Monday, May 28, 2018
Sunday, May 27, 2018
Published on NEO on May 25th 2018
By moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, Donald Trump appears to have achieved something his predecessors never foresaw: condemnation by the MSM of Israel’s murderous apartheid policies, with popular sentiment appearing to follow.
To be sure, there are still ‘experts’ who appear to accept the Israeli claim that Hamas is responsible for encouraging its people to get themselves killed by charging the Israeli border. (’David’s’ response to ‘Goliath’’s tear-gas charged drones is to lob lit candles tied to balloons over the border, allowing Israel to claim it is not shooting peaceful demonstrators but only those ‘attacking’ it….)
Shortly before the first Intifada, in the mid-eighties, I visited Israel from my home in Paris, and wondered why the government had not from the start offered to share its wide-ranging expertise with its neighbors, in order to dispose them favorably toward the Jewish state that had been parachuted into an all-Arab region. It was not until the recent US Embassy ceremony in West Jerusalem that Prime Minister Netanyahu suggested that Israel was prepared to do just that — if the Palestinians would renounce their claim to East Jerusalem.
A week after the Embassy move, as France 24 debated the situation with various European observers, the highly professional anchor could not hide his astonishment when a German journalist, his expression similar to that reserved for a civilian mass murderer, declared that the Gaza shootings had finally shattered Germany’s unconditional support for Israel. Another participant in the debate revealed a gap between the attitude of Arab leaders and their respective streets, as well as the fact that in the West, Islamic terrorism had had he effect of downgrading the Palestinian plight.
On May 20th, Tom Friedman, a popularizer of sociology who invariably pushes my buttons, admitted on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that ‘Israel does bad stuff’. Friedman noted that younger American Jews no longer share the iron-clad pro-Israeli stance of their parents: as participants in liberation movements, from Black Lives Matter to LBGT rights (and a women’s rights campaign down-graded by the ‘Me-Too’ Movement), younger American Jews realize that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is far more more reprehensible than Western social movements.
In a rare show of daring, Zakaria brought in longtime Palestinian spokesperson Hanan Ashrawi, but her claim that Gazans are not being manipulated by Hamas did not convince Friedman, who criticized Trump merely for not hinting to the Palestinians that another US Embassy could see the day in East Jerusalem. Meanwhile, in its striving for legitimacy in the eyes of a largely hostile world, Israel, never missing a beat, joined Sunni Saudi Arabia’s campaign against Shia Iran, while cozying up to Iran’s ally Vladimir Putin for extra insurance, (Americans being largely ignorant of the Russian President’s efforts to bring opponents around the world to the negotiating table.)
Notwithstanding this unanticipated change of attitudes toward Israel, the American MSM spent more time on a remark at a White House meeting, than on the Middle East. A young staffer’s remark that the president needn’t worry about Senator John McCain’s opinions because he was “going to die soon”, was interpreted as an insult to a national hero rather than a clear-eyed statement of fact. The woman who made the remark was pressured to telephone McCain’s family to apologize and assure them that she would do so publicly. The fact that she did not follow through on that promise gave the fourth estate yet another occasion to call attention to Trump’s lack of decorum, which gets far more attention than his use of military force.
Finally, and most alarmingly, new revelations by the Mueller investigation show that not only Russia, but the UAE and Saudi Arabia, (whose agents include the American Erik Prince, owner of a militia for hire), met with Donald Trump Jr., offering to support the Trump campaign in return for expected favors. The existence of an international mafia that appears to involve governments of right and left suggests that the successful impeachment of the American president — now timidly evoked — would not affect the international political and economic landscape in any meaningful way.
Posted on NEO as Vladimir Putin and the Islamization of Europe
Today I got the answer to a question that had intrigued me ever since the start of the European refugee crisis spawned by US wars in the Third World: what position would Russia take vis a vis these mainly Muslims populations seeking new homes when Europe became overcrowded? President Putin’s conviction that multiculturalism doesn’t work suggests that notwithstanding his equally strong commitment to equity and humanitarian relief, he would not open Russia’s vast territory to these refugees, even though Russia is a multi-national country that includes 15% of Muslims.
Today Russia Insider posted a story about a German-Russian family that fled harassment in Germany and was welcomed in Russia. (Down through the ages, Germans have settled in Russia, and their descendants refer to themselves as Russian Germans.) This warm, fuzzy human interest story suggests that Vladimir Putin’s Russia will be a refugee destination for Europeans displaced by Islamization.
I’ve often stated my conviction that nothing will be able to prevent Europe from being Islamized.
