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The Domino Effect at the South of the Border — A Geopolitical Scenario

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Background

It is December 2017. In six months, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is about to leave office. After the Marihuana regularization revolution, started successfully by President Jose Mujica of Uruguay in 2013 and, out of public pressure in Montevideo, later implemented by Uruguayan President Tabaré Vazquez at the end of 2015.

The marihuana legalization revolution was followed by Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua throughout 2016 and 2017. The aforementioned countries gained an unexpected high amount of fiscal revenue out medical and non-medical marihuana. Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico, who were pressured by the American government, because of border proximity, decided not to implement the regularization of Marihuana.

Nicolas Maduro’s regime collapsed in early 2016, giving birth to what political analysts called ‘the new year’s eve coup of state’, which was influenced by the 2015 economic meltdown, and taken over by the American-accused drug lord, Lieutenant. (Ret.) Diosdado Cabello. But out of fear of been invaded, as was the case of Noriega’s Panama, Diosdado Cabello became an American ally. President Cabello imprisoned his ex-Chavistas comrades, exiled Maduro and Cilia Flores to Habana, and brought Caracas into Washington’s sphere of influence.

Nevertheless, in Mexico, after Calderon’s six-year term, the death toll was 120,000, while during the Peña Nieto six-year term administration, the death toll doubled to 240,000. The crime rates skyrocketed stemming from drug-related crimes alongside political kidnappings, making the Iguala case the first one of its kind; for it was followed by an unprecedented wave of massive kidnappings and killings of left-wing oriented political student movement in southern Mexico. These events gave birth to southern Mexico’s guerrilla, a.k.a. PLNM (Partido por la Liberacion Nacional de Mexico—Party for the National Liberation of Mexico), which was based in the mountainous regions of Guerrero, Chiapas, Oaxaca and Michoacán states. Their policy was bold: the PLNM was anti-Mexican private sector elite and anti-American.

After an imprisoned Julian Assange leaked governmental official documents, protests across Mexico erupted. The United States Government was secretly giving heavy weapons to both the cartels and the newly left-wing guerrilla forces, as part of a DEA-CIA coordinated cover task operation. The American intelligence wanted to uncover a human contraband structure of potential ISIS militants, hiding in Michoacán, Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guerrero, and who potentially be smuggled onto American soil by the PLNM armed forces, using the selling of heavy weaponry as a covert operation. The DEA-CIA led operation was a catastrophe. It was leaked. And now the increasingly frustrated Mexican population turned their anger not only against the Mexican government, for its complacency with the American government, but against all of the American consulates and tourists in Mexico, including the American embassy. Washington had never seen such massive and violent protests in Mexico against American interests. As an effect, in March 2018, everything was pointing toward the fact that the Mexican voters would choose an anti-American, PLNM candidate.

Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras continue to have the highest combined criminal rates per capita in the world. Because of high political corruption and lack of political commitment, Washington, has not implemented its 2015 North Triangle $ 1 billion plan at the frustration of Central American leaders; a dysfunctional Republican-controlled congress continues to have the plan blocked, until Guatemala city, San Salvador and Tegucigalpa, implement tougher strategies against illegal immigration, corruption and organized crime. Central American Presidents were increasingly resentful of Washington policies.

Colombia, despite a tumultuous year-long negotiation, at the end of 2015, President Juan Manuel Santos successfully signed the long-sought peace plan with the FARC and ELN left-wing guerrilla forces; however, a new cartel, funded by unhappy FARC and ELN guerilla commanders, alongside criminal gangs, such as the Rastrojos gang and unemployed ex-guerrilla fighters, gave birth to what would be Colombia’s newest cartel: The Magdalena Valley Cartel, which operates out of the Colombian Cordillera Occidental, ramping up the Magdalena river valley as their main corridor of narcotics and guns, while controlling the ports from Buenaventura to Barranquilla and everything standing west of the Cordillera Occidental. Because of its guerrilla command structure and training, the Magdalena Valley Cartel is powerful enough to combine both guerrilla and cartel textbook style of attacks on the Colombian armed forces.

Colombia, is regaining worldwide attention as it once had during Pablo Escobar and the Rodriguez Orejuela reign of fear. The European Union imposed entry visas in conjunction with many Latin American countries. Additionally, Colombian intelligence suspects there is a drug and weapons contraband structure between the Magdalena Valley Cartel and Mexico’s PLMN guerrilla forces. However, what has President Juan Manuel Santos worried, is that the Central American Northern Triangle governments, through their proxies—MS 13, MS18 and the Zacapa cartel—have facilitated both the Magdalena Valley Cartel and the PLNM their criminal business structure. In spite of this, President Santos, was tired to fight another war against another cartel.

To Washington’s surprise, President Santos, during June 2018, a month before the Mexican presidential elections scheduled on Sunday, July 1st, the Colombian President decided to travel to Mexico to meet the PLNM candidate Rodrigo Juarez Viloria. Surprisingly, Juarez Viloria had lessened his anti-private sector rhetoric, influenced by his Chinese advisors. President Santos learned how Juarez Viloria wanted a politically controlled Mexico, yet with Chinese-like capitalistic policies. But whose main difference from his counterparts was his fierce anti-American sentiment.

