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Skripal case: Theresa May now demands Russia prove itself innocent

British government lacking evidence of Russian guilt reverses the burden of proof

Alexander Mercouris

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After a week of speculation and allegations British Prime Minister Theresa May has finally spoken about the murder attempt on the former British spy Sergey Skripal, which has left both him and his daughter critically ill.

This how the Guardian reports her statement

Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at Porton Down, our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so, Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations, and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations, the government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal….

Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country. Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others…

Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom……

This attempted murder using a weapons-grade nerve agent in a British town was not just a crime against the Skripals.

“It was an indiscriminate and reckless act against the United Kingdom, putting the lives of innocent civilians at risk. And we will not tolerate such a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil. I commend this statement to the House….

The first thing to say about this statement is that it is essentially an admission that the British authorities have not been able to identify any suspects who might have carried out the attack on Skripal.

No person or persons have been identified as suspects in the case, and the only conclusion one can draw from Theresa May’s statement is that the British authorities either do not have the names of any suspects, or are uncertain about any names they do have..

I say this because if the British authorities did suspect any person or persons of carrying out the attack, Theresa May would presumably not be publicly speculating about whether this person or these persons might or might not have acted on the Russian government’s instructions.

The second thing to say about this statement is that the Russian attribution the British government is making is entirely based upon a scientific assessment that the nerve agent used in the attack was one of the agents developed by the USSR in the 1970s and 1980s as part of the so-called Novichok programme.

On the face of it this seems an uncertain basis upon which to attribute responsibility.

Details of the Novichok programme were disclosed by the Russians to the West decades ago, and the properties of the nerve agents developed as part of this programme are well known.  That presumably is why it was possible to assess that the nerve agent used in the attack on Skripal was one of the nerve agents developed as part of this programme.

Given that this is so, it is not obvious how it is possible to say that because the nerve agent used was of a type which was originally developed in Russia as part of the Novichok programme, that must mean that the Russian government or Russians were definitely responsible for the attack.

That seems to me a little like saying that because sarin was originally developed decades ago in Germany, that means that any chemical weapons attack which uses sarin is attributable to Germany.

The danger involved in using the supposed origin of a poison to identify the perpetrator is in fact shown by what happened in the Litvinenko case.

At the time of the murder in 2006 of Alexander Litvinenko Britain was awash with claims that the polonium with which he was poisoned was extremely expensive, was only made in Russia, and had been positively traced back to Russia.  These claims were widely treated as providing the proof that the Russian authorities were responsible for Litvinenko’s murder.

In the event, the public inquiry into Litvinenko’s murder, after hearing from a range of scientific witnesses, concluded that all the claims which had for a decade been made about polonium were untrue: it is not expensive, it is not produced only in Russia, and it is scientifically impossible to trace the point of origin of any polonium sample, whether to Russia or to anywhere else.

The Judge who headed the inquiry could not conceal his disappointment, making the extraordinary statement in his inquiry report that though it could not be proved that the polonium had come from Russia, it nonetheless might have done so.

The result was that with the polonium evidence – the evidence which supposedly “proved” Russian state involvement – having collapsed, the Judge could only say that the Russian authorities were “probably” involved, and could only do so by speculating at length about possible but in fact unlikely connections between the Russian authorities and the two men who were Litvinenko’s likely murderers spiced up with further speculations about the possible motives the Russians might have had for wanting Litvinenko dead (see my detailed discussion of the Litvinenko inquiry here).

It is therefore alarming to see Theresa May in the Skripal case in effect doing the same thing as the Judge did in the Litvinenko inquiry: gingering up a case against the Russian authorities which is nowhere near proved by making general assertions about Russian conduct which have no direct bearing on the case itself.

How else to explain such comments as her comment about “Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations, and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations” and her utterly gratuitous reference to Crimea in another part of her statement?

That the British authorities actually know very little about the attack on Skripal, and are perfectly aware that the case they are making against Russia is nowhere near proved, is shown by the bizarre way they are now approaching Russia.

