Joe Quinn on Sputnik: ‘They’re Not Really Fighting Against Russia, But Against Reality Itself’ – By SPUTNIK

putin trump summit

A Russian national has been charged in Washington accused of being an agent of the Russian Federation at the same time as Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin were meeting in Helsinki, a summit that has angered American politicians.

Maria Butina was charged Monday by the US Department of Justice with conspiring to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States, a criminal allegation that may be designed to draw attention away from Monday’s meeting between the US and Russian heads of state.

The charges are not related to the Mueller probe that is examining alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election. She allegedly worked at the direction of a high-level Kremlin official. Sputnik spoke to political commentator Joe Quinn about the fallout from the Putin/Trump summit.

Sputnik: What do you make of the arrest situation in Washington of Maria Butina, the accusations and the motivations behind it?

Joe Quinn: Well this is another nothing-burger, like CNN described the Russian hacking of the US election last year. Given the timing, it’s an attempt to push the supposed ‘reality’ of Russian interference in the US election in support of Trump. The story of this Butina woman are two-a-penny in Western politics. What she’s doing is called lobbying: getting access to politicians to push particular policies.

The accusations that she was working for the Kremlin appears to be baseless – it’s the silly idea that any lobbyist in any country, anyone working to influence politicians in any country, only ever work for foreign governments. That’s obvious nonsense.

There’s probably dozens of American citizens in Russia attempting to garner the same kind of influence in exactly the same way as she has done.

Sputnik: The US president has also come under scrutiny in America following the Helsinki summit, how could this impact the President and Washington’s interactions with Moscow?

Joe Quinn: To say he’s come under scrutiny – or that this summit yesterday has come under scrutiny – is a bit of an understatement! This brief meeting of two hours that he had with Putin yesterday has been met with such a level of screaming and baying at the moon, from the usual suspects, that you’d think we’re back in the heyday of the McCarthy days.

To give you an example, Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted yesterday – in all seriousness – that the football that Putin gave to Trump at the end of their meeting was probably carrying a listening device and should not be taken to the White House! I don’t know what to say to that kind of thing. You just roll your eyes…

I’m sorry to have to say that we can’t really expect the hysteria to diminish. Most of the Western media are now committed to this ridiculous campaign and have internalized the idea that Russia is a threat to the entire globe. Of course, the truth is that this situation has been deliberately provoked by elements of the ‘deep state’ as part of their ongoing war against Russia, who they see as an existential threat to their global power and control. They also seem to be quite happy to have as many people around the world – but particularly in US and Europe – believing complete lies.

Sputnik: The international accusations against Russia are mounting with the US elections, meddling and the Skripal case but with lack of evidence is the Western continuing anti-Russian rhetoric damaging any hope of improving international relations?

Joe Quinn: I don’t think that its damaging any hope – certainly it’s damaging them – but I don’t think it’s damaging any hope. Ultimately I think this campaign that’s been waged is not going to be successful. The problem for them is that history is NOT on their side. They’re not really fighting against Russia but against reality itself. The world has changed radically in the last 20 years – and it’s only just begun. The time is obviously ripe for a new global order based on multi-polarity rather than the sole dominance of a superpower, but the stewards of the empire are VERY reluctant, shall we say, to accept these necessary and inevitable changes, and unfortunately, we have to deal with chaos that they are causing as they try to forestall those changes.

OSCE 45 Years On: Time to Regain Prominence – By Arkady SAVITSKY (Strategic Culture Foundation)

OSCE 45 Years On: Time to Regain Prominence
Arkady SAVITSKY | 09.07.2018 | WORLD / Europe

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is holding its 27th Annual Session on 7-11 July 2018 in Berlin. This month the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe marks its 45-year anniversary. It was established as the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) in July 1973 to be renamed Organization in 1995. The Helsinki Act adopted by the Conference remains the cornerstone of European security. The Russian and US lawmakers used the event for meeting each other on the sidelines before the upcoming Trump-Putin Helsinki summit scheduled for July 16. The Organization provides a forum for discussions and the opportunity should not be missed.

In the heat of the Cold War, the CSCE served as an inclusive, consensus-based platform for constructive dialogue no matter how adverse the weather was. It’s hard to overestimate the important role the 1975 Helsinki Act played in making Europe a safer place.

Since the 1990s, the OSCE has been declared obsolete numerous times but it is still unique and its raison d’être can hardly be questioned. Reviving the Helsinki spirit and restoring confidence that existed those days should be a top priority at the time the attempts to build a single security system in the Euro-Atlantic area have evidently led to nowhere. The common goal of creating a value-based security community from Vancouver to Vladivostok, envisioned in OSCE documents after the end of the Cold War, has never materialized. Today Europe is divided and unstable, balancing on the brink of slipping into anarchy and a new Cold War.

It has turned into a continent where double standards prevail, color revolutions are staged and sanctions wars are raging, while the idea of US exceptionalism is used to justify violations of international law. But sanctions and violations do not help build security architecture.

The ramifications of instability in the MENA region, triggered to large extent by US and NATO military interventions, pose a serious threat to Europe. The crisis in Ukraine, the Nagorno-Karabakh stand-off, the situation in Kosovo and the status of Transnistria remain unsolved problems.

The OSCE has to large extent lost its role as a security forum able to effectively handle problems. This has happened for a range of reasons, including the NATO eastward expansion, the erosion of treaty-based stability and inability to find solutions to regional conflicts.

The treaties concluded within the OSCE framework are either dead or about to take the final breath. The Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) has become a thing of the past. The Open Skies Treaty is facing an uncertain future.

The turbulent times dictate the need for the OSCE’s notable comeback to turn the tide and strengthen European security. In 2018, Italy chairs the OSCE and the country’s new government can play a positive role in making the Organization reappear on the radar and regain its relevance.

Practical steps can be taken. The 2011 Vienna Document on Confidence and Security-Building Measures (CSBMs) could be updated. The discussions on “Steinmeier Initiative” in the area of conventional arms control could be a start of OSCE-brokered process. In 2008, Russia submitted for OSCE consideration the draft Treaty on European Security. It was largely ignored by Western nations and swept under the rug as time dragged by. Probably if the attitude had been different then, Europe would have been a much safer place today. Now the German initiative, which is in essence a repetition of what Moscow offered ten years ago, has been waiting to be put on the OSCE agenda since 2016. Is it the right moment for wasting time instead of starting talks?

The ongoing Structured Dialogue (SD) on security challenges is a good step towards the revival of multilateral security dialogue. The Organization can be used as an effective communication channel for more frequent military-to-military contacts to prevent escalation and enhance predictability and transparency. It is especially important in view of fruitless attempts to make the NATO-Russia Council an effective forum for addressing burning security problems. Finally, the OSCE could initiate a new negotiation process with the aim of having a “Helsinki Act II” document signed.

The OSCE needs reforms. Its decision-making process has proven to be ineffective. All decisions are taken by consensus. With so many members, it’s unrealistic. The most complex and important issues are supposed to be discussed at the level of heads of state. There has been no OSCE summit since 2010. The Organization has no Charter. Russia has proposed to prepare one numerous times but the initiative is left hanging in the air.

