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Russophobia And The Specter Of War

Who are the extremists, aggressors, and warmongers seemingly invested in the new Cold-War brinkmanship? 

The Duran

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Authored by Carl Boggs via Counterpunch.org:


Could global warming pose the greatest threat to the future of life on the planet?  Quite possibly, if we believe the international (and scientific) consensus, despite a widening stratum of debunkers, deniers, and skeptics.  What about the prospects of thermonuclear war between the United States and Russia, two countries armed to the max and seemingly moving toward the brink of military conflict?  Where does that rate?   If the question is asked of most any Beltway denizen, the response might be something along lines of “sounds frightening, but right now we have other priorities, and we can’t lose sight of the Russian threat”.

As American political life continues to deteriorate, matters of war and peace rarely merit attention amidst the sound and fury of manufactured news, moral posturing, personal scandals, and tweeting exchanges. Good for TV ratings and maybe partisan advantage, decidedly less so for addressing issues of political relevance.   Now we have two years of frenzied Russiagate and its attendant neo-McCarthyism.   That the intensifying hostility directed by one nuclear power toward another might bring the world closer to a war that could end all wars seems bizarrely remote to a political class obsessed with little beyond its own power and wealth, faintly camouflaged by identity politics; the “unthinkable” remains, well, unthinkable.

As anti-Russia hysteria spreads, speech taboos harden; any discourse at odds with tightening official political/media consensus brings immediate blowback, smear-mongering, and (where possible) silencing.  It is so obvious that Vladimir Putin is a ruthless, aggressive monster that any dissenting view must be the product of either insanity or Russian propaganda.    In this one-dimensional world the recent appearance of Stephen F. Cohen’s important book, War with Russia?, comes with special urgency, Cohen being one of the few public intellectuals to challenge the onslaught of Russophobic narratives churned out relentlessly by the political/media establishment.  And he remains virtually alone in going so far as to write about very real specter of nuclear catastrophe.

Longtime scholar of Soviet/Russian studies, Cohen has for years resisted the tide of mindless Russia bashing that gathered steam first, with the 2014 Ukraine events, and then with Trump’s unacceptable rise to the White House.   For his informed and dispassionate analysis of Russian history and politics, Cohen has been denounced as “Putin’s number one American apologist”, charged by some for having been “duped” by that great Russian mastermind.  Appearing recently on CNN with Anderson Cooper and the neocon warmonger Max Boot, Cohen’s stubborn refusal to see Putin as the worst of all tyrannical evils triggered Boot, who proceeded to attack Cohen for decades of apologetics, followed by a dire warning: “Russia is attacking us right now”.   Such is the state of American media discourse that Boot had no need to furnish evidence of any such “attack”, and Cooper was not about to demand it.

Cohen’s book – a lengthy collection of recent essays – convincingly demolishes every fictional narrative behind Russiagate, the same arguments ritually presented as earth-shattering news at CNN, the New York Times, Washington Post, and elsewhere across the corporate media.  In contrast to earlier cycles of anti-Soviet hysteria, including 1950s McCarthyism, the newer variant comes not from the extreme right but mainly from liberal Democrats and their allies in the “intel community”, warfare state, and media culture.  With an abundance of logic and facts, Cohen eviscerates the familiar myths and lies: Putin the maniacal dictator, Russia the imperial aggressor, Ukraine the model democracy, Trump’s love affair with Putin, and of course Putin’s notorious “attack on our democracy”.

In fact the new Cold War is entirely an American creation, starting in the early 1990s and continuing along multiple fronts: NATO expansion to Russian borders, economic sanctions designed to “cripple” the Russian economy, neo-fascist coup in Ukraine promoted in Washington, American withdrawal from the 1972 ABM nuclear treaty, groundless accusations that Moscow conspired to rig the 2016 U.S. presidential election, ongoing economic and military threats.  Nothing of the sort has been carried out by the Russian side.

Cohen shows how the new Cold War and Russiagate effectively constrain President Trump’s flexibility to defuse or at least manage U.S.-Russia conflict.  Any Trump move toward cooperation with Russia – vital to international nuclear sanity – will now surely bring accusations of “collusion”, even treason, reflected in the silly media outrage at Trump’s rather innocuous July summit meeting with Putin in Helsinki.  Room for maneuver has perilously narrowed, negating prospects for détente of the sort historically achieved by the likes of Nixon and Reagan (with the Soviets, no less).   The danger of such global hostilities hardly require elaboration.