Candidate Juarez Viloria had a history of personal tragedy: he lost many of his family members, on the war against drugs, fueling his grief and blaming America, meanwhile, his politically left-oriented eldest son was kidnapped by the Nuevo Jalisco Cartel, bolstering his hatred against the Mexican private sector, who he suspected were behind the massive killing of socialist and communist-inclined students. Juarez Viloria, emboldened by the image and spirit of Pancho Villa, bowed revenge against the cartels, Mexican oligarchs and the United States for its stubbornness of not changing anything related to the war against drugs. Mexico had already surpassed Spain and Brazil as the economic leader of the Hispanic and Latin American world. And Juarez Viloria is keen to fill the leadership power vacuum left in the region with a massive popular support in Mexico and throughout Latin America.

Three weeks before the presidential election, American intelligence services, intercepted a conversation between Rodrigo Juarez Viloria and President Juan Manuel Santos: Should Colombia support him as a presidential candidate, and if elected, the Mexican PLMN candidate would dismantle the PLMN-Magdalena Valley Cartel narco-structure by legalizing not just Marihuana, but the whole drug trade, allowing free mobility of drugs across Mexican territory, and by imprisoning the leaders of the structure—even if it means to imprison members of his own party. Juarez Viloria wanted the Mexican Presidency badly; and Santos was voicing out his support. Washington was now extremely concern of a possible domino effect south of the border.

On the eve of Sunday, July 1st, post-presidential elections, the unthinkable for Washington has happened: Juarez Viloria is proclaimed winner of one of the most contested presidential elections in Mexican history. United States would have to share the border with an anti-American, and potential de-facto leader of Latin America.

It was December, 2018, Juarez Viloria, during his inaugural address, proclaimed a massive fervent, inspiring speech:

“It is on this day that I will bring the sovereign right of Mexico, and sign an executive order, by allowing and legalizing drugs within our territory,officially ending Mexico’s war against drugs. And because I know how Washington will react to this announcement, I hereby declare the DEA A-Sack and the American Ambassador persona non grata. And because, I know Washington will expulse our Ambassador, I recall him right now, telling our Ambassador, that Mexico, as in the times of our great heroes, Benito Juarez and Pancho Villa, will not leave a Mexican son to succumb and be humiliated, as the American Empire always had humiliated the Mexican people. And to this, I only have to say to my countrymen on the other side of the border: No! This time Latin America, and the new global leader, China, stands with Mexico. Come back to Mexico, because I will provide a better future for all of Mexico and for all Mexicans! And will not be humiliated, nor allow Mexico to be humiliated by the Empire, north of our border. Today, I declare our full independence!

The people erupted in joy. It was the first time Mexico stood up against its northern neighbor. And Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Colombia, inspired by his speech, followed the Mexican policy and legalized the free flow and regularization of drugs with presidential executive orders.

American intelligence failed to predict the outcome of Mexico, the Republicans were outraged and the Democrats were shocked: They knew Juarez Viloria was a radical, but for Mexico to go against the geographical and global realities was something Washington did not expected.

Weeks later, following the congressional-approved law, Juarez Viloria’s signed the regularization agreement. The American President held an emergency meeting with its top cabinet members, military Joint Chief of Staff, congress majority leaders, national security advisors, and South Com. General. Kelly.

The White House, with streamlined congressional approval, decides to take emergency prerogatives by signing the domino-effect détente act, implementing the immediate precautionary and preemptive security and economic actions:

 

  1. Reinforcement of the Mexican-American border, with options to militarily intervene Mexican border cities;
  1. The siege and check of the ports of Buenaventura, Barranquilla and Cartagena ports in Colombia;
  1. The securization of the Mexican-Guatemalan border;
  1. Blocking immigrant remittance exports to Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras;
  1. Sanctioning Mexican and Colombian banking, manufacturing and petroleum industries;

 

The American Intervention

With the analogy of the Afghan, Iraqi and Vietnamese foreign interventions, the American Federal Government decides to deploy 150,000 members of the National Guard to the American side of the border—from California to Texas—limiting a full blown invasion of Mexico. Also, the U.S. Navy dispatched three amphibian assault ships (USS America, USS Bataan, USS Boxer), one amphibious transport dock (USS Anchorage), and two destroyers (USS Bainbridge and USS Barry), with the purpose of showing force to the President Juarez Viloria to change his drug policy.

When the Norfolk-based destroyers and the San Diego-outbound amphibian assaults ships were stationed in the outskirts of the ports of Veracruz and Acapulco—nearest entryways into Mexico City—the American President decides to call President Juarez Viloria.

