Category Archives: Angela Merkel

Trump’s Global Impact (and What Russia Could Do)

TV news anchors typically describe Donald Trump’s poll numbers as low. But a 40 percent support figure in August of the second year is actually not so unusual. (Obama’s job approval rate was 44 at this point his first term; Bill Clinton was at 41; Ronald Reagan 42; Jimmy Carter at 41.) It’s not abnormal for a president to have this level of support at this point; the amazing thing is that Trump has been able to maintain it, given his degree of repulsiveness, from his election.

This shows the world something quite horrifying: that either this 40% actually agrees with that repulsiveness, doesn’t notice it, or tolerates it thinking at least he’s bringing jobs back.

However rocked by scandals, defections, pending legal issues, etc. Trump has retained his base. He said during his campaign that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Ave. and shoot somebody and not lose one voter. He has not shot anyone to my knowledge but he has torn babies from their moms and sent the moms out of the country and done things arguably worse than shooting somebody.

Domestically Trump remains strong, with the Republican Congress almost solidly behind him. In the mid-term election Republican candidates will mobilize the base by warning that if a Democrat wins, it might lead to Trump’s impeachment. (This at least is Steve Bannon’s recommendation.) Whatever happens, I think the 40/60 ratio of ardent fans and the nauseated and alarmed community will continue in this sad country.

But what is Trump’s standing internationally? He is generally seen by foreign leaders as a boorish, ignorant, self-obsessed buffoon, a narcissist who responds well to flattery (from Jordan’s king, South Korean envoys, Emmanuel Macron sometimes, the Saudis, Abe Shinzo), an erratic unpredictable leader often at odds with his own advisors. Every world leader knows that Trump’s former secretary of state Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” and former national security advisor H.R. McMaster and current White House Chief of Staff John Kelly have called him an “idiot.” Every national intelligence community has specialists who study the psychology of foreign leaders.

Surely every leader who meets Trump has been briefed in advance about his apparent malignant narcissism and coached to stoke his ego. Jordanian King Abdullah’s reference to Trump’s “grace” and “humility” in a White House press conference last June, and the Saudis’ inexplicable bestowal of the King Abdulaziz al Saud Collar on the Islamophobic Trump months after his election are a couple examples.

NATO allies note that, while not even engaging in discussion of NATO’s priorities and purposes, Trump demands that they increase their military spending. He depicts the failure of most to meet the 2% goal established several years ago as a kind of rip-off of the U.S., which has to step in to pick up the slack to keep NATO strong. The bullying pressure disturbed everyone at Brussels but NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was obliged to say, “I would like to thank President Trump for his leadership on defense spending.” It’s not clear anything else happened at that meeting before Trump flew to Helsinki.

Trump: Alienating the World

Trump’s trade wars with Europe, China, Canada and other countries raise concern about his real business savvy, or at least his grasp of international economics. His threats against North Korea, followed by his rapprochement with Kim, gravely concern the South Koreans (not because they don’t want peace, but because they’ve sometimes been left out of the loop). He has of course alienated the Mexicans. He has offended a continent by referring to African nations as “shitty countries.” He has gone from praising Turkey’s Tayyib Erdogan to punishing him with sanctions driving down the Turkish lira, all on account of one detained Christian evangelist minister from the U.S. accused of supporting Kurdish separatism. He has completely alienated the Palestinians by demonstrating he doesn’t care about them and is a total Netanyahu stooge.

He offended Angela Merkel from the outset, courted Emmanuel Macron but then alienated him, annoyed Theresa May with his insults, befriended Jinping Xi but then slammed high tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum. He has personally offended the Australian and Canadian prime ministers. If he has not yet alienated Abe Shinzo, he has at least produced consternation. (See this photo from the last G-7 summit in Quebec, where the Japanese leader looms between a confrontational Angela and pouting boy Donald, arms folded, eyes showing worry and consternation.)

Trump’s friends in this world include the leaders of Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and maybe Modi’s India (although U.S. demands that India stop importing Iranian oil are affecting the relationship). Maybe we could include the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte although he like Trump is a mercurial type and is trying to diversify military purchases and draw closer to both China and Russia. And Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who shares his anti-immigrant stance and wants to readmit Russia to the G7. But it is a small group of friends, and subject to change.

Trump increasingly isolates this country. First the withdrawal from the Paris Accord, announced with such defiance citing its unfairness to the U.S. Then the departure from UNESCO (because of its alleged anti-Israel bias). Then withdrawing from the Iran Deal, so painfully crafted by the U.S., Russia, France, U.K. and Germany. Then leaving the UN Human Rights Council (after again accusing a body of anti-Israel bias, and trying to block an investigation into Israeli use of force in Gaza). And of course the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the decision to move the U.S. embassy there.

The United Nations General Assembly vote condemning that U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last Dec. 21 was 128-9. All major U.S. allies including all other NATO members voted for the resolution or abstained (some in fear). Since the decision was opposed by some close advisors (but promoted by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, a friend of Netanyahu’s since his teens when the Israeli politician once slept in his bed), this UNGA vote can be seen as a rejection of Trump personally.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley made a very Trumpian statement after the vote:

The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation.  We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.

Earlier she had warned the world: “At the UN, we’re constantly asked to do more and give more — in the past we have. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American people, about where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thursday, there will be a vote at the UN criticizing our choice. And yes, the US will be taking names.”

We are taking names. Obey! Such language is not winning Trump more friends. He may feel it better to be feared than loved but he’s not scaring anybody but Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Nauru and Togo (the only countries except for the U.S. and Israel that opposed the resolution).

The photo shoots and body language in Charlevoix and Brussels suggest that Trump is a pariah, increasingly considered such, not just due to his policies but due to his manifestly unstable personality.

Putin: Courting the World

Meanwhile the other most powerful man in the world—Vladimir Putin—is busily strengthening ties with China, Japan, both Koreas, India, Iran, Turkey and even long-time foes (like Saudi Arabia). Despite EU sanctions imposed on Russia after its annexation of Crimea in response to the Maidan coup of February 2014, Vladimir Putin reaches out to European leaders, seeks to make deals (the Baltic oil pipeline to Germany), advances concrete proposals (implementation of the Minsk Agreement), engages in carefully diplomacy (the Iran Deal) and generally projects through Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov a serious approach to world affairs. (Compare Mike Pompeo, who barks utterly unacceptable demands to Iran to allow implementation of the deal, threatens all nations who trade with Iran with economic punishment, and thereby asserts the U.S.’s right to dominate the world through its banking system.)

Washington pulls out of the Iran Deal; Merkel journeys to Sochi to talk with Putin about how to preserve it despite U.S. madness.

Trump heaps sanctions on Turkey; Erdogan calls Putin and talks about diversifying Turkey’s ties. (This may have long-term implications for NATO.)

Trump threatens Merkel over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline; Merkel meets Putin in Berlin to discuss it, Iran, and other matters after the Russian leader meets the Austrian foreign minister as a guest at her wedding. They danced together; he perhaps thanked her again for her party’s opposition to EU Russian sanctions.

Putin is widely regarded as the adult on the world stage while the U.S. is led by a mischievous and unpredictable child. I don’t believe that Putin helped get Trump elected, but if he did he probably did so hoping Trump would halt NATO expansion, recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and remove the sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Russia since 2014. In fact NATO will likely expand to include Montenegro, Trump proclaims NATO “stronger than ever” (due to his bullying leadership), and sanctions have been added not removed under Trump.

