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The Threat To Russia and China From India’s New Pro-US Realignment

Indian Prime Minister Modi’s realignment of India with the US threatens to shatter BRICS unity reversing the course away from the US-led unipolar world.

Andrew Korybko

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In an earlier article I discussed India’s recent moves and how these threaten to realign India with the US against China and Russia.

In this article I will discuss the background to this and the strategic implications and how these developments threaten the development of the multipolar order that is challenging US global power.

The Chinese-Indian Cold War

South East Asia

Prime Minister Modi’s moves over the last month exacerbate an already existing low-intensity Chinese-Indian Cold War.  The main focus of Chinese-Indian competition at the present time is in south east Asia.

India plans to ramp up its commercial ties with the mainland members of ASEAN – often referred to as “the Mekong River states” – by cooperating with them to build the Trilateral Highway through Myanmar and Thailand. 

Part of this project links up to the Japanese East-West corridor at the Myanmar port city of Mawlamyine, connecting India to northern Thailand, southern Laos, and central Vietnam.

This map shows the crisscrossing infrastructure corridors that are planned for the Greater Mekong Subregion.  India’s Trilateral Highway – labelled the Western Corridor – is coloured purple.  Japan’s East-Corridor is coloured turquoise.

It is not a coincidence that these trade networks are expected to interlink with each other. India and Japan are the US’s two most important Asian allies in “containing” China.  From a US perspective, it makes sense for India and China to pool their resources in the ASEAN theatre. 

On the naval front, as I discussed in my previous article, India is slated to become one of the out-of-region forces active in the South China Sea alongside Japan, the US, and Australia in the “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue”.

Himalayan Push

The other main theatre of Chinese-Indian competition is the Himalayas, particularly Kashmir, Nepal and Arunachal Pradesh.

Kashmir:

Since 1948 Kashmir has been divided into Pakistani and Indian-administered zones.  As I discussed in my previous article, India is objecting to China’s plans to build the Chinese Pakistani Economic Corridor through the Pakistani-administered zone.

In a conversation with Pakistani analyst and GPolit contributor Tayyab Baloch I was told of Pakistani fears that India might exploit the Logistic Support Agreement to obtain the deployment of US troops to Indian-controlled Kashmir.  This would be seen as very threatening by Pakistan and might even facilitate the infiltration of Uighur and Tibetan terrorists into nearby China.

Though deploying US troops to this bitterly contested region would be extremely destabilising and controversial, India might be tempted to “justify” it by citing China’s refusal to stop construction of the Chinese Pakistani Economic Corridor through Pakistani-controlled Kashmir and by China’s continued occupation of the Indian-claimed territory of Aksai Chin.

Nepal:

India and China have been engaged in a fierce asymmetrical competition for influence in Nepal ever since India lent its support to Hindu-identifying Madhesi protesters in the southern Terai region during their months-long protest campaign.

The Madhesi were ostensibly protesting Nepal’s plans for federalisation which they claim will dilute their influence in Nepal’s affairs.  In Nepal’s capital Kathmandu the opinion is however that India is manipulating the Madhesi protests as proxies to ensure India’s continued influence over Nepal.

During the protests Indian traders claimed it was unsafe for them to travel to Nepal, causing a de-facto blockade of the country which cut it off from most of its fuel supplies.  The Nepalese government claimed this was in effect an embargo imposed on Nepal by India.

China for its part has pragmatically supported the democratically elected and legitimate Nepalese government, sending supplies to replace the products withheld by India. 

China has also sealed important energy deals with Nepal and is now even discussing an expansion of the New Silk Road through the Himalayans to Kathmandu. Not surprisingly India fears this could lead to the northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar becoming flooded with Chinese goods.  It is not difficult to see why India might therefore be tempted to use the Madhesi protests to thwart these projects.

Arunachal Pradesh:

A further region of potential Chinese-Indian rivalry in the Himalayas is the contested territory of Arunachal Pradesh, called “Southern Tibet” by China.

The dispute here dates back to the imperial era when the British marked out the border between British controlled India and a weakened China. 

The essential point is that India for decades has administered this region without its right to do so being recognised by China.

This dispute is for the time being lying dormant and has largely done so since the 1962 Sino-Indian War.  It does however occasionally flare up as a rhetorical whenever Indian-Chinese disagreements rise to the surface. Since China does not recognise India’s administration of Arunachal Pradesh, this territory retains the potential to become a serious flashpoint.

The Logistical Support Agreement give the US the right – if India agrees – to “resupply, repair, and rest” its forces anywhere in India.  This could in theory include contested areas such as Arunachal Pradesh. 

Deploying US troops so close to the border with China in a contested territory such as Arunachal Pradesh would be seen by China as intensely provocative and would be bound to provoke a Chinese reaction. 

That could transform a hereto dormant conflict into an active one, creating a third subregional front of “containment” against China.  All it would take would be the symbolic presence of a few US troops – no matter how ‘plausibly justified’ under the terms of  the Logistical Support Agreement – to trigger a confrontation between India and China that could be exploited by hardliners in New Delhi wanting to press for a concerted US-Indian joint effort to “defend Indian territory from China”.