Instead of sharing with the Russians their conclusions about the nerve agent that was used to poison Skripal, and asking the Russians for their cooperation in a case where the victim was a former Russian citizen and where the nerve agent used is of a type that was developed in Russia, the British government has instead given the Russian authorities an ultimatum, saying that they must prove their innocence by tomorrow or the British government will assume they are guilty.

I say that because that is what these words in Theresa May’s statement amount to

Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country. Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others…

Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom……

That this is a way of proving guilt by reversing the burden of the proof – something which is both wrong and absurd in a criminal investigation in a modern European country – ought to be obvious.

What this ultimatum in fact actually shows is that the British government is determined to declare the Russian government guilty, but cannot prove its case, so it has to use an ultimatum to provide proof of guilt which ‘proof’ is however actually a sham.

The Russians have in fact previously offered their cooperation to solve the case.

Perhaps that offer is also a sham.  However if the British authorities really were serious about finding out the truth of what happened or – better still – were really intent on making a case that could stand up in a court of law, they would accept this offer.

If it turned out that the Russian offer was a sham then in that case – but not before – the British government would be entitled to make public inferences from it.

Where does all this leave the case?

I do not know how Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia came to be poisoned.  I have a completely open mind about that and about who may have been responsible.  At this very early stage in the investigation when few facts are known so should everyone else.

The fact that the nerve agent used to poison Skripal apparently has a Russian origin – which is not the same as saying that it was made in Russia – is suggestive and important, but without much more knowledge about the other facts of the case it is impossible to say what weight should be placed on it.

I would refer again to the mistaken way the polonium evidence was initially assessed in the Litvinenko case (see above) and the way that mistaken assessment came to distort the whole conduct of that case.

Which brings me directly to the problem.

Now that the British government right at the beginning of the investigation has publicly declared that the attack on Skripal originated in Russia, with all the indications being that the British government will say tomorrow that the Russian authorities were directly responsible, the future conduct of the investigation has been irredeemably prejudiced.

It is now all but impossible for the British courts and the British police – who are ultimately officials of the British state – to come to any conclusion other than the one the British government has now publicly made for them.

The result is that what might be other promising lines of enquiry in the case will not now be followed up.

Again the lesson of the Litvinenko case is instructive.  Having predetermined Russian guilt on the strength of an assessment of the polonium evidence which turned out to be wrong, it became impossible for the British authorities to draw back, so that the Judge who headed the inquiry into Litvinenko’s death came to the inquiry with his mind made up.

The result was that when the polonium evidence collapsed it was impossible for him to change his mind, so that instead of doing so he hunted around for other ‘evidence’ in order to find a way to make a verdict of Russian guilt, which he came to the inquiry already believing in.

Once upon a time the dangers of rushing prematurely to conclusions about guilt or innocence in a case were well understood in Britain.

Prior to a change in the law in 1981, which effectively abolished the sub judice rule, the sort of speculations that were made in 2006 in the Litvinenko case, and which are being made in the Skripal case today, would have been impossible.

Certainly it is inconceivable that the British government before 1981 would have publicly interfered in a case in the way that Theresa May has just done.

The fact that the British government is now doing so is in some respects even more concerning than the fact and manner of the attack on Skripal.

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Can Zelensky bring peace to a Ukraine torn apart by Obama’s Maidan coup? (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 150.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at Vladimir Zelensky’s landslide victory against incumbent Petro Poroshenko in Sunday’s historic Ukraine, second round, Presidential election.

Not much is known about Zelensky’s political acumen, but the job of uniting a country torn apart by an Obama funded Maidan coup in 2014, will prove to be a daunting task for the comedy TV star.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

Via TASS News…

Ukraine’s ‘Opposition Platform – For Life’ party will support Ukrainian president-elect Vladimir Zelensky only if he takes practical steps to bring peace to Donbass, Chairman of the party’s Political Council Viktor Medvedchuk said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 TV channel on Monday.

“Today, we can’t say that we support him because support is only possible if he truly wants peace in Donbass, if we see that he is taking actual steps to achieve this goal,” he said.

