Category Archives: Russia

The Rise of the Strongman Is Bad News for Women

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed reports for The National:

Image result for The rise of the strongman is bad news for womenDark clouds are gathering overhead for the world’s women. With the inauguration of Donald Trump the state of global gender relations will probably face another onslaught.

We’ve seen the bad behaviours against women that he has exhibited at a personal level.

Now what we must face up to is that his powerful public leadership status underscores a resurgence of the demagogic “strongman” in global politics. Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and of course the persistence of the strongman in the Middle East affects the tenor of global politics.

The macho leader, egotistic, unilateral and chest-thumping, worries us because of the grandstanding, bullying and violence that all too often follows in their wake.

What a strongman at the head of a nation also does is to impact our ideas of what it means to be a “man” and what is acceptable male behaviour at an ordinary day-to-day level. It sets a precedent about how men can or even must behave in order to be men and gives permission for treating women – or minorities – badly. It gives permission to regressive notions of gender relations which still fall desperately short of balance for the genders.

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A Visit to RT: Inside the Belly of Russia’s ‘Propaganda Machine’

Fred Weir reports for The Christian Science Monitor:

[…] Founded in 2005 as Russia Today, the station was handed the modest mission of improving the global discussion about Russia. Its several branches, which now include Spanish and Arabic stations, plus semi-independent operations in the US and Britain, are entirely funded by the Russian government. Last year’s total budget was 18.6 billion rubles, or approximately $310 million.

The network appears to have changed focus about five years ago to become more about promoting the Russian point of view on international affairs, and much less about covering Russia per se. It also became a platform for coverage of social problems in Western societies, government malfeasance, corporate non-accountability, and the dysfunctions of democracy that often contrasts in tone, and sometimes content, with mainstream media fare.

But the ODNI report accuses Russia of launching a multi-faceted campaign to shape the election outcome against Hillary Clinton and in favor of Donald Trump. That included allegedly hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails and giving them to Wikileaks, as well as unleashing armies of internet trolls and waves of disinformation to skew the national discourse, all on Kremlin orders.

The open face of that campaign, it alleged, is RT and its sister English-language news agency Sputnik, which serve as permanent Kremlin-directed messaging tools “to undermine faith in the US Government and fuel political protest.”

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The Real Purpose of the Russian Hacking Intel Report: Chris Hedges in Discussion with Abby Martin and Ben Norton

Chris Hedges is joined by journalists Abby Martin and Ben Norton to discuss the declassified U.S. intelligence report on Russia’s alleged “influence campaign” on the U.S. presidential election. They explore the allegations and why a large portion of the report is dedicated to RT America’s programming. (On Contact)

Was RT America ‘Pro-Trump’?

Danielle Ryan writes for The Nation:

RT conferenceUS intelligence agencies have pointed toward the Russia Today television channel as part of an ongoing effort to prove the Kremlin conducted a pro-Trump “influence campaign” in the run-up to the presidential election.

The long-awaited and recently declassified intelligence report into Russian influence in the election claimed that Russia’s “state-run propaganda machine” contributed to this influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to both Russian and international audiences. The report dedicated seven of its 25 pages to RT America—an offshoot from RT’s main Moscow-based international operation—which is funded by the Russian government.

But it’s not just intelligence agencies characterizing RT America as a vehicle for pro-Trump messaging. The accusation has become a common theme across traditional US media outlets as anti-Russia hawks and both liberal and conservative analysts seek to discredit anyone who strays from the accepted narrative on RT as a Kremlin stooge.

The problem with the claim that RT America is pro-Trump is that it is simply false. Many of the channel’s biggest names were either ardently anti-Trump or highly skeptical of what a Trump presidency might mean for America.

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Jeremy Corbyn Accused of Being Russian “Collaborator” for Questioning NATO Troop Build-Up on Border

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

The leader of the UK’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, called for a “de-escalation” of tensions between NATO and Russia, adding in a BBC interview on Thursday: “I want to see a de-militarisation of the border between them.” Along with the U.S., the UK has been rapidly building up its military presence in the Baltic region, including states which border Russia, and is now about to send another 800 troops to Estonia, 500 of which will be permanently based.