But on the plus side for Russia (and I think for the world), Trump has hastened U.S. decline by weakening the Atlantic Alliance, including U.S.-Canada ties; damaging U.S.-Mexican relations;  wreaking havoc with trade wars; and conveying to African leaders a sense of racist contempt. He has inadvertently produced an atmosphere more conducive to multilateralism.

While the U.S. corporate press indulges in unprecedented Russophobia, Moscow’s stature in the world rises. That Russia annexed the Crimea Peninsula (Russian from 1783 to 1954) following a U.S.-backed regime change in Ukraine in 2014 bothers Germans and Italians less than the fact the U.S. invaded Iraq and sewed chaos throughout the Middle East resulting in Europe’s immigration crisis. Polls show Europeans trust Putin more than Trump.

It may be that world leaders, disgusted with the U.S. president and uncertain about who really makes decisions in Washington, will increasingly turn away from U.S. leadership. Merkel has said this; so has the EU president. For the first time in seven decades there is a real crisis within the U.S. imperialist bloc forged from 1945. What can Putin do to take advantage of this crisis, to encourage a more multilateral world?

Things to Do

Looking at it as a game, if I were assigned the Russia role I would during this window of opportunity, while this clown is in power, to take my cue from what Bill Clinton did when Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin led Russia. Yeltsin was another mercurial incompetent fool. Clinton took the opportunity to take over much of what had been Yugoslavia and expand NATO in a provocative betrayal of the Reagan-Gorbachev agreement. The leader of Russia could return the favor now by various measures.

Some ideas:

  1. Change the relationship between Russia and Japan, your neighbor that remains the world’s third largest economy. The U.S. has consistently discouraged Tokyo from signing a treaty with Moscow formally ending the Second World War since it would throw into question the rationale for maintaining 38,000 troops in Japan, mostly in Okinawa where they are largely unwelcome.

Settle the Northern Islands dispute; split the four and arrange for joint economic development. Sign a trade deal covering Siberian timber and crude oil exports. Long-term, encourage Tokyo to terminate the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty imposed on the country in 1952. Cater in resurgent Japanese nationalism by encouraging  Japan to become a normal country as opposed to a vassal one, and to embrace neutrality.

  1. Continue to deepen the relationship with China within the Shanghai Communique Organization, cooperating on Eurasian transport infrastructure to establish the common market Putin envisions extending “from Vladivostok to Lisbon.” Eurasia is most of the world, sixty percent of its population and a fourth of its land space. Japan just signed a treaty creating a common market with the EU; this was its response to Trump’s rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. East Asia is already connected to Europe and the trans-Pacific market will one day be rivaled by a Eurasian market.
  1. State clearly that NATO is unnecessary and indeed dangerous. Take advantage of the fact that candidate Trump questioned it. Use concrete examples. Ask Hungary: Why did you join in 1999—just as the U.S. and NATO were completing the destruction of Serbia—and what have you gotten from it other than economic damage when you’re forced to observe sanctions on Russia? Haven’t the sanctions cost the Hungarian economy over $ 10 billion? Hasn’t the Hungarian foreign minister protested the sanctions, saying they don’t work?

A recent poll in Hungary show 41 percent of the respondents felt NATO no longer important and a waste of money. The figures for Poland, the Czech Republic and Poland (which joined in a cluster in 1999, expanding the alliance after the Cold War) are similar.

67% of Hungarians agree that, “Current security threats are not serious enough to justify increased defense spending. The resources should instead be used for things like pensions, healthcare, and education.” Majorities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia agree. Encourage such rational sentiments during the time of Trump.

Merkel told Germans after the G-7 summit, “The era in which we could fully rely on others is over to some extent. That’s what I experienced over the past several days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands — naturally in friendship with the United States of America, in friendship with Great Britain, as good neighbors with whoever, also with Russia and other countries. But we have to know that we Europeans must fight for our own future and destiny.” Yes!

After Trump pulled out of the Iran Deal, European Council Donald Tusk condemned Trumps “capricious assertiveness” and declared: “Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think with friends like that who needs enemies. But frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful to President Trump, because thanks to him we have got rid of all illusions. He has made us realise that if you need a helping hand you will find one at the end of your arm.” Yes!

  1. Continue the international effort to suppress ISIL, al-Nusra (al-Sham) and their allies in Syria, insuring the survival of a secular state (as opposed to a Gulf-funded Sunni sharia state). Carefully handle the contradictions between Turks and Kurds, Turkish-backed opposition groups and the Syrian Arab Army, Iranian and Hizbollah forces and Syrian Arab Army; U.S. forces and the Syrian Arab Army etc. Urge the U.S. forces to leave the country, as they are illegally there in the first place. Tell the Saudis their side has lost and they need to back off. Enhance the existing security cooperation with Iraq and compete for influence the country where the U.S. is extremely unpopular for obvious reasons.
  1. Enhance ties with Iran, including through barter deals that evade U.S. secondary sanctions and the sale of military equipment. Emphasize the illegality and cruelty of the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA. Encourage Turkey’s stated determination to defy the U.S. embargo on trade with Iran, purchasing crude oil and natural gas. Encourage too India’s intention to do the same. Raise rhetorically in every international forum the arrogance of the U.S. in attempting to collapse the Iranian economy and induce regime change by marshaling all who can be cowed into cooperation—all of this being in violation of international law. Actively challenge the U.S. effort to repeat the coup of 1953.
  1. Take advantage of the fact that the U.S. has no lingering credibility on the Israel-Palestine conflict; it has been slavishly devoted to Israel for five decades and in its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has left Palestinians hopeless of any peaceful solution. Russia has cordial relations with the Palestine Authority, and has high-level ties with Hamas (which it does not consider terrorist, as the U.S. does), which it urges to cooperate with Fateh (PLO). It also has good relations with Israel, in part due to cultural connections (the large population in Israel of Russian origin), the history including the Stalin-era Soviet support for Israel at its inception, booming trade (up 25% last year, while the U.S. and Europe heaped on sanctions), and strategic cooperation in Syria to keep forces separate and avoid incidents as Israel seeks to maintain Golan Heights security and sometimes hit Hizbollah targets while Russia wants to aid the regime in defeating its mainly extreme Islamist opponents.

Russia supports a two-state solution, as almost everyone does in some vague sense. But while U.S. presidents since the 1967 War (Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump) have always been responsive to a Christian Evangelical political base that thinks Israel is the fulfillment of Bible prophecy and Jesus will return there soon; plus a well organized and funded Jewish Zionist community, they have taken pains to assert U.S. even-handedness on the issue of the Occupied Territories resulting from that war. Trump doesn’t do that.

Here’s Russia’s chance to make the resolution of the problem something other than a U.S.-dictated Dayton Accord. Or a U.S.-subsidized slow suffocation of the two-state concept, under load after load of housing block concrete. There were 150,000 settlers on the West Bank when the Second Oslo Accord was signed in 1995. There are 400,000 now. The U.S. has not succeeded in forcing the Israelis to change behavior. Maybe Russia is better placed to do that, especially given warm current relations with Turkey, Iran, Israel, the Palestinian factions, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt where since 2015 Russia has enjoyed access to airbases and airspace for its warplanes.