According to Medvedchuk, this is the only condition on which the ‘Opposition Platform – For Life’ party is ready to provide assistance to Zelensky if the need arises.

Ukraine’s presidential runoff took place on April 21. With 99.53% of the vote counted, leader of the Servant of the People political party Vladimir Zelensky has received 73.23% in Ukraine’s presidential runoff, while incumbent President Pyotr Poroshenko gained 24.45%.

 

 

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TRUMP  –  The Reckoning

The Trump/Russia hoax has been called bigger than Watergate, in reality it dwarfs Watergate.

The Duran

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Submitted by Alexander Baron via Medium…

Now that the Mueller Report has been published and Donald Trump has been cleared of colluding with Russia, heads will roll.

Donald Trump was nearly seventy years old when he announced he was running for President of the United States. He had been asked if he would run way back in the 1980s, and ruled it out. Having literally no political experience, he was treated largely as a joke candidate, something he took in good humour, but the joke turned sour, first when he decimated a seventeen strong field of Republican hopefuls, and then when he beat Hillary Clinton losing the popular vote but winning the electoral college and thus the Presidency.

By this time, the jokes had turned to hysteria. What would any reasonable person have expected him to do at his age? With a much younger wife, a young son, an extended family, fame, and wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, he could have spent his golden years playing golf, doting on his grandkids, and doing anything he wanted and was able to within reason. Instead he elected to spend six hundred million dollars of his own money on a long shot to capture the Presidency, then work like a dog afterwards. Why? Because he saw his country being trashed and figured only he could save it.

You can call that wishful thinking, arrogance, even a Messiah complex, but the fact remains he put his money where his mouth is and delivered the goods. He didn’t even take a salary. And he has clearly been enjoying himself in both the run up to the election and in his Presidency, but there has been a dark side, a very dark side. While Trump has won millions of fans, he has earned the scorn of the elites, the intellectuals, the mass media, and the leadership of the Democratic Party. To date he has been the victim of an albeit half-hearted assassination attempt by a deranged British national, he has been assassinated in effigy in imitation of the Ides of March, decapitated in effigy, slandered and libelled from pillar to post.

After his Republican enemies released the now notorious Access Hollywood tape, a gaggle of demented and simply dishonest, attention-seeking females came forward to accuse him of a variety of sexual misdemeanours. He has been branded a bigot, a money launderer for the mob, his sanity has been questioned, and crude innuendo has been directed at him about his relationship with his eldest daughter.

Not content with trashing the man himself, elements of the media have attacked his daughter, his son Donald as a Russian “colluder”, his wife has been branded a prostitute, even his young son Barron has not been spared. Fifty years from now or even twenty, future American historians will look back on his treatment in shame. But the biggest lie, one that should never have been credited, is that he was somehow in the pockets of the Kremlin, or Vladimir Putin in person. How this lie came about has now been thoroughly documented, not by the mainstream media but by Fox News and its pundits who have broadcast the findings of Gregg Jarrett, Dan Bongino, Sara Carter, Joe diGenova, the Judicial Watchteam, The Epoch Times, and other Conservative organisations. To this list must be added the names of several leading Republican politicians, including Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan, Louis Gohmert, Jason Chaffetz, Trey Gowdy and Lindsey Graham.

So how did the Russian collusion hoax begin? It is based entirely on a spurious so-called dossier written ostensibly by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, a man who had excellent credentials, although in view of its contents one is entitled to ask if those credentials should not now be scrutinised carefully. The most outrageous claim of this dossier is that while he was in Moscow, Trump hired a brace of prostitutes to urinate on a mattress in the hotel suite that had been used by the Obamas.

Although there is little or no chance of his ever submitting himself to questioning by Congress, Steele has now admitted (ie claimed) in civil proceedings that he didn’t actually visit Russia to “research” this dossier but did so by telephone. This has led some people to claim the Russians have played the Democratic leadership for fools, but we have no proof that any Russians much less any working for the Russian Government had anything to do with the Steele dossier. Dan Bongino has pointed out that this Russian collusion stupidity actually originated as far back as 2007 and has simply been rewritten and tailored to fit Trump. Dick Morris, who knows how a certain person’s sick mind works, suggests it was written in-house by two Clinton henchmen.

