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Ukraine is being gripped by a new Maidan – but the western cameras and cookies are absent

The 2013/2014 Maidan was a ‘who’s who’ of the neo-con/liberal elite. Today’s events are like a ‘who’s he?’ of the Ukrainian far-right.

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The past several weeks have seen eerily familiar sights return to the infamous Maidan in central Kiev. However, while in the winter of 2013/2014, international camera crews descended on Kiev to video and photograph the violence, today, there are more angry demonstrators and camped out agitators than international journalists.

However, an anonymous journalist working with famed independent journalist Graham Phillips, who most prominently brought intentional audiences front-line footage from the war on Donbass, has filmed the following reportage documenting what can only be called Maidan 2.0.

The phrase, “the more things change–the more they stay the same”, very much comes to mind.

Miadan 2.0 is similar to the events in 2013/2014 in the following ways

1. Meet the new-neo-Nazis…same as the old neo-Nazis

Many if not most Maidanists are perpetually angry members of  far-right and neo-Nazi groups who proudly display the red and black flag of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, a Nazi collaborationist group which committed acts of genocide during the 1940s.

2. Anti-corruption 

New and old Maidanists are protesting a government they view as corrupt and unresponsive to their needs and desires

3. The Maidan camping experience 

Maidanists have set up camp with elaborate tends, food preparation facilities and have come prepared with their own riot shields and other utensils of urban warfare.

4. It’s growing–not shrinking

It does not look like the new Maidanists are prepared to leave, even if asked by the authorities, until various, however vague demands are met.

However, the differences between the 2013/2014 Maidan riots and the events today are more notable for their differences

1. There’s no Yanukovych to blame

In 2013/2014, Maidanists were protesting a government which took an open position towards both the EU and Russia. Far from being ‘pro-Russian’, the government of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych attempted to initiate discussions with the EU about a trade association agreement and visa-free regime, only to put the brakes on at the last moment when he realised that such an agreement was not going to be economically viable.

Viktor Yanukovych is more of a Pontius Pilate character than anything else, a totally uninspiring figure torn between wanting to preserve crucial economic and security ties with Russia, while also wanting to take advantage of alleged opportunities from Brussels. Ironically, disgraced former Trump campaign associate Paul Manafort helped encourage Yanukovych to move closer to Europe, a decision which proved politically fatal.

Ultimately, Yanukovych was ousted in a neo-fascist coup backed by the US and most of the EU. He responded by running away, thus abandoning his country to utter chaos and bloodshed.

2. Disgruntled military and true believers 

In the Poroshenko regime, one might think that on the surface, the far-right and neo-Nazi protesters got what they wanted. Poroshenko has destroyed relations with Russia, he continues to wage a savage war of aggression on the Donbass republics and has signed a visa-free agreement with the EU.

However, Poroshenko has destroyed Ukraine’s economy, crime is up, corruption which was always endemic in Ukraine, is now at levels which are setting world records and the safety situation is rapidly deteriorating in regime controlled areas.

While many of the most extreme Maidanists are upset that Poroshenko isn’t waging an even more aggressive war against the Donbass Republics, many of the new protesters are ex-Ukrainian soldiers who have become distraught at their lack of pay, in spite of having to fight an aggressive war with seemingly no forthcoming resolution.

Morale among Ukrainian troops is at an all time low, with non-battlefield casualties since the fascist regime came to power hitting 10,103. Over 3,000 troops have been killed away from the war-front with mental illness and desperate acts of internal violence fuelled by alcohol and drugs, being primary causes.

Demoralised troops may end up playing a large part in Maidan 2.0, an element that didn’t factor into the initial riots of the 2013/2014 Maidan.

3. Ukraine’s deathbed economy 

Economic realities are also a motivating factor. Many have taken to the Maidan because the idea of a Ukraine that had the living standards of the average EU country, with the added ‘benefit’ of cutting all links with Russia, hasn’t worked out.