Not all is doom and gloom. Far from it. The newly formed Italian government led by PM Giuseppe Conte has the reputation of being able to adopt inventive approaches and see things in a new light. It’s full of desire to contribute into making the OSCE an effective multilateral forum able to enhance European security. Swiss diplomat Thomas Greminger, the new OSCE Secretary General, is resolute to get the Organization back to the days of glory. The 25th OSCE Ministerial Council will be held in Milan on 6 and 7 December 2018. There still time to work on new proposals to make the Organization regain its prominence.

Tags: OSCE

‘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:

How the US, Under Obama, Created Europe’s Refugee Crisis – By Eric ZUESSE (Strategic Culture Foundation)



How the US, Under Obama, Created Europe’s Refugee Crisis

The current US President, Donald Trump, claimed on June 18th, that Germany’s leadership, and the leadership in other EU nations, caused the refugee-crisis that Europe is facing:  

“The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”

The US Government is clearly lying about this. The US Government itself caused this crisis that Europeans are struggling to deal with. Would the crisis even exist, at all, if the US had not invaded and tried to overthrow (and in some instances actually overthrown) the governments in Libya, Syria, and elsewhere — the places from which these refugees are escaping? The US Government, and a few of its allies in Europe (the ones who actually therefore really do share in some of the authentic blame for this crisis) caused this war and government-overthrow, etc., but Germany’s Government wasn’t among them, nor were many of the others in Europe. If the US Government had not led these invasions, probably not even France would have participated in any of them. The US Government, alone, is responsible for having caused these refugees. The US Government itself created this enormous burden to Europe, and yet refuses to accept these refugees that it itself had produced, by its having invaded and bombed to overthrow (among others) Libya’s Government, and then Syria’s Government, and by its aiding Al Qaeda in organizing and leading and arming, jihadists from all over the world to come to Syria to overthrow Syria’s Government and to replace it with one that would be selected by the US regime’s key Middle Eastern ally, the Saud family, who own Saudi Arabia, including its Government, and who are determined to take over Syria. Trump blames Angela Merkel for — in essence — having been an ally of the US regime, a regime of aggression which goes back decades, and which Trump himself now is leading, instead of his ending, and of his restoring democracy to the United States, and, finally, thus, his restoring freedom (from America), and peace, to other nations, in Europe, and elsewhere (such as in Syria, Yemen, etc.). He blames Merkel, not himself and his predecessor — not the people who actually caused these refugees.

Hypocrisy purer than that which Trump there expressed, cannot be imagined, and this hypocrisy comes from Trump now, no longer from Obama, who, in fact, caused the problem.

As the 2016 study, “An Overview of the Middle East Immigrants in the EU: Origin, Status Quo and Challenges” states in its Abstract:

“EU has the most inhabited immigrant population; it has up to a population of 56 million foreign-born people. And due to the perennial war and chaos in the Middle East, the amount of relocated population in the region, especially the number of refugees, ranks the No.1 all over the world. … There are a large number of refugees and asylum seekers heading to EU countries; it can be divided into four stages. Since the Arab Spring, especially after the outbreak of the civil war in Syria in 2011, and the rise of the “Islamic State” in 2013, the whole EU area have experienced the biggest wave of refugees since World War II.”

All of these invasions have been, and are, invasions of countries where the US regime demands regime-change.

In order to understand the deeper source of this problem, one must understand, first, the US regime’s continuing obsession to conquer Russia after its communism and Warsaw Pact military alliance, had ended (click onto that link to see the documentation); and, second, one needs to understand the US regime’s consequent and consistent aim after the supposed end of the Cold War, to take over control of Russia’s allied countries, including not only those within the Soviet Union and its military Warsaw Pact, but also within the Middle East, especially Syria and Iran, and even countries such as Libya, where the leader was nominally Sunni but nonetheless friendly toward Russia. (The link there provides documentation not only of what’s said here, but it also documents that the alliance between the two aristocracies, of the US and of Saudi Arabia, is essential to the US aristocracy’s Middle-Eastern objective; and Israel’s aristocracy serves as an essential agent of the Sauds in this crucial regard, because the Sauds rely heavily upon the Israeli regime to do its lobbying in Washington. In other words: America’s consistent objective is to isolate Russia so as for the US regime to emerge ultimately in a position to take over Russia itself. That’s the deeper source of Europe’s refugee-crisis.)

Back at the start of the promised post-Cold-War period, in 1990, the US regime, under its then-President, George Herbert Walker Bush, privately and repeatedly agreed with the USSR regime, under its then-President Mikhail Gorbachev, to end the Cold War — agreed that NATO would not expand “one inch to the east” — that there would be no expansion of the US military alliance against the USSR (soon to become against Russia alone). The US regime’s promise was that NATO would not take in and add to NATO’s membership, any of the countries that then were either in the USS.R’s military alliance the Warsaw Pact (Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania) or in USSR itself other than Russia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Byelorussia, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan), except for the eastern part of Germany. The US regime simply lied. But the Russian Government followed through on all of its commitments. Russia was now trapped, by Gorbachev’s having trusted liars, whose actual goal turned out to be world-conquest — not peace.

Currently, the membership of NATO includes all of the former Warsaw Pact nations, and now the US regime aims to bring in also to “NATO membership: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹ and Ukraine.” Georgia and Ukraine are the first parts of the former USSR republics — not merely parts of the Warsaw Pact but parts now of the USSR itself — to join the anti-Russian military alliance, if either of them gets allowed in. The very possibility of this happening, goes beyond anything that the naive, trusting, Mikhail Gorbachev, would ever have imagined. He hadn’t the slightest idea of how evil was (and still is) America’s Deep State (that which controls America). But now we all know. History is clear and unambiguous on the matter.

The NATO mouthpiece, Brookings Institution, headlined on 15 November 2001, “NATO Enlargement: Moving Forward; Expanding the Alliance and Completing Europe’s Integration” and pretended that this expansion is being done in order to help Europeans, instead of to conquer Russia.

Ukraine has the longest of all European borders with Russia and so has been America’s top target to seize. But before seizing it, the US had tried in 2008 to turn Georgia against Russia, and the Georgian Mikheil Saakashvili was a key US agent in that effort. Saakashvili subsequently became involved in the violent coup that overthrew Ukraine’s Government in February 2014. Saakashvili organized the Georgian contingent of the snipers that were sent to Ukraine to shoot into the crowds on the Maidan Square and kill both police and demonstrators there, in such a way so that the bullets would seem to have come from the police (Berkut) and/or other forces of Ukraine’s democratically elected Government. (Click on this link to see two of the Georgian snipers casually describing their participation in the coup, and referring tangentially to former Georgian President Saakashvili’s role in it. Here is a more comprehensive video compilation describing and showing the coup itself. As I have pointed out, the testimony of these two Georgian snipers is entirely consistent with what the investigation by the EU’s Foreign Ministry had found out on 26 February 2014 about the snipers, that “they were the same snipers, killing people from both sides” and that these snipers were “from the new coalition government” instead of from the government that was being overthrown — that it was a coup, no ‘revolution’ such as Obama’s people claimed, and Trump’s people now assert.) The US regime has agents in all regions of the former Russia-affiliated bloc — not only in Western Europe.

Obama’s coup to grab Ukraine away from its previous neutrality and to make it immediately a neo-Nazi rabidly anti-Russian country, has destroyed Ukraine — not only from the standpoint of the EU, but (and click on the link if you don’t already know this) from the standpoint of the Ukrainian people themselves. Who wouldn’t want to leave there?

Europe has refugees from the Ukrainian operation too, not only (though mainly) from the Middle Eastern ones.

