Is Russia becoming the Free Trade forum for the Universe? – By Jim W. Dean, Managing Editor (VT)

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Macron’s St. Petersburg mission: Keep Russia in the European family

…from Russia Today, Moscow

The IMF’s Christine Lagarde was there

[ Editor’s Note: Some high stakes geopolitical poker has been going on at the Saint Petersburg Forum, where once again Putin is holding the stage as ground zero for free trade and a multi-polar world.

France and Germany are on stage letting the US know they have political and economic options if the US puts the squeeze on via tariffs or backing out of international agreements, where the US seems to be after the gold medal for that category.

The forum moderator was not making a cheap joke with his comment that one of Trump’s unique gifts was “bringing people together”, a left-handed way of really saying that Trump is pushing former US allies into closer relations with others because they see themselves being targeted by Donald and the NeoCons. 

Putin came up with the elephant in the living room by asking how one deals with an international partner who assumes that all past international agreements are up for renegotiation after every US national election.

No one in the US political arena in an official government position has shown any concern about the long term consequences of fickleness. One can hardly call it leadership. It is the kind of thing you would expect from Deep State operatives. Rules are for the “other people” to follow, but not them, and of course not for Israelis. I fear this all will get worse before it gets better… Jim W. Dean ]

 

Nobody “does Putin” like Putin … never hyping, keeping people guessing, and hiding his objective


– First published … May 26, 2018 –

SAINT PETERSBURG – The top table at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) hosted leaders responsible for around 30 percent of global GDP. And quite a line-up it was: Macron and Vladimir Putin, alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and IMF supremo Christine Lagarde.

Indeed, there was so much collective power gathered at Friday event that Bloomberg’s John Micklethwait, who was serving as moderator, quipped how it was the result of Donald Trump’s unique ability to bring people together. However, while humorous, this was an America-centric take that missed the bigger picture.

What was really happening in St. Petersburg was a sort of tug of war, where Russians flirted with East and West as they continue to ponder on which side their bread will be buttered in the future. While Washington and its sidekicks in London don’t seem overly perturbed by Russia’s drift to Asia, France and Germany are alarmed, and representatives from both countries continuously referenced the issue at the SPIEF.

And then Macron made it clear where he stood. “Russia is an inalienable part of Europe… mistakes have been made in the past… we must work to remove our divisions on many issues,” he said.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had earlier warmed up to the same theme: highlighting how an energy partnership with Russia was in Europe’s vital interest. He also mocked US attempts to kibosh the proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline, saying he wouldn’t currently look to Washington for “examples of high governance.”

Russian analysts present this week echoed Schroeder’s assertion that the Americans are wielding sanctions for business advantage. And Putin himself warned how protectionist measures could eventually lead to a devastating global crisis.

“The system of multilateral cooperation, which took years to build, is no longer allowed to evolve. It is being broken in a very crude way. Breaking the rules is becoming the new rule,” the Russian president remarked.

Also fascinating was how discourse at the SPIEF differed from the isolationist rhetoric prevalent in London and Washington these days. Putin expressed support for free trade and investment, as well as openness to Chinese companies operating in Russia and their people moving here in tandem.

Indeed, one Italian delegate remarked how the world had been turned on its head: “Thatcher and Reagan used to be the ones pushing these agendas, who would have imagined 30 years ago, Moscow and Beijing standing up for capitalist globalization?”

While Wang and Abe spoke of mutually respectful relations honed over many years, Macron was in a thoroughly different position. But the young French leader was keen to play the humble guest: beginning his speech with tributes to those in St. Petersburg who had died in the Second World War, before making a lengthy reference to Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace.

Nevertheless, politics caught up to Macron when he praised French business for staying in Russia despite “tough times.” Because Russians present were quick to note how Paris was one of the primary drivers behind the Western sanctions that have hurt the Russian economy.

On the ground, the atmosphere was friendly. And the French descended in numbers, with leading companies from Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy to oil major Total investing in lavish stands.

“You look at Russian culture and it’s all European: from Pushkin to Tolstoy and Rachmaninoff to Tchaikovsky. Despite the geography, this is not an Asian country, in any way,” an exhibitor from Lyon noted.

Yet the Russians are keeping their options open. Putin pointed out that, beyond the bluster, French engagement in Russia isn’t as substantial as many might believe.

“Finland’s Fortum invested €6 billion in Russia, while the whole of France invested €15 billion,” he pointedly told Macron, who had earlier said that France desired to become the largest direct investor in Russia.

Putin outlined why this target was ambitious: “trade with Europe was worth $450 billion once, now it has fallen by half. With China, trade is going to reach $100 billion soon.” That said, despite these occasional reality checks, “Vladimir” and “Emmanuel” seemed to be hitting it off.

Russian business delegates wanted their officials to play all sides.

“Russia should be friends with everyone. Why should we choose?” Alina Ustinova from Rostov Oblast noted. “We are mostly European, but a bit Asian too and we must trade with all comers. Even the Americans are welcome, when they finally see sense.”

“I don’t see anything wrong with dancing with the French on Friday night and the Chinese on Saturday; perhaps we could even manage a Wednesday for Trump,” she teased.

Bryan MacDonald for RT

Israel’s high court blesses killing and maiming of Gaza protesters – By Maureen Clare-Murphy Rights and Accountability (Electronic Intifada)

The backs of two standing youth are seen in foreground of photo with Israeli military installation behind barbed wire and fencing in background
Israeli forces aim towards Palestinian protesters east of Gaza City on 25 May.