Ukraine remains largely dependant on Russian investment and the more the Kiev regime cuts this investment off (which it is indeed doing), the less likely it is that anyone will fill the void. There is increasingly little money to be made in Ukraine and even pro-regime actors in Europe and the wider west, are all too aware of this.

When it comes to the economic angle, the EU and US have largely given up on ‘project Maidan’. These ‘partners’ of the regime are keen to provoke Russia, but apparently less keen on giving the people of Ukraine any real economic opportunities. Many are already venting their frustrations about this on the Maidan.

4. No cookies from the west 

The 2013/2014 Maidan was something of a ‘who’s who’ of the western neo-liberal/neo-con/anti-Russian movement. From John McCain giving rousing speeches against Russia to Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland famously handing out cookies on the Maidan before secretly being recorded saying “fuck the EU”, should Europe try to take a more moderate approach to US regime change, events were something of a neo-con carnival in the midst of a violent freaks-show.

Today’s Maidan is less of a ‘who’s who’ of the neo-con elite than a ‘who’s he?’ of the Ukrainian far-right. If anything, today’s Maidan is more authentic than the first, as the US has no interests in funding and promoting a group of anti-Russian agitators who want to overthrow an equally anti-Russian regime. For the west, it is mission accomplished, all other matters are now largely domestic in nature and therefore, largely irrelevant in Washington and Brussels.

5. The Saakashvili factor

Mikheil Saakashvili, the disgraced former Georgian president who was once appointed the governor of the historically multi-ethnic Russian city of Odessa by Poroshenko, has now been stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship and is on a mission to not only get it back, but to lead Ukraine.

Saakashvili is currently doing the rounds with various disgruntled mobs throughout the country, trying to increase support for his bid to oust Poroshenko and take charge.

In 2013/2014, Saakashvili was hardly talked about in Ukraine, but now, because Poroshenko made him a kind of political martyr (by Ukrainian standards), he is in the midst of attempting to cultivate a personality cult and propel himself to power. Again, because if anything Saakashvili is even more connected to western elites than Poroshenko, no one in Washington or Brussels is particularly alarmed nor existed by Saakashvili’s self-proclaimed ‘march on Kiev’. The attitude is essentially: ‘if he takes over, we have a new puppet, if he doesn’t, nothing has changed’.

However, because Saakashvili’s record is more tainted in Georgia than Ukraine, by post-Maidan standards, Saakashvili is something of a ‘last man standing’ who could emerge as a possible successor to Poroshenko, something that seemed unthinkable not so long ago.

CONCLUSION: 

Ataturk infamously stated “they go as they come” and this will likely be the case with the Poroshenko regime, one way or another.

However, this will provide little meaningful change in Ukraine and will do equally little to end the war of aggression on the Donbass republics.

What is needed is a kind of caretaker government to stop the war and allow the Donbass republics to function in the framework of a frozen conflict that ultimately, Russia and other international partners will have to solve. If the circumstances were right, Russia could even work with an increasingly humbled German state to bring about a resolution based perhaps partly on the Minsk agreements which are violated by Kiev on an almost daily basis.

That being said, Donbass is almost certainly never going to give up its independence and the sooner Kiev and the rest of the world, including the Moscow elite realise that, the better it will be. An independent Donbass is the new reality and it will be more productive for the world to accept this rather than trying to ignore or change it.

Such a caretaker government in Kiev would ideally also work with others, including Russia, Belarus and the EU to fix the broken economy.

The problem is that, there are virtually no such candidates in Ukraine. The political landscape is so barren of any common sense, pragmatism or compassion, that the choices are generally between bad and worse.

At some point, it really does not matter who is in charge of Kiev, so long as the hateful, regressive and incompetent attitudes of its political class remain the same.

In this sense, the new Maidan is an expression of continued frustration, but this time without foreign aid, without the false optimism of the last Maidan and without any hope for change. Ukraine is about to hit rock bottom and from where things stand, getting a little bit worse will scarcely be noticeable in the immediate future. This is a reflection of just how bad things have become.

