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Sat, 27 Aug 2016
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Gold Seal

Solzhenitsyn, Russia's soul and the elusive reset button with the West

In 2009, Hillary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State, presented her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, with a "reset" button she thought symbolized a new era for Russian and American diplomacy.

Lavrov pointed out the word the Americans had chosen, "peregruzka," meant "overcharged," not "reset." Though the two leaders laughed off the mistake, the mistranslated button was a symbol of persistent misunderstanding between the two nations.

Russia has long been characterized by many in the West as enigmatic; indeed, almost beyond understanding. It was Winston Churchill who in October of 1939, mere weeks after the invasion of Poland by Nazi armed forces, speculated on the role of Russia in the war, famously depicting Russia as "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."

He added: "...but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest. It cannot be in accordance with the interest of the safety of Russia that Germany should plant itself upon the shores of the Black Sea, or that it should overrun the Balkan States and subjugate the Slavonic peoples of south eastern Europe. That would be contrary to the historic life-interests of Russia."

Comment: Can a country or nation have a soul? In the tempest of geopolitical developments between Russia and the West these days, it is interesting to consider how Russia's remarkable rebound from the abyss, and its ability to counter so many of the West's psychopathic maneuvers, is in some way a reflection of Russia's religious and spiritual values. And perhaps, also, a testament to its spiritual strength.

See also:


Megaphone

Success of 'Giant Meteor for President' highlights voter disenfranchisement and frustration

In what has become a presidential race based almost solely on scorn for the candidates, the establishment, fraud at the polls — and, hell, the entirely stale and wholly rigged electoral process — it's clear no one will win in the traditional meaning of the word.

While third party candidates have experienced growing success in the dearth of acceptable duopoly offerings, a dark horse has emerged.

According to Public Policy Polling, 'Giant Meteor for President' now ranks as a serious contender — garnering "far more support than the third party candidates actually on the ballot."

No, this most certainly is not the Onion.

"[W]e find that the Meteor would poll at 13% ... with Clinton at 43% and Trump at 38%," with the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson the favorite among just 5 percent and Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein winning just 2 percent of votes.

Yes, seriously.

In fact, the PPP notes, "The Meteor is particularly appealing to independent voters, functionally in a three way tie at 27% to 35% for Clinton and 31% for Trump."

Safe

Italy, France, Germany: Europe's anti-Russian sanctions appear to be coming to an end


Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 5, 2015.
Speeches and discussions by European politicians and businesspeople at SPIEF 2016 suggests an early end to sanctions.

Earlier this month I wrote a piece for The Duran in which I said that the sanctions policy forced on the EU by Angela Merkel and the US is cracking. At SPIEF 2016 the evidence of that was everywhere.

The Russians hosted at SPIEF 2016 three EU heavyweights: EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Nicolas Sarkozy - the past and possibly future President of France - and Matteo Renzi, the current Prime Minister of Italy.

Juncker had little to say in public though he held extensive discussions with the Russian leadership. However Sarkozy and Renzi both made clear in their very different ways their utter exasperation with the sanctions policy.

The person who stole the show was Renzi, the most important politician present and the leader of what was by a fair distance the strongest European delegation at the Forum. The Russians treated Renzi as the main guest and together with Putin and President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan Renzi delivered one of the speeches at the plenary session.


Comment: And what do you know? From the last two days: Venento, Italy, adopted a similar resolution in May. And Lombardy is planning to vote on the same issue on July 5. However, as that article on Fort Russ stresses,
Any decisions on ending the sanctions regime are taken by those governments which are tightly controlled by the ruling pro-American mainstream. The US' functioning mechanisms of hegemony in the European Union allow adverse risks to Washington in the form of votes in national parliaments or national referendums to be minimized. It is therefore hardly worth expecting any breakthrough decisions from the French Senate (which on June 8th voted for easing the sanctions against Russia) or the parliaments of Italy (whether regional or national).
Also keep in mind that "133 American bases are located on the territory of Italy, 18 of which are deployed directly in Veneto. One of the largest military bases in the region is in the city of Vicenza, where a number of episodes of violence by US soldiers against local residents have been recorded (including brawls on the street, in cafes, and in other public places, rape, and so on). The American servicemen who commit such crimes, however, are simply transferred abroad and are therefore not held accountable."


Chart Pie

'They hate us because we're so easy to hate': World poll shows people dislike Americans, like Putin

© Sputnik/ Mikhail Klimentyev
Americans are viewed more negatively today than during the darkest days of the ill-fated Bush era.