Europe’s enemy isn’t Russia’s aristocracy, but America’s aristocracy. It’s the billionaires who control America’s international corporations — not the billionaires who control Russia’s international corporations — it is specifically America’s billionaires; it is the people who control the US Government; these, and no Russians at all, are the actual decision-makers, who are behind bringing down Europe. In order for Europe to win, Europeans must know whom their real enemies are. The root of the problem is in the US, Europe’s now fake ‘ally’. Today’s America isn’t the America of the Marshall Plan. The US Government has since been taken over by gangsters. And they want to take over the world. Europe’s refugee-crisis is simply one of the consequences.

In fact, Obama had started, by no later than 2011, to plan these regime-change operations, in Libya, Syria, and Ukraine. But, in any case, none of the regime-change operations that caused the current unprecedented flood of refugees into Europe started because of what Europe’s leaders did (other than their cooperating with the US regime). Today’s American Government is Europe’s enemy, no friend at all, to the peoples of Europe. Trump’s blaming this crisis on Europe’s leaders isn’t just a lie; it is a slanderous one.

And this fact is separate from Trump’s similar slanderous lie against the refugees themselves. On May 8th, Germany’s Die Welt newspaper had headlined “Number of crimes falls to lowest level since 1992” and reported that Germany’s Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, announced the 2017 national crime statistics, and he said, “Germany has become safer,” the safest in the last 30 years. Seehofer happens to be a member of Chancellor Merkel’s Administration who is angling to replace her as Chancellor by appealing to the strong anti-immigrant portion of their own conservative party, but even he had to admit, essentially, that the anti-immigrant slur that Trump subsequently made on June 18th is a bald lie; it’s even the exact opposite of the truth. Trump’s tweeted comment then was a lying slander not only against Merkel and other European leaders, but also against the refugees that the US regime itself had produced. How depraved is that? How depraved is Trump?

The refugee crisis isn’t due to the refugees themselves; and it’s not due to Europe’s leaders; it is due to the almost constantly lying US regime — the people who actually control America’s Government and America’s international corporations.

On June 21st, Manlio Dinucci at Global Research headlined “The Circuit of Death in the ‘Enlarged Mediterranean’” and he opened by saying, “The politico-media projectors, focussed as they are on the migratory flow from South to North across the Mediterranean, are leaving other Mediterranean flows in the dark – those moving from North to South, comprised of military forces and weapons.” But the world’s biggest international seller of weapons is the US, not the EU; so, his placing the main focus on European billionaires was wrong. The main culprits are on Trump’s own side of the Atlantic, and this is what is being ignored, on both sides of the Atlantic. The real problem isn’t across the Mediterranean; it is across the Atlantic. That’s where Europe’s enemy is.

On 7 August 2015, I headlined “The US Is Destroying Europe” and reported that: 

“In Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and other countries at the periphery or edges of Europe, US President Barack Obama has been pursuing a policy of destabilization, and even of bombings and other military assistance, that drives millions of refugees out of those peripheral areas and into Europe, thereby adding fuel to the far-rightwing fires of anti-immigrant rejectionism, and of resultant political destabilization, throughout Europe, not only on its peripheries, but even as far away as in northern Europe.”

It’s continuing under Trump.

European Security Landscape Reshaped with New Alliances Emerging – By Peter KORZUN ( Strategic Cultural Foundation)

European Security Landscape Reshaped with New Alliances Emerging
Peter KORZUN | 23.06.2018 | WORLD / Europe

The bonds between European allies are not as strong today as they used to be. The well-known divisions within the EU are also the divisions within NATO as most European nations belong to both.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire believes that the EU is falling apart because its members cannot find compromises while they urgently need to tackle the migrants’ crisis as well as a whole host of other pressing problems. Some predict the demise of NATO for the same reason – the bloc’s inability to handle the issues of fundamental importance. This is the time of reshaping the Western security landscape. With the giant entities, such as NATO and the EU, facing the threat of partition, new smaller alliances are gradually forming instead.

On June 22, EU tariffs on US goods came into force to make Americans and Europeans opponents rather than friends and allies. Sharing what they call common values does not prevent disputes over fundamental issues and trade battles. We may witness a NATO burial at its Brussels summit on July 11-12 right after the EU’s actual partition at its top-level event on June 28-29.

With Brexit drawing near, the UK is still to carve out a new role for itself in the new security configuration. Its anti-Russia stance is a guide. The relationship with the US will always be special even if there is no chemistry between the leaders. But the dependence on America has its limits and the relationship may go through fluctuations. To be a power pole it needs to diversify the security ties. Forming a new defense pact with the EU is one of foreign policy directions. It will allow London to remain part of European defense deterrent after separation from the alliance’s political and economic structures. With NATO weakened, it’ll play an important role of go-between to link North America and the Old Continent. Its influence would be boosted if it joined a security entity it could lead. Moscow’s “irreconcilable enemies” are the right partners for a start.

On June 21, UK Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary visited Warsaw within the format of annual Quadriga talks. The aim was to strengthen security, defence, and cyber ties with Poland, the unrecognized leader of Eastern Europe, which is on the outs with Brussels striving to hold its own. The text of the final communiqué shows the mission was accomplished. In December 2017, the parties signed the Treaty on Defense and Security Cooperation. At the meeting they said the UK-Poland Defence Action Plan encompassing a range of military areas was being prepared for signature.

The steps to enhance defense cooperation are to be added by joint propaganda efforts to counter Russia. The parties agreed to establish what they call “a strategic communications project to support independent media in countries in Eastern Europe, to ensure a wider range of voices in the media, in order to strengthen resilience against disinformation.”

It’s worth mentioning that the UK stands out refusing to join other EU members in their criticism of Poland’s slide into authoritarianism while it is implementing its judicial reforms. PM Theresa May believes that the constitutional reform is an internal matter. Warsaw can use its burgeoning relationship with London as a bargaining chip in the relationship with Germany. Having left the EU, Great Britain can make a substantial contribution into recognizing the Poland’s status as the leader of Eastern Europe.

The hostility toward Russia is what formally unites them. On June 20, British General Mark Carleton-Smith, the newly appointed head of the British army, issued a warning over Britain threatened by Russia and called on the military to be prepared to “fight and win”. Poland is playing the American card against Russia as well as the EU. The country is to acquire a first strike capability to counter what it believes to be the Russian threat and applies efforts to make the US station substantial forces on its soil. Poland is in the focus of NATO infrastructure efforts. It hosts large-scale exercises preparing forces to conduct offensive operations against Russia. The military activities are closely coordinated with the Baltic States, which are also asking for larger US military presence. NATO has deployed four battalion-sized battle groups to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. The UK is among the nations that comprise the backbone of this force. Roughly 150 British servicemen are stationed in Poland. London and Warsaw join together supporting the “European aspirations” of the Western Balkan states. The UK is hosting the Western Balkans summit in London on July 9 and 10.

It’s normal that countries set up alliances while jockeying for influence and looking for benefits to reap. But it’s also a sign of NATO and the EU teetering on the edge. The emergence of other alliances is looming at the horizon.