  1. Cultivate Latin American countries abused by Trump’s U.S.  Cozy up with Mexico. Just as you cooperate with Brazil within the BRICS association, providing financial assistance for infrastructure and various projects. Don’t do in Mexico what the U.S. did in Ukraine, just smother Mexico with affection as you once did Cuba and take advantage of the fact that Trump’s anti-Mexican rants, the Wall and the immigration terror are spreading anti-U.S. sentiment in Mexico. Maintain the existing warm relationship with Cuba. Take advantage of the fact that Trump reversed the Obama relaxation on travel and business and maintains the trade embargo. The EU and the whole world deplores the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Join with the nations of Latin America in helping Cuba develop despite it.
  1. Work with China, which also enjoys good relations with both Koreas, to promote and facilitate the reunification of Korea as a confederation of two states with different systems, rid of nuclear weapons. Encourage Trump to act on his stated inclination to withdraw troops from South Korea. Argue that they serve no purpose because both Koreas have massive armies, can defend themselves from invaders and have signed a peace agreement between themselves. It’s not like the South Korean people want those 28,000 soldiers in their country.

Again, I make these recommendations as someone observing a board game. I regard Russia as an oppressive capitalist country much like the one in which I live. I would not want it to replace the U.S. as lobal hegemon but see its agency in shaking up the world order now that Trump has initiated the process.

Russia, if you’re listening…. Success in these efforts could reshuffle the world in a positive way. Not just for Russia but for everybody. Dissolution of military alliances, beginning with NATO. Withdrawal of troops. Abandonment of economic sanctions. Peace agreements ending historical conflicts.

Exploit this Trump moment to produce some good.

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat, for sure.

Russia’s Reaction to the Insults of the West is Political Suicide

The onslaught of western Russia bashing in the past days, particularly since the alleged poison attack by a Soviet-era nerve agent, Novichok (the inventor of which, by the way, lives in the US), on a Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, has been just horrifying. Especially by the UK. Starting with PM May, who outright accused Russia of using chemical weapons (CW) on UK grounds, without delivering any evidence. Strangely, there is no indication where Skripal and his daughter are, in which hospital the pair is being treated, no poison analysis is being published, they cannot be visited; there is absolutely no evidence of the substance they allegedly have been poisoned with – do Sergei and Yulia actually exist as victims of a poison attack?

As a consequence, Theresa May expels 23 Russian diplomats, who have to leave the UK within a week. Then came Boris Johnson, the Foreign Minister clown, also an abject liar. He said — no, he yelled — at his fellow parliamentarians that it was “overwhelmingly likely, that Putin personally ordered the spy attack.” This accusation out of nothing against the Russian President is way more than a deep breach in diplomatic behavior, it is a shameful insult. And no evidence is provided. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, in fact, said that Johnson’s personal attack on President Putin was “unforgivable”.

Not to miss out on the bashing theatre, UK Defense Secretary, Gavin Williamson, got even more insolent. Russia “should go away and shut up”. In response to all this demonizing Russia for an alleged crime, for which absolutely no proof has been provided, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said that the undiplomatic comments meant that the British authorities are nervous and have “something to hide,”. Lavrov also strongly objected, wanted to initiate a joint UK-Russia investigation into the case – is he dreaming? – and responded to a question of diplomatic retaliation, yes, that Russia will also expel UK diplomates ‘soon’.

There is no doubt that the UK acted as Washington’s poodle. In the course of this anti-Russia tirade, Trump twittered that he fully supported UK’s position. Indeed, the European puppets, Macron, Merkel, May and their chief, The Donald, signed a joint statement blaming Russia for the nerve gas attack on the former double agent, “There is no plausible alternative explanation than that Russia was to blame for the attack”. Bingo, that says it all. The presstitute picks it up and airs it to the seven corners of this globe – and the western sheeple are brainwashed once again: The Russians did it.

Well, we know that. But the real point I want to make is that Russia always reacts to such nonsensical and outright false accusations; Russia always responds, rejects, of course, the accusations but usually with lengthy explanations, and with suggestions on how to come to the truth – as if the UK and the west would give a shit about the truth – why are they doing that? Why are you, Russia, even responding?

That is a foolish sign of weakness. As if Russia was still believing in the goodness of the west, as if it just needed to be awakened. What Russia is doing, every time, not just in this Skripal case, but in every senseless and ruthless attack, accusations about cyber hacking, invading Ukraine, annexing Crimea, and not to speak about the never-ending saga of Russia-Gate, Russian meddling and hacking into the 2016 US Presidential elections, favoring Trump over Hillary. Everybody with a half brain knows it’s a load of crap. Even the FBI and CIA said that there was no evidence. So, why even respond? Why even trying to undo the lies, convince the liars that they, Russia, are not culpable?

Every time the west notices Russia’s wanting to be a “good neighbor”, about which the west really couldn’t care less, Russia makes herself more vulnerable, more prone to be accused and attacked and more slandered.

Why does Russia not just break away from the west? Instead of trying to ‘belong’ to the west? Accept that you are not wanted in the west, that the west only wants to plunder your resources, your vast landmass, they want to provoke you into a war where there are no winners, a war that may destroy entire Mother Earth, but they, the ZionAnglo handlers of Washington, dream that their elite will survive to eventually take over beautiful grand Russia. That’s what they want. The bashing is a means towards the end. The more people are with them, the easier it is to launch an atrocious war.

The Skripal case is typical. The intensity with which this UK lie-propaganda has been launched is exemplary. It has brought all of halfwit Europe – and there is a lot of them – under the spell of Russia hating. Nobody can believe that May, Merkel, Macron are such blatant liars… that is beyond what they have been brought up with. A lifelong of lies pushed down their throats, squeezed into their brains. Even if something tells them – this is not quite correct, the force of comfort, not leaving their comfort zone – not questioning their own lives – is so strong that they rather cry for War, War against Russia, War against the eternal enemy of mankind. I sadly remember in my youth in neutral Switzerland, the enemy always, but always came from the East. He was hiding behind the “Iron Curtain”.

The West is fabricating a new Iron Curtain. But while doing that, they don’t realize they are putting a noose around their own neck. Russia doesn’t need the west, but the west will soon be unable to survive without the East, the future is in the east – and Russia is an integral part of the East, of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), that encompasses half the world’s population and controls a third of the world’s economic output.

Mr. Putin, you don’t need to respond to insults from the west, because that’s what they are, abusive insults. The abject slander that Johnson boy threw at you is nothing but a miserable insult; you don’t need to respond to this behavior. You draw your consequences.

Dear President Putin, Dear Mr. Lavrov, Let them! Let them holler. Let them rot in their insanity. Respond to the UK no longer with words but with deeds, with drastic deeds. Close their embassy. Give all embassy staff a week to vacate your country, then you abolish and eviscerate the embassy the same way the US abolished your consulates in Washington and San Francisco a bit more than a year ago. Surely you have not forgotten. Then you give all Brits generously a month to pack up and leave your beautiful country (it can be done – that’s about what Washington is forcing its vassals around the globe to do with North Korean foreign laborers); block all trade with the UK (or with the entire West for that matter), block all western assets in Russia, because that’s the first thing the western plunderers will do, blocking Russian assets abroad. Stealing is in their blood.

Mr. Putin, You don’t need to respond to their miserable abusive attacks, slanders, lies. You and Russia are way above the level of this lowly western pack. Shut your relation to the west. You have China, the SCO, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Russia is part of the OBI – President Xi’s One Belt Initiative – the multi-trillion development thrive, emanating from China, connecting continents – Asia, Africa, Europe, South America – with infrastructure, trade, creating hundreds of millions of decent jobs, developing and promoting science and culture and providing hundreds of millions of people with a decent life.

