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Putin to meet with Merkel in Sochi, discuss Iran, Ukraine, and energy

Will they find common ground?

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After over a year of poor relations between Moscow and Germany spanning a multitude of issues ranging from Russia’s annexation of Crimea, differences in position relative to the ongoing war in Syria, alleged hacking of the German FM office, and the alleged poisoning of the Skripals, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi today.

More recently, Washington and Berlin have been at odds recently over Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord on Iran’s nuclear program, the reimposition of sanctions on Tehran, and companies that do business with Iran, NATO defense spending, military strikes in Syria, and the North Stream project, with the Iran issue taking the fore. The Anti-Trump rhetoric in Europe at this time is somewhat staggering in its response to Trump’s actions, which undermine Europe’s economic and security interests.

Given Russia’s good relations with Iran, including the new deal between Moscow and EAEU nations and Iran, Berlin looks to Russia to help secure the status of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which Trump scrapped Washington’s commitment to last week, as well as reviving peace talks with the Ukraine, Syria, and energy cooperation between Moscow and Berlin.

France24 reports:

SOCHI (RUSSIA) (AFP) –
Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday, as Moscow and Europe make rare joint efforts to save the Iran nuclear deal.

The pair’s first face-to-face meeting in a year will take place less than a week before French President Emmanuel Macron is due to visit Russia.

The meeting will take place in Putin’s Sochi residence and is expected to be dominated by US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out from the Iran agreement.

The fallout over the Iran deal is a rare topic for rapprochement between Europe and Moscow, whose relations are marred by disagreements over the Syria conflict, Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the subsequent war in eastern Ukraine.

These tensions have only worsened in recent months following the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain that led to an unprecedented wave of expulsions of Russian diplomats from Western countries.

As part of the historic 2015 Iran deal, Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program by pledging not to seek an atomic bomb in exchange for the lifting of some international sanctions on the Middle East country.

The Europeans now want to avoid at all costs Tehran abandoning the deal and relaunching its program to acquire a nuclear weapon.

They also want to protect their economic interests in Iran, threatened by Washington’s reintroduction of sanctions.

The Kremlin, allied with Iran in its support for the Bashar al-Assad regime in the Syrian conflict, has in recent days increased its diplomatic efforts to try to maintain the agreement it described as “crucial for regional stability and for the stability of the entire world”.

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was in Moscow Monday before visiting Brussels for talks Iran said were aimed to “seek assurances” from countries that signed the deal.

Merkel’s visit comes ahead of Macron’s trip to Saint Petersburg on May 24.

Putin and Merkel last met for bilateral talks in May 2017, also in Sochi.

“It will be a very interesting exchange of views, since there has been no direct contact (between the two leaders) for a very long time,” said Kremlin advisor Yury Ushakov.

Putin, who worked as a KGB agent in Dresden in the late 1980s, and Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, speak each other’s languages.

– Syria, Ukraine and energy –

The pair are also expected to discuss the Syrian crisis and the conflict between Kiev and eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russia rebels.

Berlin and Moscow, along with Paris, signed peace agreements in Minsk in 2015 that aimed to put an end to a conflict that has left more than 10,000 dead since it began in April 2014.

On May 12, Merkel expressed concern about the situation in Ukraine, where she said there are “violations of the truce every night and loss of life every day”.

According to Moscow, the two leaders will try to organise a four-way meeting with the presidents of France and Ukraine to advance a possible UN peacekeeping meeting. The last summit between the four countries in October 2016 was inconclusive.

Merkel and Putin are also expected to discuss the construction of a second North Stream underwater pipeline linking the two countries via the Baltic Sea, a project several EU countries oppose.

North Stream 2 aims to double the capacity of North Stream 1 by the end of 2019, and allow more Russian gas to arrive directly to Germany via the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine.

It’s beginning to look like a particularly vulnerable time for German, and European foreign policy in general, relations with Washington’s foreign policy interests. The Iran deal is a major issue for both Germany and the other European signatories, and Trump’s undermining of it is a huge slap in the face to Europe in a manner that really can’t be overstated, after the European signatories for France, Germany, and Britain travelled to Washington to safeguard it.

Washington seems to be demonstrating to Europe its disregard for Europe’s security and economic interests. It emphasizes this fact in demanding that Germany dump its participation in the North Stream LNG and oil cooperation, which would suit only Washington’s anti-Russia foreign policy, rather than the energy interests of those European nations who stand to benefit ‘bigly’ from it. Washington’s joint military action in Syria received a condemnation as a violation of international law by members of the German parliament. Add to these the tariffs on aluminum and steel which adversely impacts European firms. It’s a growing list of conflicts of interest between Europe, particularly Germany, and the US.