Whoever actually wrote the dossier, most of this so-called opposition research was funded by Hillary Clinton who disguised its funding by paying for it through the law firm Perkins Coie. This is not so much a campaign violation as money laundering, but as with her e-mail scandal, laws are for the little people.

Although Clinton was responsible for the Steele dossier, Republicans were initially involved, including the late John McCain. McCain may have been a war hero, but that was the limit of his humanity. If he had beaten Obama in 2008, the Middle East would quite likely have gone up in flames.

The dossier was used not only to spread disinformation in the mainstream media but to dupe the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court into issuing warrants to spy on the Trump campaign. Its contents were fed to the Yahoo! News hack Michael Isikoff, a so-called investigative journalist, and the resulting news reports were used to bolster its authenticity, a classic case of circular reasoning. This allowed rogue operators to spy on Carter Page, and in effect on Trump himself.

If the Steele dossier and spying on Page had been the limits of the conspiracy, that would have been bad enough, but the extent of it and the names of the major players is breath-taking. We know now for certain that in addition to Hillary Clinton, the following people were involved: James Comey, John Brennan and James Clapper — the top men of the three major intelligence agencies; Andrew McCabe, the number two man at the FBI; Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, also top FBI agents; Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie, the former being a senior Department Of Justice official; Susan Rice, a top aide to Barack Obama; Loretta Lynch, Attorney General in the same administration; and Sally Yates, an Obama holdover who was sacked by Trump for insubordination.

The Trump/Russia hoax has been called bigger than Watergate, in reality it dwarfs Watergate, this was America’s Gunpowder Plot because its intention was nothing less than to destroy a duly elected President and topple his administration. That amounts to sedition, some would even call it treason.

Not content with simply spreading disinformation about Trump/Russia, the conspirators used agents provocateurs to infiltrate the Trump campaign and try to set up innocent men as Russian assets. Two we know of are the academic Stefan Halper and the mysterious Joseph Mifsud.

The attempt to set up Donald Trump Junior by arranging a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was blatant. Don Junior was clearly gullible, otherwise he would have arranged for his attorney to be present, or better still his attorney and a video camera. Adam Schiff made much of this claiming it was an attempt to collude to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. Then he was hoist by his own petard when two Russian comedians phoned him at his office and offered him photographs of Trump naked! Schiff was enthusiastic, but he is so far gone he doesn’t see the double standard.

How did they expect to get away with this? As Joe diGenova has pointed out, under President Hillary Clinton, all this would simply have gone away; the problem is, she didn’t win. The conspirators also had other, greater aims besides taking down Trump, in particular covering up Clinton’s earlier crimes, stopping any future Trumps, and, some of them, of reigniting the Cold War.

It is not difficult to understand why the Deep State and its operatives hate Trump so much and moved Heaven and Earth to get rid of him. Trump is a businessman, he knows how big business operates, how it plays the system and buys influence. He intended to put a stop to that, and has done to a certain extent. He was also intent on downsizing so-called capitalist America’s massive bureaucracy. A simple but spectacular example of this is his simplification of the tax system which especially benefits small companies and the self-employed. Now, most Americans filing their tax returns need fill out only one double-sided sheet of paper instead of thirty or so pages. Think of the bureaucracy and make-work jobs that destroys.

Apparatchiks are extremely well paid, have excellent terms of service, fat pensions, and are all but unsackable. All that is changing under Trump. Now imagine he gets only so much done, and ten, twenty years from now someone like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg comes along, someone who like him is wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice so cannot be bought, bribed or intimidated. The Hell Trump has been put through was designed to ensure that never happens. The Deep State and their allies have also sought not only to punish Trump but anyone who has the temerity to work with him.