The reigning assumption is that Putin – virtually alone among world leaders – cannot be a legitimate participant in normal international diplomacy; mere contact with Russian elites can nowadays be regarded as criminal.  U.S. partnership with Communist dictator Josef Stalin during World War II apparently met criteria for a working partnership, while the popularly-elected Putin is disqualified, forever discredited as “former KGB thug”.  The political/media establishment routinely castigates Putin as a tyrant, imperialist, racist, anti-Semite, and wanton murderer of political enemies though, as Cohen demonstrates, these charges fail to pass close scrutiny.  Since no clear ideological rationale exists for all the Russia bashing – the Communist regime disappeared nearly three decades ago – the new Cold Warriors are forced to rely strictly on personal demonization.

Cohen writes that “The other fallacious sub-axiom is that Putin has always been ‘anti-Western’, specifically ‘anti-American’, has always viewed the United States with ‘smoldering suspicion’ – so much so that he eventually set in motion a ‘Plot Against America’.”   A more careful reading of Putin’s years in power tells a different story.  A Westernized Russian, Putin came to the presidency in 2000 following the tradition of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, hoping for a “strategic friendship and partnership” with the U.S.  Amazingly, if one believes his speeches and interviews, Putin still embraces that vision even today.

Cohen takes up the problem of sanctions that Washington has clumsily and repeatedly imposed on Russia, with at best limited success – though a common view in Moscow is that sanctions amount to economic warfare.   That “warfare” actually has a protracted history, going back to the first stirrings of the Bolshevik regime.  It is worth asking what might have been gained from such punishment, aside from needlessly cementing hostile relations with a Eurasian nuclear power?  Nothing much constructive.  Cohen points out that, “Historically, sanctions were not problem-solving measures advancing American national security but more akin to temper tantrums or road rage, making things worse, than to real policy-making.”  One geopolitical outcome, in recent years, has been to push the Russians closer to China and Iran.  Beyond that, sanctions have worked to Putin’s favor as his efforts to persuade “oligarchs” (business elites) to repatriate tens of billions of dollars from offshore enterprises has finally borne fruit.

The very logic of U.S.-imposed sanctions, moreover, is fraudulent: the Ukraine crisis was, more than anything, provoked by regime change sponsored by American neocons. Punishing Russia for its “attack on American democracy” makes even less sense, as “In reality, there was no ‘attack’, no Pearl Harbor, no 9/11, no Russian parachuters descending on Washington [contrary to Boot’s twisted fantasy] – only the kind of ‘meddling’ and ‘interference’ in the other’s domestic politics that countries have practiced almost ritualistically for nearly a hundred years.”  Cohen adds: “Whatever ‘meddling’ Russian actors did in 2016 may well have been jaywalking compared to the Clinton administration’s highly intrusive political and financial intervention on behalf of Russian president Yeltsin’s reelection campaign in 1996.”   Not to mention brazen and repeated U.S. regime-change interventions, often with military force, since World War II.

One result of Russiagate and the new McCarthyism is that, in the virtuous land of freedom and democracy there are nowadays declining levels of both.  At present, in Cohen’s words, “there remained, for the first time in decades of Cold War history, no countervailing forces in Washington – no pro-détente wing of the Democratic or Republican parties, no influential anti-Cold War opposition anywhere, no real debate.”  Congress, the media, academia, think tanks – all seem engulfed, to varying degrees, in the same Russophobia.

From the outset Russiagate was an elite strategy having little to do with the “left” or “extreme left” of FOX News lore – although, sadly, plenty of leftish liberals and progressives have joined a cynical scheme promoted at the summits of power, where the imperial warfare state always requires a diabolical enemy.  Indeed vilification of Putin attracts relatively little public attention, much less fear.   After years of media-fueled tales of terrible Russian deeds, Cohen refers to a 2018 Gallup poll showing that 58 percent of Americans want to “improve relations with Russia”, compared to 36 percent who do not.

In an essay titled “Russiagate and the Risk of Nuclear War”, Cohen observes that Beltway elites remain strangely indifferent to the threat of nuclear catastrophe.  Could a Doomsday scenario end up as the ultimate collateral damage, the legacy of relentless anti-Russia fanaticism?   Cohen writes: “We might fault Trump for being insufficiently strong – politically or psychologically – to resist warfare demands that he prove his ‘innocence’, butthe primary responsibility lies with Russiagate promoters who seek obsessively to impeach the president: politicians and journalists for whom a porn actress, Stormy Daniels, seems to be a higher priority than averting nuclear war with Russia.”  Could there be a more depressing commentary on the current state of American political culture?

