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Putin in China: The Russian-Chinese Alliance

Putin’s meetings with the Chinese leadership in Beijing and Tashkent consolidate the most powerful alliance in the world today.

Alexander Mercouris

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Though it has received minimal attention in the West, last week Putin completed his 15th visit to China where he held intensive talks with the Chinese leadership led by Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

This came directly after Putin met Xi Jinping at the immediately preceding Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Tashkent.  According to Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, whom Putin also met in Beijing, Xi Jinping has met Putin more often than he has met any other foreign leader.

On the Russian side the talks between Putin and the Chinese leadership in Beijing did not involve Putin alone.  Putin’s meeting with Xi Jinping in Beijing started as a one-to-one meeting with just the two leaders and their interpreters present.  It was then expanded to include top officials and ministers of both the Russian and Chinese governments.

Whilst we do not know the details of the topics which were discussed – and Putin and Xi Jinping avoided discussing them in open press conferences – the information we have suggests that the talks were very detailed and very wide-ranging:

“Documents signed include a declaration between Russia and China on raising the role of international law, intergovernmental agreements on cooperation on joint implementation of a programme to develop, produce, commercialise and organise after-sales service of a wide-bodied, long-haul plane and development of further models based on this plane, cooperation on a programme to build a heavy helicopter, cooperation on technology protection measures related to work together on exploring and using outer space for peaceful purposes and developing and operating launch systems and ground-based space infrastructure, and an appendix to an agreement on cooperation on building a nuclear power plant on Chinese territory and on Russia according China a state loan.

Other agreements concern coordination of joint efforts within international groups and organisations, cooperation in the forestry sector, innovation sector, securities market regulation, insurance, cooperation on localising production of high-speed rolling stock and railway equipment on Russian territory, cooperation in the oil and gas sector, cooperation between the two countries’ media outlets, and sports sector cooperation.

Also signed was a joint declaration between the Eurasian Economic Union Commission and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce on the official start of talks on an agreement on trade and economic cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Union and the People’s Republic of China.”

The last paragraph makes clear that the Chinese not only received Putin as the President of Russia.  They also received him as the de facto leader of the Eurasian Economic Union, an organisation the Western media never reports about and which as far as the Western media is concerned might as well not exist.

The official communiques say nothing about defence and foreign policy discussions but we can sure they took place and that the full range of international relations – Ukraine, Syria, North Korea, the South China Sea, arms control, defence etc – were discussed, as were the various projects for building a new global financial architecture independent of the US and the dollar, which the Chinese especially are pressing ahead with.  Almost certainly the reason why the Russian and Chinese leaders did not engage with the international media following their discussions is because they did not want to be asked questions about the discussions they had on these topics.

I do not know of cooperation between any two other Great Powers in the world today which is so close.  Contrary to what is often said, cooperation between Russia and China today at a political and military-strategic level is very much closer today than it was in the days of their formal alliance in the 1950s, when meetings between Soviet and Chinese leaders were infrequent and frequently tense. 

Whilst economic and technological relations between the two countries are still lagging, they are – as the communiques show – developing rapidly.  By way of example and contrary to some media claims, the two countries are forging ahead with their pipeline projects, which are in active construction.  Claims by some Western and pro-Western Russian liberal commentators that they will never be built are wishful thinking.

Beyond these bilateral questions there are the greater plans which Putin discussed at SPIEF 2016 for the Eurasian Economic Union and China to conclude free trade agreements with each other, with Russia and China working to merge the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union and the Chinese-led Silk Road Project into a single whole as part of their joint “Greater Eurasia” project in which they ultimately want to involve Europe too.

All this is only the visible tip of the iceberg of Russian-Chinese relations.  As I have discussed previously, there are certain to be scores of secret agreements between the Chinese and the Russians we know nothing about: to share intelligence (including for example signals intelligence and data from satellites) and to coordinate foreign policy and for defence cooperation including technology sharing.  We know for example that the Russians and the Chinese have representatives at each others’ command headquarters and that recently they carried out in Moscow a joint command exercise involving joint operation of their respective anti-ballistic missile defences, something the US would never do at such a level with any of its allies.