A recent Pew Research report suggests that the sun may be setting on America's international hegemony. People polled around the world favor Russian President Vladimir Putin over a leading US presidential candidate for the first time, and a growing number of the world's inhabitants now have a negative view of Washington's economic and political influence.

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump appears to be not only one of the lowest-rated politicians among Americans since public opinion polling began in the 1960s, but he also seems to be affecting the country's reputation abroad.

Trump received a negative rating by every single political party around the world, often by a measure of 10 to 1. Even voters from the anti-immigrant, populist UKIP and Forza Italia parties oppose the Republican by a 2 to 1 count. Overall, only 9% of respondents believe that Donald Trump would "do the right thing" in international affairs, compared with 85% who say they have no such confidence.

Chess

Pakistan and India set to join Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with Iran soon to follow

Away from the distractions caused by the British Brexit vote the process of Eurasian construction has just taken another big step forward with the agreement of India and Pakistan to join the Chinese and Russian led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as full members.

Iran is expected to follow shortly, leaving the whole of Eurasia united under the umbrella of this organisation apart from a few small countries and the states of Europe which are part of the Western alliance. Even countries like Turkey and Azerbaijan, which are aligned with the West, now have have relations with it.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is not an "eastern NATO" - a sort of Warsaw Pact of eastern and central Eurasia - but neither is it the empty talking-shop Western commentators sometimes pretend it is.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has a constitution and structure, and it most definitely does have a security dimension even if it is one which in theory is focused on anti-terrorism in Central Asia rather than in meeting any conventional security threat from the West.

Bulb

French foreign minister calls for end to anti-Russian sanctions

© Jacky Naegelen / Reuters
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (R) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attend a news conference following their meeting at the Quai D'Orsay in Paris, France, June 29, 2016
Sanctions against Russia should be lifted as soon as possible, France's Minister of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday following a meeting with his Russian counterpart, while insisting that implementation of the Minsk agreements still remain key to the process.

"Sanctions is not a goal in and of itself," Jean-Marc Ayrault said in Paris, adding that his country looks forward to scrapping the restrictive measures against Moscow.

The process of lifting the Western sanctions on Russia is still related to Minsk agreements that aim to put an end to the crisis in southeastern Ukraine, Ayrault added, saying that "Russia should play a positive role" in their implementation.

Moscow and Paris have been closely working together "in the Normandy format," Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after the meeting. The countries' foreign ministries have been "closely cooperating" and their aides have been involved too, Russia's top diplomat said. The Normandy format includes Russia, France, Ukraine, and Germany.

Mr. Potato

Pepe Escobar: Why the UK said 'bye bye' to the EU

© Reinhard Krause/reuters
A British flag which was washed away by heavy rains the day before lies on the street in London, Britain, June 24, 2016 after Britain voted to leave the European Union in the EU BREXIT referendum.
So what started as a gamble by David Cameron on an outlet for domestic British discontent, to be used as a lever to bargain with Brussels for a few more favors, has metastasized into an astonishing political earthquake about the dis-integration of the European Union. The irrepressibly mediocre Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, posing as a "historian", had warned that Brexit, "could be the beginning of the destruction of not only the EU but Western political civilization in its entirety".

That's foolish. Brexit proved that it's immigration, stupid. And once again, it's the economy, stupid (although the British neoliberal establishment never paid attention). But serious bets can be made the EU system in Brussels won't learn anything from the shock therapy - and won't reform itself. There will be rationalizations that after all the UK was always classically whiny, obtrusive and demanding special privileges when dealing with the EU. As for "Western political civilization", what will end - and this is a big thing — is the special transatlantic relationship between the US and the EU with Britain as an American Trojan Horse.

So of course this all goes monumentally beyond a mere match between a hopelessly miscalculating Cameron, now fallen on his sword, and the recklessly ambitious court jester Boris Johnson - a Donald Trump with better vocabulary and speech patterns.
Scotland, predictably, voted Remain, and may probably hold a new referendum — and leave the UK — rather than be dragged out by white working class English votes. Sinn Fein already wants a vote on united Ireland. Denmark, the Netherlands and even Poland and Hungary will want special status inside the EU, or else. Across Europe, the extreme right stampede is on. Marine Le Pen wants a French referendum. Geert Wilders wants a Dutch referendum. As for the vast majority of British under-25s who voted Remain, they may be contemplating one-way tickets not to the continent, but beyond.