“President Juarez Viloria, good afternoon, this is the President of the United States of America. I congratulate you for a clean, democratic electoral victory. Unfortunately, the impulsive decision you have taken, can have dire consequences for the health of the American people. I had to take preemptive measures, Mr. President. This said, I encourage you to have a thorough and candid talk with our Secretary of State, and who is ready to board a plane towards Mexico City, to find a solution for your new policy. For the moment, our National Guard members have been deployed in our side of the border, enforcing maximum restraint, by not incurring into Mexican border cities, however, if we must incur, we will incur. The sake of the American people’s health is something I will not negotiate. Also, a small maritime force is stationed near Veracruz and Acapulco, holding their position as well. This can be called off, if you decide to repel this law that could affect America as a whole. The decision is on you, Mr. President.” The American President point out.

A furious Juarez Viloria responds:

Mr. President, rather than holding an honest dialogue amongst neighbors, and respecting our sovereignty to enforce the free mobility and legalization of drugs, you indirectly threaten me with the use of military force, so let me tell you this, because I will only say It once: Mexico and Latin America are tired of putting the death. For you it is a matter of healthcare but for us it has been a matter of life and death. However, I can assure you that as long drugs are illegal in your country, I will hem the entry of such into your countr. And concerning our armed forces, should you incur on our side of the border, I can also assure you that our armed forces will have maximum restraint. I will not risk Mexican blood; yet, I can not assure the same from some members of my party who are part of the PLMN defense forces, and have their own ideas of business and governance; and needless to mention the cartels operating on our side of the which I lack control. At this moment, I think it would be counterproductive to engage in a dialogue with your Secretary of State, until you back off from your bullying.”

The American President, unwilling to drop his guard, makes a last remark to President Juarez Viloria.

“I Understand Mr. President. But, as a precautionary measure, I wanted to let you know that today, along members of congress, I have signed the domino-effect détente act, which will compel your government and policymakers, to drop such regulation which can hold an unprecedented healthcare crisis for our American citizens in our soil, and American citizens living in Mexico. 150,000 members of our National Guard, stand combat ready, should they intervene the principal border cities of Mexico in conjunction with army rangers and marine rapid deployment forces. Mr. President, I look forward to work with you and the Mexican people. Good evening, Adios…

Weeks later, following this brief yet striking conversation between the American and Mexican presidents, United States sends a combination of ground military forces to Tijuana, Mexicali, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Ciudad Acuña, Piedras Negras, Nuevo Laredo, Ciudad Miguel Aleman, Reynosa and Matamoros, with the excuse of containing a potentially massive influx of drugs on American soil. Additionally, vigilante militias organized by Sheriff Arpaio and John McCain, stand prepared to defend American soil from California to Texas. And shoot-to-kill any illegal immigrant, further severing ties between Mexico and United States.

Likewise, 10 C-130J Super Hercules land on Tapachula airport containing the drug flow from the Mexican-Guatemalan border, particularly Tapachula and La Mesilla borderlands. Nevertheless, La Mesilla border city was hard to secure since it was located in the heart of the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes Mountains, and whose mountains sheltered the PLNM armed forces. As a result, a contingent of US Navy Seals, Army Rangers and Green Berets were dispatched to this particular border city.

Furthermore, the Pentagon decides to send four amphibious cargo ships to the Colombian ports of Cartagena, Barranquilla and Buenaventura, inspecting Colombian shipping vessels.

And to finalize their securization operation, United States, with congressional approval, imposed sanctions on the manufacture, banking and petroleum industries of Mexico and Colombia as well as the flow of remittances to Colombia, Mexico and the Central American North Triangle.

South American governments, except for Caracas and Habana, were furious with United States that, as a sign of protests, recalled their ambassadors, as a protest, to empathize with Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Colombia.

Mexico Strikes Back

President Juarez Viloria was an avid reader of American military history, so thus he knew that one of the least comfortable military scenarios for the Americans was to fight against both urban and mountain guerrillas. Moreover, Rodrigo Juarez Viloria knew that a Pakistan-like scenario would irritate the American military forces, and if successful, he would push for negotiations with the American president. His strategy was clear: a complacent Mexican government with the American forces, but fierce guerrilla warfare, with whom the Mexican government had nothing to do with; Juarez Viloria would play a scenario similar to the one the Pakistani Pashtun tribes and Haqqani network fought the Americans in Afghanistan from Pakistan.

President Santos, in turn, complied with American military forces, up to the point that, the controversial regularization of drugs, was repelled, and the ports of Cartagena, Buenaventura and Barranquilla were liberated, followed by the lifting of sanctions. President Santos felt humiliated by the Americans, and protests through all of Colombia erupted against Santos.

The protests of remittance-dependent peasants was becoming so agonizing for Guatemala City, San Salvador and Tegucigalpa that a decision was made to drop the mobility and regularization of drugs within their territory. Washington lifted the blockage of remittances. However, though economically poor, Guatemala and El Salvador militarily had an average of 30 years of experience combined, in mountainous and jungle terrain. Politically and economically, Guatemala and El Salvador could not stand up to the Americans, not even within Guatemalan territory, but the Guatemalan Kaibil Special Forces and the renewed Atlacatl Salvadorian battalion, were how the Guatemalan and Salvadoran presidents would aide their Mexican counterpart. Honduras decided not to participate.