What would the west do, if suddenly they had no enemy, because the enemy has decided to ignore them and take a nap? China will join you.

Everything else, responding, justifying, explaining, denying the most flagrant lies, trying to make them believe in the truth is not only a frustrating waste of time, it’s committing political suicide. You will never win. The west gives a hoot about the truth – they have proven that for the last two thousand years or more. And in all that time, not an iota of conscience has entered the west’s collective mind. The west cannot be trusted. Period.

US Neocon Wars Open Pandora’s Box in Europe

To some on the geopolitical stage, “stability” is something like a sacred word.

Of course, the devil is in the details. For decades, the word was used by successive US governments in a sense which did not preclude a certain number of wars – as long as those wars, whether officially declared or merely approved by an American President under the terms of some special Congressional authorization such as the one which is behind most current US military activity, were begun and carried out on American terms.

“Stability” was and remains the justification employed in defending United States support for some truly nasty governments, kings and dictators. Their professed opposition to communism or terrorism – as defined by the US government, of course – has been the primary qualification for that support. Although there was often talk of democracy, cosmetic moves purported to lead in that direction would usually suffice to sell the relationship to Congress, and in more than a few cases even the cosmetic mask is absent: it is simply asserted that the nation in question is a crucial strategic domino, the fall of which would put the entire world in jeopardy, and our noble principles must needs be temporarily suspended. Some of these temporary suspensions have lasted for decades now.

The dreaded scourge of instability, however, has now reached the heart of the empire.

In Germany (Western Europe’s biggest economy, as a result of massive American efforts to rebuild it as a protegee bulwark against the Soviet Union after World War II), preliminary negotiations designed to enable the formation of a new governing coalition broke down this week.

Although Chancellor Angela Merkel’s unfortunately named Christian Democratic Union emerged from the national German parliamentary election in late September as, once again, the country’s strongest political party, it lost a great many voters to the upstart right-wing anti-immigration Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) — as did its coalition partner since 2013, the Social Democratic Party. The Social Democrats fell to a historic low of 20%, only 7 percentage points higher than the AfD which entered Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, for the first time at 13%, as a massive number of voters deserted the governing coalition over its acceptance of a million refugees into Germany in 2015. Merkel has walked the fence on the issue for the last two years, refusing to renounce her decision to open the borders as a massive wave of refugees headed into Europe, but simultaneously moving to reverse the policy on a number of fronts.

During that period other European nations have refused to share the refugee influx, and xenophobic sentiment has grown steadily within Germany as across much of the EU. Establishment politicians and media breathed a huge sigh of relief when far-right racists failed to force their way into the government in The Netherlands, and the National Front lost the election in France, and that same establishment began to crow about the march of the far right having been stopped in Europe. As in 1990 after the “Fall of the Wall”, when they crowed ecstatically about Capitalism Triumphant, they had jumped the gun once again.

In Austria, in Poland, in Hungary, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in The Netherlands and France, in Italy and now in Germany, the strength of the far right continues to grow with opposition to immigration and refugees as the rallying point. While the bankruptcy of neoliberal austerity politics a la EU and the elitist top-down structure of the European super-government are also fueling right-wing discontent, it is very clearly the refugee and migration issue, with the accompanying fears of terrorism connected to the recent recurring attacks within Western Europe trumpeted 24/7 by the corporate and government media, which is driving this dynamic.

We have heard relatively little from the United States government about this growing instability in Western Europe. The exception: unsubstantiated and far-fetched charges that Russia is behind it. Sound familiar?

As with other aspects of the current massive anti-Russia propaganda campaign being steered from Washington, which went into higher gear after Russia’s response to US support for the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government in 2014, and up another notch to shift blame for the failed 2016 Clinton campaign, the charge that Russia is behind Europe’s growing problems is a preposterous and malicious attempt to distract attention from the real culprit: the European refugee crisis, Made In The USA.

Among the million refugees allowed into Germany in 2015, the largest contingents were from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Now, what might be the common thread joining that interesting group of countries?

But, of course, we don’t address this embarrassing fact openly in the mainstream media of EU and NATO countries. It’s not “nice” to say bad things about other members of your dysfunctional family and their nasty habits, even if those habits are tearing apart your social fabric. We simply couldn’t function without our imperial bulldog, it’s so much more comfortable to leave the protection racket to him. And in the EU, we are all about comfort … at least, in the affluent Western European countries that created the EU.

The other major force pulling the EU apart is a joint concoction of the United States and the EU, and emanates from those (less comfortable) EU members that are former member states of the Eastern Bloc which crumbled between 1989 and 1991. It seemed like such a good idea at the time … let them all join the EU and NATO as fast as possible. What could go wrong? My elderly mother, who was in that part of the world not long after the geopolitical tectonic shift, told me recently with great emotion how moving she found it to see the joy of all of those Eastern Europeans who were “finally free”. Many of those persons saw it exactly the same way at the time. But after 28 years a vast number of them have changed their minds, and have apparently decided that perhaps the absence of fear over losing jobs and homes, a general security which was the norm under socialism, was an even greater freedom than the Western/EU sort, which often seems to be more of a euphemism than a reality.

There is widespread anger over the yawning gulf of discrepancy between the promises made to them in 1990 about a better life under capitalism, and their persistent inferior economic and social status within the EU today. Often this anger is manifested as bitterness over a perceived welcome to foreigners which they themselves did not experience in the attitudes, for example, of West Germans toward their new East German fellow citizens after reunification.  Nor is Russia pleased – understandably – about the advance of NATO to its borders, complete with troops and missiles, in contravention of commitments made to Gorbachev in 1990 in exchange for Soviet cooperation on German reunification. Oh, these hypersensitive Russians … after all we’ve done for them.

As of this writing, Germany seems to be leaning toward a minority government, following the failure of talks aimed at creating a coalition between the Christian Democrats, their even more right-wing Bavarian “sister party” the Christian Social Union (a misnomer if there ever was one), the libertarian party of the affluent which is the Free Democratic Party, and the Green Party. Minority governments have existed in a number of European countries in the past, but never in modern Germany. It would be a gamble for Merkel, who has governed for 12 years with fairly workable coalitions. But the remaining alternative of a new snap election – provided the Social Democrats do not change their minds and agree to a renewal of the current “Grand Coalition” which has driven their support steadily lower – may be even riskier, as it is not unlikely that the strength of the Alternative für Deutschland could grow even greater.

It strikes me as increasingly surreal that it remains taboo to associate the refugee crisis, which is destabilizing the EU, with the American Neocon wars in the Middle East and Asia in the public discussion over the growing strength of the far right. But there is no shortage of surrealism on the geopolitical stage in 2017.

Nonetheless, with the USA now having become a major liability to its European allies, it is time for Europe to call a spade a spade. It is time for major change.

The German Election: The West’s Nervous Breakdown Continues

Following Sunday’s nationwide parliamentary election here in Germany I can hear the mocking laughter of 1989’s ghost, echoing throughout Europe and around the world. The great victory march of the “Free Market” Religion, which featured pompous, self-righteous politicians, pundits, and other worshippers at the altar of Big Finance strutting and crowing in the years following the fall of the Wall about the final demise and alleged failure of the supposedly evil and misguided socialist idea, has come to a grinding halt.

