from Congress to see the original FBI documents. Both House and Senate investigating committees have demanded that the Justice Department allow them to see the Flynn 302, but have so far been refused.

In the memo, Flynn’s lawyers say that he made a “serious error in judgment” in the interview. Citing Flynn’s distinguished 30-plus year record of service in the U.S. Army, they ask the judge to go along with special counsel Robert Mueller’s recommendation that Flynn be spared any time in prison.

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Macron offers crumbs to protestors in bid to save his globalist agenda (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 36.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at French President Macron’s pathetic display of leadership as he offers protestors little in the way of concessions while at the same time promising to crack down hard on any and all citizens who resort to violence.

Meanwhile France’s economy is set for a deep recession as French output and production grinds to a halt.

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Via Zerohedge


As if Brussels didn’t have its hands full already with Italy and the UK, the European Union will soon be forced to rationalize why one of its favorite core members is allowed to pursue populist measures to blow out its budget deficit to ease domestic unrest while another is threatened with fines potentially amounting to billions of euros.

When blaming Russia failed to quell the widespread anger elicited by his policies, French President Emmanuel Macron tried to appease the increasingly violent “yellow vests” protesters who have sacked his capital city by offering massive tax cuts that could blow the French budget out beyond the 3% budget threshold outlined in the bloc’s fiscal rules.

Given the concessions recently offered by Italy’s populists, Macron’s couldn’t have picked a worse time to challenge the bloc’s fiscal conventions. As Bloomberg pointed out, these rules will almost certainly set the Continent’s second largest economy on a collision course with Brussels. To be clear, Macron’s offered cuts come with a price tag of about €11 billion according to Les Echos, and will leave the country with a budget gap of 3.5% of GDP in 2019, with one government official said the deficit may be higher than 3.6%.

By comparison, Italy’s initial projections put its deficit target at 2.4%, a number which Europe has repeatedly refused to consider.

Macron’s promises of fiscal stimulus – which come on top of his government’s decision to delay the planned gas-tax hikes that helped inspire the protests – were part of a broader ‘mea culpa’ offered by Macron in a speech Monday night, where he also planned to hike France’s minimum wage.

Of course, when Brussels inevitably objects, perhaps Macron could just show them this video of French police tossing a wheelchair-bound protester to the ground.

Already, the Italians are complaining.  Speaking on Tuesday, Italian cabinet undersecretary Giancarlo Giorgetti said Italy hasn’t breached the EU deficit limit. “I repeat that from the Italian government there is a reasonable approach, if there is one also from the EU a solution will be found.”

“France has several times breached the 3% deficit. Italy hasn’t done it. They are different situations. There are many indicators to assess.”

Still, as one Guardian columnist pointed out in an op-ed published Tuesday morning, the fact that the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) organizers managed to pressure Macron to cave and grant concessions after just 4 weeks of protests will only embolden them to push for even more radical demands: The collapse of the government of the supremely unpopular Macron.

Then again, with Brussels now facing certain accusations of hypocrisy, the fact that Macron was pressured into the exact same populist measures for which Italy has been slammed, the French fiasco raises the odds that Rome can pass any deficit measure it wants with the EU now forced to quietly look away even as it jawbones all the way from the bank (i.e., the German taxpayers).

“Macron’s spending will encourage Salvini and Di Maio,” said Giovanni Orsina, head of the School of Government at Rome’s Luiss-Guido Carli University. “Macron was supposed to be the spearhead of pro-European forces, if he himself is forced to challenge EU rules, Salvini and Di Maio will jump on that to push their contention that those rules are wrong.”

While we look forward to how Brussels will square this circle, markets are less excited.

Exhausted from lurching from one extreme to another following conflicting headlines, traders are already asking if “France is the new Italy.” The reason: the French OAT curve has bear steepened this morning with 10Y yields rising as much as ~6bp, with the Bund/OAT spread reaching the widest since May 2017 and the French presidential election. Though well below the peaks of last year, further widening would push the gap into levels reserved for heightened political risk.

As Bloomberg macro analyst Michael Read notes this morning, it’s hard to see a specific near-term trigger blowing out the Bund/OAT spread but the trend looks likely to slowly drift higher.

While Macron has to fight on both domestic and European fronts, he’ll need to keep peace at home to stay on top. Remember that we saw the 10Y spread widen to ~80bps around the May ’17 elections as concerns of a move toward the political fringe played out in the markets, and the French President’s popularity ratings already look far from rosy.