President Juarez Viloria, with the aide of top Guatemalan Kaibiles and the Salvadoran Atlacatl battalion, decided to give the order through his guerrilla proxies, to conduct small operations of attack on the American station post of La Mesilla and Tapachula, by making hit-and-run type of military operations, with the purpose to drag and fight American ground forces in La Sierra de los Cuchumatanes Mountains of Chiapas and Huehuetenango in Guatemala. A terrain that, in Vietnam and Afghanistan, resulted uncomfortable for American ground forces.

At 3:00 a.m., La Mesilla border post along with the Tapachula airport, which hosted American forces, were attacked by the PMLN death squads, resulting in a low-level casualty attack. American forces stationed in Tapachula and La Mesia would be forced to retaliate in the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes mountains. With a force of three Black Hawk helicopters and ten Humvees, decided to track down the PNLM forces. Because of landmines and IED, Army Rangers, Navy Seals and Green Berets were forced to fled their Humvees, consequently, engaging in a full-flown combat in the mountains; the Black Hawk helicopters, in spite of their shoot and destroy tactics, drastically failed to destroy important targets, finishing their ammo, forcing them back to Tapachula airport to reload, and living the thirty-men special forces squad to their luck in the Sierra. The result was fatal: 25 killed in combat and 5 captured and beheaded. President Juarez Viloria denied involvement, blaming a local drug cartel.

United States, furiously responded by bombing important infrastructure, in cities such as Monterrey, Guadalajara and Mexico City. Moreover, Chiapas villages in the mountains, where guerrilla forces were hiding, were unmercifully bombed. Also, after knowing the involvement of both Guatemalan and Salvadoran governments, United States sanctioned the Guatemalan and Salvadoran military chain of command, political elite, important private sector oligarchs, by removing their American tourist visas, freezing their assets and bank accounts on American soil. Sanctions would be lifted until Guatemala and El Salvador stopped supporting the Mexican PNLM guerrilla force.

After the bombings, President Juarez Viloria furiously summoned the American charge d’affaire to stop bombing Mexico and to remind him how the 1916 American incursion of Mexico ended badly for American military forces.

As a notable schemer, President Juarez Viloria, unwilling to repel his controversial drug law, organized massive protests held by Mexican immigrants, working in the construction and restaurant industries, and from the cash harvest to the vehicle maintenance industries, Rodrigo Juarez Viloria vigorously appealed to the patriotic sentiment of Mexico. In turn, the Guatemalan and Salvadoran governments addressed their own diasporas living in United States: If they were to stop working for a three months, then, as a result, they would show their true, patriotic character in the defense of their invaded and humiliated countries.

Out of surprise, massive protests took place in the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco, Austin, Dallas, New York City, Miami, New Orleans, Houston and so forth. The protests by the Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Mexican diasporas, costed billions of dollars to the American economy.

A resentful Santos, convinced the members of UNASUR, to impose an unorthodox sanction, named, similar to the one OPEC had pressed United States during the 1970s, however, this time, using their own resources as economic weapons: A mineral, agricultural and livestock commodity, six month embargo by the members of UNASUR, Central American Isthmus and Mexico. Venezuela decided not participate, since it was still recovering from the 2015 economic meltdown. The goal was clear: To send Washington a clear message: We are all America and we are all intertwined.

This outcome had a dire affect for the American economy. Wal-Mart, Publix, Whole foods, Chipotle and especially Starbuck’s, , were amongst some of the most important corporations suffering greatly. The American economy suffered billions in losses and thousands of direct and indirect jobs as a result of the Latin American-led embargo. Oil prices were staggering and increasingly dependent upon the Middle East and Canada; Africa and South East Asia could not keep up in replacing both soft and hard commodities; Automobiles and clothing produced in Latin America, increased the prices for American retailers; and the American Chamber of Commerce, in addition with the support of 40 states—especially Colorado and Washington, were marihuana was legal and were looking forward to commerce with Latin America—were starting to feel the economic pressure and local protests of increasing prices. The Mexican economy was on its knees alongside most of the South American economies. Beijing had provided enormous bailouts to most of the Latin American economies.

Mexicans living in the borderlands were started to violently resist and push the American forces back, while the American ground forces started the use of force more violently. Washington was risking sending more troops to Mexico and, more importantly, could risk a full-blown war in northern and southern Mexico, between government, cartel and PNLM forces. A nightmare neither Mexico City nor Washington would of wanted.

Washington and Mexico City had to reach a deal to overcome this cold war.

The Mexican-American Deal

After a year and a half of the known Mexican-American cold war, UNASUR members were poise to end the war on drugs: They were ready to legalize the rest of the drug trade. Following Brazil’s lead, an emboldened Colombia and Central America, in the 2020, CELAC summit, officially legalized drugs.