In response, Russia has moved its own troops within its country near those borders, causing serious military tensions to rise among multiple nuclear-armed powers. Throughout 2016, the Russian and U.S. militaries have engaged in increasingly provocative and aggressive maneuvers against one another. This week, the U.S. began deploying 4,000 troops to Poland, “the biggest deployment of US troops in Europe since the end of the cold war.”

It was in this context that Corbyn said it is “unfortunate that troops have gone up to the border on both sides,” adding that “he wanted to see better relations between Russia, NATO and the EU.” The Labour leader explained that while Russia has engaged in serious human rights abuses both domestically and in Syria, there must be a “better relationships between both sides . . .  there cannot be a return to a Cold War mentality.”

The response to Corbyn’s call for better relations and de-escalation of tensions with Moscow was swift and predictable.

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Tales of the New Cold War: Stephen F. Cohen on the Trump Allegations and the Possibility for Détente

In the first interview, Professor Emeritus Stephen F. Cohen speaks to John Batchelor about what he calls ‘unsubstantiated’ allegations that President-elect Donald Trump has been compromised by the Russians. In the second interview. Cohen speaks to Thom Hartmann the various scandals revolving around Trump and the possible implications for the future. (The John Batchelor Show/Thom Hartmann Program)

The Spy Who Wrote the Trump-Russia Memos

David Corn writes for Mother Jones:

Last fall, a week before the election, I broke the story that a former Western counterintelligence official had sent memos to the FBI with troubling allegations related to Donald Trump. The memos noted that this spy’s sources had provided him with information indicating that Russian intelligence had mounted a yearslong operation to co-opt or cultivate Trump and had gathered secret compromising material on Trump. They also alleged that Trump and his inner circle had accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin. These memos caused a media and political firestorm this week when CNN reported that President Barack Obama and Trump had been told about their existence, as part of briefings on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia hacked political targets during the 2016 campaign to help Trump become president. For my story in October, I spoke with the former spy who wrote these memos, under the condition that I not name him or reveal his nationality or the spy service where he had worked for nearly two decades, mostly on Russian matters.

The former spy told me that he had been retained in early June by a private research firm in the United States to look into Trump’s activity in Europe and Russia. “It started off as a fairly general inquiry,” he recalled. One question for him, he said, was, “Are there business ties in Russia?” The American firm was conducting a Trump opposition research project that was first financed by a Republican source until the funding switched to a Democratic one. The former spy said he was never told the identity of the client.

The former intelligence official went to work and contacted his network of sources in Russia and elsewhere. He soon received what he called “hair-raising” information. His sources told him, he said, that Trump had been “sexually compromised” by Russian intelligence in 2013 (when Trump was in Moscow for the Miss Universe contest) or earlier and that there was an “established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.” He noted he was “shocked” by these allegations. By the end of June, he was sending reports of what he was finding to the American firm.

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The Spy Who Compiled The Golden Showers Dossier Helped Bring Down Sepp Blatter

Patrick Redford reports for Dead Spin:

A day after Donald Trump held a press conference to decry Buzzfeed’s reporting, spout nonsensically about how he doesn’t do treason, and claim that he wouldn’t take part in a golden shower party because he’s a germaphobe, the Wall Street Journal has reported the identity of the British spy who helped compile the explosive dossier.

Christopher Steele is the 52-year-old owner of a London-based private security company, but he previously served in MI6, posing as a diplomat in Russia and Paris. The English FA hired Steele’s private security firm to investigate FIFA corruption while it was still in the running to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cups. England was unsuccessful in its attempts to delegitimize Russia or Qatar’s bids, but in the summer of 2010, Steele reportedly supplied the FBI with information about the widespread corruption within FIFA.

According to Reuters, the FBI came to him in 2010 and the information he supplied helped spur on the FBI’s investigation.

