Bunker Mentality: Start Preparing for Ecological & Economic Disaster Free of Corporate Overlords – By Robert BRIDGE – (Strategic Culture Foundation)

Bunker Mentality: Start Preparing for Ecological & Economic Disaster Free of Corporate Overlords

Let’s face it: reading stories about the ongoing destruction of planet Earth, the life-sustaining blue marble that all of us – aside from maybe Elon Musk – are permanently trapped on, has got to be one of the least-favorite topics of all time. The reasons are understandable, but no longer feasible.

In the realm of politics, replete with its cast of colorful culprits, the possibility of radical change always hovers just over the horizon, which gives the subject much of its universal appeal. Stories devoted to environmental issues, on the other hand, inundate the reader with a dizzying array of mind-boggling statistics that are not only incredibly depressing, they seem impossible to do anything about.

For example, take what I consider to be the most depressing story in recent memory – the so-called ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch,’ a swirling garbage dump trapped in a vortex between Hawaii and California, estimated to be twice the size of Texas. How is anyone expected to wrap their brain around that modern monument to our collective stupidity over their morning cup of coffee? Somehow we always expected the oceans, due to their sheer size and vastness, to remain beyond the reach of mankind’s destructive tendencies. Yet the story of the slowly dying oceans and its vibrant sea life – despite some truly fantastic schemes to reverse the trend – proves not just how wrongheaded that belief is, it belies the destructive nature of our hedonistic and materialistic lifestyles.

This leads to yet another reason so many people shy away from apocalyptic stories of environmental degradation: their own collusion in the ongoing tale of planetary destruction, which is part and parcel of our inquisitive lifestyles. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all deeply indebted consumers of the corporate cornucopia. The majority of us spend a disproportionate amount of our time earning a living just to feed the monkey of our worldly desires, which our corporate overlords happily provide in superabundance – at excessive interest rates, I might add.

In fact, when our situation is viewed critically and objectively, human beings now live like astronauts, totally cut off from the natural world, yet, at the same time, connected by a fragile umbilical cord to the corporate world. Such a scenario must give any thinking person tremendous pause, for it highlights our dangerous level of dependency on external economic forces – namely, the corporate world – to sustain us. Here is where the idea of ‘environmental destruction’ should really pique our interest.

It is not so difficult to conduct a thought experiment that involves the ramifications of a massive economic downturn, or some unexpected natural disaster (on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, for example, multiplied by 10,000) of such magnitude that corporations are no longer able or willing to provide for our most basic daily needs. It may be exceedingly difficult to imagine such a grim scenario, especially since we now take it for granted that grocery stores will always remain open for business and stocked full of goodies, but the majority of us would quickly perish in the event that some unexpected crisis brought the global economy down on our heads. Such a nightmare may be easier to imagine when it is considered that just 10 companies control the entire global food supply, while most people have no means or knowledge of tilling the land for their food supplies.

Perhaps it is on this point that the topic of ‘environmental destruction’ can become not only sexy, like the exciting world of politics, but vital for mankind’s continued existence. It’s time to stop acting like children and face an ugly truth: our current materialistic lifestyles are not sustainable in the long-term, and probably not in the short term either. Our incredible level ofwastefulness, compounded by Earth’s finite resources, guarantees that the planet’s 7 billion people are living on borrowed time. Exactly what ‘short-term’ means, however, is a question none of us can really answer. It may mean the day after tomorrow or another 500 years. Again, nobody can say. But given the upsurge of interest, for example, in “doomsday prepping” among people of average means (a topic that even the high-brow Financial Times reported on), to the construction of sprawling underground bunkers for the elite, there is a growing consensus among many people that it is time to start taking back some control of our lives.

Currently, I am living in Russia, where the difference between Russians and Americans when it comes to preparing for the ‘unknown’ could not be greater. While Americans spend untold hours per week mowing their lawns, pulling weeds and trimming the hedges, Russians are toiling at their ‘dachas’ (in Russia, it is common for people to own an apartment in the city and a piece of land in the countryside), growing fruit and vegetables in greenhouses, and collecting mushrooms in the forest (picking mushrooms is a veritable art form, where it can literally mean the difference between life and death to choose the correct variety among dozens of species). Every Russian I have met in the countryside also have their own private source of water from painstakingly dug wells on their land. This is no small consideration when it is remembered that corporations are gradually buying up, in addition to our food supplies, the rights to our water supplies as well.

The entire notion of ‘prepping’ in Russia is completely nonexistent since the knowledge of working the land, which became absolutely critical during the severe food shortages of the communist years, has been a traditional part of Russian life since the country’s inception. Although Russians, like any other people, would suffer grave hardships in the event of a severe economic downturn, many of them would still be able to feed themselves due to their time-tested ‘survival’ skills. I am not sure the same could be said of their American and European counterparts.

There is a memorable scene in the 2009 post-apocalyptic US film, The Road, where a father and son, forced to trek across a devastated American landscape following some sort of unspeakable disaster, stumble upon a discarded underground bunker that is loaded with food, allowing them to survive the next leg of their impossible journey.

It is film I would highly recommend every person watch to get a sense of what an unexpected turn of environmental and economic events could mean for them and their loved ones.

Since corporations not only greatly control to what extent the environment will remain viable for our survival, but also the keys to the corporate cornucopia, there is no better time than the present to consider what would happen if or when, to put the matter bluntly, the shit hits the fan.

Trump’s Sanctions Admit the End of US Military Dominance – By Tom LUONGO – (Strategic Culture Foundation)

Trump’s Sanctions Admit the End of US Military Dominance
Tom LUONGO | 08.08.2018 | FEATURED STORY

On March 1st Russian President Vladimir Putin changed the geopolitical game. During his speech he unveiled new weapons which instantly made obsolete much of the U.S military’s physical arsenal.

And the panic in Washington was palpable.

Since that speech everything geopolitical has accelerated. The US government under Trump has shifted its strategies in response to this. No longer were we threatening North Korea with military invasion.

No, Trump sat down with Kim Jong-un to negotiate peace.

On Russia, Iran, China, Turkey, Venezuela and even Europe Trump’s war rhetoric has intensified. Trump is only talking about economic sanctions and tariffs, however, leveraging the dollar as his primary weapon to bring countries to heel.

There’s no hint of US invasion, no matter how much John Bolton whispers in his ear or Bibi Netanyahu bangs his shoe on the table.

Why?

Because US military dominance has always been enforced not by technology but by logistics. Those bases, while expensive, are also the real strength of the US military. They are a financial albatross which the ‘Axis of Resistance’ is using to win a war of attrition against US hegemony.

And now, Putin’s new weapons rendered them obsolete in a moment’s time. Once fully deployed there will be no going back to the old world order.

So, that’s why Trump talked to North Korea yesterday and why he will talk with Iran tomorrow.

The End of Leverage

With his latest escalation — “Anyone doing business with Iran will not do business with the US” – Trump is waving the White Flag on using the military to enforce his vision of world order.

This is the Nuclear Option of Financial Warfare. Going nuclear is a losing strategy because you have to back it up.

In the same way Trump threatened fire and brimstone on North Korea, but ultimately went to Singapore.

So, what’s he going to do? Sanction Apple for selling an iPhone in Tehran?

Because that’s what’s implied in that statement.

The cost of compliance to these sanctions will cripple banks and businesses the world over. We saw a preview of it in April when Trump tried to cut Rusal from the aluminum market.

In that same tweet, though, he revealed his hand, finally, that he wants world peace.

But, like the Beauty Queens he used to manage, Trump says a lot of things people want to hear, but does he really know how to go about bringing that dream to reality.

Financial warfare is just as devastating as physical warfare. And a peace won through subjugation via the sword or the futures contract is still a false one. It wasn’t won through respect and acquiescence to all parties’ needs, it was done through the worst kind of bullying.

It will have blowback.

At this point it is hard to tell whether Trump understands this or not.

Of course, this erratic behavior is exactly his plan. It is the Art of the Deal on the geopolitical stage.

But, the Art of the Deal requires leverage and Trump has only financial leverage.

And financial leverage can only erode over time. Every transaction made in another currency, every bank that survives being sanctioned by the US erodes that leverage a little more.

By going nuclear Trump has told the entire world he will destroy it to save it.

And if he’s serious it means today everyone with three brain cells to rub together is making alternate plans.

What looks invincible today, the dollar, is obsolete tomorrow. Currencies are fungible. They are easily cross-shopped in the end.

What most geopolitical commentators choose to forget in their strategic calculations is that the post-WWII institutional order has been maintained by the interplay between US financial dominance via the IMF, the BIS and the World Bank and the military logistical archipelago of bases and carrier strike groups circling the globe.

Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela is trying to rebuild his country without resorting to the extortion rackets of the global banking system via the Petro and Sovereign Bolivar. The jury is out whether he’ll be successful. If he is, expect the US to put more sanctions on Venezuela. But, since there are no dollars in country, what would be the point?

Again, you can’t force someone to use your currency.

Trump realizes the military portion of this system is aligned all wrong. It’s wasteful and it has destroyed the US back home. He wants it to end.

But, at the same time, he wants America to win in all deals and retain financial dominance through the energy trade. So, destroy Venezuela, Iran and stymie Russia to allow the US to keep control of the oil and gas trade via the petrodollar.

Moreover, I agree The problem is no one else in Washington D.C., Tel Aviv, New York, the City of London or Brussels has.

So, how does he make everyone happy while tearing down the parts of the world order he doesn’t like while using its remnants to shore up those he does?

By backing every demand Israel makes on Iran, that’s how. He placates the neocons in D.C. and Tel Aviv this way. But, he’s not fooling anyone really.

They are still convinced he’s not on their side and use independent means to put more pressure on Russia and him. They want control of the Congress after the mid-terms and need the narratives to hold through November.

Case in point, the recent announcement that the British government will demand extradition of the mythical Russian agents who poisoned the Skripals earlier in the year. There’s no proof, but the British Deep State continues on, to distract from reality.

The cries of treason for Donald Trump meeting with Vladimir Putin. The new sanctions bill introduced by Senator Lindsay Graham, said to throw everything at Putin to make him know the US is serious.

Like Putin hasn’t gotten that idea yet?

Trump is still being targeted for impeachment by shutting down dissent domestically (Alex Jones, Ron Paul) while he attempts to pursue a somewhat independent foreign policy.

And that’s why he has to go nuclear in his use of sanctions because Trump, despite all appearances, is not interested in any more Americans dying overseas for the dreams of the Empire. And he knows that’s what will happen if any military option is on the table with Iran.

There is little hope of the kind of makeover of US and European leadership Mr. Crooke feels is necessary to change the dynamic between the US and its geopolitical rivals. So, Trump will pursue this sanctions strategy to the bitter end.

Because, Iran, like Venezuela, Russia and China will not negotiate with someone who has nothing to offer except the back of his hand.

Supreme Court Nominee Kavanaugh Is Precisely the Pro-Corporate Right-Wing Hack Progressives Fear – by Elliott Gabriel (MINT PRESS)

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Brett Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court nominee, in the East Room of the White House, July 9, 2018, in Washington. Evan Vucci | AP

A run-down of Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s positions on various social issues and the danger his appointment could pose to everything from the Department of Labor to the Environmental Protection Agency and even Roe v. Wade.

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s choice Monday night to nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his second Supreme Court nominee has confirmed that Trump seems dead-set on fortifying conservative control of the court for years, if not decades, to come.

The 53-year-old Kavanaugh has served on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals for 12 years, and his ideological stances are firmly on the right end of the Washington spectrum. He is widely expected to be confirmed, given that the Republican Party commands a slight majority in the U.S. Senate. If his appointment clears that hurdle, it would mark the second successful lifetime appointment to the court by Trump in 18 months.

He earned his stripes in Washington taking part in the investigation of President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal of the 1990s, where he served under independent counsel Kenneth Starr and drafted much of the Starr Report, paving the way to Clinton’s impeachment. He also took part in the Florida recount battle in the 2000 presidential election as a counsel in George W. Bush’s team and later as a senior Bush White House official.

Related

 

Kavanaugh, if confirmed, will replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, who retired late last month. If the nominee fills the outgoing conservative’s justice’s seat, experts fear that he may move the court further to the right – especially on issues relating to corporate regulations, immigrant rights, gun laws, women’s reproductive health, and religious-based discrimination against LGBTQ people.

Given that he was on the shortlist of nominees drawn up by Leonard Leo, the conservative Federalist Society’s executive vice president, one can assume that the judge will hold down the fort in terms of right-wing rulings if he proceeds to the top bench. The other potential figures under consideration had been federal appellate judges Thomas Hardiman, Raymond Kethledge and Amy Coney Barrett.

 

Where He Stands

According to Axios, Kavanaugh would rank as the second most far-right justice on the court if he were confirmed, placing him slightly to the left of Justice Clarence Thomas and to the right of Trump’s first nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

A quick run-down of his positions on various social issues shows Kavanaugh as a party-line Republican holding down the far-right flank of conservative traditionalism (or social backwardness), posing the danger that his appointment would sound the death-knell for everything from the Department of Labor to the Environmental Protection Agency and even Roe v. Wade :

Corporate regulations – the 53-year old put significant wind in the sails of the banking industry when he wrote an opinion in October 2016 declaring the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “unconstitutional” due to the “enormous executive power” given to its director and the “threat to individual liberty” it poses (for billionaire banksters). The watchdog agency was established by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act following the 2008 financial collapse and was later found to be constitutional.

He has also sided with the meat industry, opposing Department of Agriculture standards requiring that meat be labeled to allow consumers to know where each step of the meat production process took place. Kavanaugh backed Big Food by arguing that the government must support U.S. manufacturers, industrial farmers and ranchers versus foreign competitors.

Racial Equity – Kavanaugh is an opponent of affirmative action in college admissions, which has sought to increase the representation of historically oppressed nationalities and ethnicities in education since the 1960s. Since its inception, affirmative action has been the focus of attacks by right-wing forces in the U.S. who claim that it is an example of so-called “reverse racism” – a term alleging the victimization of whites by historically oppressed nationalities – and bars qualified white candidates from school placement, instead favoring their counterparts of color whom they perceived to be less qualified.

Workers Rights – The conservative justice has a solidly anti-worker record, and has opposed everything from protections of collective bargaining rights to basic workplace safety standards.

In a statement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

Judge Kavanaugh routinely rules against working families, regularly rejects the right of employees to receive employer-provided health care in the workplace, too often sides with employers in denying employees relief from discrimination in the workplace and promotes overturning well-established U.S. Supreme Court precedent.”

Net Neutrality – In 2017, Kavanaugh dissented against the ruling in United States Telecom Association v FCC, writing: “The net neutrality rule is unlawful and must be vacated, however, for two alternative and independent reasons. First, Congress did not clearly authorize the FCC to issue the net neutrality rule … Second and in the alternative, the net neutrality rule violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

The Environment – Kavanaugh was a major critic of Obama-era environmental protection agencies, and penned a decision rejecting attempts by the EPA to curb air pollution that spills over states’ borders. In the face of federal attempts to curb pollution and climate change, he has upheld corporate interests and the separation of powers.

Reproductive Health, Contraception and Abortion – He has argued that the Affordable Care Act’s coverage of contraception infringes on the “rights” of religious – read: evangelical fundamentalist – organizations and “religious liberty” groups. However, he has pledged in the past to uphold the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion access. Democrats are skeptical about his commitment to the decision, and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has indicated that the party will be on the lookout for signs that he will repeal Roe.

Kavanaugh was the focus of a partisan battle when Bush nominated him to the appeals court in 2003, with Democrats accusing him of being a partisan ideologue. By 2006, the Senate confirmed him.

The narrow Republican Senate majority of 51-49 — with Sen. John McCain sitting out proceedings and basically standing at death’s door in Arizona – leaves Democrats with little options to wage their storied “resistance,” yet they can possibly apply pressure to Republican figures to create dissension and defections in GOP ranks.

 

“Resistance” on Capitol Hill and In the Streets

According to the White House, attempts by Trump’s team to reach out to Senate Judiciary Committee members prior to Monday’s nomination were largely greeted courteously – with the notable exception of Democratic California Senator Kamala Harris, whose office told White House Counsel Don McGahn, “We want nothing to do with you.”

In a tweet, the former California attorney general and centrist Democrat – widely considered to be a possible Democratic presidential candidate – wrote that Kavanaugh “represents a direct and fundamental threat to the rights and health care of hundreds of millions of Americans.”

On Tuesday morning, Schumer also vowed on MSNBC to “oppose this nominee with everything that I’ve got.” Democrats are banking on the fear surrounding Trump’s Supreme Court pick and its anti-woman, white supremacist, and pro-corporate implications as a powerful motivator for voters, particularly Democrats, in this year’s midterm elections.

Despite the fear that Kavanaugh will turn the Supreme Court far to the right, some experts feel that the perception it was somehow ever “moderate” or even “progressive” was a false illusion and that a hard-right tilt by the Judiciary could clear up false expectations about the nature of the court.

“When people in [the U.S.] worry about the court tilting ‘hard-right’ it makes it seem as if the court has ever been a ‘left’ court,” National Lawyers Guild vice president Ken Montenegro told MintPress News.