The rapid growth of the anti-immigrant, anti-EU party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in Germany – which received almost 13% of the vote and will now be the third biggest party in the new Bundestag or parliament — has been driven, above all, by widespread rage and frustration in Germany’s Eastern states, the former communist German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR), over the broken promises made at the time of German reunification regarding “blooming landscapes” (former Chancellor Helmut Kohl) and the associated affluence that was to be expected there within a few years, if the people there would only discard the socialist ideal and rush to the protective bosom of the West. They rushed — delirious with dreams of trading their funny little two-cylinder Trabant cars for big powerful Mercedes, and being able to buy the scarce luxury good, bananas, every day of the week. They were promised that raising their standard of living to that of their fellow Germans in the West would be the country’s top priority.

Almost 30 years later, that has not happened. There is widespread nostalgia in the Eastern states for the DDR and the modest but stable and generally stress-free life that most citizens there led, free from the threat of losing their dwellings or their jobs. And the same is true in the other Eastern European nations which joined the European Union and NATO after 1989.

As Stephen Gowans writes in his recent essay “We Lived Better Then”:

Of course, none of the great promises of the counterrevolution were kept. While at the time the demise of socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe was proclaimed as a great victory for humanity, not least by leftist intellectuals in the United States, two decades later there’s little to celebrate. The dismantling of socialism has, in a word, been a catastrophe, a great swindle that has not only delivered none of what it promised, but has wreaked irreparable harm, not only in the former socialist countries, but throughout the Western world, as well. Countless millions have been plunged deep into poverty, imperialism has been given a free hand, and wages and benefits in the West have bowed under the pressure of intensified competition for jobs and industry unleashed by a flood of jobless from the former socialist countries, where joblessness once, rightly, was considered an obscenity. Numberless voices in Russia, Romania, East Germany and elsewhere lament what has been stolen from them — and from humanity as a whole: “We lived better under communism. We had jobs. We had security.” And with the threat of jobs migrating to low-wage, high unemployment countries of Eastern Europe, workers in Western Europe have been forced to accept a longer working day, lower pay, and degraded benefits. Today, they fight a desperate rearguard action, where the victories are few, the defeats many. They too lived better — once.’

While the often racist and xenophobic manner in which East Germans and Eastern Europeans express their anger at what they see as an influx of foreigners who go to the front of the line for Western largesse — while the 30-year betrayal of the promises and misleading propaganda directed at themselves from 1989 to 1991 continues, although unacknowledged — is ugly and despicable, it is not hard to understand in its historical context. Somehow the assurances of the good life for all, thanks to the benevolent “invisible hand of the free market”, and the forecasts of blooming landscapes of prosperity across Eastern Europe, have failed to materialize. After more than a quarter of a century, prosperous areas exist but are exceedingly rare. In East Germany many small towns and villages are dying, and the population is shrinking as many follow the jobs westward, since few major employers have chosen to come eastward to them. Unemployment is much higher than in West Germany, and the cultural divisions between the citizens of the old DDR and West Germans have proven very stubborn and difficult to overcome. But the damage has not been confined to those in the formerly socialist countries. As Stephen Gowans points out:

But that’s only part of the story. For others, for investors and corporations, who’ve found new markets and opportunities for profitable investment, and can reap the benefits of the lower labor costs that attend intensified competition for jobs, the overthrow of socialism has, indeed, been something to celebrate. Equally, it has been welcomed by the landowning and industrial elite of the pre-socialist regimes whose estates and industrial concerns have been recovered and privatized. But they’re a minority. Why should the rest of us celebrate our own mugging?

Prior to the dismantling of socialism, most people in the world were protected from the vicissitudes of the global capitalist market by central planning and high tariff barriers. But once socialism fell in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and with China having marched resolutely down the capitalist road, the pool of unprotected labor available to transnational corporations expanded many times over. Today, a world labor force many times larger than the domestic pool of US workers — and willing to work dirt cheap — awaits the world’s corporations. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what the implications are for North American workers and their counterparts in Western Europe and Japan: an intense competition of all against all for jobs and industry. Inevitably, incomes fall, benefits are eroded, and working hours extended. Predictably, with labor costs tumbling, profits grow fat, capital surpluses accumulate and create bubbles, financial crises erupt and predatory wars to secure investment opportunities break out.  Growing competition for jobs and industry has forced workers in Western Europe to accept less. They work longer hours, and in some cases, for less pay and without increases in benefits, to keep jobs from moving to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and other former socialist countries — which, under the rule of the Reds, once provided jobs for all. More work for less money is a pleasing outcome for the corporate class, and turns out to be exactly the outcome fascists engineered for their countries’ capitalists in the 1930s. The methods, to be sure, were different, but the anti-Communism of Mussolini and Hitler, in other hands, has proved just as useful in securing the same retrograde ends. Nobody who is subject to the vagaries of the labor market – almost all of us — should be glad Communism was abolished.

This is the big picture, which is missing utterly from the political analysis in the “Extreme Center” which governs the West at the behest of the Finance Markets through neoliberal economic policy, and controls its corporate and government media. Pointing out the reality of this massive failure which has followed the much-lauded so-called historic victory of the capitalist model is taboo, as is the admission that the United States bears a huge share of the responsibility for the rapid expansion of the influx into Europe by refugees and economic migrants, a great many of whom are fleeing US-NATO war zones or their aftermath (see my recent article “Taboo Subject in NATO Media: Refugees, America’s Gift to Europe”) in nations including Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia. It is far easier to blame the rise of right-wing nationalism on ignorant racists who are so impatient as not to understand that blooming landscapes don’t spring up overnight, or that equality is an antiquated socialist concept which these “losers” will simply have to outgrow. In the USA, it’s a bit more complicated to deflect responsibility for the outbreak of unrepentant racism since, by and large, the malcontents have always been there, and are simply the economic rejects in a system returning rapidly to the Social Darwinism which held sway in the “land of the free” before World War II.

One of the main subjects among the few issues that dominated the relentlessly self-obsessed and sleep-inducing campaign which preceded the German election was INNERE SICHERHEIT (“Internal Safety” or “Security”). For conservatives and those who swallow racist propaganda – either the openly racist hysterical stuff spread by neo-Nazis and the AfD, or the more subtly suggestive xenophobic variety used by Angela Merkel’s Christian conservatives to try to appeal to their own substantial number of anti-immigration and racist voters – this is understood to mean safety from crimes committed by dangerous foreigners, refugees and other criminals, whether real or imagined. There has been a small but increasing number of crimes committed by refugees here, and nearly every one of them receives extensive media coverage, while the far greater number of attacks on foreigners by neo-Nazis, skinheads and other racist thugs is rarely mentioned in the official media.