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The Story of the Trump Dossier: Secret Sources, an Airport Rendezvous, and John McCain

Julian Borger reports for The Guardian:

Image result for The Story of the Trump DossierThe extraordinary but unverified documents published on Tuesday on Donald Trump’s ties with Moscow began life as a piece of opposition research, which has become as much a part of US politics as yard signs and coloured balloons.

There is a small industry of research and investigative firms in Washington, typically staffed by a mix of former journalists and security officials, adept at finding information about politicians that the politicians would rather stay hidden. The firms often do not know who exactly is hiring them; the request could come from a law firm acting on behalf of a client from one of the parties.

In this case, the request for opposition research on Donald Trump came from one of his Republican opponents in the primary campaign. The research firm then hired one of its sub-contractors who it used regularly on all things Russian: a retired western European former counter-intelligence official, with a long history of dealing with the shadow world of Moscow’s spooks and siloviki (securocrats).

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Christopher Steele: Super-Spy or Dodgy Dossier Writer?

Adam Lusher writes for The Independent:

christopher-steele-1.jpgAccording to his publicly-available LinkedIn profile, Christopher Steele never existed before he co-founded Orbis Business Intelligence, a “corporate intelligence consultancy” providing “strategic insight, intelligence and investigative services”.

There is no mention of the 52-year-old’s life before 2009, when he and Orbis took up offices in Belgravia, one of the wealthiest districts in London, and indeed the world.

The man behind the explosive dossier on US President-elect Donald Trump is proving equally elusive in the flesh, as well as online. “Terrified for his safety”, he is reported to have driven from his home in the south of England having asked a neighbour to look after his cat because he would be “gone for a few days”.

Now, though, some sources have started to fill in the gaps in the secretive Mr Steele’s CV.

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U.S. Spy Report Blames Putin for Hacks, But Doesn’t Back It Up

Kimberly Dozier, Noah Shachtman and Michael Weiss write for The Daily Beast:

[…] The night-and-day report and reaction hint at either a difficult relationship to come between the president and America’s spies, or a cagey response by a future commander in chief who is only beginning to realize how the chess masters in the Kremlin play the game of geopolitics.

The unclassified report is unlikely to convince a single skeptic, as it offers none of the evidence intelligence officials say they have to back it up—none of those emails or transcripts of phone calls showing a clear connection between the Russian government and the political intrusions. The reason—revealing how U.S. spies know what they know could endanger U.S. spy operations.

And it contains some out-dated information that seems slapdash considering the attention focused on it. Errors in the report were almost inevitable, because of the haste in which it was prepared, said one U.S. official briefed on the report. The report comes in three levels—unclassified, classified and then one so top secret that only a handful of intelligence professionals was able to view the whole thing. That most classified report is the one that went to President Barack Obama, and to Trump. The merely classified version will be briefed to lawmakers in the coming days. The classification issues alone meant it was “hard to transmit around” to be fact-checked, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

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Russia, Trump and Flawed Intelligence

Masha Gessen writes for The New York Review of Books:

US Defense Under Secretary for Intelligence Marcel Lettre, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers testifying before the Senate, Washington, D.C., January 5, 2017After months of anticipation, speculation, and hand-wringing by politicians and journalists, American intelligence agencies have finally released a declassified version of a report on the part they believe Russia played in the US presidential election. On Friday, when the report appeared, the major newspapers came out with virtually identical headlines highlighting the agencies’ finding that Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign” to help Donald Trump win the presidency—a finding the agencies say they hold “with high confidence.”

A close reading of the report shows that it barely supports such a conclusion. Indeed, it barely supports any conclusion. There is not much to read: the declassified version is twenty-five pages, of which two are blank, four are decorative, one contains an explanation of terms, one a table of contents, and seven are a previously published unclassified report by the CIA’s Open Source division. There is even less to process: the report adds hardly anything to what we already knew. The strongest allegations—including about the nature of the DNC hacking—had already been spelled out in much greater detail in earlier media reports.

But the real problems come with the findings themselves.