“[But] the court has largely been centrist … So, it’s possible that in this time of emboldened white supremacy a tilt further to the right will mobilize people to question the [overall] nature of the judiciary,” he added.

Top Photo | President Donald Trump shakes hands with Brett Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court nominee, in the East Room of the White House, July 9, 2018, in Washington. Evan Vucci | AP

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

NASEEB CROSSING LIBERATED; THE WESTERN TUNE IS CHANGING;

SYRIANCITIES

DER’AH:

http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=32.536177&lon=36.210423&z=14&m=b

The Naseeb Crossing between Jordan and Syria has been liberated although the Syrian government has not officially announced this yet.  As we related to our readers two days ago, the refusal of the terrorists to accept all Russian conditions for surrender resulted in a devastating air and ground campaign aimed at breaking the morale of the Zionist-supported cockroaches.  With no party prepared to assist these cowering slugs, the SAA and its allies are moving straight into the town of Naseeb and its extremely important border crossing; an event which will have very salubrious effects on both Jordan’s and Syria’s economies.

In the meantime, the SAA is moving against Nusra on the Golan Heights supported by HZB and other allies whom the Zionists prefer not to mention.  I will have more on all that when I receive more reports from sources.

_______________________________________________

NEWS AND COMMENT:

Patrick Lawrence shows us how the Western Press is changing its tune on Syria.  This is a must-read article with a spectacularly lucid analysis of what is happening:

https://www.salon.com/2018/07/06/is-the-u-s-about-to-give-up-on-its-lawless-and-catastrophic-adventure-in-syria_partner/

Read this superb article by Brandon chronicling the American plot to unseat the government of Syria.  This time, the author has both documents and articles to buttress his position.  Another must-read:

https://www.activistpost.com/2018/07/secret-us-2006-govt-document-reveals-plan-to-destabilize-syria-by-using-extremists-muslim-brotherhood-elections.html

Some of you might find this study of how Chemical Weapons (CW) work fascinating.  Since the West has made a big fuss about it, it’s worth publishing here:

https://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/Nerve-agents-wreak-havoc-on-your-brain-and-body-12738767.php

Andrés Obrador Becomes President of Mexico: Good Prospects for Russian-Mexican Relations – By Alex GORKA (Strategic Culture Foundation)

Andrés Obrador Becomes President of Mexico: Good Prospects for Russian-Mexican Relations
Alex GORKA | 04.07.2018 | WORLD / Americas

Until now, it has been generally believed that the era of left rulers in Latin America was over. In December 2017, Sebastián Piñera of the National Renewal party, won in Chile after right-wing forces came to power in Argentina (2015) and Brazil (2016). Three leading economies of the continent had right-wing governments. It all changed on July 1 with the sweeping victory held by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate representing the country’s Left. His party Morena, the National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional), was formed only in 2014 to lead Obrador to victory over other candidates from political parties that have ruled the country for the entire century. Now he has enough power for implementing drastic changes. The Mexican revolution took place 101 years ago. This is the first time the Left have come to power.

One of the president-elect’s promises was standing up to Donald Trump if need be. His election is a blow to the United States influence in Latin America. The US and newly elected Mexican presidents don’t see eye-to-eye on NAFTA, bilateral trade and border security.

During the race, Obrador had to deny the rumors that originated from the United States, not Mexico, that he had received money from Moscow. As in the course of the 2016 US election, the invented stories were spread around. Then US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said he had seen “signs” of Russia’s meddling into Mexican election campaign. The affirmation was left unconfirmed as the official offered no details but US Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) lost no time to chime in. So did Enrique Ochoa Reza, the chairman of the Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party that lost the election. Rumors remained rumors but media did its part to make people believe the concoctions were true. Andres Obrador used the strongest weapon against lies – humor. He jibed the stories to win even more popular support.

During the 128 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations there were few downturns to cloud Russia’s relations with Mexico, the second most populous nation in Latin America with as estimated population of over 120 million, which boasts the fifteenth largest nominal GDP in the world and the eleventh largest by purchasing power parity. Its economy is strongly linked to NAFTA – the economic union US President Trump wants to end so much, replacing it with separate deals. Perhaps, this is the time for Mexico to diversify its economic partners. Russia, China and other BRICS nations can offer a good alternative to the rocky relationship with the northern partner having become so unpredictable recently. Obrador’s victory may provide an impetus to the development of Russian-Mexican ties, including energy, security and political interaction on the global stage.

The sanctions imposed by the US and the EU have prompted Moscow to expand contacts with other world economies. Russia has a strong diplomatic presence in such countries as Brazil, Venezuela, Columbia, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and Cuba. Promoting ties with the nations of the region through cooperation with CELAC is one of directions of Moscow’s foreign policy. Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept states that “Russia remains committed to the comprehensive strengthening of relations with the Latin American and Caribbean States taking into account the growing role of this region in global affairs.”

Russia’s strongest trade relationships are Brazil and Mexico, which together account for about half of all of Russian trade in the continent. The Russian twin-engine MC-21 short-to-mid-range airliner with a capacity for between 150-211 passengers offers a potential lucrative deal Mexico has paid interest in. In January, the Mexican Association of Importers and Exporters (ANIERM) opened its trade office in Moscow. Mexico is eager to explore a partnership with Russia to purchase and assemble helicopters. Mi-35M and the Mi-28NE combat helicopters as well as Mi-17 military transport rotary wing aircraft are under consideration. Russia’s Lukoil energy giant has won two tenders to expand its drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Grupo Maseca and Nemak are operating in Russia.

Experts believe that Obrador’s election is a good chance to spur the Russian-Mexican cooperation in all spheres. President Putin also expressed hope that with Andrés Obrador at the helm, the bilateral relationship will get a new impetus. The two leaders will meet at the upcoming G20 summit, scheduled for November 30–December 1 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Match Made in Hell: Bayer-Monsanto Partnership Signals Death Knell for Humanity – By Robert BRIDGE (STRATEGIC CULTURE FOUNDATION)

Match Made in Hell: Bayer-Monsanto Partnership Signals Death Knell for Humanity
Robert BRIDGE | 30.06.2018 | BUSINESS

On what plane of reality is it possible that two of the world’s most morally bankrupt corporations, Bayer and Monsanto, can be permitted to join forces in what promises to be the next stage in the takeover of the world’s agricultural and medicinal supplies?

Warning, plot spoiler: There is no Mr. Hyde side in this horror story of epic proportions; it’s all Dr. Jekyll. Like a script from a David Lynch creeper, Bayer AG of poison gas fame has finalized its $66 billion (£50bn) purchase of Monsanto, the agrochemical corporation that should be pleading the Fifth in the dock on Guantanamo Bay instead of enjoying what amounts to corporate asylum and immunity from crimes against humanity. Such are the special privileges that come from being an above-the-law transnational corporation.

Unsurprisingly, the first thing Bayer did after taking on Monsanto, saddled as it is with the extra baggage of ethic improprieties, was to initiate a rebrand campaign. Like a Hollywood villain falling into a crucible of molten steel only to turn up later in some altered state, Monsanto has been subsumed under the Orwellian-sounding ‘Bayer Crop Science’ division, whose motto is: “Science for a better life.”

Yet Bayer itself provides little protective cover for Monsanto considering its own patchy history of corporate malfeasance. Far beyond its widely known business of peddling pain relief for headaches, the German-based company played a significant role in the introduction of poison gas on the battlefields of World War I. 

Despite a Hague Convention ban on the use of chemical weapons since 1907, Bayer CEO Carl Duisberg, who sat on a special commission set up by the German Ministry of War, knew a business opportunity when he saw one.

Duisberg witnessed early tests of poison gas and had nothing but glowing reports on the horrific new weapon: “The enemy won’t even know when an area has been sprayed with it and will remain quietly in place until the consequences occur.”

Bayer, which built a department specifically for the research and development of gas agents, went on to develop increasingly lethal chemical weapons, such as phosgene and mustard gas. “This phosgene is the meanest weapon I know,” Duisberg remarked with a stunning disregard for life, as if he were speaking about the latest bug spray. “I strongly recommend that we not let the opportunity of this war pass without also testing gas grenades.”

Duisberg got his demonic wish. The opportunity to use the battlefield as a testing ground and soldiers as guinea pigs came in the spring of 1915 as Bayer supplied some 700 tons of chemical weapons to the war front. On April 22, 1915, it has been estimated that around 170 tons of chlorine gas were used for the first time on a battlefield in Ypres, Belgium against French troops. Up to 1,000 soldiers perished in the attack, and many more thousands injured.

In total, an estimated 60,000 people died as a result of the chemical warfare started by Germany in the First World War and supplied by the Leverkusen-based company.