Though we know little about some of these agreements, it is possible to make educated guesses about some of them.  In terms of defence technology cooperation the Chinese for example are known to rely heavily on Russian liquid fuel technology for their rocket engines both for their ballistic missiles and for their space programme, which in general appears to rely heavily on Russian technology, even for design of space vehicles.  As it happens, the information from the latest summit meeting in Beijing suggests that the Russians and the Chinese could even be taking their first steps towards merging their respective space programmes.  The Chinese also seem to depend heavily on the Russians for their gas turbine technology including for their military aircraft engines.  In fact there are rumours – always denied – that Chinese military aircraft projects draw heavily on Russian technical advice.  The Russians for their part are said to rely on the Chinese increasingly for electronic subcomponents for some of their systems and there are persistent rumours – also always denied – that they have looked to the Chinese for help with development of their aerial drones.

In foreign policy coordination it seems fairly clear that there are agreements for Russia to take the lead in the Syrian conflict and for China to take the lead in any matter concerning North Korea, with the two countries however always supporting each other’s positions in each conflict. 

It is a certainty – and Putin has recently confirmed as much – that the Russians and the Chinese also talk to each continuously about all other international questions and take care to coordinate their positions in respect of them.  They have certainly done so for example in relation to such questions as the Ukrainian conflict (where China has quietly recognised Crimea as a part of Russia), the Iranian nuclear agreement, the conflict between China and the US in the South China Sea (where Russia backs China) and China’s claim for unification with Taiwan (ditto).

Importantly, we do not know the identities of the individuals in the Russian and Chinese governments who on a day to day basis conduct these contacts, though obviously the embassies of the two countries in each others’ capitals are heavily involved.  However it is striking that the two countries’ foreign ministers – Sergey Lavrov and Wang Yi – do not appear to be involved.  They scarcely ever meet with each other or visit each other’s countries, which suggests that the two countries’ leaderships have, quite intentionally, assigned them the task of dealing with relations with third countries and not with anything to do with the relationship Russia and China have forged with each other.  Apparently this is dealt with at a different and more senior level.

The best guess is that in the Russian case the official who has day to day management of Russia’s relations with China is Sergey Ivanov, Putin’s powerful Chief of Staff and head of Russia’s Presidential Administration, who appears to have frequent meetings with Chinese officials.

In all essentials this is an extremely close alliance between two Great Powers.  It is sometimes said that because it is not underpinned by ideology but rests purely on self-interest that somehow makes it brittle.  My own view on the contrary is that the fact that the alliance is based purely on self-interest and not on ideology or sentiment – so that the two allies have no illusions about each other – makes it deeper and stronger.

The alliance does however have one special feature which in the modern world makes it unique.  Most countries when they forge alliances with other countries go out of their way to publicise the fact. By contrast the reason why the alliance between Russia and China is not widely recognised for what it is, is because of the extraordinary lengths to which both Great Powers go to deny the fact of its existence. 

The reason for this is not difficult to see.  Alliances tend to get defined by their enemies.  The Russian-Chinese alliance is clearly pitted against the other great alliance system of the modern world: that of the US and its allies.  Both the Russians and the Chinese however want to maintain at least for the moment the fiction that they and the US and its allies are not enemies or even adversaries but are “partners”.  Though with the crises in Ukraine and the South Sea China Sea this fiction is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain, it remains important to both the Russians and the Chinese to preserve it so that they can maintain a political dialogue not just with the US but also with the US’s allies, especially Germany and Japan, as well as a place in the international institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF which have been historically dominated by the US. 

It is precisely for this reason that neocon hardliners in the US like Senator McCain, who want to preserve the US’s geostrategic dominance, want on the contrary to tear down all pretences and to define Russia and China openly and clearly as the US’s enemies.  That way they hope to reimpose tighter block discipline within the Western alliance and end any prospect of US allies becoming involved in Russian and Chinese projects like China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank or the Russian/Chinese  “Greater Eurasia” and Silk Road projects.  They also hope that way to minimise or even exclude Russian and Chinese influence from US dominated international institutions like the IMF and the World Bank.  Of course defining China as a US enemy also plays into the hands of protectionists in the US like Donald Trump, who would like to use that as an excuse to close the US market to Chinese goods.