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Media Frenzy Over Dubious Trump Dossier

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Reports late Tuesday of Russia having “compromising” information on President-elect Donald Trump quickly escalated into a media frenzy on Wednesday, with the release of the full dossier making the allegations by Buzzfeed, which both fueled serious doubts about the veracity of the claims and a flurry of speculation surrounding some of sexual allegations therein.

The dossier makes several different claims, none of them substantiated beyond the claims of alleged and anonymous officials, accusing the Trump campaign of direct cooperation with Russia on the election, trading dirt on Hillary Clinton for intelligence somehow collected by the Trump team on Russian oligarchs living in the US, and providing leaked Clinton emails in return for Trump expressing doubt about US support for NATO.

The more salacious aspects of the report got the most attention, however, centering on claims that Russia had substantial dirt on Trump himself, not the least of which a 2013 video in which Trump putatively rented the presidential suite at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton, knowing that the Obamas had stayed there, explicitly to “defile” their bed.

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The Deep State Goes to War with President-Elect, Using Unverified Claims, as Democrats Cheer

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] There is a real danger here that this maneuver can harshly backfire, to the great benefit of Trump and to the great detriment of those who want to oppose him. If any of the significant claims in this “dossier” turn out to be provably false — such as Cohen’s trip to Prague — many people will conclude, with Trump’s encouragement, that large media outlets (CNN and BuzzFeed) and anti-Trump factions inside the government (CIA) are deploying “Fake News” to destroy him. In the eyes of many people, that will forever discredit — render impotent — future journalistic exposés that are based on actual, corroborated wrongdoing.

Beyond that, the threat posed by submitting ourselves to the CIA and empowering it to reign supreme outside of the democratic process is — as Eisenhower warned — an even more severe danger. The threat of being ruled by unaccountable and unelected entities is self-evident and grave. That’s especially true when the entity behind which so many are rallying is one with a long and deliberate history of lying, propaganda, war crimes, torture, and the worst atrocities imaginable.

All of the claims about Russia’s interference in U.S. elections and ties to Trump should be fully investigated by a credible body, and the evidence publicly disclosed to the fullest extent possible. As my colleague Sam Biddle argued last week after disclosure of the farcical intelligence community report on Russia hacking — one which even Putin’s foes mocked as a bad joke — the utter lack of evidence for these allegations means “we need an independent, resolute inquiry.” But until then, assertions that are unaccompanied by evidence and disseminated anonymously should be treated with the utmost skepticism — not lavished with convenience-driven gullibility.

Most important of all, the legitimate and effective tactics for opposing Trump are being utterly drowned by these irrational, desperate, ad hoc crusades that have no cogent strategy and make his opponents appear increasingly devoid of reason and gravity. Right now, Trump’s opponents are behaving as media critic Adam Johnson described: as ideological jelly fish, floating around aimlessly and lost, desperately latching on to whatever barge randomly passes by.

There are solutions to Trump. They involve reasoned strategizing and patient focus on issues people actually care about. Whatever those solutions are, venerating the intelligence community, begging for its intervention, and equating their dark and dirty assertions as Truth are most certainly not among them. Doing that cannot possibly achieve any good, and is already doing much harm.

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Abby Martin Responds to a New York Times Article Which Falsely Represented Her Work at RT America

Abby Martin responds to a 7th January New York Times article which falsely represented her work at RT America:

AbbyMartinThe long-awaited report by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), allegedly proving Russian “interference” in the US election, includes a section solely dedicated to bashing RT, and specifically calls out my former show Breaking the Set, which ended two years ago, as a propaganda vector marking the beginning of the Kremlin attempt to subvert American democracy.

Desperate to push this US intelligence narrative, The New York Times called the report “damning and surprisingly detailed,” while adding that it includes no actual evidence.

The very next day, on Jan. 7, the Times published another piece titled “Russia’s RT, The Network Implicated in U.S. Election Meddling.”

In the article, NYT journalist Russell Goldman used two blatantly false statements about my work at RT to support the argument that the network is simply a Putin-dictated propaganda outlet.