According to Axel Koehler-Schnura from the Coalition against BAYER Dangers: “The name BAYER particularly stands for the development and production of poison gas. Nevertheless the company has not come to terms with its involvement in the atrocities of the First World War. BAYER has not even distanced itself from Carl Duisberg’s crimes.”

The criminal-like behavior has continued right up until modern times. Mike Papantonio, a US attorney and television presenter discussed one of the more heinous acts committed by this chemical company on Thomas Hartmann’s program, The Big Picture: “They produced a clotting agent for hemophiliacs, in the 1980s, called Factor VIII. This blood-clotting agent was tainted with HIV, and then, after the government told them they couldn’t sell it here, they shipped it all over the world, infecting people all over the world. That’s just part of the Bayer story.”

Papantonio, citing Bayer’s 2014 annual report, said the company is facing 32 different liability lawsuits around the world. For the 2018 Bayer liability report, click here.

Before flushing your Bayer products down the toilet, you may want to put aside an aspirin or two because the story gets worse.

One of the direct consequences of the ‘Baysanto’ monster will be a major hike in prices for farmers, already suffering a direct hit to their livelihood from unsustainable prices. “Farmers have already experienced a 300% price increase in recent years, on everything from seeds to fertilizer, all of which are controlled by Monsanto,” Papantonio told Hartmann. “And every forecaster is predicting that these prices are going to climb even higher because of this merger.”

Yet it’s hard to imagine the situation getting any worse for the American farmer, who is now facing the highest suicide rate of any profession in the country. The suicide rate for Americans engaged in the field of farming, fishing and forestry is 84.5 per 100,000 people – more than five times that of the broader population.

This tragic trend echoes that of India, where about a decade ago millions of Indian farmers began switching from farming with traditional farming techniques to using Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds instead. In the past, following a millennia-old tradition, farmers saved seeds from one harvest and replanted them the following year. Those days of wisely following the rhythms and patterns of the natural world are almost over. Today, Monsanto GMO seeds are bred to contain ‘terminator technology’, with the resulting crops ‘programmed’ not to produce seeds of their own. In other words, the seed company is literally playing God with nature and our lives. Thus, Indian farmers are forced to buy a new batch of seeds – together with Monsanto pesticide Round Up – each year and at a very prohibitive cost. Hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers

But should the world have expected anything different from the very same company that was involved in the production of Agent Orange for military use during the Vietnam War (1961-1971)? More than 4.8 million Vietnamese suffered adverse effects from the defoliant, which was sprayed over vast tracts of agricultural land during the war, destroying the fertility of the land and Vietnam’s food supply. About 400,000 Vietnamese died as a result of the US military’s use of Agent Orange, while millions more suffered from hunger, crippling disabilities and birth defects.

This is the company that we have allowed, together with Bayer, to control about one-quarter of the world’s food supply. This begs the question: Who is more nuts? Bayer and Monsanto, or We the People?

It’s important to mention that the Bayer – Monsanto convergence is not occurring in a corporate vacuum. It is all part of a race on the part of the global agrochemical companies to stake off the world’s food supplies. ChemChina has bought out Switzerland’s Syngenta for $43 billion, for example, while Dow and DuPont have forged their own $130 billion empire.

However, none of those companies carry the same bloodstained reputations as Bayer and Monsanto, a match made in hell that threatens all life on earth.

The Myth of Barack Obama as the Great and Noble Nobel Global Statesman – By Martin SIEFF (Strategic Culture Foundation)

The Myth of Barack Obama as the Great and Noble Nobel Global Statesman

It is no coincidence that the Sword, Sorcery and Dragons Fantasy Games of Thrones – filmed in large part on location in my native Northern Ireland – has entranced the American viewing public over the past decade: For the early 21st century has seen US policymakers and opinion-shapers plunging ever deeper into one fantasy after another. But even Game of Thrones pales in incredibility and absurdity next to the fantasy still believed by most Americans — That Barack Obama was a wise and responsible, peace-loving statesman.

In truth, Obama, casually and with evident self-satisfaction, unleashed series of catastrophic foreign national security policies that sent the world careening to the brink of nuclear war and inflicted needless suffering on scores of millions of people. No Game of Thrones villain ever did anything like that damage.

I have no doubt that the ludicrous award of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to Obama will go down in history as the most ridiculous such award in the entire history of the institution.

What in reality was Obama’s record as President of the United States?

He authorized a totally unnecessary and strategically meaningless $1 trillion nuclear build up over the coming generation that will play a major role in bankrupting the United States. It was also a move guaranteed to set off a ruinous global thermonuclear arms race with Russia, China and other powers who understandably fear being made defenseless before a succession of ever more unilateral and unpredictable US leaders.

Obama claimed to be deeply concerned about nuclear nonproliferation and hosted a Nuclear Safety Summit in Washington whose only real achievement was to feed his already enormous and delusional appreciation of his own self-worth.

However, as analyst Rebecca Heinrichs of the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington concluded, “If one actually looks at the risks of nuclear war as well as the likelihood of proliferation at the start of the President’s term compared to now, the Obama’s nonproliferation record earns a failing grade.”

In 2011, Obama a fecklessly allowed his warmongering, hyper-aggressive secretary of state Hillary Clinton to arrange with Britain and France the use of NATO air power to destroy the state of Libya by giving tactical support and protection to rebels against veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Gaddafi’s previous decade of consistent cooperation with the US and its allies in the struggle against extreme Islamist terror and his monitored compliance with demands to scrap Libya’s nascent nuclear were all for naught. Obama and Clinton’s reckless and even clownish policies ensured the complete disintegration of Libya, creating an infernal anarchy in which Islamist terror groups could thrive and metastasize throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Far from encouraging nations to scrap their nuclear programs as Gaddafi in fact had done, Obama’s childish approval of the destruction of Libya sent precisely the opposite message to nations around the world: “Scrap your nuclear deterrents and there will be nothing to stop the United States from destroying you in whenever its leaders feel like it.”

It was the same story in Syria where Obama and Clinton eagerly approved the flow of half a billion dollars a year to such groups including, incredibly the Nusrah Front, the Syrian franchise of al-Qaeda, heirs to the conspirators who killed nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001.  

Obama’s utter ignorance and his clueless ignorance of diplomacy and the conduct of international relations was memorably exposed in his casual approval of the absurd and clownish Michael McFaul as US ambassador to Moscow.

The idea that an accredited ambassador could pass his days in sending out public abusive Twitter messages insulting the head of the state to which he was accredited was ludicrous even if that state was Mauritius, Lichtenstein or Tahiti let alone one of the world’s two thermonuclear superpowers.

McFaul openly worked overtime to give aid and encourage to domestic opposition to the undermine the legitimate government of Russia: His activities would have provoked calls for full-scale war from the US Congress had any Russian envoy to Washington, DC presumed to act in such a way. None of this bothered Obama for a second.

Even worse was to follow: In 2014, US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, the wife of leading neocon ideologue Robert Kagan and also the favored subordinate of Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state openly paraded in the streets of Kiev, handing out cookies to violent protestors as they overthrew with mob riots and terror the constitutionally democratically elected government of a European nation of 45 million people. Obama fully – albeit, as usual, passively approved.

East-West relations were reduced to a state of chaos and distrust unseen in 52 years since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Obama does not appear to have noticed or even been concerned.

Obama was not totally ignorant and uninterested in international relations. During his casual and ill-attended, poorly documented student years at Columbia University in New York City, he attended only one course in international relations. It was given by none other than Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter.

Brzezinski was a descendant of the displaced minor Polish aristocracy who through his long career consistently fought to lock the United States into a set policies designed to weaken, disintegrate and encircle Russia with hostile powers and alliances. He was a major foreign policy influence on US Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Brzezinski was Obama’s personal guide and guru to what little the 44th US president dimly grasped of strategic orientation and world affairs. Obama’s near-total ignorance of non-American history and diplomacy gave Brzezinski full scope to manipulate him into accepting all his own most virulent anti-Russian prejudices.

Thanks to Obama, superpower diplomatic relations collapsed to their most parlous state in the entire Nuclear Age. When Obama took office in January 2009, the Doomsday Clock of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists journal was set at five minutes to midnight and the journal soberly warned: “The world stands at the brink of a second nuclear age.” 

Yet after eight years in power, when Obama left the White House in January 2017, as ignorant, complacent and filled with unearned self-regard as when he came to Washington, the Doomsday Clock stood at three minutes to midnight. – two minutes closer than when he had taken office.

We do not need to wait to know the Verdict of History on Barack Obama’s eight years as a global statesman. That verdict is in and it is damning: The Nobel committee should rescind his 2009 Peace Prize. Perhaps it can be given instead to a harmless fantasy TV show like Game of Thrones.