Washington was completely overwhelmed that it would have to politically and economically declare war on the rest of Latin America. However, policymakers and the IRS chief decided that, perhaps, it was time for Washington legalize and regularize Marihuana.  

In the summer of 2020, Habana and Caracas acted as mediators between Mexico City and Washington. As a result, in August of 2020, the Mexican minister of foreign affairs in coordination with the Secretary of State happily informed the press on the agreement both parties have reached.

The deal followed as:

  1. Mexico could only legally trade with American states that had legalized medical and non-medical Marihuana, if caught in the act of selling illegal drugs, sanctions would be imposed to the Mexican government and private corporations who sold it;
  1. The PLNM guerrilla forces commanders would face American extradition and justice and would be dismantled by the Mexican, Guatemalan and Salvadoran governments, while supervised by the U.N. Chiapas Mission;
  1. Mexico would comply to dismantle and/or fight the remaining drug cartels under the supervision and help of the DEA;
  1. United States would pay war reparations to the villagers that died during the drone strikes of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Michoacán and Guerrero;
  1. United States would provide aid to repair civilian infrastructure that was bombed during the short-lived conflict between Mexico and United States;
  1. Mexico and the rest of Latin America would pay economic damages to American corporations for violating in forced free trade agreements;

After this tumultuous epoch, Latin America and United States became closer than ever before. And now, President Juarez Viloria and the American President, were drinking tequila celebrating the new deal…

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Americas

Highlights from the Mueller Report

Eric Zuesse

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Following are the passages that I consider to be the chief and most important allegations that are in the opening 11% (that’s up through page 49 of the of the 448-page document) of the “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election”. That’s Robert Mueller’s March 2019 report, which had been commissioned by the U.S. Congress to find grounds to charge U.S. President Donald Trump with being an agent of the Russian Government and to replace him with Vice President Mike Pence for that reason.

Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election 

The Internet Research Agency (IRA) carried out the earliest Russian interference operations identified by the investigation — a social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States. The IRA was based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and received funding from Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin and companies he controlled. Prighozhin is widely reported to have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. …

The IRA later used social media accounts and interest groups to sow discord in the U.S. political system through what it termed “information warfare.” The campaign evolved from a generalized program designed in 2014 and 2015 to undermine the U.S. electoral system, to a targeted operation that by early 2016 favored candidate Trump and disparaged candidate Clinton.

The IRA’ s operation also included the purchase of political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities, as well as the staging of political rallies inside the United States. To organize those rallies, IRA employees posed as U.S. grassroots entities and persons and made contact with Trump supporters and Trump Campaign officials in the United States. The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons conspired or coordinated with the IRA. …

At the same time that the IRA operation began to focus on supporting candidate Trump in early 2016, the Russian government employed a second form of interference: cyber intrusions (hacking) and releases of hacked materials damaging to the Clinton Campaign. The Russian intelligence service known as the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army (GRU) carried out these operations.

In March 2016, the GRU began hacking the email accounts of Clinton Campaign volunteers and employees, including campaign chairman John Podesta. In April 2016, the GRU hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The GRU stole hundreds of thousands of documents from the compromised email accounts and networks. Around the time that the DNC announced in mid-June 2016 the Russian government’s role in hacking its network, the GRU began disseminating stolen materials through the fictitious online personas “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0.” The GRU later released additional materials through the organization WikiLeaks. …

While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges. Among other things, the evidence was not sufficient to charge any Campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government or other Russian principal. And our evidence about the June 9, 2016 meeting and WikiLeaks’s releases of hacked materials was not sufficient to charge a criminal campaign-finance violation. Further, the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election. …

The Office investigated several other events that have been publicly reported to involve potential Russia-related contacts. For example, the investigation established that interactions between Russian Ambassador Kislyak and Trump Campaign officials both at the candidate’s April 2016 foreign policy speech in Washington, D.C., and during the week of the Republican National Convention were brief, public, and non-substantive. And the investigation did not establish that one Campaign official’s efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican Party platform on providing assistance to Ukraine were undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia. The investigation also did not establish that a meeting between Kislyak and Sessions in September 2016 at Sessions’s Senate office included any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign. …

Throughout 2016, IRA accounts published an increasing number of materials supporting the Trump Campaign and opposing the Clinton Campaign. For example, on May 31, 2016, the operational account “Matt Skiber” began to privately message dozens of pro-Trump Facebook groups asking them to help plan a “pro-Trump rally near Trump Tower.”55

To reach larger U.S. audiences, the IRA purchased advertisements from Facebook that promoted the IRA groups on the newsfeeds of U.S. audience members. According to Facebook, the IRA purchased over 3,500 advertisements, and the expenditures totaled approximately $100,000.56

During the U.S. presidential campaign, many IRA-purchased advertisements explicitly supported or opposed a presidential candidate or promoted U.S. rallies organized by the IRA (discussed below). As early as March 2016, the IRA purchased advertisements that overtly opposed the Clinton Campaign. For example, on March 18, 2016, the IRA purchased an advertisement depicting candidate Clinton and a caption that read in part, “If one day God lets this liar enter the White House as a president – that day would be a real national tragedy.”57