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Inquiry Points Toward a Pentagon Plot to Subvert Obama’s Syria Policy

Gareth Porter reports for Truthdig:

Airstrikes by the United States and its allies against two Syrian army positions Sept. 17 killed at least 62 Syrian troops and wounded dozens more. The attack was quickly treated as a non-story by the U.S. news media; U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) claimed the strikes were carried out in the mistaken belief that Islamic State forces were being targeted, and the story disappeared.

The circumstances surrounding the attack, however, suggested it may have been deliberate, its purpose being to sabotage President Obama’s policy of coordinating with Russia against Islamic State and Nusra Front forces in Syria as part of a U.S.-Russian cease-fire agreement.

Normally the U.S. military can cover up illegal operations and mistakes with a pro forma military investigation that publicly clears those responsible. But the air attack on Syrian troops also involved three foreign allies in the anti-Islamic State campaign named Operation Inherent Resolve: the United Kingdom, Denmark and Australia. So, the Pentagon had to agree to bring a general from one of those allies into the investigation as a co-author of the report. Consequently, the summary of the investigation released by CENTCOM on Nov. 29 reveals far more than the Pentagon and CENTCOM brass would have desired.

Thanks to that heavily redacted report, we now have detailed evidence that the commander of CENTCOM’s Air Force component attacked the Syrian army deliberately.

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Nomi Prins: My Political-Financial Road Map for 2017

Nomi Prins, former managing director at Goldman Sachs and author of All The Presidents’ Bankers, writes:

Happy New Year! May yours be peaceful, safe and impactful!

As tumultuous as last year was from a global political perspective on the back of a rocky start market-wise, 2017 will be much more so. The central bank subsidization of the financial system (especially in the US and Europe) that began with the Fed invoking zero interest rate policy in 2008, gave way to international distrust of the enabling status quo that unfolded in different ways across the planet. My prognosis is for more destabilization, financially and politically.  In other words, the world’s a mess.

Over 2016, I circled the earth to gain insight and share my thoughts on this path from financial crisis to central bank market manipulation to geo-political fall out, while researching my new book, Artisans of Money. (I’m pressing to hand in my manuscript by February 28th – the book should emerge in the Fall.)

I traveled through countries Mexico, Brazil, China, Japan, England and Germany, nations epitomizing various elements of the artisanal money effect. I spoke with farmers, teachers and truck-drivers as well as politicians, private and central bankers. I explored that chasm between news and reality to investigate the ways in which elite power endlessly permeates the existence of regular people.

In last year’s roadmap, I wrote we were in a “transitional phase of geo-political-monetary power struggles, capital flow decisions, and fundamental economic choices. This remains a period of artisanal (central bank fabricated) money, high volatility, low growth, excessive wealth inequality, extreme speculation, and policies that preserve the appearance of big bank liquidity and concentration at the expense of long-term stability.”

That happened. Going forward, as always, there’s endless amount of information to process. The state of economies, citizens and governments remains more precarious than ever. Major areas on the upcoming docket include – central bank desperation, corporate defaults and related job losses, economic impact of political isolationism, conservatism and deregulation, South America’s woes, Europe’s EU voter rejections, and the ongoing power shift from the West to the East.

For now, I’d like to share with you some specific items – which are by no means exhaustive, that I’ll be analyzing in 2017.

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The Long and Painful Journey to World Disorder

Martin Wolf, influential journalist and regular attendee at Bilderberg and Davos, writes for The Financial Times:

It is not true that humanity cannot learn from history. It can and, in the case of the lessons of the dark period between 1914 and 1945, the west did. But it seems to have forgotten those lessons. We are living, once again, in an era of strident nationalism and xenophobia. The hopes of a brave new world of progress, harmony and democracy, raised by the market opening of the 1980s and the collapse of Soviet communism between 1989 and 1991, have turned into ashes.

