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The contrasting Russian/Chinese vs. US models for geo-economic diplomacy

The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister’s speech in South Korea is a clear illustration of Russia and China’s diplomatic methodology which contrasts diametrically with that of the US.

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Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov has spoken at length about Russia’s peace plan for the Korean peninsula while at a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in South Korea. During his speech, he offered highly detailed and uncompromising views on why the joint China-Russian peace plan for the Korean peninsula, known as the ‘double-freeze’ is the only sensible way to restore calm to the region.

Furthermore and most importantly, he outlined why Russia remains opposed to Washington’s punitive measures and bellicose stance against the DPRK.

The genesis of Russia’s North Korea policy is best apprehended through an understanding of Russia’s diplomatic and economic goals for Asia and the so-called wider ‘Global South’. Russia’s manner of achieving things in the diplomatic arena, is linked indelibly with Russia’s wider geo-economic style of diplomacy. For Russia, peace and cooperation are achieved through initiatives involving economic inter-connectivity. By establishing joint-economic projects, in areas including  energy cooperation and the establishing of new trading zones (free trade or with substantial reductions in traditional tariffs), Russia aims to ease geo-political pressure points through the incentive of prosperity that comes through countries having mutual shares in multilateral endeavours.

One sees this in the Middle East where Russia continues to enhance cooperation with Syria, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon–all members of the geo-political northern bloc of the Middle East, while also maintaining good relations with Saudi Arabia, it’s rival Qatar and America’s traditional ally in Tel Aviv, while also re-starting intensified good relations with Egypt.

The new Middle East: A North/South divide where Israel is losing its narrative and its old game plan

In East Asia, Russia continues to expand relations with South Korea, in spite of Seoul’s ties to Washington. It is no coincidence that South Korea is increasingly responsive to Russian diplomatic measures at a time when trade between the two-countries looks set to rapidly expand.

Implicit in the burgeoning relationship between Moscow and Seoul is the prospect for the tripartite economic cooperation initiative between Russia and the two Korean states, that was first proposed by Vladimir Putin at the Eastern Economic Forum held in Vladivostok shortly after this year’s BRICS summit.

Both North and South Korean officials, including President Moon Jae-in attended the meeting. Officials from both Korean states were responsive to Putin’s proposals for joint economic initiatives, including the possibility of energy and logistical transport corridors that would link all thee countries.

Two Koreas–One Road: The future of cooperation between North Korea, South Korea and Russia

At the time and in subsequent statements, the North Korean government said that the only thing prohibiting Pyongyang from embracing the proposals immediately, was continued fears about threats to the DPRK’s security due to increased US military activities in South Korea.

This is why the double-freeze is crucial for the success of such joint initiatives and it is why Russia is in close contact with South Korea regarding the matter. According to the double-freeze, North Korea must halt the testing of new weapons, while South Korea, the US and Japan must do the same, while also ceasing with provocative military exercises in the region.

Russia is clearly attempting to convince South Korea to help and de-escalate joint US military activities in the region, something President Moon Jae-in has been receptive to in the past. In late October of this year, Seoul and Beijing reached an agreement whereby it would appear South Korea has agreed not to receive further US made and operated THAAD missile systems, a key demand from China. As a result, South Korea and China have quickly normalised economic and diplomatic activities, while the contents of the agreement have only been partly revealed.

A similar agreement will need to be struck with Russia, entailing further commitments from Seoul to de-militarise certain aspects of US made armaments in the country, in order for Russia to feel confident in further leveraging the DPRK to reciprocate.

Russia is perfectly clear about how seriously it takes the security concerns in both Korean states and it will certainly take intense negotiations with both sides to reach a point where the double-freeze can take shape.

In many ways, China is now in closer communication with South Korea than with its historic Northern partner. While China remains fully committed to the double-freeze and to joint regional economic initiatives as part of the One Belt–One Road project, China’s relations with Pyongyang are at an all time low. Under Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang and Beijing have failed to see eye to eye on numerous occasions. However, Russia’s relationship with Pyongyang is, if anything, growing stronger and China is happy for Russia to take the diplomatic lead in this area. In this sense, one should not over-hype the strains between Beijing and Pyongyang as the US under Donald Trump is often inclined to do. In reality, as long as Russia continues in its diplomatic discussions with both Korean states and with China, all parties will eventually be satisfied, as each party will be able to air its concerns to a receptive diplomatic partner.