Similarly, on April 6, 2016, the IRA purchased advertisements for its account “Black Matters” calling for a “flashmob” of U.S. persons to “take a photo with #HillaryClintonForPrison2016 or #nohillary2016.”58 IRA-purchased advertisements featuring Clinton were, with very few exceptions, negative.59

IRA-purchased advertisements referencing candidate Trump largely supported his campaign. The first known IRA advertisement explicitly endorsing the Trump Campaign was purchased on April 19, 2016. The IRA bought an advertisement for its Instagram account “Tea Party News” asking U.S. persons to help them “make a patriotic team of young Trump supporters” by uploading photos with the hashtag “#KIDS4TRUMP.”60 In subsequent months, the IRA purchased dozens of advertisements supporting the Trump Campaign, predominantly through the Facebook groups “Being Patriotic,” “Stop All Invaders,” and “Secured Borders.” …

The IRA operated individualized Twitter accounts similar to the operation of its Facebook accounts, by continuously posting original content to the accounts while also communicating with U.S. Twitter users directly (through public tweeting or Twitter’s private messaging).

The IRA used many of these accounts to attempt to influence U.S. audiences on the election. Individualized accounts used to influence the U.S. presidential election included @TEN_ GOP ( described above); @jenn _ abrams ( claiming to be a Virginian Trump supporter with 70,000 followers); @Pamela_Moore13 (claiming to be a Texan Trump supporter with 70,000 followers); and @America:__Ist_ (an anti-immigration persona with 24,000 followers).67 In May 2016, the IRA created the Twitter account @march_for_trump, which promoted IRA-organized rallies in support of the Trump Campaign (described below).68 …

The IRA organized and promoted political rallies inside the United States while posing as U.S. grassroots activists. First, the IRA used one of its preexisting social media personas (Facebook groups and Twitter accounts, for example) to announce and promote the event. The IRA then sent a large number of direct messages to followers of its social media account asking them to attend the event. From those who responded with interest in attending, the IRA then sought a U.S. person to serve as the event’s coordinator. In most cases, the IRA account operator would tell the U.S. person that they personally could not attend the event due to some preexisting conflict or because they were somewhere else in the United States.82 The IRA then further promoted the event by contacting U.S. media about the event and directing them to speak with the coordinator.83

After the event, the IRA posted videos and photographs of the event to the IRA’s social media accounts. 84

The Office identified dozens of U.S. rallies organized by the IRA. The earliest evidence of a rally was a “confederate rally” in November 2015. 85 The IRA continued to organize rallies even after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The attendance at rallies varied. Some rallies appear to have drawn few (if any) participants while others drew hundreds. …

From June 2016 until the end of the presidential campaign, almost all of the U.S. rallies organized by the IRA focused on the U.S. election, often promoting the Trump Campaign and opposing the Clinton Campaign. Pro-Trump rallies included three in New York; a series of pro-Trump rallies in Florida in August 2016; and a series of pro-Trump rallies in October 2016 in Pennsylvania. The Florida rallies drew the attention of the Trump Campaign, which posted about the Miami rally on candidate Trump’s Facebook account (as discussed below).86 …

Starting in June 2016, the IRA contacted different U.S. persons affiliated with the Trump Campaign in an effort to coordinate pro-Trump IRA-organized rallies inside the United States. In all cases, the IRA contacted the Campaign while claiming to be U.S. political activists working on behalf of a conservative grassroots organization. The IRA’s contacts included requests for signs and other materials to use at rallies, 107 as well as requests to promote the rallies and help coordinate Iogistics.108 While certain campaign volunteers agreed to provide the requested support (for example, agreeing to set aside a number of signs), the investigation has not identified evidence that any Trump Campaign official understood the requests were coming from foreign nationals.

III. RUSSIAN HACKING AND DUMPING OPERATIONS

Beginning in March 2016, units of the Russian Federation’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (GRU) hacked the computers and email accounts of organizations, employees, and volunteers supporting the Clinton Campaign, including the email account of campaign chairman John Podesta. Starting in April 2016, the GRU hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The GRU targeted hundreds of email accounts used by Clinton Campaign employees, advisors, and volunteers. In total, the GRU stole hundreds of thousands of documents from the compromised email accounts and networks. 109 The GRU later released stolen Clinton Campaign and DNC documents through online personas, “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0,” and later through the organization WikiLeaks. The release of the documents was designed and timed to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election and undermine the Clinton Campaign. …

By no later than April 12, 2016, the GRU had gained access to the DCCC computer network using the credentials stolen from a DCCC employee who had been successfully spearphished the week before. Over the ensuing weeks, the GRU traversed the network, identifying different computers connected to the DCCC network. By stealing network access credentials along the way (including those of IT administrators with unrestricted access to the system), the GRU compromised approximately 29 different computers on the DCCC network. 119