What lies ahead for the US, creator and guarantor of the postwar liberal order, soon to be governed by a president who repudiates permanent alliances, embraces protectionism and admires despots? What lies ahead for a battered EU, contemplating the rise of “illiberal democracy” in the east, Brexit and the possibility of Marine Le Pen’s election to the French presidency?

What lies ahead now that Vladimir Putin’s irredentist Russia exerts increasing influence on the world and China has announced that Xi Jinping is not first among equals but a “core leader”?

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Glenn Greenwald on Russia, Trump, the DNC Emails, Wikileaks, Snowden, Fake News and U.S. Media Culpability

Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and co-founder of The Intercept Glenn Greenwald as the Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on alleged Russian cyber-attacks. (Democracy Now!)

The Washington Post Spreading Its Own Falsehoods Shows the Real Power of Fake News

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

WaPo: Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials sayThe putative scourge of “fake news” has been one of the most pervasive post-election media narratives. The general thrust goes like this: A torrent of fake news swept the internet, damaging Hillary Clinton and possibly leading to a Donald Trump victory.

A primary problem with this convenient-to-some narrative is that “fake news” has yet to be clearly defined by anyone. Vaguely conceptualized as misleading or outright fabricated stories, it can mean anything—as FAIR has noted previously (12/1/16)—from outlets that align with “Russian viewpoints” to foreign spam.

A recent series of events further illustrates this ambiguity. Friday night, the Washington Post (12/30/16) published an explosive report about Russian hackers breaking into a Vermont utility company. The headline splashed all over social media:

Russian Hackers Penetrated US Electricity Grid Through a Utility in Vermont, Officials Say

Quickly, the blockbuster story began to fall apart, after Burlington Electric, the utility in question, issued a statement saying they had “detected the malware in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop not connected to [their] organization’s grid systems.” The Post “updated” the story several times throughout the evening, eventually adding a heavily qualified editor’s note that the only cause for concern was some “Russian code” on a laptop of one of the employees. There was no evidence of a hack or an attempted hack, Russian or otherwise.

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The Washington Post Is Richly Rewarded for False News About Russia Threat While Public Is Deceived

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

In the past six weeks, the Washington Post published two blockbuster stories about the Russian threat that went viral: one on how Russia is behind a massive explosion of “fake news,” the other on how it invaded the U.S. electric grid. Both articles were fundamentally false. Each now bears a humiliating editor’s note grudgingly acknowledging that the core claims of the story were fiction: The first note was posted a full two weeks later to the top of the original article; the other was buried the following day at the bottom.

The second story on the electric grid turned out to be far worse than I realized when I wrote about it on Saturday, when it became clear that there was no “penetration of the U.S. electricity grid” as the Post had claimed. In addition to the editor’s note, the Russia-hacked-our-electric-grid story now has a full-scale retraction in the form of a separate article admitting that “the incident is not linked to any Russian government effort to target or hack the utility” and there may not even have been malware at all on this laptop.

But while these debacles are embarrassing for the paper, they are also richly rewarding. That’s because journalists — including those at the Post — aggressively hype and promote the original, sensationalistic false stories, ensuring that they go viral, generating massive traffic for the Post (the paper’s executive editor, Marty Baron, recently boasted about how profitable the paper has become).

After spreading the falsehoods far and wide, raising fear levels and manipulating U.S. political discourse in the process (both Russia stories were widely hyped on cable news), journalists who spread the false claims subsequently note the retraction or corrections only in the most muted way possible, and often not at all. As a result, only a tiny fraction of people who were exposed to the original false story end up learning of the retractions.

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Kissinger’s Washington Is Coming Back Around

Eli Lake writes for Bloomberg:

Let’s take a moment to savor what looks to be Henry Kissinger’s final act. The man is 93 years old. At that age, most people are lucky to have enough energy for “Wheel of Fortune” and a few Facebook posts. Not Kissinger. These days, he’s playing the influence game against insiders who hadn’t even been born when he was Richard Nixon’s secretary of state.