The biggest stumbling block to the entire process is the United States and the reasons for this have everything to do with Washington’s approach to geo-politics and geo-economics. Contemporary US geo-politics, especially in the Trump era, appears to boil down to merely two things:

1. Attempts to create points of tensions along key areas of One Belt–One Road

2. Attempts to exploit as many traditional conflicts as possible, so as to sell more expensive military hardware to traditional partners

Increasingly, these two elements of US foreign policy go hand-in-hand. One sees it in respect of the US arming India and siding with India in its disputes with both China and Pakistan. One sees it in the Middle East where the US continues to sell expensive weapons to Saudi Arabia while encouraging Riyadh’s anti-Iranian rhetoric. One sees it  in South East Asia where the US is openly trying to stand in the way of would-be rapprochement between Vietnam and China and of course, one sees it in East Asia where Trump has touted weapons sales to Japan as a means of ‘containing’ North Korea.

Far from de-escalating conflicts, the US model of geo-economics seeks to exploit conflicts for the sake of weapons sales. Nowhere is this more true than in respect of the Korean crisis, where one of the world’s longest standing frozen conflicts has heated up due to the US rhetoric against North Korea which seemed to spontaneously become highly aggressive starting in April of 2017.

Russia has far fewer economic ties to the United States than China. Russia’s goal therefore is to use diplomatic skill to try and convince the US to be a less obstructionist power in the aforementioned conflicts. As this is likely to fail, Russia looks increasingly to built its economic relations with traditional US partners and in doing so, show the United States that the zero-sum mentality which is implicit in its foreign policy, is not economically prudent and mutually beneficial in the long term.

This strategy involves helping traditional US partners, who often act as though fully dependant on the US, to achieve and more independent and consequently balanced foreign policy, thus giving these states their own form of leverage to use against the authoritarian style of US foreign policy.

Russia’s relationship with South Korea is a demonstrative of such a policy. With this context in mind, the following are the key highlights from Igor Morgulov’s speech in South Korea.

“Unfortunately, I have to say that the apocalyptic version of developments in this region exists and I very much hope that there will be enough common sense among the regional community to prevent this negative scenario from happening….

…I do not think that the tightening of pressure would lead to the results, which the authors of such policy expect. I am sure that if the goal is to make North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons and missile programs, it would be the last thing which North Koreans will give up as a result … further strengthening of sanctions against North Korea may lead this country to the brink of humanitarian crisis…

…Does someone believe in illusions that the words of the US President on ’fire and fury’ attack or constant North Korean threats to turn magnificent city of Seoul into ‘sea of flames’, does someone really think that these threats could cut the knot, which for so many years have been tied around the peninsula? We would be naive to think that any of the sides in this confrontation is going to give in under pressure…

…What theme of talks could be proposed in the first place? It is very simple: the principles of peaceful coexistence. I’m sure that that the lack of such an agreement on principles of mutual coexistence sparks mutual mistrust and bad blood [between the United States and North Korea]…

…The alternative to dialogue and negotiations does not exist. But in order to start this dialogue, it is important to first of all slow down and breath out, as they say…

…A mutually negative influence of [North Korean missile] tests and [US] drills is beyond doubt…

…We have presented the points of this roadmap to both sides [North Korea and the United States], I want to note that this plan has not been dismissed right away, neither in Washington, nor in Pyongyang…

…Moreover, we have engaged in discussion of some elements of this plan separately with the United States and with North Korea, which shows that a discussion based on this suggestion is possible. The work began, but, unfortunately US actions in October-November, I mean the military drills, have seriously impeded our dialogue on settlement based on this roadmap…

…We believe that on the second stage of roadmap implementation the intra-Korean dialogue could be resumed. We know that our South Korean friends are ready for such work and hope that the North will also show interest…

…The gas project is at the most advanced stage of the implementation, but the political situation unveiling on the [Korean] Peninsula does not let [us] bring the project into life. We hope that the political conditions for the implementation of this project, which is beneficial for all three sides, will emerge in the foreseeable future”.