Tags: Obama 

Opponents of Mexico’s Leftist Presidential Frontrunner Turn to Assassination, Vote Buying and Intimidation – By José Luis Granados Ceja – (MINT PRESS)

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador could make history in Sunday’s presidential election in Mexico and his enemies are willing to stop him by any means necessary, including electoral fraud, but thousands of Mexicans are ready and willing to defend their vote.

MEXICO CITY — Mexico appears to be on the cusp of massive change. Leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel López Obrador has a very good shot at winning the upcoming election but the threat of fraud looms over the vote. This election has already been witness to political assassinations, vote buying, and voter intimidation.

For several months, law professor John Ackerman has been diligently working with a team of intellectuals and activists on an effort to prevent fraud in the upcoming election. He is very excited about the prospect of change in the country but minces no words: in his view, Mexico is not a democracy…yet. He told MintPress News:

We’re still in this process of struggling for democracy. The hope is that July 1, 2018 will actually be the beginning of a democratic transition, that finally someone really from the opposition with mass popular support will become president based on elections.”

 

Mexican democracy still waiting to be born

That point-of-view may come as a surprise to some: mainstream analysts point to the 2000 election as the birth of Mexican democracy. Previous to that election — in which they were unseated by the right-wing National Action Party, or PAN as it is known by its Spanish acronym — the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, through clientelistic networks and electoral fraud, ruled Mexico uninterrupted for 71 years.

“The simple fact that the so-called opposition won in 2000 doesn’t mean that Mexico is a democracy because … what we see is the continuity of the authoritarian system,” said Ackerman who added:

Really the idea that somehow in the year 2000 there was a qualitative change in the equilibrium in politics is a myth.”


Read more by José Luis Granados Ceja


The PAN ruled Mexico for 12 years, first under Vicente Fox and then under Felipe Calderon, the latter seen as responsible for unleashing a wave of violence throughout the country that continues unabated today. Expectations that a change in leadership would resolve the issues plaguing the country – violence, inequality, corruption, extreme poverty and stagnant wages – were largely dashed and in 2012 the country voted the PRI back into power.

However, in this current election, Lopez Obrador — the leftist former mayor of Mexico City, who is now running for a third time — commands an overwhelming lead, with some polls giving him as much as 20 points over his nearest rival, Ricardo Anaya, who is running for the PAN as part of a left-right coalition.

 

Mexico’s flawed institutions

Lopez Obrador’s victory would mark the end of nearly a century of rule by two neoliberal parties, the PRI and the PAN, and would also mark the first leftist government in Mexico’s modern history.

That is why many ultimately consider the 2018 vote as the country’s most important election in recent history.

But Mexico’s political elites do not intend to go quietly and are utilizing every trick in the book to try to affect the outcome and prevent AMLO, as Lopez Obrador is commonly known, from winning.

Despite AMLO’s massive lead in the polls, successful electoral fraud is entirely possible. Most elections in Mexico have been marred by allegations of fraud. Notable examples include the 1988 election when early results indicated the ruling PRI was set to lose until the computer system tabulating the result “went down” — when it returned, the PRI was leading comfortably. The 2006 election, AMLO’s first attempt, was also condemned as fraudulent and led to weeks of protests, though ultimately electoral authorities did not allow for a total recount of the votes and the fraud was consolidated, allowing his rival, Felipe Calderon, to take office.

Lopez Obrador’s critics accuse him of being a demagogue who turns his nose up at the country’s institutions. Yet he has consistently turned to those institutions, seeking power through elections, despite the glaring flaws in the country’s system.

Those flaws are well-known to many Mexicans. Ackerman, a U.S.-born Mexican national and law professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, helped put together Dialogues for Democracy, a university initiative that trained thousands in election-related issues.

Law professor John Ackerman takes part in a livestream before delivering a letter to Mexico's National Electoral Institute demanding the authority take action against election fraud, Mexico City, June 21, 2018.

These citizen advocates of democracy are not placing blind faith in the country’s institutions.

“These guys are capable of anything, the corruption of the Mexican system is so deep, the institutions are in such profound crisis,” argued Ackerman.

The issue is that the very state institutions that AMLO’s critics say he does not respect, have not won the respect of Mexicans.

As Ackerman told MintPress News,

The electoral institutions are supposedly autonomous but they are part of the same system of corruption and institutional weakness and so very few people trust the National Electoral Institute or the electoral tribunal or the special electoral prosecutor for electoral crimes; lots of mistrust based on a history of frauds and illegalities.”

 

Vote buying, voter intimidation, and political assassinations

This election has already been witness to a number of irregularities, the kind practiced in previous elections — such as vote-buying, the conditioning of social programs based on party affiliation, and voter intimidation.

As Ackerman observed:

The PRI continues to be a very powerful machine system and it’s not just any kind of voter mobilization; this is corruption, this is direct vote-buying, this is threatening people that they will lose their government supports or access to education and healthcare if they don’t vote for the ruling party.”

In a country with rampant poverty, these vote-buying tactics are very effective. A report from Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity found that the election was awash in so-called “dirty money” — that is, money that comes from dubious sources and is not reported to electoral authorities.

Ackerman says Mexico’s political elites have engaged in a “dirty war” against Lopez Obrador, pulling out all the stops to prevent his victory.

Ackerman says he and his team have documented websites that promote “fake news” against AMLO. Millions of Mexicans have also received phone calls that masquerade as polling firms but are in fact attack ads against Lopez Obrador. Rival parties have even sent provocateurs to campaign rallies to provoke fist fights with AMLO’s supporters, and this week armed individuals stole over 11,000 ballots.

These tactics are, of course, illegal but the institutions involved do little to try to stop them or even mitigate their impact.

The National Electoral Institute and the country’s electoral court, known as the TEPJF, have made a number of decisions that have called into question their impartiality. Since the members of these bodies are appointed by Congress, which is presently comprised of political forces opposed to Lopez Obrador, Ackerman argues all these institutions are biased against AMLO.

He highlights the case of Jaime Rodriguez, an “independent” candidate that is running a distant last. The TEPJF forced him onto the ballot despite his failure to meet the requirements to register as an independent candidate. Ackerman believes he was put on the ballot solely to play the role of attack dog against Lopez Obrador. And neither the National Electoral Institute or the TEPJF have done anything substantial to stop the illegal anti-AMLO phone calls.

The New York Times also recently revealed that the PRI approached the scandal-plagued Cambridge Analytica, the firm behind Facebook’s data scandal, to help them in their reelection efforts. Ultimately the PRI decided not to work with the firm but did, nonetheless, pay them off in order to ensure the firm would not work with any other campaign.

This election has also been particularly violent: over 100 politicians, including dozens of candidates, have been assassinated throughout the course of the campaign. Most recently, five supporters of Lopez Obrador’s party were ambushed and killed in the state of Oaxaca.

Mexico’s political elites are also not averse to outright vote manipulation. Although the elections are coordinated by the National Electoral Institute, the voting centers are staffed by citizens who are selected at random. In previous elections, such as state elections in 2017, these poll workers and observers were bought off or scared off by nefarious actors, allowing unscrupulous activities to take place inside the voting booth, including ballot box stuffing and manipulation of tally sheets.

“There will be attempt at fraud, we’re already seeing it. The scientific estimations say that in Mexico you can steal about 6 percent of the vote,” said Ackerman.

 

Stopping fraud in its tracks

But it is not just Mexico’s politicians that oppose AMLO, there are powerful economic interests that are afraid of a Lopez Obrador victory.

Ackerman noted:

There are people who have received millions of dollars and are corrupt, and who are very afraid that if there is a democratic transition in Mexico there might be an investigation into their cases, so they’re willing to do anything possible, by any means necessary, to stop Lopez Obrador.”

That is why activists, lawyers, and academics have started the University and Citizen’s Network for Democracy, which is working with hundreds of election observers, including over 60 international visitors, to observe Sunday’s vote.

A supporter of the University and Citizen Network for Democracy addresses the media detailing their demands of the National Electoral Institute, Mexico City, June 21, 2018. José Luis Granados Ceja

The goal of the University and Citizen’s Network for Democracy is not to document fraud but rather actually to try to stop it. The recent alleged electoral fraud in Honduras proved to many in Mexico that international bodies like the Organization of American States, which is also sending an observation team to Mexico, are not capable of actually stopping fraud from happening or being ratified.

It is highly unlikely that Mexican society would be willing to swallow electoral fraud. With Lopez Obrador consistently running high in the polls, a result that does not reflect this trend would provoke mass social discontent. Ackerman believes that Mexico would be witness to a kind of political instability unseen in recent history.