But Trump isn’t slowing down. He’s keeping the harsh criticism coming, together with his administration’s continuance of stoking conflict with Iran. Meanwhile, the issues that Berlin has with Moscow are not as much issues that directly or even actually injure Germany, unlike Trump’s actions, hence, the situation is increasingly becoming such that it could be easier for Berlin to deal with Moscow on shared interests than with Washington. Essentially, Trump is the gift that just keeps on giving sour gifts, while Putin demonstrates actual and feasible approaches to achieving stability, both economically and security.

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America’s wars are against American’s interests

War is a racket

Richard Galustian

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To advocate wars are good is insane!

For one, Afghanistan is about a ridiculously flawed US government foreign policy. it is not about ‘winning’ a war as Erik Prince describes in his video.

There is no reason for the US to be in Afghanistan.

Something Mr. Prince seems to fail to understand the reader can judge by watching Prince’s presentation promoting war.

That said, what Erik Prince explains about the military industrial complex is correct. Weapons purchases must be curtailed.

However more importantly, what he fails to say is America must stop its ‘’regime change policy’ and avoid future wars, is the real issue.

To provoke war for example with Russia or China is absolute insanity producing eventually only nuclear armageddon, the consequence is the destruction of the planet.

Trillions of dollars should not be spent (and wasted) by the Pentagon but that money should be used to build America’s roads; expand railways; build hospitals and schools, etc.

Especially also to pay much needed disability benefits to disabled vets who wasted their lives in past pointless wars from Korea to Vietnam to Iraq et al. Americans soldiers need to ‘go home’.

Withdrawing its unnecessary US bases worldwide; a left over outdated idea from the end of WW11, such as America’s military presence in Korea, Japan, Germany; the Persian Gulf, even in the UK.

Foreign military interventions are adventures pursued by ‘elites’ interests, ‘using’ NATO in most cases, as its tool, only for their (the elites) profit at the expense of ordinary people.

“War is a Racket” to quote the much decorated hero and patriot, US Marine, Major General Smedley Butler.

We can learn from history to understand America’s current predicament.

Brown Brothers Harriman in New York in the 1930s financed Hitler and Mussolini right up to the day war was declared by Roosevelt following the attack on Pearl Harbour.

A little taught fact in America’s colleges and ivy league universities is that Wall Street bankers (with a degree of assistance from the Bush family by the way) at the time had decided that a fascist dictatorship in the United States would be far better for their business interests than Roosevelt’s “new deal” which threatened massive wealth re-distribution to recapitalize the working and middle class of America and build America’s infrastructure.

So the Wall Street bankers recruited the much respected General Smedley Butler to lead an overthrow of the us government and install a “Secretary of General Affairs” who would be answerable to Wall Street, not the people; who would crush social unrest and shut down all labour unions. however General Smedley Butler only pretended to go along with the scheme, then exposed the plot. The General played the traitors along to gather evidence for congress and the president. When Roosevelt learned of the planned coup, he initially demanded the arrest of the plotters but this never happened because Roosevelt was in effect blackmailed by those same US bankers; another story!

Read the words of Major General Smedley Butler who explains what exactly happened.

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service as a member of our country’s most agile military force — the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from second lieutenant to major general. and during that period I spent more of my time being a high-class muscle man for big business, for wall street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. “I suspected I was just a part of a racket at the time. now I am sure of it. Like all members of the military profession, I never had an original thought until I left the service. my mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service. Thus I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the national city bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of wall street. the record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that the standard oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals and promotion. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. the best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. I operated on three continents.” —

General Smedley Butler, former US Marine Corps Commandant, 1935.

We need peace not wars.

We need infrastructure building in America and Europe……not wars.

Somebody should explain this to Mr. Prince, and perhaps to his sister too…..who happens to be part of President Trump’s administration!

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Theresa May goes to Brussels and comes back with a big fat donut (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 39.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Theresa May’s trip to Brussels to try and win some concessions from EU oligarchs, only to get completely rebuked and ridiculed, leaving EU headquarters with nothing but a four page document essentially telling the UK to get its act together or face a hard Brexit.

