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The US, the EU and the Spectre of Brexit

The Brexit referendum is the harbinger of more revolts to come as the EU has come to be used as a geopolitical project detached from the interests of the people of Europe.

Alexander Mercouris

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A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of Brexit. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Merkel and Hollande, Draghi and Juncker, French Socialists and German police-spies.

How did it happen?  The answer lies not in England, which outside London voted heavily for Brexit.  It lies within the EU itself.

I have been a strong supporter of the EU for nearly all my adult life.  However I am not blind to the realities.  It has been obvious to me for a long time that things have been going seriously wrong.

First it is important to dispel certain myths about the EU.  In the popular Eurosceptic imagination it is a remote and unaccountable bureaucracy based in Brussels that meddles and regulates every area of life.  This is a misrepresentation.  The EU bureaucracy is actually rather small and has only as much power as EU governments give it.

John Laughland in a recent RT Crosstalk called the EU more accurately a cartel of governments who conspire behind the scenes with each other to pass legislation without the need to consult with their democratically elected parliaments.  Whilst that is closer to the truth, it is not the whole truth.  Rather the EU, at least as it has become over the last decade, is best understood as a cabal of three governments, primarily those of the US and Germany, with France treated by the Germans (though not by the US) as a sort of junior partner, which make the decisions in secret that are binding on all the rest.

I appreciate that this description of the EU will meet with strong objections in some quarters, especially as by far the most powerful of these governments is that of the US which is not a member of the EU.  However what I say is well known by all the relevant insiders.  Indeed the facts speak for themselves and are hardly even concealed.  On key issues EU policy is nowadays decided in private bilateral discussions between the US and the Germans, often involving the US President and the German Chancellor, with the Germans then telling the other Europeans what they should do.

In a recent article for Sputnik I described the process as it is used in connection with the sanctions issue:

“……..a source has told me US representatives routinely attend the EU’s Committee of Permanent Representatives (“COREPER”), though minutes of its sessions are edited to suppress the fact of their presence.  However their regular attendance at sessions of a key institution of the EU — of which the US is not a member state — has been complained about on the floor of the European Parliament.

Since COREPER prepares the agenda for the EU’s Council of Ministers (the EU’s key law making body) and co-ordinates the work of some 250 EU committees and working parties — in effect the entire EU bureaucracy — US presence at its sessions gives the US a decisive voice in the making of EU policy.

Since the European Council decided to impose sectoral sanctions on Russia on 31st July 2014 every single decision to extend the sanctions has been taken not by the European Council but by COREPER, though COREPER’s legal authority to make such decisions is questionable to say the least.

What happens in reality is that US President Obama tells German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Hollande to extend the sanctions, the Commission drafts the decision, COREPER ratifies it, and it is then published without further discussion on the Europa website.

Italian Prime Minister Renzi has complained German Chancellor Merkel talks about EU decisions to French President Hollande and EU Commission President Juncker. They are then announced, and it is only then he learns about them.”

In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote this procedure was at work again.  The White House website confirms that apart from British Prime Minister Cameron the one EU leader US President Obama spoke to following the Brexit vote was German Chancellor Merkel – as if it were Chancellor Merkel who headed the EU!  The information the White House has released about the call shows it was intended to “reassure” Merkel and Cameron of the US’s commitment to maintaining its partnership with the EU and Britain.  Another way of putting it would be to say that it was intended to remind Merkel and Cameron of the US’s paramount interest in the EU’s and Britain’s affairs and in preserving its alliance with both of them.

As I have explained in many places, any European political leader who tries to hold out against this system risks finding their objections simply ignored whilst becoming the target of the wrath of the US and of the EU establishment.  Thus in January 2015, shortly after the  Syriza government came to power in Greece, it found that it was supposed to have agreed to the rolling over of sanctions against certain Russian individuals and businesses.  In fact it had done no such thing.  However when it dared to make its concerns public its leaders were warned through the European media that they were being investigated by the West’s intelligence agencies to see if they had Russian links.  Faced by such a threat and caught up in difficult debt negotiations with the EU leadership, they caved in and the decision to roll over the sanctions was left to stand.

European leaders who object to the way things are now done in fact now run the risk of becoming the target of vicious smear campaigns in Europe’s overwhelmingly Atlanticist mass media, as well as attempts to engineer their removal from office.  Along the way they also risk having their countries become the target of harassment and sometimes outright destabilisation carried out through the EU’s institutions.  Thus Prime Ministers Berlusconi of Italy and Papandreou of Greece were ejected from office because they objected to aspects of the EU’s economic policies during the Eurozone crisis and in Papandreou’s case wanted to put an EU bailout proposal to the Greek people in a referendum; Prime Minister Tsipras of Greece experienced the illegal cutting off of credit to his country’s banks and efforts – which were ultimately successful – to force him to reform his government in a more “acceptable” direction; and Prime Minister Orban of Hungary is regularly branded in parts of the European media a fascist because he has objected to certain EU policies and wants better relations with Russia.

Beyond these campaigns are repeated – though usually veiled – threats to cut off an EU member state’s access to the EU structural funds or even to suspend its voting rights in the EU institutions if it refuses to toe the line.  This is being currently done to Poland in relation to certain judicial changes that are being enacted there, it was done during the recent Austrian Presidential election in case the people of Austria voted the “wrong way”, it was done last autumn to force various East European states to toe the EU line during the migrant crisis and it was done – repeatedly – to Greece during the Grexit crisis last year.