Lopez Obrador has said that if the election is stolen, he would not try to contain the discontent (as he did after the 2006 election), which would prompt unpredictable consequences for Mexican society.

In other words, the stakes are incalculably high.

It is not clear if Mexico’s political and economic elites are willing to take that gamble.

However, Ackerman argues this election is different: in this case, the ruling class is divided and there are business elements supporting Lopez Obrador’s candidacy. He adds that in contrast to previous elections, other left-wing forces such as the Zapatistas are not actively promoting a null vote or voter abstention, as they previously have.

The conditions are in place for Lopez Obrador to make history on Sunday and for Mexico to mark a new democratic era.

“It’s not about Lopez Obrador, it’s about democracy — that’s what he’s been struggling for, and what the vast majority of the Mexican population want,” said Ackerman.

Top Photo | Presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the MORENA party speaks during a campaign rally in the Coyoacan district of Mexico City, May 7, 2018. Mexico will choose a new president in general elections on July 1. Rebecca Blackwell | AP

José Luis Granados Ceja is a writer and photojournalist based in Mexico City. He has previously written for outlets such as teleSUR and the Two Row Times and has also worked in radio as a host and producer. He specializes in contemporary political analysis and the role of media in influencing the public. He is particularly interested in covering the work of social movements and labor unions throughout Latin America.

Disclosure: John Ackerman is married to Irma Eréndira Sandoval, who has been proposed by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as his future Secretary for Public Service.

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

‘More conflict, more money:’ West not interested in peace in Africa, says mercenary company founder – By RT

African soldiers

© Luc Gnago / Reuters

The Western powers are interested in prolonging conflicts in Africa as they crave after the continent’s resources, a private military company founder told RT. Most African forces are “set up to fail” by foreign advisors, he added.

The Western nations see prolonged African wars and chaos as just a means to get their hand on the rich African resources, Eeben Barlow, the founder of Executive Outcomes, the South African firm that started a private soldier boom, told RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze. “As long as there is conflict on the go, certain deals can be struck with governments,” which allow foreign powers to “get hold on these resources for own use,” he said.

Barlow went on to say that foreign and particularly the western powers often opt for supporting armed groups or various forces that actually destabilize the situation in the region as “rebels do not have to provide any taxation to whoever mines resources within the areas.” The anti-government groups are also eagerly used as a means to “replace a certain government that is not compliant enough with the wishes of those that are outside driving these actions.”

As for the foreign advisors to the governmental forces, the quality of training and advice they provide to the African authorities is usually “poor,” the former lieutenant-colonel of the South African Defence Force complained. “Most African armies are being set up to fail by … foreign armed forces or foreign advisers that they make use of,” he told the SophieCo show.

The foreign private military companies (PMCs) are usually only just “are out to see how long they can actually prolong a conflict or a war because the longer that goes on, the more money they make for themselves,” Barlow said, adding that he “does believe” that many “foreign forces in Africa are here not to solve problems but to ensure that the problems continue.”

When the African governments try to use local forces, including the African PMCs, to help them deal with conflicts, terrorist groups or insurgencies, “they are continually threatened that … it will be to their disadvantage.”

“These are threats that come from beyond Africa. And it is really just a proof to us that a stable and secure Africa appears to be in very few people’s interests,” Barlow said.

 
 
See Also:

Putin-Trump summit finally on the way? – By Alexander Mercouris (THE DURAN)

Moscow hints that a summit in Vienna is under discussion as rumours of a July summit persist

US President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
 

In the aftermath of the successful Kim-Trump summit in Singapore there is again speculation about the prospects of a possible summit meeting between the US and Russian Presidents, with Vienna the likely host city.

The clearest discussion of these rumours and of what such a summit might look like and what it might achieve has been provided by Dr. Gilbert Doctorow.

On the indications that a summit is in the air Dr. Doctorow has this to say

I say that a summit in the near future look likely, in part because that is suggested in several articles appearing recently in the Washington Post, in The Wall Street Journal, in The New Yorkermaking reference to unidentified contacts in the administration.  In part, I base it on less obvious clues that speak to the vestigial Kremlinologist in me. One is the repeat broadcast this morning on Vesti/Rossiya-1 of an interview with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz that took place just before Vladimir Putin’s state visit on 6 June. Vienna has been mentioned as a possible venue for any such summit, and the interview makes plain why the country would be so very suitable as the site of a summit – namely Kurz’s populist and Euro-skeptic policies that are so highly appreciated by both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

The Return of Henry Kissinger

Dr. Doctorow suggests that Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon’s former National Security Adviser who is now in Russia ostensibly to watch the World Cup, may be playing a crucial go-between role in setting up the summit.

One additional clue is that Henry Kissinger is said to be in Moscow right now, and Henry has been an adviser to Trump on policy to Russia ever since the 2016 campaign. He has been the voice urging an accommodation with Russia for a variety of geopolitical strategic reasons.

To which I would add that Henry Kissinger is not only known to be an adviser to Donald Trump; he is also known to have good contacts with senior officials in Moscow including Sergey Ivanov, Vladimir Putin’s former Chief of Staff, who continues to be a member of Russia’s Security Council (Russia’s top policy making body) and who has in the past spoken of Kissinger in effusive terms.

A get to know you summit; not a detailed negotiation

As to what a summit between Trump and Putin might look like, Dr. Doctorow suggests that the Kim-Trump summit may provide a possible precedent.

The Kim-Trump summit took place with only minimal preparation and produced only a bland one page statement of intent.  However it has nonetheless managed to transform the international atmosphere.  Dr. Doctorow suggests a Trump-Putin summit would be similar

All accounts of the President’s decision to seek a meeting with Putin in July indicate that he is doing this over the objections of every one of his advisers.  Put another way, he would not appear to have many resources at hand at the moment for a solid preparation of the planned summit.

Normally, the Russians would not accept a meeting at the top without such preparation. However, in light of what just happened in the Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, which also had close to no preparation and ended in a one-page, 4-point statement of intentions which was swallowed by the American establishment and media upon Trump’s return home, the Kremlin may well have decided that this is the only way forward with an American President under siege from his own administration not to mention the federal bureaucracy.

I can envision a Letter of Intent signed by Trump and Putin in Vienna that has three points. Two are the points sketched above. The third could be a quite unexceptional statement on Ukraine that would conceal a significant change in US policy given in verbal assurances that would change the dynamics in US-Russian relations. Namely the sides could agree to take measures to ensure that both Kiev and the breakaway republics begin at once to honor the Minsk Accords.  Behind this anodyne formula would be a US commitment to force the hand of Poroshenko or to have him removed and replaced by someone who will do what is necessary to achieve a political settlement with Donbass. In return, the Russians would ensure quick deployment of a UN or other reputable peace keeping force in the Donbass at the lines of separation of forces and at the Russian Ukrainian border.

The Letter of Intent would be a start, would give a new direction to the bilateral relations and would open the way to creation of working groups and restoration of lines of communication that Barack Obama foolishly severed following the tainted advice of his Neocon staff at the State Department.

The other three items which Dr. Doctorow envisages might be in the summit communique other than Ukraine relate to arms control and Syria.

On the subject of Syria Dr. Doctorow envisages an agreement along these lines

There have been rumors that the United States is seeking a de facto if not de jure partition of Syria whereby its control over the Kurdish territory east of the Euphrates River is recognized by the Russians. The logic for this U.S. interest may well be related more to containing Iran than to depriving the Assad government of territory, population and hydrocarbon resources.  Figuratively the American zone would be a bulwark against Iranian infiltration of Syria and Iran’s enjoying unchallenged military access to the Israeli border.  Considering the obvious understandings between Netanyahu and Putin over Iranian operations on Syrian soil, it is quite possible that Russia would agree to the US proposal as part of a bigger negotiation over improving bilateral relations.

On the subject of arms control, Dr. Doctorow puts it this way

Restarting arms control negotiations should take in more than propping up existing agreements that are either coming to term or are being systematically violated (agreement on short to intermediate range missiles). From Trump’s remarks on the new arms race, it would be entirely logical for him now to accept Vladimir Putin’s invitation to discuss the new technology strategic weapons systems such as Russia is now rolling out, as well as cyber warfare. They would also reopen talks on the US missile defense installations on land in Poland and Romania and at sea off the Russian coasts which gave rise to Russia’s development of what are called invincible offensive systems in response.

Is any of this likely to be true?  Is a Trump-Putin summit of the sort envisaged by Dr. Doctorow really in the works?

Urgent need for a Trump-Putin summit

The first thing to say about such a summit is that it is sorely needed and that Trump and Putin should not be deterred from holding it simply because there has been only minimal preparation for it.