This speech represents Russia’s most clear indication that it indirectly, yet unambiguously blames the US for obstructing the joint-economic initiatives between the two Korean states and Russia and that the prolonging of such tensions can only be mutually detrimental to all sides. While Russia still must convince the US down from its obstructionist position, it is clear that when it comes to offering practical, workable and mutually beneficial proposals for East Asia, Russia is taking the diplomatic and economic lead.

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EXPLOSIVE: Michael Cohen sentencing memo exposes serial liar with nothing to offer Mueller (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 38.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the Michael Cohen sentencing memo which paints the picture of a man who was not as close to Trump as he made it out to be…a serial liar and cheat who leveraged his thin connections to the Trump organization for money and fame.

It was Cohen himself who proudly labelled himself as Trump’s “fixer”. The sentencing memo hints at the fact that even Mueller finds no value to Cohen in relation to the ongoing Trump-Russia witch hunt investigation.

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Via Axios

Special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York have each submitted sentencing memos for President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, after Cohen pleaded guilty in two different cases related to his work for Trump and the Trump Organization.

The big picture: The Southern District of New York recommended Cohen serve a range of 51 to 63 months for four crimes — “willful tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, illegal campaign contributions, and making false statements to Congress.” Mueller, meanwhile, did not take a position on the length of Cohen’s statement, but said he has made substantial efforts to assist the investigation.

Southern District of New York

Mueller investigation

Michael J. Stern, a federal prosecutor with the Justice Department for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles noted via USA Today

In support of their request that he serve no time in prison, Cohen’s attorneys offered a series of testimonials from friends who described the private Michael Cohen as a “truly caring” man with a “huge heart” who is not only “an upstanding, honorable, salt of the earth man” but also a “selfless caretaker.”

The choirboy portrayed by Cohen’s lawyers stands in sharp opposition to Cohen’s public persona as Trump’s legal bulldog, who once threatened a reporter with: “What I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting. Do you understand me?”

Prosecutors focused their sentencing memo on Cohen as Mr. Hyde. Not only did they detail Cohen’s illegal activities, which include millions of dollars of fraud, they also recognized the public damage that stemmed from his political crimes — describing Cohen as “a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy.”

Rebuffing efforts by Cohen’s attorneys to recast him as a good guy who made a few small mistakes, prosecutors cited texts, statements of witnesses, recordings, documents and other evidence that proved Cohen got ahead by employing a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” The prosecutors attributed Cohen’s crimes to “personal greed,” an effort to “increase his power and influence,” and a desire to maintain his “opulent lifestyle.”

Perhaps the most damning reveal in the U.S. Attorney’s sentencing memo is that Cohen refused to fully cooperate. That’s despite his public relations campaign to convince us that he is a new man who will cooperate with any law enforcement authority, at any time, at any place.

As a former federal prosecutor who handled hundreds of plea deals like Cohen’s, I can say it is extremely rare for any credit to be recommended when a defendant decides not to sign a full cooperation deal. The only reason for a refusal would be to hide information. The prosecutors said as much in their sentencing memo: Cohen refused “to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in his past,” and “further declined” to discuss “other areas of investigative interest.”

 

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Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Huawei CFO Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


You do have to wonder about the political savvy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. The furious fallout from China over the arrest of a senior telecoms executive is going to do severe damage to Canadian national interests.

Trudeau’s fawning over American demands is already rebounding very badly for Canada’s economy and its international image.

The Canadian arrest – on behalf of Washington – of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, seems a blatant case of the Americans acting politically and vindictively. If the Americans are seen to be acting like bandits, then the Canadians are their flunkies.

Wanzhou was detained on December 1 by Canadian federal police as she was boarding a commercial airliner in Vancouver. She was reportedly handcuffed and led away in a humiliating manner which has shocked the Chinese government, media and public.

The business executive has since been released on a $7.4 million bail bond, pending further legal proceedings. She is effectively being kept under house arrest in Canada with electronic ankle tagging.

To add insult to injury, it is not even clear what Wanzhou is being prosecuted for. The US authorities have claimed that she is guilty of breaching American sanctions against Iran by conducting telecoms business with Tehran. It is presumed that the Canadians arrested Wanzhou at the request of the Americans. But so far a US extradition warrant has not been filed. That could take months. In the meantime, the Chinese businesswoman will be living under curfew, her freedom denied.