Most notorious of all is of course the EU’s habit of simply ignoring the results of elections or referendums that go against its decisions.  Most recently Greece and the Netherlands have conducted referendums –  on Greece’s bailout and on the association agreement with Ukraine – that were simply set aside or ignored.

In such a situation, where a political leader’s chances of survival and ability to get things done depends so much on staying on the right side of the EU’s leadership – and ultimately of the US – rather than their own country’s voters, it is unsurprising that the quality of Europe’s political leadership has declined to so great a degree.  In place of people like De Gaulle, Adenauer, Brandt and Thatcher, European political leaders today increasingly come over as colourless technicians distant from their own voters because the system allows for nothing else.

Germany is no exception to this phenomenon.  It is a fundamental mistake to see Germany as the beneficiary of the system.  Far from Germany being the imperial master of the system as is often claimed, Germany actually finds itself in the unhappy position of being paymaster and enforcer for policies decided on in the US with its leader spied on to make sure she toes the line.  The result is that Germany regularly gets blamed for policies that are actually decided elsewhere and which – as in the case of the sanctions imposed on Russia – are often contrary to its own interests.

Take the issue that more than any other crystallised anti-EU sentiment in Britain during the Brexit referendum: the EU’s policy of unrestricted internal migration, which has resulted in large numbers of East European migrant workers coming to Britain. 

Freedom of movement within the EU has always been a core principle of the EU.  It was never an issue within the EU until the EU was expanded to include the much poorer countries of Eastern Europe.  That expansion – as everyone knows – was driven not by European needs but first and foremost by US geopolitical strategies, being intended to anchor Eastern Europe in the US-led Western alliance system.

To that end the East European states were admitted into the EU long before their economic situations justified doing so.  In order to seal the deal their elites were won over by promises of a seat at the EU top table.  Huge sums were paid over to them principally by Germany through the so-called EU structural funds (originally conceived to foster development in the EU’s poorer regions but increasingly used in Eastern and Southern Europe as a form of legalised bribery to bind local elites).  Lastly, their young people were won over with the promise of visa free access to the rest of Europe – thus creating the migrant situation that has been the cause of so much anger in Britain. 

The implications were never thought through or discussed within Europe because EU expansion ultimately followed a US geopolitical agenda rather than a European one.  The result is that despite increasing alarm across Europe at the consequences of the policy the EU bureaucracy continues to pursue the same policy towards other states the US wants to bring into the system like Turkey and Ukraine.

Or take another issue: the Eurozone crisis.  The idea of European monetary union was originally conceived in the 1970s and was already firmly on the agenda by the late 1980s.  Margaret Thatcher fell from power because she opposed it.  The idea it was conceived following the fall of the Berlin Wall is wrong.

What has made the Eurozone crisis so intractable is its well-known structural problems – the fact a single currency was created to cover very different economies without a single treasury or tax system behind it – but also the contradiction between the US geopolitical ambitions that increasingly drive the EU and European needs if the Eurozone is to be managed properly. 

Economic conditions in southern Europe – in Greece especially – point clearly to the need for at least some of these countries to exit the Eurozone, a fact that is well-understood within the German government.  Yet that option is ruled out not just because of opposition within Europe itself but because again it goes against the geopolitical interest of the US, which is to keep these countries locked within the euro system, which in turn binds them to the Western alliance and therefore ultimately to the US itself.  Thus at the height of the Grexit crisis last year German Chancellor Merkel abruptly reversed a previously agreed German position to support Grexit following a call from President Obama of the US who told her not to.  The result is that instead of the Greek crisis being resolved once and for all in Europe’s and Greece’s interests – as German Finance Minister Schauble said it should be – it has instead been left to fester indefinitely.

The EU can work – as it did in the past – when it functions as a genuine community of economically and culturally compatible free democracies, which do not always agree with each other but which are nonetheless prepared to work closely with each other in certain areas in their mutual interest.

It cannot work as a crypto-imperial project of someone else – especially when that someone else is located far away on the other side of the ocean and can therefore have little idea of European wants and needs. 

It was therefore inevitable that beyond a certain point such a crypto-imperial project would provoke resistance and it is entirely unsurprising that the first expression of that resistance should come in Britain, which has always been the country that was most skeptical of the EU in the first place.

In truth Britain has for some time now operated in an anomalous position within the EU.  As Wolfgang Munchau has rightly said in an article in the Financial Times, Britain has in reality been at best a semi-detached member of the EU for some time, remaining in theory a member of the EU but refusing to commit itself to the Eurozone where the key decisions are now made.

Britain is not therefore a key member of the EU and Brexit is not the catalyst for a wider revolt within the EU that some say it is.  Rather it is a harbinger of more revolts to come, which were already on the way, and which without a radical change of approach would in time happen irrespective of whether there were a Brexit vote or not.  Already there are stirrings in Spain, Italy and France and increasingly even in Germany itself.

The EU leaders still have the time and political space to turn things round.  Doing so however will require a degree of courage, intelligence and political imagination that in recent years has been in disastrously short supply.  Above all what is needed is a renegotiation of Europe’s relationship with the US, changing it from a relationship of subservience into one of genuine equality and partnership. 

The alternative is probably not the imminent disintegration of the EU.  The economic and political bonds that hold it together make that unlikely.  Rather it is one of an EU wracked by disagreement and crisis, with its population increasingly sullen and disaffected, and with its economy going nowhere.

In some respects that would be an even worse outcome – and betrayal of the people of Europe – than the EU’s disintegration, which would at least offer the possibility of a fresh start.  As a European I devoutly hope it will not come to that.  As a realist I have no conviction that it won’t.

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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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