Atia Darwish APA images

Israel’s high court rejected two petitions from human rights groups challenging the military’s open-fire regulations this week as several more Palestinians died from wounds sustained during Gaza’s ongoing Great March of Return protests.

It was the second ruling made by the court on Thursday rubber-stamping war crimes.

The high court ruling may be viewed by the International Criminal Court as an indication that Israel’s judicial authorities are unwilling to carry out genuine proceedings concerning crimes against Palestinian civilians.

Between 19 and 25 May, Gaza’s health ministry announced the deaths of seven Palestinians from injuries inflicted during protests along the eastern perimeter of the territory beginning 30 March.

The deceased were identified as Hussein Salem Abu Oweida, 41, Ahmad al-Abed Abu Samra, 21, Muhammad Mazen Alayan, 20, Muin Abd al-Hamid al-Saee, 58, Muhannad Abu Tahoun, 21, Ahmad Qatoush, 23 and Yasir Sami Saad al-Din Habib, 24.

Also this week a 15-year-old in the occupied West Bank, Oday Akram Abu Khalil, died from wounds sustained when he was shot in the stomach by Israeli forces during protests on 15 May, the annual commemoration of the 1948 Nakba or catastrophe.

More than 115 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip since 30 March, the vast majority of them during Great March of Return protests – including 14 children, two journalists and a paramedic.

Some 3,600 people were injured by live fire during the protests.

A lightly wounded soldier was the only reported Israeli casualty resulting from the protests in Gaza.

Court sides with state – again

The Israeli high court ruled in favor of the state’s argument that protesters constituted a danger to Israeli soldiers and civilians, thus justifying the use of lethal force.

The judges sided with the government’s contention that the protests take place in the context of a long-running armed conflict between Israel and Hamas. The state argues that the legal framework that regulates the use of fire during the protests is international humanitarian law, or the laws of war.

Human rights groups say that irrespective of the political affiliation of any of the organizers or participants, the demonstrations along Gaza’s eastern perimeter are a civilian matter of law enforcement governed by the framework of international human rights law, which allows for the use of deadly force only to stop an imminent lethal threat.

“Some of the rioters have tried to trample or break through the border fence, creating a clear and present danger that terrorists will penetrate into the state’s territory, and this is happening in areas near towns on the Israeli side,” wrote Hanan Melcer, one of the three judges who reviewed the petitions.

“Among the rioters were some who threw rocks and fire bombs at Israeli troops. Therefore, it seems that gunfire was employed to achieve a legal purpose – defending citizens of the state and Israeli soldiers,” Melcer added.

The court ruling gives the military “a green light to its continued use of snipers and live fire against Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip,” stated Al Mezan and Adalah, two of the groups that had petitioned the court.

The two groups stated that the court had “refused to watch video clips documenting Israeli shootings of demonstrators and, rather than actually examining the case, fully accepted the claims presented to it by the state.”

Al Mezan and Adalah published a video montage of such clips:

“The extreme nature of the ruling is also highlighted by the striking absence of any mention of the casualty figures that had been presented to the court,” the human rights groups added.

The Israeli high court said it could not move forward with an inquiry into the military’s rules of engagement because petitioning organizations rejected a request by the state to present the judges secret intelligence without the petitioners being allowed to review it.

“We have no concrete information about the identity of the key activists and inciters, the nature of their acts, their organizational affiliation, their involvement in terrorist activity or other forbidden hostile activity, or whether and in what manner they constituted a clear and present danger,” Melcer stated.

The justices accepted the state’s description of the Gaza protests as “violent disturbances” which were “organized, coordinated and directed by Hamas, which is a terrorist organization in a state of armed conflict with Israel.”

No imminent threat

Adalah and Al Mezan stated that the court ruling “contradicts the conclusions and preliminary results of international human rights organizations and United Nations bodies documenting and evaluating the events in Gaza.”

During a special session of the UN Human Rights Council concerning the events in Gaza last week, the body’s High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein stated:

“Although some of the demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, used slingshots to throw stones, flew burning kites into Israel, and attempted to use wire-cutters against the two fences between Gaza and Israel, these actions alone do not appear to constitute the imminent threat to life or deadly injury which could justify the use of lethal force.”

The Human Rights Council voted to establish a commission of inquiry into mass civilian casualties during the demonstrations with a final report due next March.

Tania Hary, executive director of Gisha, an Israeli human rights group which challenged the open-fire regulations, said she was “disappointed but not surprised to see the court again sanction Israel’s grave violations of human rights and international law in Gaza.”

Young man with a metal splint on his legs lies across a bench as two other youths look on
A Palestinian injured during Great March of Return protests rests outside Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital after being discharged, 19 May.

Mohammed Zaanoun ActiveStills

Israel’s high court has long championed policies towards Palestinians that violate international law.

Gisha has previously faulted Israel’s judiciary, and principally the high court, for accepting “the state’s legal positions almost unquestioningly” regarding the 11-year blockade of Gaza.

Palestinian human rights groups have urged the International Criminal Court to investigate the unprecedented closure of Gaza as a crime of persecution.

The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister made a referral to the International Criminal Court on Tuesday, calling for an immediate investigation into Israeli crimes.

In 2015, the court launched a preliminary examination into potential war crimes in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Preliminary examination by ICC

A preliminary examination is the first step in the court’s process to determine whether to open a formal investigation, which can then lead to indictments and trials.