Approximately six days after first hacking into the DCCC network, on April 18, 2016, GRU officers gained access to the DNC network via a virtual private network (VPN) connection120 between the DCCC and DNC networks.121 Between April 18, 2016 and June 8, 2016, Unit 26165 compromised more than 30 computers on the DNC network, including the DNC mail server and shared file server.122

b. Implantation of Ma/ware on DCCC and DNC Networks

Unit 26165 implanted on the DCCC and DNC networks two types of customized malware, 123 known as “X-Agent” and “X-Tunnel”; Mimikatz, a credential-harvesting tool; and rar.exe, a tool used in these intrusions to compile and compress materials for exfiltration. X-Agent was a multi-function hacking tool that allowed Unit 26165 to log keystrokes, take screenshots, and gather other data about the infected computers (e.g., file directories, operating systems).124 XTunnel was a hacking tool that created an encrypted connection between the victim DCCC/DNC computers and GRU-controlled computers outside the DCCC and DNC networks that was capable of large-scale data transfers. 125 GRU officers then used X-Tunnel to exfiltrate stolen data from the victim computers. …

c. Theft of Documents from DNC and DCCC Networks

Officers from Unit 26165 stole thousands of documents from the DCCC and DNCnetworks, including significant amounts of data pertaining to the 2016 U.S. federal elections.

Stolen documents included internal strategy documents, fundraising data, opposition research, and emails from the work inboxes of DNC employees.

The GRU began stealing DCCC data shortly after it gained access to the network. On April 14, 2016 (approximately three days after the initial intrusion) GRU officers downloaded rar.exe onto the DCCC’s document server. The following day, the GRU searched one compromised DCCC computer for files containing search terms that included “Hillary,” “DNC,” “Cruz,” and “Trump.”131 On April 25, 2016, the GRU collected and compressed PDF and Microsoft documents from folders on the DCCC’s shared file server that pertained to the 2016 election.132 The GRU appears to have compressed and exfiltrated over 70 gigabytes of data from this file server.133

The GRU also stole documents from the DNC network shortly after gaining access. On April 22, 2016, the GRU copied files from the DNC network to GRU-controlled computers. Stolen documents included the DNC’ s opposition research into candidate Trump.134 Between approximately May 25, 2016 and June 1, 2016, GRU officers accessed the DNC’s mail server from a GRU-controlled computer leased inside the United States.135 During these connections, Unit 26165 officers appear to have stolen thousands of emails and attachments, which were later released by WikiLeaks in July 2016.136

B. Dissemination of the Hacked Materials

The GRU began planning the releases at least as early as April 19, 2016, when Unit 26165 registered the domain dcleaks.com through a service that anonymized the registrant.137 Unit 26165 paid for the registration using a pool of bitcoin that it had mined. 138 The dcleaks.com landing page pointed to different tranches of stolen documents, arranged by victim or subject matter. Other dcleaks.com pages contained indexes of the stolen emails that were being released (bearing the sender, recipient, and date of the email). To control access and the timing of releases, pages were sometimes password-protected for a period of time and later made unrestricted to the public.

Starting in June 2016, the GRU posted stolen documents onto the website dcleaks.com, including documents stolen from a number of individuals associated with the Clinton Campaign.

These documents appeared to have originated from personal email accounts (in particular, Google and Microsoft accounts), rather than the DNC and DCCC computer networks. DCLeaks victims included an advisor to the Clinton Campaign, a former DNC employee and Clinton Campaign employee, and four other campaign volunteers. 139 The GRU released through dcleaks.com thousands of documents, including personal identifying and financial information, internal correspondence related to the Clinton Campaign and prior political jobs, and fundraising files and information.140 …

2. Guccifer 2.0

On June 14, 2016, the DNC and its cyber-response team announced the breach of the DNC network and suspected theft of DNC documents. In the statements, the cyber-response team alleged that Russian state-sponsored actors (which they referred to as “Fancy Bear”) were responsible for the breach. 145 Apparently in response to that announcement, on June 15, 2016, GRU officers using the persona Guccifer 2.0 created a WordPress blog. In the hours leading up to the launch of that WordPress blog, GRU officers logged into a Moscow-based server used and managed by Unit 74455 and searched for a number of specific words and phrases in English, including “some hundred sheets,” “illuminati,” and “worldwide known.” Approximately two hours after the last of those searches, Guccifer 2.0 published its first post, attributing the DNC server hack to a lone Romanian hacker and using several of the unique English words and phrases that the GRU officers had searched for that day. 146 …

3. Use of WikiLeaks

In order to expand its interference in the 20 I 6 U.S. presidential election, the GRU units transferred many of the documents they stole from the DNC and the chairman of the Clinton Campaign to WikiLeaks. GRU officers used both the DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 personas to 

communicate with WikiLeaks through Twitter private messaging and through encrypted channels, including possibly through WikiLeaks’s private communication system. …

c. The GRU’s Transfer of Stolen Materials to WikiLeaks 

Both the GRU and WikiLeaks sought to hide their communications, which has limited the Office’s ability to collect all of the communications between them. Thus, although it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks, [REDACTED] …