Officials with Donald Trump’s transition team tell me Kissinger has spent several hours since the election advising incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn and his team. He’s also putting his network in place. He recommended his former assistant, K.T. McFarland, to be Flynn’s deputy, and urged Trump to nominate Rex Tillerson, the chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil, as his secretary of state. Kissinger is one of the few people in Trump’s orbit who can get him on the phone whenever he wants, according to one transition adviser.

That’s just behind the scenes. Consider that Kissinger is also an important validator for Trump in the press. When some Republicans questioned Tillerson’s closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kissinger defended the pick on “Face the Nation.” Kissinger helped soften the blow of Trump’s phone call with Taiwan’s president in December before the Committee of 100, which advocates for the U.S.-China relationship. Before that, Kissinger winged his way to Oslo to urge his fellow Nobel laureates to give the next president’s foreign policy a chance. It feels like 1975 all over again. I’m half-expecting to read something in the tabloids about a Kissinger affair with a Hollywood starlet.

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Get Ready For Another Year of Global Tumult

Stephen Collinson reports for CNN:

Image result for Get ready for another year of global tumultThe political tumult that rocked the world in 2016 might be an appetizer for 2017.

Crucial elections loom this year in France and Germany, where the same anti-establishment backlash that produced Donald Trump and Brexit could offer an opening to nationalist leaders who oppose Muslim immigration and further erode the European unity that has been a signature of the post-World War II era.

The Middle East is spiraling deeper into the mire of fraying borders and sectarian disorder while violence in places such Syria is unleashing a tide of desperate refugees that is destabilizing Europe. Meanwhile, rising powers such as China, Russia and Iran are closely watching the developments to determine whether the convulsions in the West give them an opening to advance their own interests.

Of course, the 15 years since the September 11 attacks have been dominated by war, strife and economic disruption. But what makes 2017 so unique is that America — long a force for stability — is poised to inaugurate one of the most impulsive presidents ever to walk into the Oval Office.

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It’s the ‘Most Volatile’ Year for Political Risk Since WWII, Eurasia Group Says

Rainer Buergin reports for Bloomberg:

Image result for It’s the ‘Most Volatile’ Year for Political Risk Since WWII, Eurasia Group SaysU.S. unilateralism under Donald Trump, China’s growing assertiveness and a weakened German Chancellor Angela Merkel will make 2017 the “most volatile” year for political risk since World War II, according to Eurasia Group.

“In 2017 we enter a period of geopolitical recession,” the New York-based company said in its annual outlook. International war or “the breakdown of major central government institutions” isn’t inevitable, though “such an outcome is now thinkable.”

With Trump’s ascent to the presidency on an America First platform, the global economy can’t count on the U.S. to provide “guardrails” anymore, according to Eurasia, which advises investors on political risk. Trump’s signals of a thaw with Russia, skepticism toward the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and his “alignment” with European anti-establishment parties such as France’s National Front could weaken the main postwar alliance protecting the global order, according to the report released Tuesday.

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Should The American Public Be Thankful For Russian ‘Interference’?

Michael Tracey argues for Medium:

[…] If the state-sponsored Russian hackers did something truly malignant, like messing with election results, then yes — that’d be a severe breach and warrant substantial retaliation. But as it stands, the sinister Russians are accused of illuminating American voters as to the activities of the country’s most powerful political actors. The revelations made via WikiLeaks shined a light on all manner of fraud, deceit, and malfeasance. Would it have been better had voters not received access to this information? Who did it harm, other than a small group of political functionaries like Podesta and Wasserman-Schultz? Didn’t the American polity actually profit as a result of these hacks, given that they were provided important information about a presidential candidate that would have been otherwise suppressed?

When people use the word “interfered” to characterize what the Russian government is supposed to have done here, they give whole matter a needlessly nefarious gloss. “Russian interference in the election” connotes some kind of elaborate, intensive subversion plot. But that’s not what happened at all — voters weren’t harmed as a result of this “interference.” They were benefitted.