In his London speech on June 21, NATO Secretary General said the bonds between Europe and North America are under strain and there’s no guarantee the trans-Atlantic alliance will survive. But the bonds between European allies are also not as strong today as they used to be. The well-known divisions within the EU are also the divisions within NATO as most European nations belong to both. It’s all intertwined. There are groups pursuing their own interests within the EU to give birth to the concept of a “multi-speed Europe”. It’s only natural that alliances within the alliance also emerge inside NATO under the circumstances and it’s a sign of weakness, not strength. This is a trend to partition. Add to it the EU efforts to create a defense deterrent of its own independent from the US. There is each and every reason to believe that many more signs of NATO losing its relevance will come into the open at the much-anticipated July summit.

Photo: The First News

Tags: NATO  France  Poland  UK 

As the G-7 Implodes, SCO Meeting Confirms the New Century of Multipolarity – ByFederico PIERACCINI (STRATEGIC CULTURAL ORGANISATION)

As the G-7 Implodes, SCO Meeting Confirms the New Century of Multipolarity

The historical changes we are witnessing have never been so evident as in the last few days. The G7 summit highlighted the limits of the Atlantic alliance, while the SCO meeting opens up unprecedented possibilities for Eurasian integration.

At the G7 meeting in Canada in recent days, we witnessed unprecedented clashes between Trump and G7 leaders over the imposition of tariffs on trade. We must now conclude that the event has been relegated to irrelevance, as the G7 has heretofore derived its clout from speaking as one voice. Trump even went further, refusing to sign the final draft of the organization’s joint statement after Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau lashed out at Trump’s trade decisions. Trump showed how little he cares for his allies, leaving the summit a day early to arrive early for the meeting with Kim Jong-un in Singapore to make preparations for the long-awaited encounter between the two leaders.

In terms of geopolitical contrasts, it is easy to highlight the differences that have been seen between the G7 meeting and the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), held in China and, for the first time, including India and Pakistan as new members. While Putin and Xi met and exchanged praises and medals to celebrate the Sino-Russian strategic relationship as well as their personal friendship, Merkel and the various leaders of the G7 were in animated discussion with Trump over his “America first” policies hurting EU member states economically.

Returning for a moment to Trump’s escape from the G7 (also to avoid further clashes with his “allies”), it should be remembered that in this shifting puzzle of international relations, Assad was poised to meet with Kim Jong-un right on the eve of the US-DPRK summit. Whether or not the meeting between the leaders of Syria and the DPRK will go ahead, it nevertheless confirms the alliance between Pyongyang and Damascus, underlining how adversaries of the US still try to coordinate and manage between themselves their approaches to Washington’s policies of chaos.

Clearly both Putin and Xi have every interest in seeing Trump and Kim Jong-un reach an agreement. But at the same time, they are well aware of the situation in the Middle East and Iran that risks plunging the whole region into unprecedented chaos. Putin and Xi are clearly trying to manage the chaos emerging from Washington, as are Assad and Kim in their own own way. In this sense, the repeated aid of Russia and Iran to Qatar is part of a Sino-Russo-Iranian strategy to contain the chaos created by Washington, which has even extended to the Gulf states with the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar. In this regard, even Berlin is beginning to be enticed by the opportunities for the European Union beckoning from the east, this temptation made stronger by the reality that the Atlanticist relationship is hurting Europe through the tariffs and penalties imposed on American geopolitical opponents like Iran.

European companies have suffered major economic losses as a result of Trump’s suspension of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with European companies facing US sanctions should they continue to do business with Iran. This is only the latest example of undue pressure being placed on the energy strategy of sovereign countries that are theoretically allied to the US. In the same way, the sanctions placed on the Nord Stream 2 project are further widening the cracks in the Atlantic alliance.

To understand the level of disorder within Europe, the North Atlantic and the Middle East, it is enough to consider the attack on Mohammed bin Salman almost two months ago, with Israel on the one hand boasting about agreements with Iran for a mutual abstention in the Daraa affaire and Trump finding nothing better to do than to break every alliance in sight through his commencement of a trade war.

It is clear that the old unipolar order no longer exists and that we now find ourselves in a multipolar situation, courtesy of the isolationist direction of the United States. This enables the further smoothening of existing divergence between nations in Asia, the Middle East and part of Europe.

Europe has the opportunity to use Trump’s “America First” policy as a pivot to expand its network of relationships and convergence of interests with more countries outside of the EU or NATO. For once, the EU could use the weapon of its union of many moderately powerful countries to increase its negotiating power with the United States.

But the reality is very different at the moment, with Europe being in the middle of an internal struggle that has been ongoing for some time now. The wave of new “populist” parties, both of the right and left, has served as a repository for an inevitable transfer of votes following the disasters of the unipolar period (1989-2014). This has also upset the previous balance of power within the European elites.

The root causes of this “populist” political change lie in the new multipolar world order that has had a ripple effect on the policies of individual European countries.

The neoliberal ideology, broadly acquiesced to by the “left”, has remained anchored to the diktat of the “old” unipolar world order, which saw Washington as the only hegemonic force.

What remains in the European political landscape seems to be divided into two streams. On the one side, there is a minority clearly eyeing a sort of neoconservatism 2.0, a sort of rehash of Reaganism. On the other side, there is a complete rejection of any of the faces currently participating in the political system.

For Europe it is a question of seeing what this new political phase will produce with regard to international issues like the sanctions against Russia and Iran. The behavior of European governments will give an idea of the extent to which they intend to obtain some sort of independence in conducting multipolar relations that are not necessarily linked to Washington.

In a sense, Berlin, London, Paris and Rome are now at the center of the concept of multipolar relationships. It is interesting to look at how strategists and newspaper editorialists in China and Russia look at what is going on in Europe, particular in Italy. While there is trust, there is also the awareness that there is still a European reluctance to favor development towards the East at the expense of relations with the US.

The take-home message that Trump seems to be giving Europeans is that it is pointless for them to remain as butlers who wait on Washington. We are living in a defining moment that will shape the the near-term future of vast areas of the world. There are many situations that are moving forward, bringing us closer to the moment where the West will either find common ground or splinter. Factors hitherto appearing unrelated are now serving to have different countries coalesce into a common destiny.

The summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un will lay the groundwork that will reveal whether Washington really wants to start talking or is only buying for time. Given the recent behavior and attitude of Trump and the political figures around him, the summit, like the foreign policy of Trump’s administration in general, becomes unpredictable and difficult to decipher. If there is one thing that unites the leaders of the G7, the SCO and Kim Jong-un, it is precisely the difficulty of relating to a declining world power and a leader who has no strategic vision; the common suffering stemming from an internal struggle within the United States to impose upon the world its antiquated and declining strategic vision.

Oil and gas geopolitics: No shelter from the coming storm – By Pepe Escobar ( Asia Times) (SOTT)

A man stands at an oil terminal at Fujairah, in the United Arab Emirates

© Karim Sahib / AFP
A man stands at an oil terminal at Fujairah, in the United Arab Emirates.

There could be widespread ramifications from US energy independence and looming US sanctions on Iran and Russia; states in Central Asia could be hit hard, as well as serious possible impacts on global oil production and the West.

Russia and Saudi Arabia are in deep debate on whether to raise OPEC and non-OPEC oil production by 1 million barrels a day to offset the drastic plunge in Venezuela’s production plus possible shortfalls when new US sanctions on Iran kick in in November.

The problem is that even a production raise would not be enough, according to Credit Suisse; only 500,000 barrels a day would be added to the global market.