But while a preliminary examination is carried out whenever a referral is made, it is open-ended and can carry on for years, at the discretion of the chief prosecutor.

In 2006, the prosecutor began a preliminary examination of alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan from 2002.

Eleven years after the examination was opened, and up to 15 years after the commission of the first alleged crimes, the prosecutor concluded that there was enough evidence to proceed with a formal investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Taliban, the Afghan government and the United States.

A preliminary examination into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in Colombia, opened in 2004, is still pending, according to the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.

In her response to the Palestinian complaint, chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda signaled that she does not intend to expedite the process, stating that the “preliminary examination has seen important progress and will continue to follow its normal course.”

Israel’s foreign ministry lashed out against the Palestinian move, calling it an effort “to politicize the court and to derail it from its mandate.”

Over the past several weeks Bensouda’s office has expressed “grave concern” over the situation in Gaza and warned Israeli leaders that they may face prosecution for the killing of unarmed Palestinian protesters.

Earlier this month the press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders formally requested that the International Criminal Court prosecutor investigate the targeting of journalists in Gaza as war crimes.

The Palestinian rights groups Al-Haq, Al Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights stated this week that they “have submitted five comprehensive communications to the prosecutor” as part of the court’s preliminary examination.

“These communications have related to the 2014 offensive against the Gaza Strip, the Israeli-imposed Gaza closure, the use of the Hannibal Directive in Rafah, and crimes committed in the West Bank including Jerusalem,” the groups stated, adding that they “have also provided information on the lack of domestic investigations and prosecutions.”

The prosecutor “has sufficient evidence” to open a full investigation, according to the rights groups.

“The ICC acting as a court of last resort must provide redress to Palestinian victims,” they added.

 

Trump Set to Recognize Israel’s Claim to Occupied Golan Heights and Its Sizable Oil Reserves – By Whitney Webb (MINT PRESS)

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, talks with Israeli soldiers at a military outpost during a visit at Mount Hermon in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overlooking the Israel-Syria border on, Feb. 4, 2015. Baz Ratner | AP

Exporting Golan oil is problematic under international law but, were the U.S. to unilaterally recognize the Golan as Israel’s, that oil could potentially be exported to the U.S. Major U.S. oil investors and lobbyists are therefore pushing hard for Trump to make that move.

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL – While President Trump has reneged on many of his campaign promises — namely, those more populist and non-interventionist in nature — he has undeniably fulfilled those that appealed to his pro-Israel, Zionist supporters. First, Trump announced late last year that his administration would officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This move was then followed by his more recent decision to unilaterally remove the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal, which has long been criticized by Israel.

Both moves were highly controversial and poorly received by many U.S. allies, particularly European nations. They were also both orchestrated and promoted by Trump’s top donor, Zionist billionaire and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who donated $30 million to the Republican Party following Trump’s fulfillment of his two major pro-Israel promises. Adelson was also responsible for the removal of H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser and his replacement with pro-Israel hawk and Adelson confidant John Bolton.

However, recent statements made by Israeli government officials suggest that Trump’s work on behalf of pro-Israel hard-liners is only just beginning. According to an exclusive report published in Reuters, the Israeli government is now pushing the Trump administration to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a portion of Southern Syria that Israel has occupied since 1967 and annexed in 1981.

International law still refuses to recognize the area as part of Israel, even though Israel has sent over 20,000 Jewish settlers to live in the area in order to permanently change the area’s ethnic-demographic composition, turning the native Druze population into a minority. Many of the Druze living in the occupied Golan have long complained of being routinely discriminated against under Israeli rule, and continue to support the Syrian government. In addition, the UN has accused Israel of “forcing citizenship” onto the group in a bid to increase its claim to sovereignty over the region. Israel hopes to add an additional 100,000 Jewish settlers to the area by 2020 in order to strengthen this claim.

Israel’s Intelligence Minister, Israel Katz, told Reuters that Washington’s endorsement of Israel’s control of the Golan Heights was now “topping the agenda” in bilateral diplomatic talks between the two countries, and that such a move would likely come within a matter of months. Katz stated that U.S. recognition of the Golan was being peddled to the Trump administration as a way to further counter Iran, which has now become the guiding force behind the U.S.’ Middle East policy.

Katz asserted:

This is the perfect time to make such a move. The most painful response you can give the Iranians is to recognize Israel’s Golan sovereignty — with an American statement, a presidential proclamation, enshrined [in law].”

Apparently, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been pressing Trump on the issue since February of last year, when Netanyahu first met Trump at the White House. Now, Katz has claimed that those discussions have vastly expanded to involve various levels of the U.S. administration as well as several Congressmen.

“I reckon there is great ripeness and a high probability this will happen […] give or take a few months,” Katz opined.

 

In the Golan Heights, Oil and Water mix perfectly

An old Israeli tank sits in a position in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights near the border with Syria,Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.

Katz may indeed have reason to be confident in an upcoming U.S. move that would recognize the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory. Yet, while Katz has claimed that the motivation for such a move would benefit the U.S.’ new and aggressive Iran policy, it is more likely to benefit an Israeli resource grab, as well as powerful Israeli and American oil interests.