Canadian legal expert Christopher Black says there is no juridical case for Wanzhou’s detention. The issue of US sanctions on Iran is irrelevant and has no grounds in international law. It is simply the Americans applying their questionable national laws on a third party. Black contends that Canada has therefore no obligation whatsoever to impose those US laws regarding Iran in its territory, especially given that Ottawa and Beijing have their own separate bilateral diplomatic relations.

In any case, what the real issue is about is the Americans using legal mechanisms to intimidate and beat up commercial rivals. For months now, Washington has made it clear that it is targeting Chinese telecoms rivals as commercial competitors in a strategic sector. US claims about China using telecoms for “spying” and “infiltrating” American national security are bogus propaganda ruses to undermine these commercial rivals through foul means.

It also seems clear from US President Donald Trump’s unsubtle comments this week to Reuters, saying he would “personally intervene” in the Meng case “if it helped trade talks with China”, that the Huawei executive is being dangled like a bargaining chip. It was a tacit admission by Trump that the Americans really don’t have a legal case against her.

Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland bounced into damage limitation mode following Trump’s thuggish comments. She said that the case should not be “politicized” and that the legal proceedings should not be tampered with. How ironic is that?

The whole affair has been politicized from the very beginning. Meng’s arrest, or as Christopher Black calls it “hostage-taking”, is driven by Washington’s agenda of harassment against China for commercial reasons, under a legal pretext purportedly about Iranian sanctions.

When Trump revealed the cynical expediency of him “helping to free Wanzhou”, then the Canadians realized they were also being exposed for the flunkies that they are for American banditry. That’s why Freeland was obliged to quickly adopt the fastidious pretense of legal probity.

Canadian premier Justin Trudeau has claimed that he wasn’t aware of the American request for Wanzhou’s detention. Trudeau is being pseudo. For such a high-profile infringement against a senior Chinese business leader, Ottawa must have been fully briefed by the Americans. Christopher Black, the legal expert, believes that Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

What Trudeau and his government intended to get out of performing this sordid role for American thuggery is far from clear. Maybe after being verbally mauled by Trump as “weak and dishonest” at the G7 summit earlier this year, in June, Trudeau decided it was best to roll over and be a good little puppy for the Americans in their dirty deed against China.

But already it has since emerged that Canada is going to pay a very heavy price indeed for such dubious service to Washington. Beijing has warned that it will take retaliation against both Washington and Ottawa. And it is Ottawa that is more vulnerable to severe repercussions.

This week saw two Canadian citizens, one a former diplomat, detained in China on spying charges.

Canadian business analysts are also warning that Beijing can inflict harsh economic penalties on Ottawa. An incensed Chinese public have begun boycotting Canadian exports and sensitive Canadian investments in China are now at risk from being blocked by Beijing. A proposed free trade deal that was being negotiated between Ottawa and Beijing now looks dead in the water.

And if Trudeau’s government caves in to the excruciating economic pressure brought to bear by Beijing and then abides by China’s demand to immediately release Meng Wanzhou, Ottawa will look like a pathetic, gutless lackey to Washington. Canada’s reputation of being a liberal, independent state will be shredded. Even then the Chinese are unlikely to forget Trudeau’s treachery.

With comic irony, there’s a cringemaking personal dimension to this unseemly saga.

During the 197os when Trudeau’s mother Margaret was a thirty-something socialite heading for divorce from his father, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, she was often in the gossip media for indiscretions at nightclubs. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards claims in his autobiography that Margaret Trudeau was a groupie for the band, having flings with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood. Her racy escapades and louche lifestyle brought shame to many Canadians.

Poor Margaret Trudeau later wound up divorced, disgraced, financially broke and scraping a living from scribbling tell-all books.

Justin, her eldest son, is finding out that being a groupie for Washington’s banditry is also bringing disrepute for him and his country.

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US Commits To “Indefinite” Occupation Of Syria; Controls Region The Size Of Croatia

Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005.