Oil has spiked as high as $80 a barrel – unheard of since 2014. A production spike could certainly halt the trend. At the same time, key supply players would rather keep crude futures at $70-$80 a barrel. But the price could even hit $100 before the end of the year, depending on the impact that US sanctions have.

Persian Gulf traders told Asia Times the current oil price would be “much higher today if the Gulf States played their usual role at OPEC and cut back production” – to 10% or 15% or 20% of OPEC supply. According to an Abu Dhabi trader, “present OPEC cutbacks only target 1.8 million barrels a day, which is ridiculous, and indicates that the US is still pressuring to hold down the price.”

A Saudi-Russia deal could certainly turn the tables.

And then there’s the further issue of depleting OPEC supplies. There’s a consensus among traders that, “the depletion that has to be replaced is about 8% of total supply, which comes out to approximately 8 million barrels a day per year. Most of this has been made up by pre-2014 drilling but in the next four years will fall short very considerably as drilling has collapsed 50%.”

So, uncertainty seems to be the rule. To add to this, Societe Generale has forecast that US sanctions might remove as much as 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian crude from the global market.

And that leads us to the real big story for the foreseeable future, as Asia Times cross-referenced analyses from Persian Gulf traders with diplomats in the European Union; beyond technical issues, the point is how oil and energy markets are hostage to geopolitical pressure.

The US is in a relatively comfortable position. US oil production has reached 10.7 million barrels per day – enough for domestic needs. And shale oil production is expected to rise to a record 7.18 million barrels a day next month, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

The US imports only 3.7 million barrels a day – three million of them from Canada. As traders in the Persian Gulf confirmed, the US “imports heavy and exports light oil. In three years the country will be essentially totally independent.”

Sanctions or bust

Once again, the heart of the matter concerns the petrodollar. After the Trump administration’s unilateral pull-out from the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), European Union diplomats in Brussels, off the record, and still in shock, admit that they blundered by not “configuring the eurozone as distinct and separate to the dollar hegemony”. Now they may be made to pay the price of their impotence via their “outlawed” trade with Iran.

The EU – at least rhetorically – now wants to pay for Iranian oil in euros. Add to it the Trump administration’s ultimatum to Chancellor Merkel: give up the Nord Stream II gas pipeline from Russia or we will slap you with extra tariffs on steel and aluminum – to gauge the incandescence of current US-EU relations.

This Deutsche Bank Research report has the merit of highlighting the advantages of Nord Stream 2. It hits one of the nerves, when it stresses that, “Russian gas flows through the Ukraine look set to continue following the expiry of the old contracts in 2019”. That “may foster acceptance of Nord Stream 2.”

But that does not tell the whole story.

EU diplomats fear that “the US can strangle Iran by blocking them from SWIFT and CHIPS [payment systems] so that they cannot clear their transactions, and can possibly strangle them with sanctions.” Meanwhile, in the Persian Gulf, it’s no secret among traders that sooner or later it must be factored in that Iran, in the eventuality of a US attack, “has the power to bring down Western economies by destroying 20% of the oil production in the Middle East. And Russia has that power too. Russia is largely self-sufficient for its needs. It can win this as an economic battle rather than a military one”.

The US seems to be extending the proverbial “offer you can’t refuse” to the EU; an elusive, assured delivery of LNG in the (unlikely) event of a cutoff of Russian natural gas to the European Union.

First of all, Gazprom has no intention to ditch its extremely lucrative European market. Moreover, this supposed American LNG capacity “does not exist as yet in the United States. The US cannot replace Russian oil or gas for the EU”, traders said, even as “Russian oil deliveries to the EU have dropped 40% while exports of Russian oil to China have risen about 30%.”

Oblivious to facts, Capitol Hill, through the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), is getting ready to slap Russian defense and energy sectors with devastating secondary sanctions applied to nations doing business with Moscow.

And this sanction double trouble, on both Iran and Russia, is bound to have immense repercussions not only in Europe but all across Central Asia.

Trouble in Kazakhstan

Take Kazakhstan’s massive top three energy projects: Tengiz, Kashagan and Karachaganak. The majority of Kazakhstan’s crude exports flow through the 1,500km-long Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) – partially owned by Moscow (Transneft owns 24% compared to 15% by Chevron and 7.5% by Exxon Mobil).

The expansion of both Tengiz and Kashagan, which pump roughly 950,000 barrels a day to the Russian Black Sea coast, depends on Russian transit routes.

Karachaganak’s 250,000 barrels a day of condensate go into the CPC, and most of its 18 billion cubic meters of gas a year go to Russia and are marketed by Gazprom.

Chevron and Exxon Mobil have stakes in Tengiz, Exxon in Kashagan and Chevron in Karachaganak.

Russian oil and gas executives have been caught in the US sanctions web. Transneft has been under sanctions since 2014. Now imagine Washington deciding that Chevron and Exxon Mobil cannot continue to do business with Russian companies.

Compound it with the reaction from Russia. A recent law criminalizes Russian companies which abide by US sanctions – and further retaliation may include cutting off US companies from access to Russian infrastructure.

Persian Gulf traders argue that if Russia was finally convinced to “divert their oil and natural gas supplies to China, and the EU becomes totally exposed to the Middle East for their oil supplies based on the grave instability of the Gulf states, then Europe could find itself collapsing in an economic sense by a Gulf states oil cutoff.”

The nuclear option

And that plunges us into the heart of the geopolitical game, as admitted, never on the record, by experts in Brussels; the EU has got to reevaluate its strategic alliance with an essentially energy independent US, as “we are risking all our energy resources over their Halford Mackinder geopolitical analysis that they must break up Russia and China.”

That’s a direct reference to the late Mackinder epigone Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski, who died dreaming of turning China against Russia.

In Brussels, there’s increased recognition that US pressure on Iran, Russia and China is out of geopolitical fear the entire Eurasian land mass, organized as a super-trading bloc via the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), is slipping away from Washington’s influence.

This analysis gets closer to how the three key nodes of 21st century Eurasia integration – Russia, China and Iran – have identified the key issue; both the euro and the yuan must bypass the petrodollar, the ideal means, as the Chinese stress, to “end the oscillation between strong and weak dollar cycles, which has been so profitable for US financial institutions, but lethal to emerging markets.”

And that’s why the Shanghai oil futures experiment is such a game-changer, already deepening China’s sovereign bond market. Persian Gulf traders show a keen interest in how Asian traders are profiting from the fact the petro-yuan may be redeemed for gold. Iranian oil being sold in Shanghai will further expand the process.

It’s also no secret among Persian Gulf traders that in the – hopefully unlikely – event of a US-Saudi-Israeli war in Southwest Asia against Iran, a real scenario war-gamed by the Pentagon would be “the destruction of oil wells in the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council]. The Strait of Hormuz does not have to be blocked as destroying the oil wells would be far more effective.”

And what the potential loss of over 20% of the world’s oil supply would mean is terrifying; the implosion, with unforeseen consequences, of the quadrillion derivatives pyramid, and consequentially of the entire Western financial casino superstructure.

Call it a nuclear financial weapon of mass destruction chain reaction. Compared to that, the 2008 financial crisis would be little more than a walk in an ecologically friendly park.