And just like that France may have solved the Italian crisis.

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Watch: Democrat Chuck Schumer shows his East Coast elitism on live TV

Amazing moment in which the President exhibits “transparency in government” and shows the world who the Democrat leaders really are.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the reasons Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency was because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – against Democrat policy decisions and “stupid government” in general.

One of the reasons President Donald Trump is reviled is because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – in the American political scene.

In other words, there are two reactions to the same characteristic. On Tuesday, the President did something that probably cheered and delighted a great many Americans who witnessed this.

The Democrats have been unanimous in taking any chance to roast the President, or to call for his impeachment, or to incite violence against him. But Tuesday was President Trump’s turn. He invited the two Democrat leaders, presumptive incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and then, he turned the cameras on:

As Tucker Carlson notes, the body language from Schumer was fury. The old (something)-eating grin covered up humiliation, embarrassment and probably no small amount of fear, as this whole incident was filmed and broadcast openly and transparently to the American public. Nancy Pelosi was similarly agitated, and she expressed it later after this humiliation on camera, saying, “It’s like a manhood thing for him… As if manhood could ever be associated with him.”

She didn’t stop there. According to a report from the New York Daily News, the Queen Bee took the rhetoric a step below even her sense of dignity:

Pelosi stressed she made clear to Trump there isn’t enough support in Congress for a wall and speculated the President is refusing to back down because he’s scared to run away with his tail between his legs.

“I was trying to be the mom. I can’t explain it to you. It was so wild,” Pelosi said of the Oval Office meet, which was also attended by Vice President Pence and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

This represented the first salvo in a major spin-job for the ultra-liberal San Francisco Democrat. The rhetoric spun by Mrs. Pelosi and Chuck Schumer was desperate as they tried to deflect their humiliation and place it back on the President:

With reporters still present, Trump boasted during the Oval meeting he would be “proud” to shutdown the government if Congress doesn’t earmark cash for his wall before a Dec. 21 spending deadline.

Pelosi told Democrats that Trump’s boisterousness will be beneficial for them.

“The fact is we did get him to say, to fully own that the shutdown was his,” Pelosi said. “That was an accomplishment.”

The press tried to characterize this as a “Trump Tantrum”, saying things like this lede:

While “discussing” a budgetary agreement for the government, President Donald Trump crossed his arms and declared: “we will shut down the government if there is no wall.”

While the Democrats and the mainstream media in the US are sure to largely buy these interpretations of the event, the fact that this matter was televised live shows that the matter was entirely different, and this will be discomfiting to all but those Democrats and Trump-dislikers that will not look at reality.

There appears to be a twofold accomplishment for the President in this confrontation:

  1. The President revealed to his support base the real nature of the conversation with the Democrat leadership, because anyone watching this broadcast (and later, video clip) saw it unedited with their own eyes. They witnessed the pettiness of both Democrats and they witnessed a President completely comfortable and confident about the situation.
  2. President Trump probably made many of his supporters cheer with the commitment to shut down the government if he doesn’t get his border wall funding. This cheering is for both the strength shown about getting the wall finished and the promise to shut the government down, and further, Mr. Trump’s assertion that he would be “proud” to shut the government down, taking complete ownership willingly, reflects a sentiment that many of his supporters share.

The usual pattern is for the media, Democrats and even some Republicans to create a “scare” narrative about government shutdowns, about how doing this is a sure-fire path to chaos and suffering for the United States.

But the educated understanding of how shutdowns work reveals something completely different. Vital services never close. However, National Parks can close partly or completely, and some non-essential government agencies are shuttered. While this is an inconvenience for the employees furloughed during the shutdown, they eventually are re-compensated for the time lost, and are likely to receive help during the shutdown period if they need it. The impact on the nation is minimal, aside from the fact that the government stops spending money at the same frenetic pace as usual.

President Trump’s expression of willingness to do this action and his singling out of the Dem leadership gives the Democrats a real problem. Now the entire country sees their nature. As President Trump is a populist, this visceral display of Democrat opposition and pettiness will make at least some impact on the population, even that group of people who are not Trump fans.

The media reaction and that of the Democrats here show, amazingly, that after three years-plus of Donald Trump being a thorn in their side, they still do not understand how he works, and they also cannot match it against their expected “norms” of establishment behavior.

This may be a brilliant masterstroke, and it also may be followed up by more. The President relishes head-to-head conflict. The reactions of these congress members showed who they really are.

Let the games begin.

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