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Via Zerohedge


Any confidence boost that might have followed Theresa May’s triumph this week over her party’s implacable Brexiteers has probably already faded. Because if there was anything to be learned from the stunning rebuke delivered to the prime minister by EU leaders on Thursday, it’s that the prime minister is looking more stuck than ever.

This was evidenced by the frosty confrontation between the imperturbable May and her chief Continental antagonist, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, which was caught on film on Friday shortly before the close of a two-day European Council summit that descended into bitter recriminations. After offering token praise of May’s leadership, Brussels’ supreme bureaucrat criticized her negotiating strategy as “disorganized”, provoking a heated response from May.

Earlier, May desperately pleaded with her European colleagues – who had adamantly insisted that the text of the withdrawal agreement would not be altered – to grant her “legally binding assurances” May believes would make the Brexit plan palatable enough to win a slim victory in the Commons.

If there were any lingering doubts about the EU’s position, they were swiftly dispelled by a striking gesture of contempt for May: Demonstrating the Continent’s indifference to her plight, the final text of the summit’s conclusions was altered to remove a suggestion that the EU consider what further assurances can be offered to May, while leaving in a resolution to continue contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit.

Even the Irish, who in the recent past have been sympathetic to their neighbors’ plight (in part due to fears about a resurgence of insurrectionary violence should a hard border re-emerge between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland), implied that there patience had reached its breaking point.

Here’s the FT:

But Leo Varadkar, the Irish premier, warned that the EU could not tolerate a treaty approval process where a country “comes back every couple of weeks following discussions with their parliament looking for something extra…you can’t operate international relations on this basis.”

Senior EU officials are resisting further negotiations — and suggestions of a special Brexit summit next month — because they see Britain’s requests as in effect a bid to rewrite the exit treaty.

Mr Varadkar noted that many prime ministers had been called to Brussels “at short notice” for a special Brexit summit “on a Sunday in November,” adding: “I don’t think they would be willing to come to Brussels again unless we really have to.”

In response, May threatened to hold a vote on the Brexit plan before Christmas, which would almost certainly result in its defeat, scrapping the fruits of more than a year of contentious negotiations.

Given that Mrs May aborted a Commons vote on her deal this week because she feared defeat by a “significant margin,” her comments amounted to a threat that she would let MPs kill the withdrawal agreement before Christmas.

Mrs May made the threat to German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Emmanuel Macron and EU presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk as the two day Brussels summit descended into acrimony, according to diplomats.

“At the point where there is no prospect of getting anything more from the EU, that’s when you would have to put the vote,” said one close aide to Mrs May.

If this week has taught May anything, it’s that her plan to pressure the EU into more concessions (her preferred option to help her pass the Brexit plan) was an unmitigated failure. And given that running out the clock and hoping that MPs come around at the last minute (when the options truly have been reduced to ‘deal’ or ‘no deal’) leaves too much room for market-rattling uncertainty, May is left with a few options, two of which were previously ‘off the table’ (though she has distanced herself from those positions in recent weeks).

They are: Calling a second referendum, delaying a Brexit vote, pivoting to a softer ‘Plan B’ Brexit, or accepting a ‘no deal’ Brexit. As the BBC reminds us, May is obliged by law to put her deal to a vote by Jan. 21, or go to Parliament with a Plan B.

If May does decide to run down the clock, she will have two last-minute options:

On the one hand she could somehow cancel, delay, soften or hold another referendum on Brexit and risk alienating the 17.4 million people who voted Leave.

But on the other hand, she could go for a so-called Hard Brexit (where few of the existing ties between the UK and the EU are retained) and risk causing untold damage to the UK’s economy and standing in the world for years to come.

Alternatively, May could accept the fact that convincing the Brexiteers is a lost cause, and try to rally support among Labour MPs for a ‘softer’ Brexit plan, one that would more countenance closer ties with the EU during the transition, and ultimately set the stage for a closer relationship that could see the UK remain part of the customs union and single market. Conservatives are also increasingly pushing for a ‘Plan B’ deal that would effectively set the terms for a Norway- or Canada-style trade deal (and this strategy isn’t without risk, as any deal accepted by Parliament would still require approval from the EU).

But as JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank anticipated last week, a second referendum (which supporters have nicknamed a “People’s Vote”) is becoming increasingly popular, even among MPs who supported the ‘Leave’ campaign, according to Bloomberg.