See Also:

Italian Elections: Destroying Democracy to Protect the Globalist Elite – By Federico PIERACCINI (Strategic Cultural Foundation)

Italian Elections: Destroying Democracy to Protect the Globalist Elite

Federico PIERACCINI

 

Recent events in Italy show that the country is getting the same type of treatment meted out to other countries whose election results do not agree with the neoliberal globalist elite and so must be stymied. The attitude shown by this transnational elite towards the winning forces in Italy is the same as that normally reserved for recalcitrant countries like Russia, Venezuela, China and Lebanon following their own elections or constitutional reforms.

European populations are increasingly failing to abide by the electoral wishes of the international oligarchs, with votes being directed to populist parties and the most anti-systemic candidates available. The most credible candidates for the people seem to be those who openly oppose the economic measures (neoliberalism) adopted over the last 20 to 25 years by the financial elite. These measures were specifically adopted to enrich the wealthy and enslave the rest of us through debt. Unsurprisingly, people are voting in candidates who are fighting for greater monetary and military sovereignty.

Without wishing to express a political judgment (often it would be negative), we need to note that events like Brexit, Trump’s victory, the partial success of Le Pen, the exploits of the nationalist fronts in Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Germany and, most recently, the victories of Lega and the Five Star Movement (Movimento 5 Stelle, M5S) in Italy are symptomatic of how the European population feels about 25 years of a reduction in national sovereignty and the worsening of individual economic conditions.

The globalist front, centered around financial speculation and the expropriation of national assets, has built up over the course of three decades its political network consisting of NGOs, think-tanks, journalists, experts, senators and parliamentarians scattered across the United States and Europe. Large financial, economic and business interests have fostered a firm and lasting bond between large industrial groups (medical, agricultural, military, intelligence, IT, industry) and national politicians, often bribed to adopt legislation unfavorable to the country and its people. The type of public donations known as political lobbying in the US is prohibited in Europe, and so should simply be seen as corruption. Politicians elected by the people have often catered to the interests of their donors or financial backers, in spite of laws against this, and have advanced the type of austerity that is contrary to the interests of their constituents. The result has been politicians’ betrayal of their electoral mandates in favor of international finance or powerful lobbies in Washington or Brussels.

Naturally, banks, central banks, large industrial groups and speculators work closely with national governments, and have every interest in pursuing their interests to the detriment of the common citizen. This entails such things as bombing foreign countries for oil, preventing Eurasian integration (from Lisbon to Vladivostok), or beating an independent nation into submission with economic coercion (financial terrorism). Allies and enemies alike suffer the same treatment, being required to share their cake with international elites or face the consequences, which can be as severe as that experienced by Gaddafi in Libya.

In Italy, the Democratic Party (Partito Democratico, PD) and Forza Italia are the elite parties. They have never had to sell out as such, given that their purpose from their very inception had been to serve the interests of the globalist elite. The PD reflects the worldview of the Clinton faction of the American ruling elite, with its preference for humanitarian interventions, as seen in the Arab Spring, and a general inclination towards soft power over the type of hard power that was visited on Iraq in 2003. Having said that, the Democratic Party of the Left (Partito Democratico della Sinistra, PDS), the political father of the current PD, was as the forefront of supporting the bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999.

Forza Italia leans towards America’s neoconservatism (Berlusconi is a great friend of Bush, and Italy invaded Iraq in 2003 alongside the US while Berlusconi was prime minister), and while maintaining good relations with Putin, Berlusconi has always viewed the Atlantic as his political lodestar (quite literally, as he was affiliated with the P2 Masonic lodge linked to Gladio).

M5S and Lega are cut from a different cloth. While Lega originates from Lega Nord, a regional party, M5S stems from the popular refusal to cede further popular sovereignty to Brussels and Washington. In recent months, M5S and Lega have repeatedly stated that the sanctions against Russia are wrong, that the war in Libya was an error of the past not to be repeated again in Syria, and pointed out how these wars served to spur uncontrolled immigration into Europe. M5S and Lega have countered over the last few months the narrative advanced by the media and the elite close to PD-Forza Italia and the European technocracy, explaining to citizens that an alternative is possible and that sovereignty belongs to the people, who are able to reclaim it through the vote.

In the March elections, Italian citizens gave the two parties an overwhelming mandate to implement their electoral promises. What happened next represents what is now becoming a regular routine, whereby popular sovereignty is quashed, especially in Europe. The president, Sergio Mattarella, challenged the appointment of Paolo Savona as economy minister, a person who has expressed mildly anti-euro positions and promises to fight for Italians in Europe. Mattarella did everything possible to protect the interests of the unelected technocracy in Brussels, effectively neutralizing the danger posed by a M5S-Lega government. Mattarella also protected NATO interests, since the new government was strongly opposed to sanctions against Russia (and possibly against Iran as well), and also opposed to new wars, and, above all, to a socio-economic policy based on austerity that particularly hit hard weaker countries in the EU like Italy.

This sabotage undertaken by the European bureaucracy, in league with Berlin, Brussels and Washington, will have the opposite effect and backfire, recounting the results of the West’s foolish efforts to subvert the popular will as seen in places like Syria.

Mattarella has dutifully appointed a favorite of the financial markets, rating agencies, and the central banks of the EU, Italy and Germany. Carlo Cottarelli, ex-IMF director, famously authored the spending review (advocating for all those cuts that have brought the Italian economy to its knees, antagonizing the population to the point of voting two strongly anti-European parties) and is the ideal figure to approve budgetary laws completely running against the interests of Italians. Cottarelli will not even gain confirmation in the senate and the chamber, even though he will still remain in office until the next government is set up. It is a clever way for the elites to neutralize the populist government; for now.

The elites do not seem to realize that in acting this way, M5S and Lega will have all the ammunition they need to attack the new executive over the coming months as it enacts impositions from Brussels and Berlin in direct contravention of the will of the people. Cottarelli, Mattarella, the PD and anyone else supporting the executive will find themselves struggling to survive in the next snap elections for the parliament that could be held as early as this July or October. In the months between now and the upcoming election, M5S and Lega will pound on the fact that Mattarella wanted to support international elites rather than the national interest as expressed by the people through the polls. They will insist that the popular will has been sabotaged by technocrats, big banks, lobbies and powerful groups. In light of recent events, with Cottarelli appointed by Mattarella a few minutes after Giuseppe Conte’s decision to stand down, what else can they be expected to say?

The ramifications will boil into a popular rage fomented by the two leaders, who will be able to blame the new Cottarelli government for any decisions that worsen the conditions in the country. They will blame Mattarella and the EU for preventing them from implementing the measures that would have served to protect the Italian people and reform the European economic prison.

In September, when the Italians will be called on to vote, what will count is the political propaganda that Italians will have been subjected to over the summer months, with threats coming from the financial elite under the form of increases to the financial spread between the Italian BTP and the German Bund and speculation on the stock market. No one should be surprised if Lega and M5S collect more than two-thirds of the total votes as an expression of popular feeling. In this way, the new government will be able to change the constitution and implement the necessary profound changes that, absent Mattarella’s intervention, would have otherwise been unfeasible.

The international elite linked to speculative finance and the NATO military bloc is struggling to accept a change that has been ongoing for years, namely; a change that signifies a transition from a unipolar world order to a multipolar one. This elite has repeatedly used economic and military measures like financial terrorism, coups d’etat, and wars (thanks to the supremacy of the dollar) to subdue foreign countries. This mindset of American exceptionalism, enshrined and promulgated as the neoliberal world order in the early 1990s, has also reduced international institutions into mere executors of the unipolar will. The insistence on a unipolar model actually accelerates a transition to a multipolar one, whereby Washington, London and Brussels represent only a portion, sometimes a small one, of global politics.