This is why we have seen people on the fringes prosecuted for process crimes like lying to the FBI, crimes that would not have been committed but for the Mueller investigation, and crimes that are extremely minor. This is why Paul Manafort and Roger Stone were arrested by armed agents in dawn raids, tactics that may be suitable for taking down terrorists but not for men accused of white collar crimes. Manafort is now serving a heavy prison sentence for such crimes committed years before Trump announced his Presidential run. The arrest and pressurising of Roger Stone and others was done in the words of Alan Dershowitz, not only to make them sing but to compose.

Trump’s lawyers wisely advised him not to sit down for a formal interview with Mueller because it was clearly a perjury trap. In situations like this, perjury is anything the “investigators” say it is. Their utter ruthlessness is proof positive of that.

Another reason his enemies have gone all out to stop Trump is to cover up the crimes of Hillary Clinton. When she was Secretary of State, she set up a private e-mail server in her home on which she conducted Government business. This was uncovered accidentally by Judicial Watch. This is such a big thing because the e-mails of a public servant belong to the state. A humble police constable or low level local government administrator who did what she did would be sacked. But Hillary Clinton was using her private e-mail to for correspondence that must remain secret because lives could literally be at stake. And, as theYouTube vlogger HA Goodman has pointed out repeatedly, Clinton or someone close to her found a way to transfer top secret information from JWICS onto the regular Internet. JWICS is a high security American Government Intranet, so communications cannot be transferred onto the Internet accidentally; such transfers must have been manual. This alone constitutes serious espionage, and it begs the question why?

The answer to that question is simple, Clinton was peddling influence through the foundation she and her husband set up after he left office. Eric Trump summed it up with a question, what service or goods did they supply that made them so rich? The Clintons are now worth hundreds of millions of dollars, yet when they left the White House, he had lost his law license and was at best looking forward to making a living on the rubber chicken dinner circuit, a perk of the Presidency. That would certainly have kept him in cigars, but would it have stretched to a private jet? If Jason Goodman and especially Charles Ortel are right, the corruption of the Clintons and their associates is off the scale.

The third reason the Deep State was and remains so anxious to take down Donald Trump is because there are lunatics in high places who seek to reignite the Cold War. Indeed, there are some who even want to see war with China. How insane is that? It isn’t for those who make money out of it, only for us peasants, especially those who are sacrificed in these obscene, never-ending, no-win wars.

It is difficult to assess how much damage these people have already done. We know for example that Chinese agents hacked Clinton’s e-mails while she was Secretary of State. And this absurd mantra of “Russia, Russia, Russia” has even pushed Trump in the direction of confrontation instead of cooperation with Russia because every time he backs off , he is attacked as a Putin puppet, absurd as that is.

There are signs though that big change is coming, and it may be coming sooner than anybody thinks. Trump himself has said what happened to him cannot be allowed to go unpunished, and that nothing like this must ever be allowed to happen to a future President. The Democratic leadership and the mass media may howl and scream in unison, but there is already more than enough damning information in the public domain for Trump and his new Attorney General to do what he promised back in 2016: drain the Swamp.

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The Second Belt and Road Forum: A Transformation of the World Economic Order

Rather than embrace this new potential, western “old paradigm” forces representing the entrenched deep state have screamed and hollered against the “dangers of China and Russia threatening our democratic way of life”.

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From April 25-27 Beijing will host a second international forum on the Belt and Road Initiative and it won’t be a small deal.

The four weeks preceding this event have seen an incredible surge of nations and institutions joining the BRI framework beginning with Italy’s Memorandum of Understanding as the first G7 nation in March, followed soon thereafter by Luxembourg and Switzerland. Weeks later, China won another victory by consolidating billions in infrastructure deals with the 16+1 Central and Eastern European Nations who have signed onto the BRI. This particular forum was especially important as it saw Greece join the alliance changing the name to the 17+1 group. Greece’s official participation in this bloc extended the group beyond its nominal “central and eastern” geographical limits and the importance of Greece- whose Port of Piraeus and emerging rail infrastructure funded by China provide a key bridge in the Maritime New Silk Road to Europe.

