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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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Skripal and Khashoggi: A Tale of Two Disappearances

Two disappearances, and two different responses.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Two disappearances, and two very different responses from Western governments, which illustrates their rank hypocrisy.

When former Russian spy Sergei Skripal went missing in England earlier this year, there was almost immediate punitive action by the British government and its NATO allies against Moscow. By contrast, Western governments are straining with restraint towards Saudi Arabia over the more shocking and provable case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The outcry by Western governments and media over the Skripal affair was deafening and resulted in Britain, the US and some 28 other countries expelling dozens of Russian diplomats on the back of unsubstantiated British allegations that the Kremlin tried to assassinate an exiled spy with a deadly nerve agent. The Trump administration has further tightened sanctions citing the Skripal incident.

London’s case against Moscow has been marked by wild speculation and ropey innuendo. No verifiable evidence of what actually happened to Sergei Skripal (67) and his daughter Yulia has been presented by the British authorities. Their claim that President Vladimir Putin sanctioned a hit squad armed with nerve poison relies on sheer conjecture.

All we know for sure is that the Skripals have been disappeared from public contact by the British authorities for more than seven months, since the mysterious incident of alleged poisoning in Salisbury on March 4.

Russian authorities and family relatives have been steadfastly refused any contact by London with the Skripal pair, despite more than 60 official requests from Moscow in accordance with international law and in spite of the fact that Yulia is a citizen of the Russian Federation with consular rights.

It is an outrage that based on such thin ice of “evidence”, the British have built an edifice of censure against Moscow, rallying an international campaign of further sanctions and diplomatic expulsions.

Now contrast that strenuous reaction, indeed hyper over-reaction, with how Britain, the US, France, Canada and other Western governments are ever-so slowly responding to Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi case.

After nearly two weeks since Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the Saudi regime is this week finally admitting he was killed on their premises – albeit, they claim, in a “botched interrogation”.

Turkish and American intelligence had earlier claimed that Khashoggi was tortured and murdered on the Saudi premises by a 15-member hit squad sent from Riyadh.

Even more grisly, it is claimed that Khashoggi’s body was hacked up with a bone saw by the killers, his remains secreted out of the consulate building in boxes, and flown back to Saudi Arabia on board two private jets connected to the Saudi royal family.

What’s more, the Turks and Americans claim that the whole barbaric plot to murder Khashoggi was on the orders of senior Saudi rulers, implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The latest twist out of Riyadh, is an attempt to scapegoat “rogue killers” and whitewash the House of Saudi from culpability.

The fact that 59-year-old Khashoggi was a legal US resident and a columnist for the Washington Post has no doubt given his case such prominent coverage in Western news media. Thousands of other victims of Saudi vengeance are routinely ignored in the West.

Nevertheless, despite the horrific and damning case against the Saudi monarchy, the response from the Trump administration, Britain and others has been abject.

President Trump has blustered that there “will be severe consequences” for the Saudi regime if it is proven culpable in the murder of Khashoggi. Trump quickly qualified, however, saying that billion-dollar arms deals with the oil-rich kingdom will not be cancelled. Now Trump appears to be joining in a cover-up by spinning the story that the Khashoggi killing was done by “rogue killers”.

Britain, France and Germany this week issued a joint statement calling for “a credible investigation” into the disappearance. But other than “tough-sounding” rhetoric, none of the European states have indicated any specific sanctions, such as weapons contracts being revoked or diplomatic expulsions.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “concerned” by the gruesome claims about Khashoggi’s killing, but he reiterated that Ottawa would not be scrapping a $15 billion sale of combat vehicles to Riyadh.

The Saudi rulers have even threatened retaliatory measures if sanctions are imposed by Western governments.

Saudi denials of official culpability seem to be a brazen flouting of all reason and circumstantial evidence that Khashoggi was indeed murdered in the consulate building on senior Saudi orders.

This week a glitzy international investor conference in Saudi Arabia is being boycotted by top business figures, including the World Bank chief, Jim Yong Kim, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Britain’s venture capitalist Richard Branson. Global firms like Ford and Uber have pulled out, as have various media sponsors, such as CNN, the New York Times and Financial Times. Withdrawal from the event was in response to the Khashoggi affair.

A growing bipartisan chorus of US Senators, including Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Chris Murphy, have called for the cancellation of American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as for an overhaul of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Still, Trump has rebuffed calls for punitive response. He has said that American jobs and profits depend on the Saudi weapons market. Some 20 per cent of all US arms sales are estimated to go to the House of Saud.

The New York Times this week headlined: “In Trump’s Saudi Bargain, the Bottom Line Proudly Stands Out”.

The Trump White House will be represented at the investment conference in Saudi Arabia this week – dubbed “Davos in the Desert” by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He said he was attending in spite of the grave allegations against the Saudi rulers.

Surely the point here is the unseemly indulgence by Western governments of Saudi Arabia and its so-called “reforming” Crown Prince. It is remarkable how much credulity Washington, London, Paris, Ottawa and others are affording the Saudi despots who, most likely, have been caught redhanded in a barbarous murder.

Yet, when it comes to Russia and outlandish, unproven claims that the Kremlin carried out a bizarre poison-assassination plot, all these same Western governments abandon all reason and decorum to pile sanctions on Russia based on lurid, hollow speculation. The blatant hypocrisy demolishes any pretense of integrity or principle.

Here is another connection between the Skripal and Khashoggi affairs. The Saudis no doubt took note of the way Britain’s rulers have shown absolute disregard and contempt for international law in their de facto abduction of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. If the British can get away with that gross violation, then the Saudis probably thought that nobody would care too much if they disappeared Jamal Khashoggi.

Grotesquely, the way things are shaping up in terms of hypocritical lack of action by the Americans, British and others towards the Saudi despots, the latter might just get away with murder. Not so Russia. The Russians are not allowed to get away with even an absurd fantasy.

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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.

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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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