The unipolarists visit their opprobrium on countries refusing to bow to their will, scorning Putin’s re-election, Hezbollah’s gathering of support in Lebanon, Xi Jinping’s mandate being prolonged by the party; and now even the victory of two unapproved Italian parties unwilling to align themselves with European diktat.

In three months’ time, the practical consequences of Mattarella’s nefariousness will be made evident, with Lega and M5S now made able decide the fate of the country and probably of the entire eurozone, with a wave goodbye to Mattarella and international finance led by Brussels and Berlin hoping to stymie the consequences of thirty years of degrading laws and budget cuts.

How Italian Crisis May Trigger Domino Effect Leading to Collapse of EU – By SPUTNIK

Anti-establishment 5-Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio speaks following a talk with Italian President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinal Palace in Rome, Italy, April 12, 2018

© REUTERS / Max Rossi/File Photo

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The Italian political crisis could provoke a domino effect across Europe, which could potentially result in the collapse of the Eurozone. The supposed snap elections in Italy have already dealt a blow to euro and global stocks. Meanwhile, the EU, France and Germany are seemingly trying to curtail the rise of Eurosceptic parties in Italy.

The Italian political crisis has given global markets the shivers prompting observers to cast doubt on the future of the European bloc.

The Italians are facing snap elections, which will be held on July 29, since President Sergio Mattarella has rejected the formation of a coalition government, proposed by the Lega Nord party and the Five Star Movement (M5S), which secured the majority of votes in the March 4 elections.

The political uncertainty in Rome immediately affected stock markets around the globe, which plummeted on May 29 as investors demanded higher yields for Italy’s government debt. Meanwhile, Italy’s benchmark stock index plunged, as did the euro.

With opinion polls showing strong support for Italian Eurosceptic parties among the country’s population there is little doubt that they could repeat their success, which would eventually put the future of the euro under threat.The Lega Nord party and the Five Star Movement have never concealed their opposition to Europe’s fiscal policies and the use of the euro in Italy, calling for the return of a national currency.

According to Lorenzo Codogno, visiting professor in practice at the European Institute of the London School of Economics and Political Science, the Italian crisis may go beyond the country’s borders and spread to other countries of Europe.

“The risk is clear that if this turmoil continues, it might spread out into other countries in Europe and, as we have seen in the past, it might be contagious,” Codogno told Radio Sputnik on May 31.

Although economics observer Neil Irwin of The New York Times expressed doubts about the “contagious effect” of the Italian political crisis, he reminded his readers that Italy is “the third-largest economy in the Eurozone (and fourth largest in Europe, after Germany, Britain and France) and has one of the largest piles of public debt in the world,” predicting that “a crisis there could endanger banks and investment portfolios everywhere.”However, Rome’s potential abandonment of the euro would devalue all Italian government bonds in European banks, inflicting damage on the EU financial sector. According to some estimates, even if the EU financial institutions manage to sell off a large portion of the Italian national debt, their losses would amount to billions of euros.

“If Italy stopped using or was forced out of the currency, there would be enormous repercussions. We would see the end of the European project as we currently know it and for those who are in favor of an integrated Europe, it would be a complete disaster,” James Newell, professor of Italian politics at the University of Salford, told Radio Sputnik.

A new political scandal is brewing in Spain: The country’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, is being investigated over allegations of corruption and other forms of wrongdoing by his party.The leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, has been named as Rajoy’s possible successor. According to a number of surveys, Sánchez currently has 175 votes out of the 176 needed to take over as Spain’s new prime minister.

Spain is considered the third main hotbed of the potential European crisis following Greece and Italy. The country’s state debt amounts to 99 percent of GDP. One way to tackle the financial problem is to leave the Eurozone and reshuffle the country’s economy.

In case Italy and Spain follow in the footsteps of the UK, which voted for Brexit on June 23, 2016, the European Union would turn into a triumvirate of Germany, France and Belgium, surrounded by a crowd of weak countries requiring constant support.

Meanwhile, Brussels, Berlin and Paris are seemingly striving to prevent Eurosceptics from coming out on top in Italy.Speaking to Sputnik, Mario Borghezio from the Lega Nord party accused the major European capitals of exerting pressure on the Italian president who earlier rejected a right-wing-backed coalition government.

“This interference is unacceptable, as the Italian president stated explaining his decision,” Borghezio stressed. “He pointed at the European political institutions. In this way, even the president admitted that our country has limited sovereignty.”

For her part, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French right-wing National Front, lambasted Brussels for meddling in Italian affairs. According to the French politician, the Italian political crisis was provoked by EU institutions, which violated the country’s democratic rights.

Italy’s crisis and the crisis of democracy in Europe – By Alexander Mercouris (THE DURAN)

Italy’s unelected pro EU President has just set a democratic election aside by preventing anti-EU parties forming a government

 

Before analysing what has just happened in Italy and discussing its likely consequences, it is necessary to say something about the fact of what has just happened.

Italy is supposed to be a parliamentary republic with the Prime Minister and the government accountable to the parliament.

As in other parliamentary republics the Italian President is supposed to be a figure above politics, whose primary function is to safeguard the constitution, which he is sworn to uphold.  He is not supposed to meddle in day to day politics or to take on himself the leadership of the country.

 

Italy recently had parliamentary elections, which parties which can be broadly defined as ‘anti-EU’ decisively won.

Italy’s most prominent pro-EU party, the Democratic Party, saw its vote fall to 19% of the vote.  By contrast the leftist but anti-EU Five Star Movement won 32% of the vote, whilst the right wing but even more anti-EU Northern League won 17.7% of the vote.

After complex and protracted discussions of a sort which are by no means unusual in Italy, the Five Star Movement and the Northern League agreed to form a coalition government together.

That coalition government would have represented the two anti-EU parties which together won almost 50% of the vote in the parliamentary elections, and which have a majority in the lower house of the Italian Parliament the Chamber of Deputies.

There was no obvious constitutional or legal reason why that government, which represents the parties which won the parliamentary elections, should not have been allowed to take office.

In the event that is not what was permitted to happen.

The strongly pro-EU Italian President Sergio Mattarella – who is not directly elected, but is elected by an electoral college made up of the two chambers of the Italian parliament and of representatives of Italy’s regions – to the surprise of some (including me) appeared to agree to the coalition’s suggestion that its nominee Giuseppe Conte should be Italy’s new Prime Minister.

However, in what I strongly suspect was a prearranged move, he then vetoed the coalition’s nominee for Finance Minister, Paolo Savona.

This is despite the fact that Savona is an experienced banker and an internationally recognised economist, who has headed several of Italy’s banks, and who has previously held ministerial office.

In vetoing Savona’s appointment Mattarella did not question Savona’s qualifications for the Finance Ministry post or question his general competence.  Savona’s record makes that impossible.

Nor did Mattarella say that Savona was unfit to hold office because, for example, he suffers from ill health or has a criminal record.

Instead Mattarella vetoed Savona’s appointment because of Savona’s known skepticism about Italy’s membership of the Eurozone, with which Mattarella happens to disagree.

Mattarella has dressed this up by talking of the negative reaction to Savona’s appointment by the financial markets, and of his “duty” to protect Italy’s savers.