A major factor behind Israel’s initial seizure and continued occupation of the Golan are its fresh water resources. Indeed, the occupied Golan is one of three sources of fresh water to the Israeli state — and is the largest in size and most plentiful, as it comprises the mountain streams that feed Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) and the headwaters of the Jordan river. This water is of major importance to Israel, now in its fourth year of a drought so massive that a NASA study called it the worst drought in the region in nearly 900 years.

Yet, the Golan’s importance to Israel grew immensely after massive oil reserves in the area were discovered in 2015. Following that discovery, the Netanyahu-led government granted exclusive drilling rights to Afek, an Israeli subsidiary of New Jersey-based energy company Genie Energy, Ltd.

As MintPress has previously reported, Genie Energy is backed by powerful interests in the U.S., such as former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, former Vice President and Halliburton executive Dick Cheney, and former CIA Director James Woolsey. Powerful Zionist billionaires, such as Australian-born media mogul Rupert Murdoch and England’s Jacob Rothschild, are also connected to the company.

Afek, Genie Energy’s subsidiary in the Golan, is run by a close friend of Netanyahu and former Knesset member Efraim “Effie” Eitam. Eitam, who also previously served as minister of National Infrastructure as well as Housing and Construction, has repeatedly called to expel all Arabs from Israel, stating in 2006 that “we cannot be with all these Arabs and we cannot give up the land […] we will have to make another decision, to remove the Israeli Arabs from the political system.” Eitam currently lives in Israel’s largest illegal settlement in the occupied Golan.

Genie Energy’s investments in the Golan are likely the strongest factor pushing the U.S. towards the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the occupied territory. Indeed, without a U.S. move recognizing Israel’s control over the region, Genie’s Israeli subsidiary will be unable to sell any oil it extracts from the occupied territory on the international oil market.

However, were the U.S. to unilaterally recognize the Golan as Israel’s, that oil could potentially be exported to the U.S. Given that Genie’s contract to conduct exploratory drilling in the Golan Heights expires this year, its investors are in urgent need of a way to extract and sell the region’s oil – and a U.S. decision on Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights could be just the answer to the company’s problems.

Top Photo | Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, talks with Israeli soldiers at a military outpost during a visit at Mount Hermon in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overlooking the Israel-Syria border on, Feb. 4, 2015. Baz Ratner | AP

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

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

Syrian army starts attacking Turkish military convoy as it illegally enters northern Latakiac – By Leith Aboufadel Al Masdar News (SOTT)

Massive Turkish Army convoy heads to Syrian border

A large Turkish military convoy was seen entering the northern countryside of the Latakia Governorate this afternoon, which is a violation of the Astana agreement.

According to a military report from Latakia, the Turkish military entered the Jabal Al-Akrad region to establish a new observation post.

Turkey is not permitted to enter the Latakia Governorate and they had recently agreed to not enter the province during the Astana Peace Conference.

At the same time, another Turkish military convoy was seen heading towards the southwestern countryside of Idlib, where they are planning to reinforce their observation post in Ishtabraq.

Comment: The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has begun attacking the northern countryside of the Latakia Governorate, following the entrance of the Turkish military into the Jabal Al-Akrad region.

According to a military source in Latakia, the Syrian Army fired several missiles towards the jihadist positions in Jabal Al-Tuffahiyah, scoring several direct hits in the process.

The Turkish military is still present in the Jabal Al-Akrad region, despite the Syrian Army’s latest attack.

 
See Also:

Trump Scraps North Korea Summit to Save Face – What Comes Next? – By Elliott Gabriel (MINT PRESS)

WASHINGTON — United States President Donald Trump’s cancellation of next month’s summit with the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong-un, came as a bit of a surprise and a jarring break from developments such as the release of three U.S. hostages by Pyongyang and the country’s apparent follow-through on a pledge to demolish its nuclear test facility.

In many ways, Trump’s letter cancelling the summit – which was due to begin on June 12 in Singapore – was a defensive reaction to the DPRK’ reminding the White House that it’s not a pushover and that its limited patience was being exhausted by the unceasingly hostile moves, confused stance, and belligerent rhetoric emanating from Washington.

Pyongyang had been crystal-clear that it wouldn’t swallow its pride, unilaterally surrender its nukes, or tolerate the Trump Administration’s cavalier and thoughtless shifting of goal-posts beyond acceptable lines.

The DPRK government has also keenly followed Washington’s moves not only in the Korean peninsula, but also in Libya, Iran, and any “independent [countries] against imperialism like Cuba and Venezuela or those countries disobedient to it.”

According to reports, Trump’s letter canceling talks — allegedly dictated word-for-word — was a largely impulsive move intended to pre-empt an expected withdrawal from the summit by Pyongyang. Multiple White House sources claim Pyongyang’s barbed reactions to administration talking points convinced the U.S. leader — with National Security Advisor John “Strike First” Bolton at his shoulder — to unexpectedly scrap talks and avoid the appearance of losing the initiative in the unfolding U.S.-DPRK diplomatic process.

A senior administration official also told reporters that Pyongyang had “simply stood [the White House] up” when it failed to send diplomats to meet Trump’s deputy chief of staff to Singapore for a meeting ahead of the summit. The move also came on the tail of recent tit-for-tat barbed statements and U.S. demands in recent weeks,

Trump’s pullout was roughly equivalent to the sentiment, “you can’t fire me – I quit!” However, he did importantly leave the door ajar for the eventual continuation of U.S.-DPRK diplomacy.