Beyond the very complex relations Russia and China have with the West – which for the moment it is in their interest to keep complex – the Russians and the Chinese also have to consider the effect the public acknowledgement of their alliance would have on third powers such as India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Iran, which have had a history of conflicts with either Russia or China. By concealing the fact of their alliance the Russians and the Chinese can each preserve their historic relations with old friends – in Russia’s case with India, South Korea and Vietnam, in China’s case with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran – which might otherwise become alarmed at the public announcement that a country they had always assumed was a friend had now formally become an ally of a former foe with whom they might still have a prickly relationship.

Last but not least, concealing the fact of their alliance for the Russians and the Chinese comes with the added dividend that influential US analysts and commentators such as former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul can remain in denial about it.  A Russian-Chinese alliance being for such people a possibility too horrible to contemplate, the fact the Russians and the Chinese don’t announce it means that such people can continue to deny it even as evidence for it piles up around them.  That suits the Russians and the Chinese perfectly, since it ensures that these people won’t try to mobilise US opinion against them.

The result is that though Russian and Chinese officials occasionally let slip that they see each other as allies – as Putin did the other day – in general they try to conceal the fact, pretending that their countries are not formal allies at all even though that is in fact precisely what they are.  Thus in place of “alliance” they prefer to use the euphemism of “strategic partnership” or increasingly “grand strategic partnership” to describe their relationship. 

It is also partly to conceal the fact of their alliance that the Russians and the Chinese have weaved a complex web of organisations around their alliance of which the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the BRICS are just two.  Such organisations enable the Russians and the Chinese to create institutions like the BRICS Bank or the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as multilateral ventures which are not targeted at the West, as it would not be possible for them to do if they were openly allied to each other. 

These organisations also enable the Russians and the Chinese to engage countries like Brazil, India, Iran and Pakistan in a friendly way, treating them as equal partners, as they seek to extend the influence of their alliance into places like southern Africa and Latin America where it might not otherwise reach.

It is a common trope that the world today is moving from a unipolar world dominated by one superpower – the US – towards a multipolar world, where there will be a more complex interchange between rival centres of power. 

Whilst with the rise of India I think that is basically true, I do not think the terms unipolar or multipolar properly describe the world as it is now.  Rather I think the world today is basically bipolar, just as it was during the Cold War, with two great international alliances facing off against each other just as they did then.  Whereas during the Cold War it was the US and the Western alliance which faced off against the USSR and its Warsaw Pact allies, today it is the US and the Western alliance versus the Eurasian alliance that has crystallised around Russia and China, which also includes certain Central Asian states that were formerly part of the USSR and which may shortly also include Iran. 

That the duel between these two great alliances, unlike the Cold War, is being conducted mainly in the shadows and without the ideological dimension that marked the Cold War does not mean it is any less real.  On the contrary it is not only real but is taking place all the time and as it is happening it is reshaping our world.

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French opposition rejects Macron’s concessions to Yellow Vests, some demand ‘citizen revolution’

Mélenchon: “I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.”

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Via RT…


Macron’s concessions to the Yellow Vests has failed to appease protesters and opposition politicians, such as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who called for “citizen’s revolution” to continue until a fair distribution of wealth is achieved.

Immediately after French President Macron declared a “social and economic state of emergency” in response to large-scale protests by members of the Yellow Vest movement, promising a range of concessions to address their grievances, left-wing opposition politician Mélenchon called on the grassroots campaign to continue their revolution next Saturday.

I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.

Macron’s promise of a €100 minimum wage increase, tax-free overtime pay and end-of-year bonuses, Mélenchon argued, will not affect any “considerable part” of the French population. Yet the leader of La France Insoumise stressed that the “decision” to rise up rests with “those who are in action.”

“We expect a real redistribution of wealth,” Benoît Hamon, a former presidential candidate and the founder of the Mouvement Génération, told BFM TV, accusing Macron’s package of measures that benefit the rich.