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Fake News: Russian Hacking of US Electricity Grid Never Took Place as Claimed by the Washington Post

Agamoni Ghosh reports for the International Business Times:

A news report last week had claimed that Russia-based hackers had successfully penetrated the US electricity grid through a facility in Vermont. But, such a thing never really happened as the alleged malware code that was thought to be injected into the grid system was only present on a single laptop that has no connection to the grid.

The report published by the Washington Post has been discarded as being misleading and false and the company has issued a note saying their key claim in the story was false.

“An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the US electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid,” said an editor’s note on the copy.

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Top-Secret Snowden Document Reveals What the NSA Knew About Previous Russian Hacking

Sam Biddle reports for The Intercept:

To date, the only public evidence that the Russian government was responsible for hacks of the DNC and key Democratic figures has been circumstantial and far short of conclusive, courtesy of private research firms with a financial stake in such claims. Multiple federal agencies now claim certainty about the Kremlin connection, but they have yet to make public the basis for their beliefs.

Now, a never-before-published top-secret document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden suggests the NSA has a way of collecting evidence of Russian hacks, because the agency tracked a similar hack before in the case of a prominent Russian journalist, who was also a U.S. citizen.

In 2006, longtime Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down in her apartment, the victim of an apparent contract killing. Although five individuals, including the gunman, were convicted for the crime, whoever ordered the murder remains unknown. Information about Politkovskaya’s journalism career, murder, and the investigation of that crime was compiled by the NSA in the form of an internal wiki entry. Most of the wiki’s information is biographical, public, and unclassified, save for a brief passage marked top secret.

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We Are Not Living in a ‘Post-Truth’ World, We Are Living the Lies of Others

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent:

donadltrump.jpgWe do not live in a “post-truth” world, neither in the Middle East nor in the West – nor in Russia, for that matter. We live in a world of lies. And we always have lived in a world of lies.

Just take a look at the wreckage of the Middle East with its history of people’s popular republics and its hateful dictators. They feast on dishonesty, although they all – bar the late Muammar al-Gaddafi – demand regular elections to make-believe their way back to power.

Now, I suppose, it is we who have regular elections based on lies. So maybe Trump and the Arab autocrats will get on rather well. Trump already likes Field Marshal/President al-Sissi of Egypt, and he’s already got a golf course in Dubai. That he deals in lies, that he manufactures facts, should make him quite at home in the Middle East. Misogyny, bullying, threats to political opponents, authoritarianism, tyranny, torture, sneers at minorities: it’s part and parcel of the Arab world.

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Something About This Russia Story Stinks

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

[…] Did the Russians do it? Very possibly, in which case it should be reported to the max. But the press right now is flying blind. Plowing ahead with credulous accounts is problematic because so many different feasible scenarios are in play.

On one end of the spectrum, America could have just been the victim of a virtual coup d’etat engineered by a combination of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, which would be among the most serious things to ever happen to our democracy.

But this could also just be a cynical ass-covering campaign, by a Democratic Party that has seemed keen to deflect attention from its own electoral failures.

The outgoing Democrats could just be using an over-interpreted intelligence “assessment” to delegitimize the incoming Trump administration and force Trump into an embarrassing political situation: Does he ease up on Russia and look like a patsy, or escalate even further with a nuclear-armed power?

It could also be something in between. Perhaps the FSB didn’t commission the hack, but merely enabled it somehow. Or maybe the Russians did hack the DNC, but the WikiLeaks material actually came from someone else? There is even a published report to that effect, with a former British ambassador as a source, not that it’s any more believable than anything else here.

We just don’t know, which is the problem.

We ought to have learned from the Judith Miller episode. Not only do governments lie, they won’t hesitate to burn news agencies. In a desperate moment, they’ll use any sucker they can find to get a point across.

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Trump and Putin Share Ties with the Post-USSR Kleptocracy: Interview with James Henry

Sharmini Peries speaks to economist and investigative journalist James Henry about how the rise of both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are tied to the West’s failed reconstruction of the former Soviet states in the 1990’s. Henry’s latest article is titled: The Curious World of Donald Trump’s Private Russian Connections. (The Real News)