As a result of the phoney Russiagate scandal, whose absurdity grows by the day, we have a ridiculous situation where the two men who command the world’s two most powerful militaries can each meet one to one with every other world leader – including it turns out North Korea’s Kim Jong-un – but not apparently with each other.  The sooner this ridiculous and dangerous situation is ended the better.

Moreover, as Dr. Doctorow rightly says, such a summit meeting between Trump and Putin has a value that goes far beyond anything that the two men concretely agree with each other.

There mere fact that the leaders of the United States and Russia are finally talking to each other will transform the international atmosphere, and will hopefully bring to an end the climate of tension which has existed in the international system since the Western sponsored Maidan coup in Ukraine in February 2014.

As Dr. Doctorow also rightly says, it is actually better in this situation if Trump and Putin do not agree to anything specific with each other since in the present atmosphere anything they did agree with each other would almost certainly be misrepresented in the US by Donald Trump’s opponents as a betrayal.

Above all the subject of sanctions – as Dr. Doctorow rightly says – should certainly not be discussed, and no agreement to lift them should be reached.

Sanctions

However that does not mean that with respect to the sanctions a summit between the US and Russian Presidents would not be important.  The mere fact that the Presidents of the US and Russia were meeting would make the unrolling of further sanctions against Russia look increasingly unlikely.

Whilst the ugly blowback of the recent US sanctions against the Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska argues against further strong sanctions being imposed against Russia, such new sanctions as are from time to time announced do nonetheless have something of the quality of a sort of guerrilla campaign against Russia. For the Russians that is distracting, and as they focus increasingly on upgrading their economy they could well do without it.

Moreover a signal from the US – which a Trump-Putin summit would itself be – that further US sanctions against Russia are off the table would almost certainly be all the encouragement many international investors and businesspeople would need in order for them to start investing in Russia in a big way.

With Russian costs and assets now extremely cheap, and with the macroeconomic environment in Russia extremely stable and business friendly, the fear of further sanctions against Russia is now arguably the one thing which is discouraging international investors and businesspeople from piling into a Russia.  Here is how the Financial Times – normally a harsh critic of Russia – puts it

….the rouble has stabilised while investors have marked down the currencies of Argentina, Turkey, Brazil and other emerging market countries in the face of a resurgent dollar and rising Treasury yields. Because while they run large current account deficits, which need financing from capital flows, Russia runs a trade surplus.

Compared with other parts of emerging markets, “Russia is in a relatively comfortable position”, says Piotr Matys, EM strategist at Rabobank.

While a number of EM central banks have raised interest rates to counter the impact of the stronger dollar on their economies, the Central Bank of Russia is weighing a rate cut. And although investors have doubts about the credibility of some EM policymakers, they like CBR governor Elvira Nabiullina for bringing discipline and a consistent communication strategy to the central bank.

Inflation was raging at 15 per cent three years ago, but at 2.4 per cent is now below the CBR target of 4 per cent.

April’s sanctions prompted JPMorgan analysts to close long positions in the rouble, but they are now reintroducing them.

Nafez Zouk, macro strategist at Oxford Economics, says pressure on the rouble is “softening out given that the perception of geopolitical risks has faded”, and reckons the currency is undervalued on the basis of real exchange rate behaviour.

Russia may attract opprobrium on the world stage, but investors don’t mind holding their nose when opportunities arise.

Whilst a softening of the sanctions pressure will therefore almost certainly not be on the agenda of any summit between Trump and Putin, it would nonetheless be a consequence of it and would be an actual material benefit Russia would gain from a summit.

What of the US however, what might the US and Donald Trump gain from a summit with Vladimir Putin now?

Re-starting arms control

The answer to that has been provided by Dr. Gilbert Doctorow

Restarting arms control negotiations should take in more than propping up existing agreements that are either coming to term or are being systematically violated (agreement on short to intermediate range missiles). From Trump’s remarks on the new arms race, it would be entirely logical for him now to accept Vladimir Putin’s invitation to discuss the new technology strategic weapons systems such as Russia is now rolling out, as well as cyber warfare. They would also reopen talks on the US missile defense installations on land in Poland and Romania and at sea off the Russian coasts which gave rise to Russia’s development of what are called invincible offensive systems in response.

As my colleague Alex Christoforou and I have recently discussed in a video, Russia’s success in developing hypersonic missile technology has fundamentally changed the strategic military balance between the US and Russia.

Moreover this is happening at a time when the US’s Nuclear Posture Review was already making clear the US military’s growing dismay about the way the international military balance is shifting against the US.  Here is some of what I have previously said about the US Nuclear Posture Review in a previous article for The Duran

…..today – as was never the case during the Cold War – the aggregate economic, technological and especially industrial and raw material resources of Russia and China are greater than those of the US, calling into question the US’s long term ability to sustain an arms race which it insists on conducting simultaneously against both of them.

Already there is a marked build up of Russian conventional forces in eastern Europe, probably outmatching the size and power of the conventional forces the US currently has in Europe, whilst the Chinese aircraft carrier programme threatens US military dominance of the Pacific for the first time since the end of the Second World War.

At present the US still has the military forces to take on both the Russian army in Europe and the Chinese navy in the Pacific simultaneously.

However before long that will become impossible, at which point the US will find itself not only disastrously over-extended but facing a military commitments’ crisis….

The US Nuclear Posture Review is in fact a profoundly pessimistic document, more so than any other foreign policy or defence document the US government has published which I have read since the end of the Cold War.

Not only does it effectively admit what is now undeniable – that with the return of Great Power competition the ‘unipolar moment’ has passed – but it barely conceals its dismay that the US is once again locked into something which following the end of the Cold War it assumed it would never have to face again: a nuclear arms race…..

Indeed it is easy to see how the US’s overall military position is rapidly becoming worse than it was during the Cold War.

The Cold War was essentially a dual between two nuclear superpowers – the US and the USSR – which was fought out in a limited geographical area – north west Europe and the north Atlantic.

By contrast the challenges the US is now facing are becoming truly global: against Russia in Europe, against China in the Pacific, and potentially against North Korea and Iran in the Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East.

Moreover, despite their differences there is a growing trend for three of these Powers – Russia, China and Iran – to work together with each other, with Russia and China de facto allies against the US, and Iran gradually becoming so.

It is only a question of time before the US finds that it does not have the conventional military forces to confront all these challenges simultaneously……

Dr. Doctorow claims that Henry Kissinger’s original reason for pressing Donald Trump to repair relations with Russia was precisely because of his alarm about the deterioration in the US’s global position caused by the US’s careless undoing of his 1970s diplomatic achievement of setting China and Russia off against each other

I have noted before that Kissinger’s advice to Trump during the electoral campaign to reach an accommodation with Moscow was aimed at decoupling the budding Russia-China strategic partnership that has undone all that Nixon and Kissinger achieved in the 1970s.  I have also noted that Putin rejected this conceptualization of the path to normalized relations with the US when Trump’s emissaries put it to him early in the spring of 2017. Putin is very loyal to his friends and would never turn on Chinese President Xi for the sake of an invitation to the White House. After that setback, Kissinger appeared to have disappeared from the Trump’s entourage.

In light of this the further deterioration of the US’s strategic military position highlighted by the Nuclear Posture Review and confirmed by the new generation of Russian hypersonic weapons unveiled in Putin’s March State of the Union Address  can only have given in Kissinger’s mind added urgency to the US’s need for a new arms limitation arrangement with Russia.

A ‘geostrategic ceasefire’?

This after all is the course I proposed in my discussion of the Nuclear Posture Review, and it is overwhelmingly likely that Kissinger – the nearest thing the US has to a foreign policy realist – shares it

In a rational world that ought to drive the US towards seeking some sort of rapprochement with either Russia or China or preferably with both of them.

Both countries are still overwhelmingly focused on their internal economic development, and for that reason they would probably be willing to come to some sort of ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ arrangement with the US if it were offered to them.

The brief detente era between the US and the USSR of the early 1970s offers a possible precedent, though given subsequent US behaviour the US now faces a massive trust deficit which it will struggle to overcome.

However that remains the rational approach for the US to be taking, and in my opinion if it took it, and committed itself to it seriously, it would probably despite all the trust issues achieve success given the overriding interest of both Russia and China in a peaceful and stable world situation at this time.  Certainly the view expressed in the Review that Russia and China are ‘revisionist’ powers is for the time being at least wrong.

If this is indeed the direction things are taking then it is completely unsurprising that Henry Kissinger – the individual most associated with the previous ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ between the US and Russia of the 1970s – is at the forefront negotiating it.

That ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ after all was also the product of an earlier US over-commitment crisis, with the US struggling to balance the competing demands of its strategic arms race with the USSR and the war in Vietnam.

Nixon and Kissinger responded to the 1970s US over-commitment crisis by coming to arms limitation agreements with the Soviets whilst simultaneously reaching out to China and scaling down the war in Vietnam.