The Socialist Party’s first secretary, Olivier Faure, also slammed Macron’s financial concessions to struggling workers, noting that his general “course has not changed.”

Although welcoming certain tax measures, Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally (previously National Front), accused the president’s “model” of governance based on “wild globalization, financialization of the economy, unfair competition,” of failing to address the social and cultural consequences of the Yellow Vest movement.

Macron’s speech was a “great comedy,”according to Debout la France chairman, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who accused the French President of “hypocrisy.”

Yet many found Melanchon’s calls to rise up against the government unreasonable, accusing the 67-year-old opposition politician of being an “opportunist” and “populist,” who is trying to hijack the social protest movement for his own gain.

Furthermore, some 54 percent of French believe the Yellow Vests achieved their goals and want rallies to stop, OpinionWay survey showed. While half of the survey respondents considered Macron’s anti-crisis measures unconvincing, another 49 percent found the president to be successful in addressing the demands of the protesters. Some 68 percent of those polled following Macron’s speech on Monday especially welcomed the increase in the minimum wage, while 78 percent favored tax cuts.

The Yellow Vest protests against pension cuts and fuel tax hikes last month were organized and kept strong via social media, without help from France’s powerful labor unions or official political parties. Some noted that such a mass mobilization of all levels of society managed to achieve unprecedented concessions from the government, which the unions failed to negotiate over the last three decades.

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Soros Mimics Hitler’s Bankers: Will Burden Europeans With Debt To ‘Save’ Them

George Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas.

The Duran

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Via GEFIRA:


After the Second World War, many economists racked their brains to answer the question of how Hitler managed to finance his armament, boost the economy and reduce unemployment.

Today his trick is well known. The economic miracle of Führer’s time became possible thanks to the so-called Mefo promissory notes.

The notes were the idea of the then President of the Reichsbank, Hjalmar Schacht, and served not only to finance the armament of the Wehrmacht for the Second World War, but also to create state jobs, which would otherwise not have been possible through the normal use of the money and capital markets, i.e. the annual increase in savings in Germany.

The Reich thus financed the armaments industry by accepting notes issued by the dummy company Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft GmbH (hence the name Mefo) rather than paying them in cash. The creation of money was in full swing from 1934 to 1938 – the total amount of notes issued at that time was 12 billion marks. The Reichsbank declared to the German banks that it was prepared to rediscount the Mefo notes, thus enabling the banks to discount them.

Because of their five-year term, the redemption of notes had to begin in 1939 at the latest. This threatened with enormous inflation. Since Schacht saw this as a threat to the Reichsmark, he expressed his doubts about the Reich Minister of Finance. But it did not help, and Schacht was quickly replaced by Economics Minister Walther Funk, who declared that the Reich would not redeem the Mefo notes, but would give Reich bonds to the Reichsbank in exchange. At the time of Funk, the autonomous Reichsbank statute was abolished, the Reichsbank was nationalized, and inflation exploded in such a way that Mefo notes with a circulation of 60 billion Reichsmark burdened the budget in post-war Germany.

George Soros also proposes such a money flurry in the style of Schacht and Funk.

Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas. He calls on the EU heads of state and governments to effectively deal with the migrant crisis through money flooding, which he calls “surge funding”.

“This would help to keep the influx of refugees at a level that Europe can absorb.”

Can absorb? Soros would be satisfied with the reception of 300,000 to 500,000 migrants per year. However, he is aware that the costs of his ethnic exchange plan are not financially feasible. In addition to the already enormous costs caused by migrants already in Europe, such a large number of new arrivals would add billions each year.

Soros calculates it at 30 billion euros a year, but argues that it would be worth it because “there is a real threat that the refugee crisis could cause the collapse of Europe’s Schengen system of open internal borders among twenty-six European states,” which would cost the EU between 47 and 100 billion euros in GDP losses.