However, the big-picture problems with the Orwellian linguistic and political fog conjured up by any deeper focus on this approach to the idea of “security” are, predictably, myriad. The Extreme Center promoted this fear of crime during the German election campaign while simultaneously refusing to address or even mention the true sources of growing danger and instability in Europe and elsewhere: the US-NATO destabilization of the Middle East through wars of “regime change” and the upward spiral of terrorism and refugee displacement that decades of intervention have produced, largely with the EU’s support or obedient subservience; the reduced economic security of many even in economically booming Germany, thanks to reforms and cuts to the social system begun several years ago, similar to those now being undertaken in France by Macron, in the name of “economic competitiveness”, and resembling on a smaller scale austerity government in the UK under the Tories which has produced increasing political chaos there too — reforms and social cutbacks which are now producing growing old-age poverty and other forms of economic hardship; the drain on Western economies produced by growing military expenditures, largely associated with the New Cold War being pushed by US neocons and put in high gear by Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s support for the coup in Ukraine, which has provoked major tensions with Russia, and sanctions which the EU has pathetically felt compelled to support against its own self-interest; the growing societal fears and unease stemming from the knowledge (or in some sectors of society a less conscious osmotic absorption of the associated psychic stress) that major environmental disaster looms as an ever more likely reality, which beneath the happy-face of reassuring public pronouncements and the ridiculous fig leaf of the Paris Accords is not being addressed in any meaningful way. The response of many Germans and other citizens of the European Union to the faux threats, which they are encouraged to think of as coming from somewhere outside of Europe, is to try to wall off their still comparatively comfortable and affluent part of the world. For many, this goes hand in hand with nationalism, since support for the transnational EU has never been enthusiastic among large segments of the European population, and recent EU infighting around issues of refugees and austerity have reinforced or inflamed anti-EU sentiment.

Merkel’s election posters featured a close-up (years old) of her smiling face with a caption about voting for a country “in which we live well and gladly”. In essence, that was her campaign message: the economy is doing very well (no mention of those who are not sharing in the bounty), and after 12 years in office much of the credit must go to her – although, in fact, the reforms which lowered the unemployment rate and pumped up the profit margin were initiated by the previous Chancellor’s government of Social Democrats and Greens. After a total of eight years as her junior coalition partner, during which she has characteristically claimed and received credit for many Social Democratic policies both positive and (from the standpoint of those of us on the Left) negative, the Social Democrats have now been slaughtered at the polls, retaining only 20% of the vote, and have declared that they are no longer available as coalition partners. But it is probably too late to save Europe’s Social Democratic heritage, which is now crumbling in every European country except the UK, where Jeremy Corbyn has had the courage to return to truly socialist policies.

Germany now faces a more fractured landscape of political parties, more like those in countries including The Netherlands and Belgium, which have been unable to form new governments for many months following elections. And, as in many other European countries, it will now attempt to fight a far-right party fed by racism and xenophobia, sounding the alarm that this party is a “Danger to Democracy” – although that party was founded, organized and became successful through the democratic process – while refusing to acknowledge the fact that the ruling conservatives are trying to win back those racists and xenophobes by moving closer to them politically. Although Merkel continues to verbally defend her refugee policies of 2015, in fact, she has altered those policies in a 180-degree reversal over two years, to maintain the support of her own party and prevent further defections.

The changes were successful enough to keep her in the Chancellor’s office, but her support has fallen lower than ever, and 13% of the voters refused to forgive and forget what they see as her betrayal. Heralded by the increasingly clueless New York Times and other desperate Trumped-out presstitutes as the “New Leader of the Free World” – wherever that might be! – she will now enter extremely challenging coalition negotiations with the Green Party and others feeling herself to be, at least here in Germany, on much shakier ground.

Angela Merkel: The Ikea Politician

The recipe for her success, which she has only latterly discovered, is that she’s been able to develop an image as someone who is tuned in to the German soul.

— Oskar Niedermayer, September 22, 2017

Modular furniture divinities, or corporations, may not be the best points of comparison for a politician, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has invited it.  She is stable, reliable, self-assembled from history.  But more to the point, she has managed to forge a workshop of political viewpoints, angles, and perspectives, a tent so vast it has neutralised opponents within and without her political base. Her capacity to deal in “flat pack centrism,” otherwise termed the “IKEA principle” has become textbook.

The notion of IKEA politics is not something that has been missed by conservatives and centre-based politicians.  IKEA supplied a point of reference to Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, when she observed a certain organisational principle at work in the conservative movement in the United States. The State Policy Network proved particularly interesting, some 64 groups loosely assembled as free-market think tanks.  Its president, Tracie Sharp, while denying the IKEA model had any role to play in a public sense, secretly spoke about it, its points of assembly and distribution.

For all its stock standard reliability, Merkel’s period in office has also seen hiccups, some of the dangerous sort.  The Syrian refugee crisis, and the open door policy to migrants and refugees which her European counterparts fear, has threatened inroads into her political base.  She has managed to prevent a general exodus from the centre, but dissatisfaction is finding form across a range of smaller parties across the political spectrum.

To that end, any vision of furniture is only as good as its final product.  These wear over time, and not even the advertising agency Jung von Matt could conceal the creaks and breaks for this campaign.  This was the question that presented itself on Sunday.  Mutti did pull through eventually, but it was a scarring encounter.

The first signs on Sunday night, true to a form that has become a recurring pattern across the elections of Europe, were that smaller parties, notably those reaping the populist whirlwind, were set to make strong gains.

The Free Democrats (FDP), which had vanished from the Bundestag in 2013 on 4.8%, found themselves projected to return with a notably present 9%.  (As the figures continue being finalised, that number has moved to almost 11%.)

The AfD (Alternative for Germany), while still garnering support as a far-right wing alternative, did not do as well as certain worried predictions went, though, with just under 13%, things promise to be merry for this coming term.  As the party’s manifesto went with conspiratorial glee, a “secret sovereign… has cultivated itself in the existing political parties.”

Nothing can get away from the reality that the party has made good its promise to found a petulant base in the Bundestag, a nationalist rear guard hopeful of dampening the refugee agenda.  The party’s co-leader, Alexander Gauland, has made clear through his conservative soaked account Anleitung zum Konservativsein (Instruction on Being a Conservative), that he wishes for a return to such notions as “deutsche Leitkultur,” a dominant German culture which arrests any other notions of identity.  Germany first is not a dirty term.

Despite being a refugee of the German Democratic Republic during the Cold War, Gauland saw his experience as singularly German, one to set apart from those swarms Merkel was accepting onto the soil of the fatherland.  He, as he explained, “went from Germany to Germany. It is quite different when someone comes from Eritrea or Sudan.  He has no right to the support of a foreigner.”  A fantasy he holds near and dear is a Muslim ban and an open cradling of the nostalgia of Heimat.

It was a night where major parties received more than a touch-up.  Merkel’s CDU/CSU grouping received the lowest share of the vote since 1949, on 33%, while the SPD’s effort was even more impoverished at 20.5%.

The message from the electoral pundits and analysts was generally uniform: Merkel would win.  Thankfully for her, the FDP performance means that a “Jamaica” coalition with the CDU/CSU and the Greens is in the offing.  But she could barely conceal the exhausted fact that it was a victory stripped of its sweetness.  Her own efforts to reverse the rot had seen a more curt electioneering approach, a visible hardening in policies, including support for a burqa ban and attempts to gauge the conservative temperature.

“The CDU could have hoped for a better result, but we mustn’t forget – looking back at an extraordinary challenge – that we nevertheless achieved our strategic objectives: we are the strongest party.”

The next period in the Budestag promises to be truly astringent, the very politics that resists the convenient brand labelling of modular, stable furniture.  For Merkel, its objective is clear. “We want to win back the AfD voters above all through good politics.”  The chancellor’s political centre risks breaching.