As to the first, that subordinates the will of the Italian people as expressed in a democratic election to the opinion of the financial markets; as to the second, that is purely Mattarella’s opinion, whilst the nature of his “duty” to “protect” Italy’s savers is unknown to me.

I would add that it also seems to be a case of “protecting” Italy’s savers by setting aside their votes.

In either case these seem to me to be strange reasons for a President to give for in effect refusing to confirm in office a Finance Minister selected by a government which had just been democratically elected by the people.

In reality I suspect that Mattarella never intended the coalition to take power.  He did not reject Conte because that would have been too obvious a rejection of the outcome of the election, so he rejected Savona instead, knowing that that would be unacceptable to the coalition, and would cause it to return its mandate to form a government.

In that way Mattarella is now able to say that the coalition’s failure to form a government is its fault, and deny that he has set the verdict of the election aside.

In fact this is a straightforward case of the European political establishment – of which Mattarella is very much a part – setting the result of a democratic election which it doesn’t like aside.  Moreover it is not the first time the European political establishment has done this, though it has not done this previously in quite so flagrant a way.

Thus back in November 2011 the Italian Presidency was also used to help engineer the resignation of Italy’s then Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi who also had by this time. become something of a bête noire for the European political establishment.

Berlusconi  says this was because he refused to apply for a loan to the IMF, which would have required him to impose swingeing austerity measures on Italy.   Spain’s former Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero says that’s true.

As happened after Berlusconi was forced to resign, so now, the Italian Presidency is moving to appoint a rigidly orthodox pro-EU technocrat to run what is sometimes called a “technical government” in place of a government democratically accountable to the parliament.

In 2011 this was the former EU Commissioner Mario Monti.  This time it is the former IMF economist Carlo Cottarelli.

This is despite the fact that Giuseppe Conte – the coalition Prime Minister designate whose appointment the President has effectively blocked – commands a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, which Cottarelli of course does not.

Cottarelli in fact embodies and is committed to implementing precisely the mix of policies – fiscal orthodoxy, ‘supply side reforms’ and unending austerity inside the Eurozone – which Italian voters rejected in the elections in March.

There is an old British quip that if voting changed anything it would be abolished.  That is not true in Britain.  In Italy however the Italian people have just been given a lesson that voting changes nothing.

Back in November 2011, whilst the plotting against Berlusconi was still underway, but shortly after the European political establishment had engineered the resignation of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, I wrote the following on my personal blog

If the European Union collapses as a result of this crisis this will be the moment when that collapse begins.  The European Union is supposed to be a union of democracies yet faced by the greatest crisis in its history its response is to impose its decisions by arranging the removal of the government that is supposed to be accountable to the people affected by those decisions whilst denying those same people a say.  Moreover it seems that Greece is only the start.  Steps are apparently already underway to engineer through the Italian Presidency the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Italy so that it can be replaced with a new government that is more amenable to the wishes of the French and German governments and to those of the central European institutions.

Acting in a democracy to deny the people the right to a say in the way they are governed amounts to a coup d’etat.  This is so regardless of whether this coup is carried out legally or not.  The political crisis in Germany in the early 1930s was precipitated by the perfectly legal and constitutional step of forming technocratic governments that had not been elected and which were not accountable to the German parliament the Reichstag, which sought to use Presidential powers to impose by decree austerity measures the German people had not voted for.  The result was a crisis of legitimacy that ended in dictatorship.

I do not think that this time things will go this far but no one should be under any illusions about the momentous nature of the events that are now starting to unfold.  Europe is on the brink and its crisis has just stopped being only economic.

Compare that with what the British writer and commentator John Laughland is now saying about the Italian crisis

I don’t think it’s a constitutional crisis in Italy, I think it’s a constitutional crisis in the whole of Europe.  We’ve seen now systematically how members of the European elite, of which President Mattarella is an excellent example, use every method they can to prevent parties wielding power if that power is to be wielded against the euro or against the European Union.

Back in March, immediately following the Italian parliamentary elections, I discussed the reasons for the rise of anti-EU parties in Italy and across Europe.  I said that it was the inevitable outcome of the increasingly anti-democratic style European politics have been taking for several decades now and especially after the Eurozone was established.

I should have added that it was also an inevitable response to the draconian economic policies that go hand in hand with those politics, and which in the case of Italy have delivered two decades of economic stagnation.

I also said that the European political establishment appears incapable of learning anything from this, and appears determined instead to dig in, making it a certainty that resistance to it will continue to grow

…..instead of analysing and responding to what is happening the European establishment across Europe is retreating into denial.

Thus the parties and leaders who are increasingly winning votes are dismissed as “populists” – a label which is both meaningless and deeply anti-democratic – their voters are dismissed as ‘ultra-right’ and racist, and their electoral successes are explained by sinister Russian meddling which is supposed to occur but of which no evidence is ever found…..

Unfortunately, as its denialism about its repeated electoral defeats might lead one to expect, the establishment in Europe instead of changing its approach is simply digging in.

Thus we have seen the manipulation of the French electoral process in order to engineer the election of Emmanuel Macron in France, the cobbling together of the ‘grand coalition’ in Germany, the threats against Poland and Hungary, and the increasingly frantic attempts in Britain to reverse or water down the Brexit vote.

Unfortunately – as I also pointed out in the same article – in the desert which is post-modern European politics, no convincing alternative to the European establishment exists.

Though the coalition in Italy between the Five Star Movement and the Northern League mathematically speaking commands the support of around half of Italy’s voters, the two parties are ideological opposites, and it is far from certain that the coalition they have formed would have held together in government.

Moreover there are serious doubts not just about the viability of its programme but about the managerial competence of its members.

Whilst it is certainly possible that the two coalition partners will vote down Cottarelli when he comes to parliament for a vote of confidence – forcing elections in August – and whilst it is also possible that the two parties which make up the coalition will increase their share of the vote in the August elections – no one should assume any of that.

Italy being Italy, it is not impossible that the coalition will fracture, or that there will be a strong reaction against it at the polls.

In that case the coup will have succeeded, and the ancien régime will have been restored.

However that will not resolve the underlying crisis not just in Italy but in Europe.

In my previous article I spoke of the situation not just in Italy but in Europe being one of paralysis – what the Greeks called stasis – a state of immobility or ‘standing still’ despite the situation having become intolerable.

Just as everywhere else in Europe, the political system in Italy looks increasingly discredited and broken, but no viable alternative exists to put in its place.

As Gramsci once said

The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.

In the current political paralysis – what the Greeks called statis – “standing still” – the chaotic electoral result in Italy is just one more of the “great variety of morbid symptoms” which are bound to appear.

Events in Europe over the last few months illustrate the extent of this paralysis vividly.  Consider for example

(1) the inability of Merkel and Macron to agree together a programme for EU reform and the growing personal antipathy there is said to be between them;

(2) the resurrection of Germany’s unpopular and discredited “grand coalition” despite the severe setback it suffered in the German parliamentary elections last September;

(3) the inability of the EU to stand by Iran and to develop an effective response to Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the JCPOA or to respond to the further sanctions on Iran which he is imposing (see this discussion in the Financial Times).

The fact that the EU is almost certain to extend the sectoral sanctions it imposed on Russia at the end of June, though barely anyone in Europe believes in them any more, also tells the same story.

In Europe – not just in Italy – not only is it a case that “the new cannot be born”, but the Europeans look increasingly unable to break out of the prison they have made for themselves.

The Duran
EUR

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