Soros thus sees the financing of migrants and also of non-European countries that primarily receive migrants (which he also advocates) as a win-win relationship. He calls for the introduction of a new tax for the refugee crisis in the member states, including a financial transaction tax, an increase in VAT and the establishment of refugee funds. Soros knows, however, that such measures would not be accepted in the EU countries, so he proposes a different solution, which does not require a vote in the sovereign countries.

The new EU debt should be made by the EU taking advantage of its largely unused AAA credit status and issuing long-term bonds, which would boost the European economy. The funds could come from the European Stability Mechanism and the EU balance of payments support institution.

 “Both also have very similar institutional structures, and they are both backed entirely by the EU budget—and therefore do not require national guarantees or national parliamentary approval.“

In this way, the ESM and the BoPA (Balance of Payments Assistance Facility) would become the new Mefo’s that could issue bills of exchange, perhaps even cheques for Turks, Soros NGOs. Soros calculates that both institutions have a credit capacity of 60 billion, which should only increase as Portugal, Ireland and Greece repay each year the loans they received during the euro crisis. According to Soros, the old debts should be used to finance the new ones in such a way that it officially does not burden the budget in any of the EU Member States. The financial institutions that are to carry out this debt fraud must extend (indeed – cancel) their status, as the leader of the refugees expressed such a wish in his speech.

That Soros is striving to replace the indigenous European population with new arrivals from Africa and Asia is clear to anyone who observes its activities in Europe. The question is: what does he want to do this for and who is the real ruler, behind him, the real leader?

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The French People Feel Screwed

For the first time in his presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

The Duran

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Authored by David Brown via The Gatestone Institute:


On December 4, French Prime Minister Édouard Phillipe told deputies of the ruling party, “La République en Marche”, that a proposed fuel tax rise, which had led to the largest protests France has seen in decades, would be suspended.

The protesters, called Gilets-Jaunes — “Yellow Vests,” because of the vests drivers are obliged by the government to carry in their vehicles in the event of a roadside breakdown — say that the fuel tax was the last straw from a president who took office with a promise to help the economically left-behind but instead has favoured the rich.

Even by French standards, the protests of the “Yellow Vests” during the weekend of December 1 were startling. Burning cars and vast plumes of grey smoke seemed to engulf the Arc De Triomphe as if Paris were at war. Comparisons were drawn with the Bread Wars of the 17th Century and the spirit of the Revolution of the 18th Century.

For more than two weeks, the “Yellow Vests” disrupted France. They paralyzed highways and forced roads to close — causing shortages across the country – and blocked fuel stations from Lille in the North to Marseilles in the South.

During protests in France’s capital, Paris, the “Yellow Vests” were soon joined by a more violent element, who began torching cars, smashing windows and looting stores. 133 were injured, 412 were arrested and more than 10,000 tear gas and stun grenades were fired.

One elderly lady was killed when she was struck by a stray grenade as she tried to shutter her windows against the melee.

There was talk of imposing a State of Emergency.

The “Yellow Vests” present the most significant opposition French President Emmanuel Macron has faced since coming to office in May 2017. Unlike previous protests in France, which have divided public opinion, these have widespread support – 72% according to a Harris Interactive Poll published December 1st.

Fuel tax rises — announced in November before being retracted on December — were intended to help bring down France’s carbon emissions by curbing the use of cars. Macron makes no secret of his wish to be seen as a global leader for environmental reform.

He forgets that back at home, among the people who elected him, fuel prices really matter to those outside big cities, where four-fifths of commuters drive to work and a third of them cover more than 30km each week.

The increases have incensed people in smaller communities, where they have already seen speed limits reduced to please the Greens and cuts to the local transport services.

These additional costs-of-living increases come at an extremely bad time for ordinary French people working outside of Paris. Lower-middle class families are not poor enough to receive welfare benefits but have seen their income flat-line whilst cost-of-living and taxes have risen.

An analysis by the Institut des Politiques Publiques think-tank shows that benefits cuts and tax changes in 2018 and 2019 will leave pensioners and the bottom fifth of households worse off, while the abolition of the wealth tax means that by far the biggest gains will go to the top 1%

This is tough to swallow. Macron is seen as being out of touch with ordinary people and is unlikely to escape his new title, “the President of the Rich.”