“Containing” China In Central Asia

There remains Central Asia as a further zone of potential Chinese-Indian conflict. 

India just recently began to accede to the Ashgabat Agreement, a multinational infrastructure development platform between Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Oman.

India plans to build a railroad from the Indian-financed port in Iran’s southern Chabahar district to the existing Iran-Central Asian railway network, potentially making India an important regional actor.

This North-South Corridor is expected to run in parallel to the actual one of that name which traverses Iran, the Caspian Sea region, Azerbaijan and Russia.   

If completed these projects would connect India by land to the European Union, re routing India’s trade with the European Union through the Russian-Chinese zone of influence in Central Asia.

India’s increasing role in this region could benefit all parties.  This however depends on how it is pursued.  If India’s intentions are hostile to China and are directed at “containing” China in this region (as they increasingly seem to be everywhere else) then India’s growing presence in Central Asia could have destabilising consequences which would also inevitably affect Russia.

It is too early to say what form India’s role Central Asian will take.  However whatever it is it is likely to be significant. Whether it will be positive or negative depends on India.  If India continues to commit itself to multipolarity in combination with its BRICS partners Russia and China then its role in Central Asia will be positive.  If instead it undermines BRICS unity (as it seems rapidly on track to do) then its actions could turn out to be severely destabilising, turning a hereto stable region into a theatre of a new global Cold War.

Hybrid War Blackmail

Prime Minister Modi seems for the moment to be going along with – even inviting – the US’s anti-Chinese strategic assistance in South Asia and other neighbouring regions.  However he may be under pressure to do so.

As I wrote for Sputnik in October when discussing Bangladesh’s simmering Islamic/Salafist terrorist problem, the US and possibly even Saudi Arabia may be planning to turn Bangladesh into another focus of violent Salafist jihadism as the ultimate form of pressure on India. Moreover, the September 2014 announcement that Al Qaeda had opened up a South Asian branch may also have led the Indian establishment to think there is a long-term jihadist threat to India.

The extent to which these fears may have led India away from multipolarity towards realignment with the US is however debatable. In my opinion Prime Minister Modi was already predisposed to side with the US against China even if there were no external pressure upon  him.

Nonetheless the “ticking time bombs” of jihadi militancy remain a threat should Prime Minister Modi ever to decide to reverse course, though in that case India would be able to look for support to its BRICS partners – Russia and China – in a way that might actually deepen India’s ties with them.

Breaking Up The BRICS

Prime Minister Modi increasing alignment with the US puts the BRICS organisation at serious risk of falling apart.

India does sincerely wish for the success of certain multipolar projects.  These include wider use of national non-dollar currencies in bilateral trade and the establishment of alternative global institutions such as the BRICS New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, in which India would finally have representation proportionate to its size.

However these forms of economic and institutional multipolarity are very different from the geopolitical multipolarity Russia and China practice. Whilst India would obviously benefit from that too, the short-sighted obsession of its “deep state” elites (ie. its permanent intelligence-military-diplomatic bureaucracies) in “containing” China, confronting Pakistan, and conquering the rest of Kashmir blind them to its advantages.  This leads to the strange paradox of India geopolitically embracing the same hegemon – the US – it opposes in the economic and institutional spheres.

Russia and China for their part had until recently assumed India shared their vision of economic, institutional, and – most importantly – geopolitical multipolarity.  Now it seems  the geopolitical aspect of this global vision is something India’s elite no longer wants to move forward with.

Ultimately an intensification of Chinese-Indian competition in a sort of bilateral Cold War can only serve the interests of the US.  It not only risks undermining BRICS unity from within.  Over time increasingly tense bilateral relations between India and China would inevitably spill over into other multipolar organisations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, undermining their unity and impairing their effectiveness.

It is easy to see how in such a situation things might get so bad that India – contrary to its own long-term interests – might decide to accept whatever deal it was offered by the US and turn its back on the BRICS entirely. 

It is not inconceivable that in that case India could become a bridge between a US-sponsored TTIP in western Eurasia and a US sponsored TPP in eastern Eurasia, with India forming the link in some sort of southern “rimland alliance” against Russia and China.

Russia’s Choice

In the event of India’s destruction of BRICS unity, Russia would be forced to choose between its Chinese and Indian partners. For obvious reasons Moscow would prefer this never happened.  However India’s actions might leave it no alternative.

If the point ever comes when Moscow is forced to side publicly with China against India, however politely and diplomatically this was done, the US and its proxies in India would undoubtedly use the fact to launch an information campaign claiming Moscow had “betrayed India” and had “sold India out to China”. 

Russian diplomacy is no doubt striving to avoid this situation.  Due to Russia’s longstanding friendly ties to India Russia is the only country that might have a chance of persuading India that its present course of undermining BRICS unity does not serve India’s interests. Even if Russia could not persuade India to reverse its new policies entirely, Russia might still play a useful role, moderating the policy and acting as a sort of bridge between New Delhi and Beijing.   