It’s not the only previously unthinkable idea that May has talked about this week. Fighting off a challenge to her leadership from pro-Brexit Conservative members of Parliament, the premier warned that deposing her would mean delaying Britain’s departure from the European Union. That’s not something she admitted was possible last month.

The argument for a second referendum advanced by one minister was simple: If nothing can get through Parliament — and it looks like nothing can — the question needs to go back to voters.

While campaigners for a second vote have mostly been those who want to reverse the result of the last one and keep Britain inside the EU, that’s not the reason a lot of new supporters are coming round to the idea.

One Cabinet minister said this week he wanted a second referendum on the table to make clear to Brexit supporters in the Conservative Party that the alternative to May’s deal is no Brexit at all.

Even former UKIP leader Nigel Farage is urging his supporters to be ready for a second referendum:

Speaking at rally in London, Press Association quoted Farage as saying: “My message folks tonight is as much as I don’t want a second referendum it would be wrong of us on a Leave Means Leave platform not to get ready, not to be prepared for a worst-case scenario.”

Putting pressure on Brexiteers is also the reason there’s more talk of delaying the U.K.’s departure. At the moment, many Brexit-backers are talking openly about running down the clock to March so they can get the hard Brexit they want. Extending the process — which is easier than many appreciate — takes that strategy off the table.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has continued to call for May to put her deal to a vote principally because its defeat is a necessary precursor for another referendum (or a no-confidence vote pushed by an alliance between Labour, and some combination of rebel Tories, the SNP and the DUP).

“The last 24 hours have shown that Theresa May’s Brexit deal is dead in the water,” said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “She’s failed to deliver any meaningful changes. Rather than ploughing ahead and recklessly running down the clock, she needs to put her deal to a vote next week so Parliament can take back control.”

The upshot is that the Brexit trainwreck, which has been stuck at an impasse for months, could finally see some meaningful movement in the coming weeks. Which means its a good time to bring back this handy chart illustrating the many different outcomes that could arise:

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Ukraine’s President Says “High” Threat Of Russian Invasion, Urges NATO Entry In Next 5 Years

Poroshenko is trying desperately to hold on to power, even if it means provoking Russia.

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Via Zerohedge


Perhaps still seeking to justify imposing martial law over broad swathes of his country, and attempting to keep international pressure and media focus on a narrative of “Russian aggression,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denounced what he called the high “threat of Russian invasion” during a press conference on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.

Though what some analysts expected would be a rapid flair up of tit-for-tat incidents following the late November Kerch Strait seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and their crew by the Russian Navy has gone somewhat quiet, with no further major incident to follow, Poroshenko has continued to signal to the West that Russia could invade at any moment.

“The lion’s share of Russian troops remain” along the Russian border with Ukraine, Poroshenko told journalists at a press conference in the capital, Kiev. “Unfortunately, less than 10 percent were withdrawn,” he said, and added: “As of now, the threat of Russian troops invading remains. We have to be ready for this, we won’t allow a repeat of 2014.”

Poroshenko, who declared martial law on Nov. 26, citing at the time possible imminent “full-scale war with Russia” and Russian tank and troop build-up, on Sunday noted that he will end martial law on Dec. 26 and the temporarily suspended presidential campaign will kick off should there be no Russian invasion. He also previously banned all Russian males ages 16-60 from entering Ukraine as part of implementation of 30 days of martial law over ten provinces, though it’s unclear if this policy will be rescinded.

During his remarks, the Ukrainian president said his country should push to join NATO and the EU within the next five years, per Bloomberg:

While declining to announce whether he will seek a second term in the office, Poroshenko said that Ukraine should achieve peace, overcome the consequences of its economic crisis and to meet criteria to join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during next five years.

But concerning both his retaining power and his ongoing “threat exaggeration” — there’s even widespread domestic acknowledgement that the two are clearly linked.

According to The Globe and Mail:

While Mr. Poroshenko’s domestic rivals accuse him of exaggerating the threat in order to boost his own flagging political fortunes — polls suggest Mr. Poroshenko is on track to lose his job in a March election — military experts say there are reasons to take the Ukrainian president’s warning seriously.

As we observed previously, while European officials have urged both sides to exercise restraint, the incident shows just how easily Russia and the West could be drawn into a military conflict over Ukraine.

Certainly Poroshenko’s words appear designed to telegraph just such an outcome, which would keep him in power as a war-time president, hasten more and massive western military support and aid, and quicken his country’s entry into NATO — the latter which is already treating Ukraine as a de facto strategic outpost.

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