“People have this feeling that the Paris technocrats are doing complicated things to screw them,” said Charles Wyplosz, an economics professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

It is probably not as complex as that. The French people feel screwed.

As employment and growth are slowing, Macron, for the first time in his presidency, is under serious pressure. Unemployment is at 9%; his efforts to reform Europe are stalling, and his approval rating has plummeted to just 23% according to a recent opinion poll by IFOP.

Images of Macron at the Arc De Triomphe daubed in graffiti calling for him to step down, or worse, have done little to bolster his image abroad.

So far, Macron had said he would not bow to street protests. To underline his point, in September 2017, he called protestors against French labour-market reform “slackers”.

The political U-Turn on the fuel tax is a turning point for the Macron presidency. The question is : What next, both for Macron and the “Yellow Vests”?

Macron most likely needs to plough ahead with his reform agenda, and doubtless knows he has the support of a solid majority in the National Assembly to do so. France is crippled by debt (nearly 100% of GDP) and its grossly bloated public sector. There are 5.2 million civil servants in France, and their number has increased by 36% since 1983. These represent 22% of the workforce compared to an OCDE average of 15%.

Tax-expert Jean-Philippe Delsol says France has 1.5 million too many “fonctionnaires [officials]. When you consider that public spending in France now accounts for 57 per cent of gross domestic product. Soon the system will no longer function as there will be less and less people working to support more and more people working less”.

Macron’s mistake, in addition to a seeming inclination for arrogance, is not to have made national economic reform his absolute priority right from his initial grace period after his election. Lower public expenses would have made it possible to lower taxes, hence creating what economists call a virtuous circle. Instead, he waited.

Now, at a time when he is deeply unpopular and social unrest is in full sway he is looking to make further reforms in unemployment benefits, scaling them back by reducing the payments and the length of time beneficiaries can receive the money. The “President of the Rich” strikes again.

There is talk that he may also re-introduce the wealth tax to try to placate the protestors.

Macron’s presidential term lasts until May 13, 2022. Understandably, Macron will be focused on the elections to the European Parliament expected to be held May 23-26, 2019. Headlines have signalled that Marine Le Pen and the National Rally (formally National Front) are ahead in the polls at 20%, compared to Macron’s En Marche at 19%.

The shift is understandable, given the divide between the countryside, where Le Pen has solid support, and the cities, where Macron’s centre-left prevail.

In contrast, the “Yellow Vests” have galvanised support after standing up for the “impotent ordinary”, and seem much buoyed by the solidarity they have been shown by both fire fighters and the police. There are images online of police removing their helmets and firefighters turning their backs on political authority to show their support for the protestors.

Whilst Macron’s political opposition may be fragmented, this new breed of coherent public opposition is something new. Leaderless, unstructured and organised online, the “Yellow Vests” have gained support from the left and right, yet resisted subjugation by either.

Being leaderless makes them difficult to negotiate withor to reason with in private. The “Yellow Vests” seem acutely aware of this strength, given their firm rebuttal of overtures for peace talks from the Macron government.

Enjoying huge support from the public and with reforms to the social welfare system on the horizon, the “Yellow Vests” are not going away.

For the first time in his Presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

After Macron rebuked nationalism during his speech at the armistice ceremony, Trump was quick to remind the French President of his low approval rating and unemployment rate near 10%. A stinging broadside from Trump on twitter suggests that Macron may well be relegated to Trump’s list of global “Losers“:

“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”

The “impotent ordinary” in the United Kingdom, who might feel betrayed over Brexit, and the nationalists in Germany, who have suffered under Merkel , are no doubt staring in wonder at the “Yellow Vests”, wishing for the same moxie.

The historian Thomas Carlyle, chronicler of the French Revolution, said the French were unrivaled practitioners in the “art of insurrection”, and characterised the French mob as the “liveliest phenomena of our world”.

Mobs in other countries, by comparison, he argued were “dull masses” lacking audacity and inventiveness. The blazing yellow vests of the French protest movement , however, have made Macron appear increasingly dull and weak too.

David Brown is based in the United Kingdom.

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