It is finally worth asking: exactly who are the extremists, aggressors, and warmongers seemingly invested in the new Cold-War brinkmanship?   Does Putin have troops stationed on American borders?  Is he waging economic combat against the U.S.?   Has he staged a coup in Mexico?   Has he nullified any treaties?  Is he threatening to destroy Washington, D.C.?   Do we find incessant anti-American hysteria across the Russian public sphere?   For the moment, according to Cohen, “Putin still appears to be, in words and deeds, the moderate, calling Western leaders ‘our partners and colleagues’, asking for understanding and negotiations, being far less ‘aggressive’ than he might be.”

It turns out that Russophobia is riddled with its own contradictions – the most obvious being two incompatible views of the Russians: they are genetically corrupt, backward, and dysfunctional, unable to maintain a vital economy, yet are simultaneously global “puppet-masters” (John Brennan’s words) capable of rigging the outcome of a distant and high-tech American election.  Further, since both Putin and Trump are reputed to be rather thick-headed and out of control – Trump now relegated to special “idiot” status, deserving impeachment — it is truly shocking to be informed how they could so brilliantly and secretly collude, and with such marvelous results.

According to the eminent McCarthyite Brennan, himself a big supporter of the Ukraine coup (never described in the media as “former CIA thug”), Trump’s abominable behavior is nothing short of “treasonous”, unprecedented in the annals of the American presidency.   Cohen is on target to note that “Brennan’s views are those of Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover in their prime.”  The difference, of course, is that Brennan is rewarded with a lucrative job at MSNBC and celebrated as truth-teller, while McCarthy was eventually ostracized by Republican colleagues, censored by the Senate, denounced by President Eisenhower, and politically destroyed.

Cohen’s main arguments now seem more rather than less resonant – a bad sign for the trajectory of U.S.-Russia relations and, more ominously, for hopes the new Cold War will never turn into something even hotter than climate change while media attention is fixated elsewhere.  We are not likely to see editorials in the New York Times warning about the perils of disintegrating U.S.-Russia relations. Or special features on CNN.  Or lectures about the threat of nuclear war from Rachel Maddow, Joe Scarborough, or Don Lemon.  Just more earth-shattering revelations from the Mueller probe and a litany of scandals heroically brought to light by legions of vigilant Russiagate sleuths.

Writing in The Doomsday Machine, Daniel Ellsberg lays out in great detail the advancing likelihood that strategic nuclear systems – above all those of the U.S. and Russia – will, sooner or later, experience some kind of fatal calamity: not only through deliberate attack but from the very real possibility of false alarms, accidents, computer hacks, or even unauthorized launches.  In recent years fail-safe protections have been disastrously weakened or compromised, at a time of sharpening antagonism between the two biggest nuclear states.  The result of an “event”, Ellsberg writes, would likely be several hundred million dead, global fires raging for months, lethal worldwide radiation, and “nuclear winter that would starve to death nearly everyone living.”  That could be the terrible fate of humanity if Russophobia the new Cold War are allowed to follow their confrontational logic.

The undeserving target of personal smears, Stephen F. Cohen ought to be recipient of extraordinary tribute for his determined (and largely thankless) efforts to counter the barrage of endless myths, lies, and threats fueling anti-Russia hysteria that, if not soon subverted, could take the U.S. and rest of humanity along the road to unprecedented disaster.

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Brigitte Meier
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Brigitte Meier

Hitler started a war on Russia when it was already clear that the state was approaching bankruptcy – to take the world with him rather than to let the world take him down. Trump and the Deep State neocons appear to have adopted the same dystopian standpoint in which a nuclear war that will destroy planet earth is far preferable to their demise in shame. As Cohen laconically noticed, the two nuclear superpowers claim the necessity to destroy mankind including themselves and planet earth for self defense! Somebody should get D.C. to look at their logic! Instead, Trump is ousting… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
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Looking at the USA from the European side of the world, those people seem to be all warmongers, with different shades of the same belligerent, imperialist spirit: Bolton, Kelly, Mattis, Pompeo … The whole lot should be dismissed by President Trump.

Isabella
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Isabella

“despite a widening stratum of debunkers, deniers, and skeptics. ” The writer, if he knows the subject, should add here “despite a widening stratum of scientific evidence obtained from the studies of 400,000 yr old ice core studies, solar activity studies and tree ring studies, which show clearly that warming and cooling are natural cycles, that according to the cycles this one has arrive spot on time, and that it is now shown to be preceding a very cold cylce, a mini- Ice age”. There are others who disagree with “AGW” not just his view of those who oppose the… Read more »

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

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

Seraphim Hanisch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 181.

Alex Christoforou

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

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

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

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Via Zerohedge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 89.

Alex Christoforou

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

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

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Via RT…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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