 

“We won’t beg; we never invited you to begin with”

Pyongyang’s cognizance of Washington’s continued hostility was made clear when DPRK Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-hui issued a statement Wednesday excoriating the “unbridled and impudent remarks” of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who once again – defying all common wisdom – compared the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula to the disarming of Gaddafi-era Libya.

The late Libyan leader gave up his unfinished nuclear program only to be butchered later by NATO-backed fighters. Previous invocations of the precedent by Bolton had infuriated North Korean officials, who described such comments as deliberate provocations that would dampen talks and reverse progress “back to square one.”

Likewise, Pyongyang surely drew conclusions from the fate of the six-party nuclear deal the U.S. had signed with Iran in 2015. Following the signing of the deal, which stipulated the lifting of sanctions on Tehran in exchange for major restrictions on its civilian nuclear program, Washington repeatedly violated the spirit and letter of the accord before scrapping it altogether on spurious grounds.

Choe noted:

I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the U.S. vice-president … it will be proper for him to know even a little bit about the current state of global affairs and to sense to a certain degree the trends in dialogue and the climate of détente.”

Stressing that the DPRK has paid a heavy price — including crippling sanctions, international isolation, and major financial costs — to achieve its “powerful and reliable strength” in the form of its deterrent arsenal, Choe added that the nuclear-equipped state is hardly comparable to a Libya “that had simply installed a few items of equipment and fiddled around with them” prior to surrendering its program and meeting “a tragic fate.” She concluded:

It is to be underlined, however, that in order not to follow in Libya’s footstep, we paid a heavy price to build up our powerful and reliable strength that can defend ourselves and safeguard peace and security in the Korean peninsula and the region.

It is the U.S. who has asked for dialogue, but now it is misleading the public opinion as if we have invited them to sit with us. I only wonder what is the ulterior motive behind its move and what is it the U.S. has calculated to gain from that.

We will neither beg the U.S. for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us … In case the U.S. offends against our goodwill and clings to unlawful and outrageous acts, I will put forward a suggestion to our supreme leadership for reconsidering the DPRK-U.S. summit.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — a regular visitor to Pyongyang in recent months — surely has gained some sympathy for his fired predecessor Rex Tillerson, who was often prevented from doing his job by his unpredictable commander-in-chief. In this case, his own hope to move forward and hold talks was frustrated by Bolton and Pence, who were reading from a “Libya” script that jarred with the motives of the Department of State.

The Deputy Director of North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Institute briefs reporters about the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear test site, in Punggye-ri, May 24, 2018. APTN via AP

Following the receipt of Trump’s letter, the DPRK leadership conveyed its desire to proceed with talks and credited the U.S. leader’s openness to holding them in the first place.

“We have inwardly highly appreciated President Trump for having made the bold decision, which any other US presidents dared not, and made efforts for such a crucial event as the summit,” Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan said in a Friday statement published by Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

We remain unchanged in our goal and will to do everything we could for peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and humankind, and we, broadminded and open all the time, have the willingness to offer the US side time and opportunity.”

Trump’s response was also amiable, acknowledging the clearly tough path that will likely follow:

 

Cracks appear in the Seoul-Washington alliance

The cancellation may renew fears of a return to conflict on the Korean peninsula, as Trump ominously noted in his comment echoing last year’s “fire and fury” threats:

You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God that they will never have to be used.”

South Korea’s presidential Blue House hadn’t been notified in advance of Trump’s announcement and expressed shock to reporters over the cancellation. An official told Reuters that Seoul was “trying to figure out what President Trump exactly meant.”

On Tuesday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in had met with Trump at the White House to urge that Trump persist in the pursuit of peace and not squander such a precious opportunity to engage with Pyongyang.

According to a report in South Korean daily Hankyoreh, published shortly before Trump’s letter went public, Moon had left with the impression that Washington shared Seoul’s desire to ensure that the summit would proceed as planned.

A senior Blue House official told the paper:

President Trump was completely on the same page about trying to arrange a successful summit with North Korea. There was no discussion about whether or not the summit needs to be held.”

Following the letter’s release, Moon called an emergency night-time meeting.

By early Friday, Seoul released a statement noting that Moon’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Pompeo had spoken and agreed to “devote effort to save the dialogue opportunity.”

 

China and DPRK draw closer, enraging Trump

While the talks have been placed on the back burner for now, the DPRK can point to a crucial strategic gain since Kim delivered a New Year’s address unexpectedly announcing an end to nuclear weapons tests and welcoming peace between the North and the South: the renewal of an alliance with neighboring China.

On Tuesday, during a meeting between Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the U.S. leader blasted Chinese President Xi Jinping for allegedly sowing discord between Pyongyang and Washington during the second meeting between Kim and Xi earlier this month.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, second right, meets with Chinese Foreign MinisterWang Yi at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang, North Korea, May 2, 2018. (AP/Jon Chol Jin)

“I will say I’m a little disappointed, because when Kim Jong-un had the meeting with President Xi, in China, the second meeting—the first meeting we knew about—the second meeting—I think there was a little change in attitude from Kim Jong-un,” the former reality-television star said. “So I don’t like that. I don’t like that.”

A day prior, Trump had issued a tweet deriding Chinese authorities for allegedly failing to honor U.N. sanctions imposed on the DPRK.

Trump tweeted:

Beijing’s position is that it desires the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, which includes the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons and the outsized U.S. military presence in South Korea.

China also seeks the relaxation of sanctions on the besieged nation, allowing Chinese companies the ability to assist in the development of the DPRK’s stifled economy.

On Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry said it hoped the two parties maintained patience, a willingness to hear one another out and the shared goal of advancing denuclearization. Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said:

The Chinese government’s position on this issue is consistent and clear. We think, as the two directly involved parties, North Korea and the US holding a summit plays a key role in promoting denuclearization on the peninsula,”

During a meeting earlier this month between Kim and Xi, the Chinese leader hailed

Pyongyang’s “strategic shift towards economic development” and stressed Beijing’s support for “North Korea’s upholding of denuclearization on the peninsula, and … resolving the peninsula issue through dialogue and consultation.”

China’s Xinhua news agency noted that Kim said:

So long as relevant parties eliminate hostile policies and security threats toward North Korea, North Korea has no need for nuclear (capacity), and denuclearization can be realized.”

 

The DPRK wasn’t born last night; it won’t be subdued easily

As the week’s tug-of-war over talks shows, Trump’s idiosyncratic talent lies in his ability to wield bluster, insults and threats to his advantage – at one point ridiculing “Little Rocket Man” Kim and, at another, complimenting the “Honorable” supreme leader.

Such a style keeps the U.S. president’s counterparts constantly on their toes, unaware of what will come next and how they should respond. But such a game has its limits, especially when figures in his own administration try to apply the same methods and confusion results.  

Either way, the incessant demands from the United States and tit-for-tat verbal sparring between Pyongyang and Washington had clearly rendered toxic the mood leading up to the June 12 Trump-Kim summit.

By canceling the summit despite DPRK measures to build goodwill, the U.S. leader hoped to save face while upping the pressure on Pyongyang. The DPRK’s affirmation of a continued desire for dialogue showed that Trump may have played his card well, despite his own officials’ culpability in derailing talks through their constant Libya references.

The talks will likely proceed following a cooling-off period and a bit of time apart from each other. Washington is no doubt aware of the inherent flaws in its uncompromising approach, while Pyongyang has made clear that it’s not a matter of if, but of when and how the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula takes place. Kim has never tired of pointing out how such weapons are key to ensuring the security of the DPRK’s leadership and people.

Yet while Washington may think that it’s justified in its suspicion toward Pyongyang, it will have to go a lot further in ensuring that it should actually be taken seriously as a partner in peace rather than an erratic and belligerent adversary. In short, Trump has to get his own house in order.

After months of public outreach by Pyongyang and various gestures aiming to convince its neighbors of its peaceful intentions, the DPRK has made vast strides in undermining the U.S. case for war.

Regardless of how talks with the U.S. proceed, Pyongyang’s well-earned diplomatic capital may yield high dividends in the form of better relations with Seoul, Beijing, and the rest of the international community.

Top Photo | President Donald Trump speaks during a signing ceremony, on Thursday canceled next month’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, citing the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in a recent statement by the North. 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.

 

 

Press review: Trump cancels North Korean summit and how Gazprom’s anti-trust battle ended – By TASS

May 25, 13:00 UTC+3

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday

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© AP Photo/Evan Vucci

 

Kommersant: Trump cancels meeting with North Korean leader, but door may re-open

US President Donald Trump on Thursday announced his decision to cancel the much-talked-about meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. Trump cited the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in Kim’s latest statements, which convinced him that holding the meeting at this point in time was inadvisable.

Kommersant writes that despite the meeting’s cancellation, Trump signaled that dialogue may be held in the future. This means that after exchanging accusations Washington and Pyongyang may return to pragmatic bargaining on the North Korean nuclear issue.

Experts interviewed by Kommersant note that the real reason behind Trump’s decision was that Pyongyang was not ready to fulfill some of Washington’s conditions rather than Kim’s latest statements. It is noteworthy that the North Korean leader has not made any statements regarding the US over the past weeks – the official position was voiced by North Korea’s Foreign Ministry.

 

“We faced a situation, when there is a big gap between the Trump team’s expectations and what North Korea may really offer. The US demand that the summit in Singapore should result in North Korea’s commitment to eliminating its nuclear program by 2020 doomed the idea of this meeting to failure from the very beginning,” Vasily Kashin, senior research fellow at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Kommersant.

Complete denuclearization may be achieved only through years-long step-by-step talks that build up mutual measures of trust and US readiness to make serious concessions to North Korea, the expert noted.

Alexey Arbatov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said: “During the preparations for the meeting Donald Trump achieved no serious concessions, besides Pyongyang’s pledge to halt nuclear tests, which may be resumed at any moment.”

 

Kommersant: Gazprom’s anti-trust battle with EU ends with no penalty

Russia’s state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom has settled its six-year antitrust case with the European Commission. In the end, Brussels did not impose any fine in exchange for Gazprom’s vow to comply with the European Commission’s terms, Kommersant writes. This may result in gas price cuts for Eastern European markets and also brings Brussels closer to fulfilling its dream on creating a single EU gas market. The case won’t be a disaster for Gazprom, which has successfully adapted to a changing market over the past several years, the paper says.

Market sources said it is difficult to assess the energy giant’s losses because it depends on the oil prices and the gas demand in a particular country. However, these losses are incomparable with the 10 bln euro fine, which Gazprom had faced.

This is a very good outcome for Gazprom because the antitrust investigation had been hanging over its head for several years, Maria Belova from Vygon Consulting told the paper.