Power Dynamics Changing In World Order

The G-20 summit highlighted a transition in geopolitical power that has been developing for years. The process has escalated in recent months since President Trump took office, but its roots go much deeper than Trump. Europe is tired of the US spying on its leaders and creating a massive refugee crisis from its chaos creating wars. Russia and China are being pulled together as the US threatens both with missiles and bases on their borders. Now Trump seeks more money from everyone to reduce the US trade deficit and holds the world back on the climate crisis. The United States is losing power, a multi-polar world is taking shape and people power is on the rise as the world unites for people and planet before profits.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, and US President Donald Trump (Reuters)

The G-20 bordered on being a G-19, with the US a loner on key issues of climate change, trade and migration. These are some of the biggest issues on the planet. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been saying lately “We as Europeans have to take our fate into our own hands.” This is an indication they no longer see the US as the leader or even a reliable partner on key issues. In a summation of the G-20, Politico writes: “Hamburg will also go down as a further mile marker in Europe’s slow emancipation from the U.S.” We may be witnessing the beginning of the end of US Empire.

The United States Loses World Power

At the same time that Europe is setting its own course, Russia and China have been moving toward each other and acting in tandem, often with positions opposite the United States. While Washington was trying to isolate Russia, it has been building new friendships and alliances.

Presidents Putin and Xi have met on more than 20 occasions over the past four years. Xi now refers to Russia as China’s foremost ally. In that time, the United States built a wall of bases and missiles around both countries, intruded on China’s maritime space in the Asia Pacific and fomented regime change in Ukraine to turn that country against Russia. US aggression is backfiring and creating a multi-polar world. After meeting with Russia, President Xi met with Chancellor Merkel to sign trade deals.

Vladimir Putin (R) and Xi Jinping following the talks at the Kremlin, July 4, 2017 (Reuters)

Presidents Putin and Xi met before the G-20 to continue to build their alliance. Putin and Xi made deals on trade agreements and energy sales, created a $10 billion joint investment fund and came to a common approach regarding North Korea. Their approach: “dialogue and negotiation”, coupled with firm opposition to the THAAD missile system being installed by the US in South Korea.

North Korea is another issue where the US is out of step with the world. While the US was lobbying for an aggressive confrontation with North Korea over nuclear weapons, other countries were not joining in and Russia and China were urging restraint and diplomacy. The Los Angeles Times reports “White House officials have been dismayed to see China and Russia teaming up to advocate for a ‘freeze for peace’ strategy in which North Korea agrees to stop moving forward with its nuclear weapons development, in exchange for the international community easing sanctions and making other concessions.” Even Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been a lap dog for the United States, called on China and Russia to help mediate the Korean crisis.

US B-1 Lancer nuclear bombers

Instead of diplomacy, President Trump sent B-1 Lancer bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons toward the North Korean border where they released 2,000 pound inert bombs. Others in Congress are suggesting more economic sanctions, including sanctions that will negatively impact China and other countries. These actions are driving North Korea to develop ICBM nuclear missiles in order to protect itself from the United States, and driving other nations away from the US.

North Korea responded by calling the US’ action a dangerous provocation that could lead to nuclear war.  “More of the same” will not only continue to raise tensions but misses a tremendous opportunity to transform the relationship with North Korea and end the Korean War. Russia sought to reduce tensions by providing the United Nations with information demonstrating North Korea did not produce an ICBM, but only a mid-range missile. The world knows that North Korea is not the real threat to world peace, the United States is the problem, as William Boardman explains.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in waves from a car after inauguration (Reuters)

President Moon, the new president of South Korea, wants a ‘sunshine policy’ of constructive engagement with North Korea, including building economic ties. Already divisions are showing between the US and South Korea, especially over the THAAD missile system. The system was rushed into Korea during the recent elections, despite Moon’s warnings. Moon has said that South Korea must take a lead role in reducing tensions. He ordered an investigation of bringing THAAD equipment into the country.

Globalization is Leaving the United States Behind

While Trump is calling for trade that puts America first; i.e., decreases the massive US trade deficit through trade protectionism, other countries are taking a different approach. Pepe Escobar reports: “At the BRICS meeting on the sidelines of the G-20, they called for a more open global economy and for a rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system.”

Throughout the Obama term, trade negotiations were bogged down because the US was out of the mainstream, calling for greater transnational corporate power than other countries would accept. This was one reason why negotiations slowed and the TPP was killed under election year pressure that made the agreement toxic. Now Trump wants to be even more extreme in favoring US corporations.

As Finian Cunningham writes, the world understands US economic problems better than US leaders. He writes the world knows that US “trade imbalances with the rest of the world are not because of ‘rotten deals’, as Trump would have it, but rather because the American economy has ruined itself over many decades. The off-shoring of jobs by American corporations and gutting of American workers with poverty wages are part of it.”

Some Good News

One potential piece of good news this week was President Trump meeting with President Putin for more than two hours. The meeting overcame the Russia-phobia put forth by a barrage of anti-Putin, anti-Russian propaganda that has been produced for many years. The US desperately needs a positive relationship with Russia, not just to avoid conflict with a nuclear and economic power, but because the US is becoming isolated. While not a lot came out of this first meeting, it did provide a good start for the potential resolution of many conflicts – Syria, Ukraine, North Korea, Iran and nuclear weapons (where they should work to achieve the goal of no more nuclear weapons voted for in the UN), to name a few.

President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump at the G-20 Summit

The meeting produced a small step that could grow into a significant positive change. The US and Russia announced a ceasefire in part of southwestern Syria that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have been discussing for weeks. This could allow the US to play a positive role in Syria, in a war it has been losing.

But, this is also a test for President Trump – is he in control of the US government? Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst for 27 years, who led the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and gave the daily intelligence briefing to multiple presidents, asks whether the Trump-Tillerson ceasefire will survive better than an Obama-Kerry ceasefire also negotiated with Putin-Lavrov. In the Obama case, four days into the ceasefire, the US air force attacked Syrian troops, sabotaging the agreement. McGovern asks two questions critical to the lives of Syrians and the future of Europe and the Middle East:

“Will the forces that sabotaged previous ceasefire agreements in Syria succeed in doing so again, all the better to keep alive the ‘regime change’ dreams of the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists?”

“Or will President Trump succeed where President Obama failed by bringing the U.S. military and intelligence bureaucracies into line behind a ceasefire rather than allowing insubordination to win out?”

The RussiaGate myth was the top priority of the media and bi-partisans, rather than the potential Syria breakthrough. While the propaganda on alleged Russia interference continues, the US political class ignores the positive potential of the cease fire in Syria, closes its eyes to the potential undermining of the agreement by the Pentagon and talks about the myth that Russia elected Trump. As each new Russia-Gate is published, it is shown to be false.

People Over Profit

Finally, another lesson from the G-20, people around the world are angry at political leaders who are failing them, including Donald Trump for holding back urgent action on climate change, fed up with globalization that puts people’s needs far behind the profits of transnational corporations, and are demanding changes to a system that does not listen.

G-20 German riot police clash with protesters on July 6, 2017 (By Fabrizio Bensch for Reuters)

Protests began before the summit and grew in size and anger as the summit progressed – always met with extreme police violence. The protests in Hamburg were large and loud. The rioting got a good deal of attention, but people expressed their concerns on multiple issues in many ways. Srecko Horvat writes about the importance of protests to show opposition and power, but also the need to continue the work of building alternatives to the current failed systems.

A growing political movement is expressing what is so desperately needed. People look at world leaders posing in group photo to show an image of success as false emperors and empresses wearing no clothes. Angel Merkel, the host of the event, was careful not to exaggerate, summing up the meeting merely saying “The summit took place.” The realities are growing inequality, increasing impact from climate change and political systems that are less responsive to the people and more corrupted by transnational corporate power.