Realistically however there is little Moscow can do if India’s elites are determined to adopt the anti-Chinese narrative the US has spun for them. 

If India irrevocably commits itself to a pro-US anti-China course then sooner or later India will inevitably come under pressure from Washington to loosen its ties with Moscow.   This would most probably happen in the context of an artificially created crisis, making it appear that the decision was Moscow’s rather than New Delhi’s or Washington’s.

Concluding Thoughts

Prime Minister Modi’s actions over the past month in the immediate wake of US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter’s visit have caused widespread alarm amongst its BRICS allies, provoking questions as why India is now so suddenly and so visibly siding with the US.

In reality the Indian elite’s obsessions with “containing” China, confronting Pakistan, and conquering all of Kashmir has always made India highly susceptible to US manipulation and provides the answer.

The stakes however could not be higher.  With India’s news media and information space dominated by pro-Western narratives most Indians remain unaware of the change in strategic direction their country is taking.  The result however might be to shatter the BRICS, putting other multipolar projects such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in jeopardy. 

Beyond that it is difficult to see how an intensification of the Chinese-Indian Cold War could not lead in the end to a permanent realignment of India with the US, placing the whole multipolar project upon which Russian and Chinese policy is based in question.

It is not yet too late to turn back.  Time is however running short.  The further India moves along its present path the more difficult it will be to turn back.  Beyond a certain point the momentum becomes unstoppable and the process irreversible.

India is at a crossroads.  Either it deepens its cooperation with its BRICS partners, consolidating the multipolar world that is emerging, or it sabotages it and aligns with Washington.

India is today the pivot state, the country that has the decisive voice in whether or not there will be a New Cold War, and has for that reason become the object of every Great Powers’ fancy.

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Bevin Chu
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China has been geographically adjacent to India for 5000 years. Did it invade and colonize India during that time? Did it ever establish an East India Company? Did it ever establish a Raj?

Yet the moment the Anglo-American Empire came into existence in the 19th century, it overran India and subjugated it for two centuries.

Your ugly and misdirected hatred for China, and your hysterical allegations will do nothing to lift India up. They will only keep India down, spinning its wheels as it remains impoverished and backwards.

Bevin Chu
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Unless India throws off Modi’s Sinophobia, almost any other nation with a name beginning with “I” would be better than India.

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European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.

RT

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Via RT…


The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“When a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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Is Silicon Valley Morphing Into The Morality Police?

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

The Duran

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Authored by Adrian Cohen via Creators.com:


Silicon Valley used to be technology companies. But it has become the “morality police,” controlling free speech on its platforms.

What could go wrong?

In a speech Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“Hate tries to make its headquarters in the digital world. At Apple, we believe that technology needs to have a clear point of view on this challenge. There is no time to get tied up in knots. That’s why we only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms.”

Here’s the goliath problem:

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

Will Christians who don’t support abortion rights or having their tax dollars go toward Planned Parenthood be considered purveyors of hate for denying women the right to choose? Will millions of Americans who support legal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigration, be labeled xenophobes or racists and be banned from the digital world?

Yes and yes. How do we know? It’s already happening, as scores of conservatives nationwide are being shadow banned and/or censored on social media, YouTube, Google and beyond.

Their crime?

Running afoul of leftist Silicon Valley executives who demand conformity of thought and simply won’t tolerate any viewpoint that strays from their rigid political orthodoxy.

For context, consider that in oppressive Islamist regimes throughout the Middle East, the “morality police” take it upon themselves to judge women’s appearance, and if a woman doesn’t conform with their mandatory and highly restrictive dress code — e.g., wearing an identity-cloaking burqa — she could be publicly shamed, arrested or even stoned in the town square.

In modern-day America, powerful technology companies are actively taking the role of the de facto morality police — not when it comes to dress but when it comes to speech — affecting millions. Yes, to date, those affected are not getting stoned, but they are being blocked in the digital town square, where billions around the globe do their business, cultivate their livelihoods, connect with others and get news.

That is a powerful cudgel to levy against individuals and groups of people. Wouldn’t you say?

Right now, unelected tech billionaires living in a bubble in Palo Alto — when they’re not flying private to cushy climate summits in Davos — are deciding who gets to enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and who does not based on whether they agree with people’s political views and opinions or not.

You see how dangerous this can get — real fast — as partisan liberal elites running Twitter, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Apple and the like are now dictating to Americans what they can and cannot say online.

In communist regimes, these types of folks are known as central planners.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to safeguard our freedoms, especially regarding speech — a foundational pillar of a democracy. It’s disappointing that hasn’t happened, as the censorship of conservative thought online has gotten so extreme and out of control many are simply logging off for good.

A failure to address this mammoth issue could cost Trump in 2020. If his supporters are blocked online — where most voters get their news — he’ll be a one-term president.

It’s time for Congress to act before the morality police use political correctness as a Trojan horse to decide our next election.

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