Meanwhile, market sources expect that Poland will challenge the European Commission’s decision with a lawsuit. However, a source in a major European gas company believes that Warsaw’s chances for success are slim. So far, Poland’s attempts to challenge the European Commission’s decisions in cases related to Gazprom have failed.

 

Izvestia: EAEU to get its own cryptocurrency by 2020

By 2020, the Eurasian Economic Union’s (EAEU) member-states will have their own cryptocurrency. The Eurasian Economic Commission is working on its creation now, a source close to the executive body told Izvestia. Another source close to the Central Bank, two bankers familiar with the situation and President of the Russian Association of Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Yuri Pripachkin also confirmed this plan. According to the experts, a digital currency will simplify the settlement of accounts between the countries and will make it possible to skirt sanctions.

A name for the single cryptocurrency has not been chosen yet, but a working title has been put forward – the cryptoaltyn (altyn is a historical Russian currency first mentioned in 1375). “The EAEU may get its own cryptocurrency earlier than its single currency,” Pripachkin said.

Forex Club analyst Ivan Marchena said the idea of creating its own currency is vital for the Eurasian Economic Union. Obviously, digital money is capturing the market, he noted. “The first steps on legitimizing cryptocurrencies have been made,” Marchena noted. “Belarus has subsequently recognized them, and Russia is drafting legislation on this matter.”

The EAEU’s cryptocurrency may be considered an international unit of account to carry out cross-border financial transfers across the Eurasian space, head of the rating service of the National Rating Agency Tatyana Kovaleva said. “Its introduction will make it possible to ease up and accelerate settling accounts and reducing most transaction expenses,” she said.

Many countries have announced plans to create national cryptocurrencies, including Sweden, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, India, the United Kingdom and China. However, the world’s first national cryptocurrency, El Petro, was introduced by Venezuela and is pegged to the price of one barrel of oil. The country sought to bypass sanctions and hoped to attract Russian, Chinese and Middle Eastern financing.

 

RBC: Can Macron’s visit to Russia improve ties with Moscow?

On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron began his first two-day visit to Russia with France’s head of state holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During Macron’s first year in office, Paris has been building up relations with Russia on the cultural and economic fronts, though ties in other areas have come to a standstill. However, France shows interest in resetting dialogue, experts told RBC.

RBC has analyzed the progress in fulfilling major programs, which the Russian and French presidents announced a year ago.

The Trianon Dialogue, aimed at intensifying contacts between the Russian and French civil society, was put together in December 2017 and held its first session on urban development at the Gaidar Forum in Moscow in January. Now, a plan for further endeavors has been outlined for 2018 and partly for 2019, Alexander Orlov, Russia’s former Ambassador to France and the Executive Secretary of the Trianon Dialogue, said. The Trianon Dialogue’s official opening will take place when the two presidents meet at SPIEF. Among the many proposals is one to lift visa requirements for young Russian and French citizens under 18. The initiative is a major one, if not the only breakthrough in bilateral ties over the past year, said Arnaud Dubien, Director of the Observo French-Russian analytical center.

According to Dubien, nothing has been done on the key issues of foreign policy between Moscow and Paris, particularly on Ukraine and Syria. However, other countries, rather than Russia and France, should be blamed for the lack of progress, he noted. It is not ruled out that the meeting between the two leaders in St. Petersburg may bring about some progress in dialogue, Dubien said.

The minimum goal is to put the brakes on the deterioration in relations, and the maximum goal is to create a framework for renewing dialogue, the expert said. “There won’t be full normalization and a return to the previous relationship, as many things have happened. But it is important to demonstrate this aspiration given the new challenges,” he stressed.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Iran demands Europe’s carte blanche for missile program

On Friday, Vienna will hold a meeting between senior officials from those states, which still remain parties to the Iranian nuclear deal. Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes that the conference will be held without Washington’s participation. Now Iran demands that its European partners fulfill a number of conditions to salvage the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Tehran expects some EU states will not only keep their investments in its economy, but also won’t criticize its foreign policy and its missile program.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei castigated France, Germany and the UK for silencing the US failure to meet its commitments under the JCPOA. Europe should compensate for Iran’s losses arising from the new US sanctions, he wrote on Twitter. Europe should provide guarantees that it won’t question Iran’s missile program and its regional affairs, he said. The EU states should also guarantee that Iranian oil will be fully sold.

Meanwhile, experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta believe that Tehran’s conditions will be difficult to meet.

“I think that the guarantees of European banks on economic deals are the most difficult issue,” said Stefan Meister, who heads a program for Eastern Europe and Central Asia in the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). “They [European banks] are very frightened by the US sanctions and are afraid of losing access to the US market. Several other demands are also not easy, especially the refusal to review the missile program.”

The expert’s assessment that some European companies will follow the US course was confirmed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s statement made during her two-day visit to China.

Khamenei’s push will hardly encourage international mediators of the nuclear deal from the EU, Yuliya Sveshnikova, Research Associate at the Higher School of Economics, told the paper. According to her, this rhetoric is aimed more at domestic rather than foreign audiences. “The Europeans’ accord, their principal position on the JCPOA is one issue, and the practical possibility to give Tehran guarantees that Iran will get the advantages from the JCPOA even without the US participation, is another issue,” she said.

It is impossible to exert pressure on the businesses, who weigh all pros and cons, while the dependence on the US financial system and the supplies of components for production is very high, the expert explained.