It is just possible that Donald Trump on Kissinger’s advice is feeling his way to doing something similar now, and that some of his recent moves eg. the summit with Kim Jong-un and the talk of a summit with Putin now are the outward indications of it.

That would make sense of some of Donald Trump’s recent talk about Russia, which Dr. Doctorow describes in this way

Evidence of Kissinger’s return to favor came as recently as a week ago when Trump reportedly said behind closed doors at the G-7 meeting that Crimea is rightfully Russia’s.  That is half of the new equation for normalization of relations now being attributed to Kissinger by hearsay:  the other side of the equation being that in return Russia would withdraw its support to the rebellion in Donbass against the Ukrainian authorities.

Given the scale of the US’s pending over-commitment crisis, such a policy aiming at a ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ with Russia might just possibly if it was explained properly even in time gain a measure of support in Washington.  Here is what Dr. Doctorow has to say about that

Such a one-page Letter of Intent could be sold to a skeptical or even hostile Congress if arms control heads the list.  The Open Letter to Rex Tillerson by four US Senators, 3 Democrats and 1 Independent (Bernie Sanders) in early March urging immediate arms control talks showed that Vladimir Putin’s speech of 1 March on how Russia has restored full nuclear parity with the United States could break through the otherwise blind partisanship on Capitol Hill when questions of national survival are on the table. (See http://usforeignpolicy.blogs.lalibre.be/archive/2018/03/10/gang-of-four-senators-call-for-tillerson-to-enter-into-arms-1164058.html )

However it is important to stress that what looks to be on the agenda at least for the moment is a ‘geostrategic ceasefire’, not a full scale rapprochement between the US and Russia.

The US and Russia would remain adversaries.  However sanctions pressure on Russia would ease, attracting external investors to Russia, whilst the Russians would be given time and space to give all their attention to their economy without being distracted by the constant pressure on them of the US.  The US for its part would be under less pressure to engage in an arms race with Russia and China which it now lacks the resources to win.

Donald Trump himself has at times gone further and has spoken of actual friendship between the US and Russia.  That is not however on the agenda in the foreseeable future.

What are the prospects of success?

No retreat by Russia on Ukraine, Crimea or Donbass

Firstly Dr. Doctorow is certainly right when he says that any idea of Russia abandoning the two People’s Republics of the Donbass to their fate in return for a ‘geopolitical ceasefire’ with the US can be firmly ruled out

To abandon Donbass to the not so tender mercy of Ukrainian nationalists and revanchists would be political suicide for Putin given the strength of feeling on the subject among his supporters

I would add that the Russians have also categorically ruled out the possibility of a peacekeeping force being deployed to the Donbass to which Dr. Doctorow gives more credence.  Here is what Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently had to say about that

The topic of the UN peacekeeping mission in Donbass was discussed at the meeting of foreign ministers of the Normandy Four participants [Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France], Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday.

“Yes, UN peacekeepers were discussed,” the Russian minister said. “The Russian position is crystal clear. We have a proposal introduced last September to the UN Security Council and aimed at providing UN security for observers working through OSCE,” Lavrov said.

At the same time, Ukraine continues insisting on the US variant of the UN mission in Donbass, which ruins Minsk Agreements completely, Lavrov noted.

“We explained that ideas put forward by US and Ukrainian representatives to convert this peacekeeping mission into a sort of military-political commandant’s headquarters to take control over the whole territory of proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk Republics and which will decide on its own, who will be elected and in what way, completely ruins Minsk Agreements,” the Russian minister said.

“It seems to me that the French and the German understand our logic,” he added.

Given the total lack of trust the Russians have in any peacekeeping force proposed by Ukraine and the Western powers, and given that the supporters of this proposal for a peacekeeping force make no secret that it is their intention to use it as a means to return the Donbass to Kiev’s control, I do not see the Russians ever agreeing to it.

Conversely, I don’t see Trump – as Dr. Doctorow suggests – ever agreeing to Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s removal to please Putin and I don’t see Putin requesting it; nor do I see Trump agreeing to increase pressure on Ukraine in order to get Ukraine to implement the Minsk Process, and I don’t see Putin requesting it from him either.

I suspect that the most one can hope for coming out of a Trump-Putin summit on the subject of Ukraine would be a public recommitment by the US and Russia to the Minsk Process – as Dr. Doctorow suggests – together with a private understanding between Trump and Putin to put the issues of Crimea and Ukraine to one side.

Frankly I don’t think Trump cares about either Crimea or Ukraine, and I suspect that he would be only too happy to leave them to their own devices if he thought that that would be the way to get Putin to come to some sort of understanding with him each on issues like arms control which he really cares about.

As for Putin, I think that would be almost the optimal position for him, leaving Ukraine in effect adrift.

A winding down of the conflict in Syria

As for Syria, again I strongly doubt that the Russians would ever agree to even an informal partition of Syria along the lines Dr. Doctorow suggests.

Far more likely is that Putin will pass on to Trump assurances the Russians appear to have been given by the Iranian and Syrian leaders that the Iranian presence in Syria is connected to the ongoing conflict in Syria and will be significantly scaled down once the Syrian conflict ends.

Unlike Crimea and Ukraine Iran’s role in Syria is something Trump does care about, but again I suspect he would probably accept assurances of this sort given him by Putin if he were to see in them the way forward to an agreement with Putin on even more pressing issues such as arms control.

There is no longer any possibility of regime change in Syria.  From Donald Trump’s point of view an implicit assurance that after the Syrian government’s final victory the Iranian presence in Syria will be scaled down is probably a more attractive option than maintaining a US military presence in Syria indefinitely.

Russian media discusses the summit

The basis of an understanding between Trump and Putin is therefore there, and as Dr. Doctorow says there are now straws in the wind which suggest that the two men may be working towards a summit as they feel their way towards that understanding.

Indeed, even as I have been writing this article, Russia’s official TASS news agency has published a summary of an article in the Russian newspaper Kommersant which also discusses the rumours that a summit may be pending.

Russian and US Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are reportedly gearing up for a summit in July. Numerous media leaks about the two leaders’ meeting, which is expected to be held in one of the European capitals, and information provided by Kommersant’s sources, indicate that preparations for it are underway. However, the paper’s interlocutors warned many White House officials are opposed to the idea, arguing that for Trump the proposed meeting will only make sense in the event of a breakthrough agreement on at least one of the key issues on the Russian-US agenda.

This has been confirmed by former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and currently Director of the Center for Political Studies Andrei Fyodorov who cited his own US diplomatic sources.

Unsurprisingly the Kommersant article identifies Donald Trump’s perennially hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton as the primary opponent of the idea for the summit.

However, interestingly enough, Bolton’s opposition to the summit appears to be based not on an objection to a summit with Putin in principle, but rather to his concern that it might be difficult to sell the idea of such a summit to an implacably hostile US political establishment now

“Among the opponents of the July summit plans is National Security Adviser John Bolton. Bolton known for his critical attitude towards Russia insists that for Donald Trump such a meeting would only make sense if he could take credit for it, similarly to the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore,” Fyodorov explained. “At the moment, the White House is not certain Trump could present his summit with Vladimir Putin to his opponents as a foreign policy victory in the run-up to the November elections to the US Congress. For example, an agreement to revive the nuclear disarmament negotiation process and maintain strategic stability could be such a victory.”

Having said this, If it is merely questions of presentation that are holding the summit back, then it is likely to happen sooner or later as Donald Trump’s political position in the US grows steadily stronger.  Another Russian analyst quoted by Kommersant explains it correctly in this way

According to Yuri Rogulev, Director of the Franklin Roosevelt US Policy Studies Center at Moscow State University, “Trump shows consistency in fulfilling his election pledges, although he is not ready yet to fully iron out relations with Russia.” “As the alleged ‘Russian meddling’ probe is running out of steam, Trump is trying to achieve a reset in relations with Moscow. His remarks about making Russia a member of the global powers’ club again and turning the G7 into G8 was yet another reminder,” the expert stressed.

A return to Trump’s original ideas about Russia?

Shortly before Donald Trump was inaugurated President of the United States, but after his election as President, he gave an interview to The Times of London in which he spelled out his foreign policy ideas.

In that article he first floated the idea of trading sanctions on Russia for an arms control agreement

They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia.  For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. But Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit.

At the time this suggestion was made it provoked widespread dismay in Washington and amongst the US’s European allies as it was seen – correctly – as in effect throwing Ukraine under a bus.

However it appears to correspond with the direction in which Trump – possibly on Henry Kissinger’s advice – is currently travelling.

Whether Trump will be able to follow it, and what the ultimate destination will be if he does, remains to be seen.

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