If that wasn’t enough, China participated in the April 9-10 International Arctic Forum in Russia whereby the first treaty was signed between Russia and China on scientific cooperation in the Arctic, and sweeping agreements were made around Chinese-Russian infrastructure development on a policy which has become known as the “Polar Silk Road”- again extending the limits of the BRI beyond its “east-west framework”. Just as the Arctic conference was ending, an unprecedented Canadian Arctic Policy Report was publicized calling for a transformation of Canada’s Arctic doctrine towards a pro-development orientation in response to the “changing geopolitical rules” initiated by Russia and China.

While China and Russia consolidated the BRI-Eurasian Economic Union treaty in June 2018, a major leap was announced towards the finalization of a China-Eurasian Economic Partnership with the Deputy Director of Eurasian Affairs Wang Kaixuan stating on April 19:

 “Now it has to be endorsed by the specialized agencies. China has already completed its internal procedures. We are now waiting for our Russian counterparts, after that we can immediately start the negotiations. I believe that will happen soon,”

From April 15-16, China initiated a sweeping array of treaties with Arab countries during the 2nd Arab Forum on Reform and Development under the heading “Build the Belt and Road, Share Development and Prosperity.” The Arab nations already have over $200 billion trade with China and 18 Arab countries have signed MOUs with the BRI. China’s capacity to bring long term infrastructure to nations torn by western-funded wars and regime change is seen as a vital stabilizing influence not only to alleviate poverty and de-radicalize but also to provide a framework for genuine independence from western intrigues. Commenting on the forum, the President of Lebanon stated “The Arab countries have huge markets. We regard China as a good friend and are willing to further consolidate the relationship with China. We would like to draw the experience from China’s reform and development so as to benefit our people and seek our opportunities for development”.

Rather than embrace this new potential, western “old paradigm” forces representing the entrenched deep state have screamed and hollered against the “dangers of China and Russia threatening our democratic way of life”. Exemplifying this outlook was the Washington Post’s April 20th feature article “How Washington can beat China’s Global Influence Campaign”, calling for an “alternative to the BRI” controlled by the western elite. This plan is entirely absurd since America has not only permitted its own infrastructure and productive powers to rot for 50 years, but has created no relevant infrastructure that has benefited nations abroad during that same time frame. All that has been created under decades of IMF-World Bank lending has been debt slavery, impoverishment, and a $700 billion derivatives bubble that is ripe to explode.

Although incredible efforts were made over two years by the Five Eyes/Mueller led witch hunt to destroy the potential alliance Trump was proposing to form with Russia and China, the now published Mueller report turned out to be little more than a goose egg failing to  prove any of the claims of Russian collusion. Jumping off that victory, Trump called loudly on April 5 for a conversion of vast military expenditures which only risk world war three towards a program of long term investments between Russia, China and the USA:

“Between Russia, China and us, we’re all making hundreds of billions of dollars worth of weapons, including nuclear, which is ridiculous… I think it’s much better if we all got together and didn’t make these weapons… those three countries I think can come together and stop the spending and spend on things that are more productive toward long term peace.”

Going into to this month’s BRI Forum (titled “Belt and Road Cooperation: Shaping a Brighter Shared Future”), 5000 participants, including 37 heads of state, and 100 heads of organizations will discuss the megaprojects that will give vitality to the coming century with the Chinese leadership and business community. There is no doubt that the collapse of the Trans-Atlantic banking system will be on everyone’s mind as opportunities to tie our destiny to long term projects that benefit all nations will be presented as open offers for all to join. Will the West follow Italy, and Greece’s lead by joining the BRI, or continue to party like its 2008?


BIO: Matthew J.L. Ehret is a journalist, lecturer and founder of the Canadian Patriot Review. His works have been published in Executive Intelligence Review, Global Research, Global Times, The Duran, Nexus Magazine, Los Angeles Review of Books, Veterans Today and Sott.net. Matthew has also published the book “The Time has Come for Canada to Join the New Silk Road” and three volumes of the Untold History of Canada (available on untoldhistory.canadianpatriot.org). He can be reached at [email protected]

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