 

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review

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http://tass.com/pressreview/1006264

NEW AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM INSTALLED IN HOMS LEADING TO FAILED ZIONIST ROCKET ATTACK – By Ziad Fadel

الدفاعات الجوية تتصدى لعدوان صاروخي على مطار الضبعة بريف حمص

http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=34.554710&lon=36.781626&z=15&m=b

HOMS: On May 25, 2018 at approximately 7:00 p.m., Syrian Army radar detected several missiles fired from Zionist aircraft flying over the Mediterranean near the Lebanese coastline.  The Syrian and Iranian militaries have been boosting their air defense capabilities substantially since pre-emptive attacks by the Zionist Settler State targeted various positions in which Iranian-backed militias have purportedly been setting up bases. This morning was no exception.

The Zionist attack aimed at new air defense and early warning radar equipment at a base near the village of Al-Dhab’ah (the female hyena-See map) While I do not know how many missiles were fired by the Zionist aircraft, almost all were intercepted and destroyed by a variety of weapons systems including Shilkas.  The missiles which were not destroyed, luckily, fell harmlessly into the desert.

The new air defense equipment came from Iran and will become operational within the next few hours.  This will be a great relief to the brave soldiers and militiamen who had to withstand desperate attacks by crazed Zionist warmongers in a doomed effort to forestall the arrival of the armies which will help the SAA to rid all Palestine of the stench of Zionism.

Some of you might have heard talk recently about Zionist politicians trying to get the U.S. to recognize Zionist ownership of the Golan Heights.  I don’t have to tell you that such recognition would be flat-out violation of international law.

 

 

 

 

 

Only Russia can save Ukraine, Kadyrov tells Poroshenko – By RT

Only Russia can save Ukraine, Kadyrov tells Poroshenko
Soon after facing new sanctions from Kiev, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov stated that this would not alter his brotherly attitude to the Ukrainian people, who can always expect help from Chechens and Russians in times of trouble.

[Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko is slapping sanctions on me, while our ancestors saved thousands of Ukrainians who were forced into the North Caucasus by famine from certain death. Chechens provided shelter, food, clothes, and footwear to countless women, children, and elderly people,” Kadyrov wrote on Telegram Friday.

Not a single refugee was left without shelter or hungry, their descendants live in Chechnya to this day. This is not some remand or claim, this is a reminder to Poroshenko that only the people of the Russian Federation will help Ukrainians when disaster strikes, not Americans and their satellites,” the Chechen leader wrote.

Kadyrov also said he would always treat Ukrainians as brothers and sisters who remain close and dear to Russia in spite of the problems that have arisen in recent years.

His comments come after Ukraine imposed sanctions on 1,750 Russian citizens, including Ramzan Kadyrov, on Thursday.

In late 2017, Kadyrov was put on the US sanctions list for alleged involvement in human rights violations. The Chechen leader said at the time that the situation only made him proud and that the US should search for real human rights abusers at home, “in the White House and the Pentagon.”

Kadyrov insisted he was sanctioned, not because of alleged human rights abuses, but rather due to his relentless, lifelong fight against terrorists, many of whom were “fosterlings of the American special services.”

He also jokingly noted that Washington has no reason to worry because he had not received orders to step on US soil yet.

US hysteria over Chinese military ‘expansion’ shows ‘corporate coup d’état is complete’ – Lee Camp – By RT

US hysteria over Chinese military ‘expansion’ shows ‘corporate coup d’état is complete’ – Lee Camp
Watching Congress clutch their pearls over China’s new – and only – overseas military base is the only proof you need that America’s elected officials are bought and paid for by corporations and arms dealers, says RT’s Lee Camp.

In the latest installment of ‘Redacted Tonight,’ host Camp tore into a recent US House Intelligence Committee hearing on “China’s worldwide military expansion,” which bravely exposed the “growing threat” of China’s ability to project power abroad.

The hours-long hand-wringing was an “open hearing,” or as Camp explained: When “our super shady, super bought-off Congress opens their doors to pretend as if they are open and transparent to the nation.”

Camp was particularly unimpressed by Rep. Adam Schiff’s performance. The California Democrat pointed to China’s new (and only) overseas military base – in Djibouti, Africa – as an example of the growing worldwide Chinese menace.

“We fear for our dwindling military and economic empire in a world that is growing beyond it, so we have to build up the scary specter of China, with their one military base around the world. Sure it’s only one base, but it’s around the world!” Camp commented.

Noting that US defense spending is still five times larger than China’s, and that the US military has hundreds of overseas bases, Camp concluded: “The corporate coup d’état is complete – these stooges in this video that I just showed you, they’re just a show. They’re just a little performance. And they’re not even a very fascinating one, either. Put on a f*cking top hat or something, Adam Schiff.”

Watch the full episode:

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Neocon buffoonery reaches a new level – By The Saker

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Step one: the DPRK destroys its nuclear testing facility

Step two: Trumps cancels his meeting with Kim Jong-un

Step three, just read this masterpiece:

Amazing, no?  The fact that the North Koreans requested the meeting is irrelevant, Trump’s red button is bigger than Kim’s and Kim is invited to lose face by begging for another meeting.

I have to say that I am awed by the sheer lunacy of the Neocons.

I can imagine the reactions in Moscow and Tehran to this kind of buffoonery…

While not very academic, I think that “batshit crazy” is an appropriate description of Trump (or, more accurately, of his Neocon bosses).

Expect my weekly analysis (mostly about Russia and Iran) for tomorrow morning.

Hugs and cheers,

The Saker

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