Comment: The vote is still a non-binding vote. The UK Parliament will ultimately decide whether to honor it or not. A betrayal is not unlikely. There's too much money to lose.


Bad Guys

Brexit Referendum is 'non-binding' meaning UK Parliament, not voters, will prevail

© reuters

All the fuss and bother about Brexit largely ignores its non-binding status - parliament, not voters deciding if Britain stays or leaves the EU, the latter extremely unlikely.


Writing in the Financial Times, British lawyer David Allen Green explained Brexit voting is "advisory," not "mandatory." Parliament has final say.

MPs can legally disregard the public's will either way, they alone empowered to decide the path Britain chooses.

What happens ahead is "a matter of politics not law. It will come down to what is politically expedient and practicable," said Green.

Various options exist, including supporting Thursday's outcome, ignoring it, or "re-negotiating another deal and put(ting) that to another referendum" - repeating the process "until voters eventually vote the 'right' way," what's best for monied interests, not them.

Gold Seal

"Russia and China are hated because they are protecting humanity from Western terror" - Interview with Andre Vltchek


Andre Vltchek in the Bejing Art District
The AntiDiplomatico (Italy) interviews philosopher, Andre Vltchek: "Russia and China are forming an incredible defensive wall to protect humanity from Western terrorism."

Andre Vltchek has become renowned in Italy for being the co-author, along with Noam Chomsky, of the famous book Western Terrorism (Ponte alle Grazie).

Alessandro Bianchi: I start from a brutal question: What has become of a country that it is offering Donald Trump as its 'best candidate'?

Andre Vltchek: It is not much different from the country that it used to be for decades, even centuries. Since the beginning, the US presidents (all of European stock, of course), had been promoting slavery, extermination campaigns against the native population of North America, barbaric wars of aggression against Mexico, and other Latin American countries, the Philippines, etc. Has anything changed now? I highly doubt it. Donald Trump is horrendous, but he is also honest. Both Presidents Clinton and Obama were great speakers, but unrepentant mass murderers.

AB: In a recent survey over 53% of Americans were against both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. How long will we continue to consider the United States a democracy? And why, in your opinion, is abstention the only form of "rebellion" by a population completely excluded from the decision-making stage?

AV: "Democracy" means nothing else other than, "rule of the people", in Greek. There is nothing democratic about the political concepts of the United States and Europe. And there is absolutely nothing democratic about the "global arrangement" through which the West has been ruling over the rest of the world for decades and centuries. The second part is, I'm convinced, much more important, much more devastating; in the West, people have been tolerating their insane political system, in exchange for the countless privileges they are getting from their countries' plundering of the planet, and violating entire nations and continents. But in Africa, Asia and elsewhere, those "un-people" have no choice at all.

Star of David

How Israel's oppressive and humiliating occupation affects all aspects of Palestinian life and incites violent resistance

© AP Photo
The news was familiar but no less alarming for the ugly déjà vu: four Israelis killed on Wednesday night by Palestinian gunmen in the heart of Tel Aviv. Israel's government, the most right-wing in the country's history, responded with measures that the UN promptly warned might count as collective punishment: flooding the West Bank with troops, sealing off the West Bank and Gaza, and revoking entry permits that had allowed 83,000 Palestinians to cross into Israel for work, worship and medical care.

On Thursday, the day after the shootings, Tel Aviv's Mayor Ron Huldai found the courage to state the obvious—that violence will persist until the occupation ends. Israel "is perhaps the only country in the world holding another nation under occupation without civil rights," Huldai said. Such frankness counts as bravery these days, but even Huldai was understating the truth. It's not the mere fact of a military occupation, of Israeli troops on Palestinian territory, that provokes such attacks. It can be difficult to comprehend from across the Atlantic, or even from usually tranquil Tel Aviv, but the occupation, as I have observed while reporting from the West Bank since 2011, functions as a massive mechanism for the creation of uncertainty, dispossession and systematic humiliation. It is not just soldiers and guns, but a far-reaching structure that affects all aspects of Palestinian life—a complex web of checkpoints, travel restrictions, permits, walls and fences, courts and prisons, endless constraints on economic possibilities, home demolitions, land appropriations, expropriation of natural resources, and, too often, lethal force.

No amount of preventive repression or collective punishment will bring an end to the bloodletting in Tel Aviv or elsewhere. As long as this oppressive system stands, and the United States continues to support it with billions of dollars a year in military aid, despair will spread, and with it death.