The root problem for the G-20 is they are unable to break from free market neoliberalism that is bringing devastation to the world. The people must force them to face the reality that transformation to economic democracy is needed — a new economy where people share the wealth and have influence in the direction of economic policy.

This new global alignment is a positive. The US has dominated the world for too long and must learn to become a cooperative partner. And as US power is waning on the world stage, there is an opening for people power in solidarity across borders to grow.

“Realpolitik”: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger in Berlin

After a tumultuous week which brought a number of nasty shocks and alarms, including the shooting down of a Syrian jet by the United States military in Syria, spiraling tensions, and fears of direct US-Russian confrontation in the Middle East, on Wednesday evening yet another horror story jumped off the screen and out of the evening news on German public radio to slap me in the face with the full force of its repellent vulgarity. The most infamous and despicable living war criminal, America’s Henry Kissinger, was once again being honored and treated as a wise elder statesman by a major world figure who claims to be an advocate of human rights and justice.

The occasion was a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan in Berlin, where the depraved one was allowed to represent his adopted country, as it was thanked for helping to rebuild Germany following the Second World War.

I could feel my blood pressure rising, as it does every time I see this poisonous creature fawned over by powerful and influential “leaders” who purportedly stand for human rights, justice and democracy. Whether it is Hillary Clinton, who referred to the mass murderer during her presidential campaign as a “great friend of democracy” – the same man who helped put in power dictators such as Chile’s General Augusto Pinochet, overthrowing a democratically-elected leader in the process and ushering in years of torture, murder, and repression, to name only one in that category – or Ms. Merkel, who loves to talk about the “shared values” of NATO and European Union members, but dallied with Kissinger embarrassingly this week before cameras in apparent blissful, willful obliviousness to his bloody record; or Barack Obama, who, in a moment of stupendous and supreme Orwellian shock theatre, awarded the world’s most famous war criminal the “Distinguished Public Service Award” a couple of years back: Kissinger is courted by heads of state and major power brokers as if he had made the world a better place, instead of being a major player in the initiation of the events that have produced today’s spreading chaos and grim death watch for our planet.

“Realpolitik”, they call it, and no one is more strongly associated with that term than the malevolent old German by birth, born Heinz Kissinger, who as a Jew fled from the Nazis in 1938 and emigrated to America. Among his famous quotes are such unforgettable classics as “There are no permanent friends, only permanent interests,”…“The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer,” … “… and if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern,”…“It is an act of insanity and national humiliation to have a law prohibiting the President from ordering assassination,”… and the refreshingly candid “Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.”

For years, as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State during a crucial and formative period in modern American history, he acted vigorously upon those chilling Machiavellian principles with results that have only grown more apparent and damning in the historical perception of anyone willing to trace the development of the current status quo. No brutal strongman was too nasty to merit US support if it was considered necessary in terms of preventing the spread of socialism and achieving the aims of United States Realpolitik. “Democracy” and “freedom” were public relations terms for domestic American consumption only. Kissinger did not only support and shake the hands of tyrants, he smiled broadly and convincingly for the cameras while doing so. His sincerity was only too obvious.

After spending much of my adult life as an expatriate living in Germany, I find such encounters not only horribly depressing, but increasingly revealing regarding the true nature of the European governments which I once considered far more enlightened than the American ones under which I grew up. The death penalty was abolished here long ago. I found post-war Germany’s historical policy of giving asylum to foreigners threatened by political persecution to be a noble sign of atonement for its Nazi past, even if its support for Israel in the face of decades of war crimes and military occupation of Palestine was the morally corrupt downside of that atonement. The environmental policies here which once looked so progressive, in comparison to America’s absolute refusal to take any meaningful steps to prevent the coming disaster, now stand revealed as window dressing and fig leaves, as Trump’s environmental apostasy has given Europe an opportunity to revel in its comparative enlightenment, although the practical effects of that superior approach will be just as non-existent.

Although Merkel was always maddeningly conservative on all issues related to the American alliance – refusing to criticize the war in Iraq, for example, when she was CDU party leader but not yet Chancellor, even as the Schröder government of Social Democrats and Greens refused to participate in that war and vocally condemned the invasion; and quickly changing the subject following the brief NSA scandal associated with the Snowden revelations, after it was revealed that her personal cellphone had been tapped, and she had pretended that the German government was not involved in such activity itself (now known to be pure deception) – she nonetheless represented her conservative party’s left wing. I have defended her against charges that her actions at the height of the massive refugee influx into Europe two years ago were not based on sincere compassion, and on a desire to help desperate humans fleeing from war zones where survival was increasingly dangerous and difficult. She took on her party’s right wing and much of the EU, and risked her political future for quite some time. But now, Kissingerian Realpolitik is once again ascendant as she runs for her fourth term in the Chancellor’s office.

On Thursday, German media ran multiple reports that her government will again begin deporting Afghan refugees who are rejected for asylum back into the war zone, where multiple recent terrorist attacks have taken place in the capital of Kabul, which the German government had until recently designated as “safe” along with other regions of the country (although these claims have been hotly contradicted by groups and organizations active there). A few weeks ago, as a planeload of Afghans was about to take off from Berlin for Kabul, a major attack in the direct vicinity of Afghanistan’s German embassy, which killed some 150 persons, exposed the true nature of that cynical assertion. The flight was canceled and the government said it would review the situation. Now, a few weeks later, they are about to resume the deportations.

The election campaign is in full swing: in September, national parliamentary (Bundestag) elections will take place.  All polls show that many right-wing, racist and xenophobic voters who had deserted Merkel’s CDU in anger over her refugee policy, to support the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), are now returning to the CDU in the wake of her near-reversal on refugee issues. The refugee issue and the issues of terrorism and “domestic security” (“innere Sicherheit”) are all being linked in her party’s campaign, and fear of foreigners is being consciously and deliberately nourished. The 600 to 700 attacks on refugees and migrants by vicious, xenophobic thugs which take place in Germany each year have disappeared from the news: apparently violent neo-Nazis and their fellow travelers are not considered to be a threat to that domestic security.

I thought about all of these things as I looked at the photo from Berlin of Merkel smiling and shaking hands with a buoyant Kissinger, her other arm on his shoulder, in what struck me as an odd combination of Realpolitik-groupie behavior and condescending courtliness. The shame that I feel as an American citizen for the foreign and military policy carried out in my name for many years by the repulsive Kissinger and his brutal ilk was accompanied by growing anger — over the huge gap between the rhetoric and stated ideals of the European Union as contrasted with the reality of its policies; the walls and the barbed-wire fences being built in Southern Europe; the new legal walls and corrupt deals being built to keep the world’s most desperate victims of war and poverty as far away as possible; the continued alliance with the power responsible for much of that war, and the taboo against speaking about the real causes of a large part of the refugee crisis; the infuriating cooperation in the campaign of lying propaganda against Russia, and the refusal to admit that European, American, and NATO mistakes and duplicity are responsible for the New Cold War (as in the case of the United States they were, largely, for the original Cold War); and over the glib designation of those of us who oppose these policies as “extremists”, while those who practice this deadly and disastrous Realpolitik are nonetheless presented as responsible and prudent statemen and citizens who uphold the noble values upon which NATO and the EU are allegedly based.

Any head of state who claims to believe in human rights, peace, and democracy makes a mockery of every word when they honor the depraved Henry Kissinger who, in spite of the best efforts of the late Christopher Hitchens and many others, has yet to stand trial for his unspeakable crimes.  Merkel looks to be well on her way to proving herself a worthy disciple.