As this process continues relentlessly, Europe’s original Caucasian inhabitants may head to Russia and the vast Caucasian Heartland, an idea may not be as far-fetched as it sounds: In his March 1 speech, President Putin announced that free land would be offered to immigrants, and that the Russian state would make it easier for foreigners to become citizens.
|Photo by Steve Hague, Life in Russia blog
It is noteworthy that most of Russia’s Muslim neighbors do not feel that they have to migrate in order to have a decent life. Russia has helped them modernize, even building new mosques for their growing populations. (As for those who do migrate, during my brief visit to St Petersburg last year, at sunset, a taxi driver drove his vehicle onto an out-of-the-way sidewalk, apologized, and kneeled there on his prayer mat for about ten minutes. There are mosques in all the major Russian cities, and in 2015 the 1904 Moscow Cathedral Mosque was renovated to accommodate up to ten thousand worshippers.)
Friday, May 18, 2018
I'm reposting this article by Paul Goncharoff, an American businessman who has lived and worked in Russia for decades, first published by Russiafeed.com.
The good book tells us “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. Then it follows that Washington and its co-sanctioning colleagues among EU and NATO countries must surely be purer than freshly fallen virgin snow, and free to pelt Russia with all the stones they wish, including the first one.
|One of Russia's Latest Electric Locomotives
This past January saw the U.S. Treasury Department naming several Russian businesspersons in a so-called “oligarchs’ list”. It would seem that any Russian who makes it onto the Forbes list is an “Oligarch”, deeply steeped in the miasma of imputed corruption, and not just a successful businessperson with achievements in a challenging environment.
Since then Washington has called for additional sanctions, probably just to keep in practice with this fashionable “diplomatic tool” that is all the rage these past several political seasons.
Back then President Putin had some comments; “It is, of course, an unfriendly act. It will complicate the difficult situation Russian-American relations are already in, and of course harm international relations as a whole.”
He went on to say it was “stupid” to lump Russia together with North Korea and Iran, while at the same time asking Moscow to help broker a peace deal on the Korean peninsula, or help destroy ISIS. Nonetheless, he said he wanted to improve ties with the United States and would refrain from any immediate retaliation.
He concluded by saying; “I will not hide it, we are ready to take retaliatory steps, serious ones, which would have reduced our relations to zero, but for now, we will refrain from these steps. But we will carefully watch how the situation develops.”
The situation and pressures have only ratcheted up with increased tempo since this winter. May 17th the Russian Parliament (State Duma) adopted in its second reading a draft law on counter-sanctions to those imposed by the US and other foreign states “that commit unfriendly acts against the Russian Federation”.
The third reading of the draft law on counter-sanctions will take place next week and its subsequent final adoption is expected on May 22.
In the current proposed bill, six points have been selected which have allowed influence by the United States and other foreign states in the internal affairs of the Russian Federation. Measures are being considered on how best to address these areas of activity:
- Stop or suspend international cooperation with unfriendly foreign states, as well as organizations directly or indirectly under the jurisdiction or influence of unfriendly countries.
- Impose a ban or restrict the import of products or raw materials by organizations that are under the direct or indirect jurisdiction of unfriendly foreign states.
- Impose a ban or restrict the export of products or raw materials by organizations that are under the direct or indirect jurisdiction of unfriendly foreign states.
- Prohibit or restrict organizations under the direct or indirect jurisdiction of unfriendly foreign states to participate in state public procurements.
- Prohibit or restrict organizations under the direct or indirect jurisdiction of unfriendly foreign states to participate in privatization.
- The president of the Russian Federation has the right to take “other measures” as he sees fit.
One of the sticking points was if an entity’s “foreign participation” were directly or indirectly more than 25% controlled by American or other unfriendly foreign interests then they would be banned from international cooperation, participation in privatization and public procurement. By the time this second reading took place this point was eased back to read simply “directly or indirectly controlled” by unfriendly countries.
So here we are, descending from “good business partners” to “unfriendly countries”, what is the endgame, who wins? And what? The only immediate beneficiaries of this tit for tat sanctioning and then counter-sanctioning are the international law firms in the relevant capital cities billing clients to unravel this escalating hairball.
These new counter-sanctions ideas are mild when compared to those already arrayed against Russia. It looks like diplomatic and political “restraint” accurately describe Russia’s position even now after the many successive sanctioning regimes imposed against them. The question remains, for how long will forbearance, responsible diplomacy and restraint last? With Russia patience is not an endless quality.
It might be worth everyone’s time and effort to dial back a bit, take a breath, and reassess calmly outside of the newsy political noise. Have sanctions produced positive effects for Europe? For Washington? Perhaps Washington, London and Brussels should try presenting Russia a “Reset” button again instead of throwing stones. This time the reset button should be correctly labelled, and not spell “overload” yet again in Russian…. the line between tragedy and farce is often a thin one.