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Via Zerohedge


“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation” — a Syrian resident in US-controlled Raqqa told Stars and Stripes military newspaper. This as the Washington Post noted this week that “U.S. troops will now stay in Syria indefinitely, controlling a third of the country and facing peril on many fronts.”

Like the “forever war” in Afghanistan, will we be having the same discussion over the indefinite occupation of Syria stretching two decades from now? A new unusually frank assessment in Stars and Stripes bluntly lays out the basic facts concerning the White House decision to “stay the course” until the war’s close:

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000

A prior New Yorker piece described the US-occupied area east of the Euphrates as “an area about the size of Croatia.” With no Congressional vote, no public debate, and not even so much as an official presidential address to the nation, the United States is settling in for another endless occupation of sovereign foreign soil while relying on the now very familiar post-911 AUMF fig leaf of “legality”.

Like the American public and even some Pentagon officials of late have been pointing out for years regarding Afghanistan, do US forces on the ground even know what the mission is? The mission may be undefined and remain ambiguously to “counter Iran”, yet the dangers and potential for major loss in blood and treasure loom larger than ever.

According to Stars and Stripes the dangerous cross-section of powder keg conflicts and geopolitical players means “a new war” is on the horizon:

The new mission raises new questions, about the role they will play and whether their presence will risk becoming a magnet for regional conflict and insurgency.

The area is surrounded by powers hostile both to the U.S. presence and the aspirations of the Kurds, who are governing the majority-Arab area in pursuit of a leftist ideology formulated by an imprisoned Turkish Kurdish leader. Signs that the Islamic State is starting to regroup and rumblings of discontent within the Arab community point to the threat of an insurgency.

Without the presence of U.S. troops, these dangers would almost certainly ignite a new war right away, said Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Self-Administration of North and East Syria, as the self-styled government of the area is called.

“They have to stay. If they leave and there isn’t a solution for Syria, it will be catastrophic,” she said.

But staying also heralds risk, and already the challenges are starting to mount.
So a US-backed local politician says the US can’t leave or there will be war, while American defense officials simultaneously recognize they are occupying the very center of an impending insurgency from hell — all of which fits the textbook definition of quagmire perfectly.

The New Yorker: “The United States has built a dozen or more bases from Manbij to Al-Hasakah, including four airfields, and American-backed forces now control all of Syria east of the Euphrates, an area about the size of Croatia.”

But in September the White House announced a realignment of its official priorities in Syria, namely to act “as a bulwark against Iran’s expanding influence.” This means the continued potential and likelihood of war with Syria, Iran, and Russia in the region is ever present, per Stripes:

Syrian government troops and Iranian proxy fighters are to the south and west. They have threatened to take the area back by force, in pursuit of President Bashar Assad’s pledge to bring all of Syria under government control.

Already signs of an Iraq-style insurgency targeting US forces in eastern Syria are beginning to emerge.

In Raqqa, the largest Syrian city at the heart of US occupation and reconstruction efforts, the Stripes report finds the following:

The anger on the streets is palpable. Some residents are openly hostile to foreign visitors, which is rare in other towns and cities freed from Islamic State control in Syria and Iraq. Even those who support the presence of the U.S. military and the SDF say they are resentful that the United States and its partners in the anti-ISIS coalition that bombed the city aren’t helping to rebuild.

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation,” said one man, a tailor, who didn’t want to give his name because he feared the consequences of speaking his mind. “I don’t know why they had to use such a huge number of weapons and destroy the city. Yes, ISIS was here, but we paid the price. They have a responsibility.”

Recent reports out of the Pentagon suggests defense officials simply want to throw more money into US efforts in Syria, which are further focused on training and supplying the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (or Kurdish/YPG-dominated SDF), which threatens confrontation with Turkey as its forces continue making preparations for a planned attack on Kurdish enclaves in Syria this week.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005:

Everyone says the streets are not safe now. Recent months have seen an uptick in assassinations and kidnappings, mostly targeting members of the security forces or people who work with the local council. But some critics of the authorities have been gunned down, too, and at night there are abductions and robberies.

As America settles in for yet another endless and “indefinite” occupation of a Middle East country, perhaps all that remains is for the president to land on an aircraft carrier with “Mission Accomplished” banners flying overhead?

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