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US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

The Duran

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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10 percent of American F-22 fighter jets damaged by Hurricane Michael

Part of the reason the F-22’s were left in the path of the storm is that they were broken and too expensive to fix or fly.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Note to the wise: When a hurricane comes, move your planes out of the way. Especially your really expensive F-22 fighter planes. After all, those babies are $339 mil apiece. Got the message?

Apparently the US Air Force didn’t get this message. Or, did they find themselves unable to follow the message?

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The Washington Times reported Tuesday that between 17 and 20 of these top-of-the-line fighter jets were damaged, some beyond the point of repair, when Hurricane Michael slammed ashore on Mexico Beach, Florida, not far from the Tyndall Air Force Base in the same state. The Times reports that more than a dozen of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the extremely fierce storm:

President Trump’s tour Monday of devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael took him close to Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, where more than a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the powerful storm.

The pricey fighter jets — some possibly damaged beyond repair — were caught in the widespread destruction that took at least 18 lives, flattened homes, downed trees and buckled roads from Florida to Virginia.

The decision to leave roughly $7.5 billion in aircraft in the path of a hurricane raised eyebrows, including among defense analysts who say the Pentagon’s entire high-tech strategy continues to make its fighter jets vulnerable to weather and other mishaps when they are grounded for repairs.

“This becomes sort of a self-defeating cycle where we have $400 million aircraft that can’t fly precisely because they are $400 million aircraft,” said Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at Project on Government Oversight. “If we were buying simpler aircraft then it would be a whole lot easier for the base commander to get these aircraft up and in working order, at least more of them.”

This is quite a statement. The F-22 is held to be the tip of the American air defense sword. A superb airplane (when it works), it can do things no other plane in the world can do. It boasts a radar profile the size of a marble, making it virtually undetectable by enemy radars. It is highly maneuverable with thrust-vectoring built into its engines.

However, to see a report like this is simply stunning. After all, one would expect that the best military equipment ought to be the most reliable as well. 

It appears that Hurricane Michael figuratively and physically blew the lid off any efforts to conceal a problem with these planes, and indeed with the hyper-technological basis for the US air fighting forcesThe Times continues:

Reports on the number of aircraft damaged ranged from 17 to 22 or about 10 percent of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet of 187.

The Air Force stopped buying F-22s, considered the world’s most advanced fighter jets, in 2012. The aircraft is being replaced by the F-35, another high-tech but slightly less-expensive aircraft.

Later in the tour, at an emergency command center in Georgia, Mr. Trump said the damage to the F-22s couldn’t be avoided because the aircraft were grounded and the storm moved quickly.

“We’re going to have a full report. There was some damage, not nearly as bad as we first heard,” he said when asked about the F-22s, which cost about $339 million each.

“I’m always concerned about cost. I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said.

Still, the president remains a fan of the high-tech fighter jet.

“The F-22 is one of my all-time favorites. It is the most beautiful fighter jet in the world. One of the best,” he said.

The Air Force managed to fly 33 of the F-22s to safety, but maintenance and repair issues kept 22 of the notoriously finicky aircraft on the ground when the powerful storm hit the base.

About 49 percent of the F-22s are out of action at any given time, according to an Air Force report this year.

This is a stunning statistic. This means that of the 187 planes in existence, 90 of them are not working. At their cost, that means that over thirty billion dollars worth of military equipment is sitting around, broken, just in airplanes alone.

As a point of comparison, the entire Russian military budget for 2017 was $61 billion, with that budget producing hypersonic missiles, superb fighter aircraft and tanks. Russian fighter planes are known for being able to take harsh landing and take-off conditions that would cripple the most modern American flying machines.

It would seem that Hurricane Michael exposed a serious problem with the state of readiness of American armed forces. Thankfully that problem did not arise in combat, but it is no less serious.

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