An analysis of the metadata collected from the WikiLeaks site revealed that the stolen Podesta emails show a creation date of September 19, 2016.171 Based on information about Assange’s computer and its possible operating system, this date may be when the GRU staged the stolen Podesta emails for transfer to WikiLeaks (as the GRU had previously done in July 2016 for the DNC emails). 172 The WikiLeaks site also released PDFs and other documents taken from Podesta that were attachments to emails in his account; these documents had a creation date of October 2, 2016, which appears to be the date the attachments were separately staged by WikiLeaks on its site. 173

Beginning on September 20, 2016, WikiLeaks and DCLeaks resumed communications in a brief exchange. On September 22, 2016, a DCLeaks email account dcleaksproject@gmail.com sent an email to a WikiLeaks account with the subject “Submission” and the message “Hi from DCLeaks.” The email contained a PGP-encrypted with the filename “wiki_mail.txt.gpg.” 174 …

d. WikiLeaks Statements Dissembling About the Source of Stolen Materials

As reports attributing the DNC and DCCC hacks to the Russian government emerged, WikiLeaks and Assange made several public statements apparently designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing. The file-transfer evidence described above and other information uncovered during the investigation discredit WikiLeaks’s claims about the source of material that it posted.

Beginning in the summer of 2016, Assange and WikiLeaks made a number of statements about Seth Rich, a former DNC staff member who was killed in July 2016. The statements about Rich implied falsely that he had been the source of the stolen DNC emails. On August 9, 2016, the @WikiLeaks Twitter account posted: “ANNOUNCE: WikiLeaks has decided to issue a US$20k reward for information leading to conviction for the murder ofDNC staffer Seth Rich.” 180

Likewise, on August 25, 2016, Assange was asked in an interview, “Why are you so interested in Seth Rich’s killer?” and responded, “We’re very interested in anything that might be a threat to alleged Wikileaks sources.” The interviewer responded to Assange’s statement by commenting, “I know you don’t want to reveal your source, but it certainly sounds like you’re suggesting a man who leaked information to WikiLeaks was then murdered.” Assange replied, “If there’s someone who’s potentially connected to our publication, and that person has been murdered in suspicious circumstances, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the two are connected. But it is a very serious matter … that type of allegation is very serious, as it’s taken very seriously by us.”181

After the U.S. intelligence community publicly announced its assessment that Russia was behind the hacking operation, Assange continued to deny that the Clinton materials released by WikiLeaks had come from Russian hacking. According to media reports, Assange told a U.S. congressman that the DNC hack was an “inside job,” and purported to have “physical proof” that Russians did not give materials to Assange. 182

Those are highlights from the opening 11% of the report, which is up through page 49 in the 448-page document. These are a prosecutor’s allegations; they are not necessarily true. Robert Mueller has a lengthy history of publicly alleging things that subsequently have come to be widely recognized to have been false. Furthermore, there are very serious reasons to doubt some of the most basic aspects of the Mueller report’s accounts of how information came to Wikileaks from Hillary Clinton’s and her campaign’s computers. Mueller even has been condemned by the FISA court for having violated the law and deceived that court. But these are his main allegations in Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report.

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Americas

Trump’s coming trade war “deal” is a dud

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In typically bullish style, Donald Trump has told the world he expects a resolution to his trade war with China within four weeks. The U.S. President claims the deal “has a very good chance of happening,” and, when it does, it will be “the Grand Daddy of them all.” But key concerns linger:  China has made several concessions to the U.S. over the endless rounds of talks, but there is little sign of Beijing reining in its support for industries such as steel and aluminium – one of the key reasons for the stand-off in the first place. If the Chinese delegation refuses to give way, and to stop dumping cheap products on global markets, even Trump’s staunchest supporters might wonder whether the whole dispute has been worth it.

While the trade war cost the U.S. economy an estimated $7.8 billion in lost GDP last year, the toll has been far greater on China, whose economic growth among other reasons was drastically hit by the steep American tariff walls. Growth has already slowed to its lowest level since 1990, and industrial production has hit a 10-year nadir. Despite Beijing’s best efforts,  latest employment figures show a spike in the number of people out of work, pressuring Xi’s government to arrest the slide.

The IMF did at least provide some good news, revising up its 2019 growth forecast for the Chinese economy. However it also warned that, if the trade war escalates and both sides impose 25% tariffs on all each other’s goods, China’s losses will be bigger. U.S. GDP would fall by up to 0.6% in such a scenario, while China’s could plunge by more than double that figure. Around 1% of the U.S. workforce in sectors such as agriculture and transportation could lose their jobs – a major blow to those rural communities Trump has pledged to revive. In China’s manufacturing sectors, around 5% of people could find themselves suddenly out of work.

Signs of progress

This stark reality explains the raft of climbdowns brokered by Xi’s negotiators, which have gone some way to repairing the damage in some of the worst-hit U.S. sectors. China has proposed buying an extra $30 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products a year, including soybeans, as a concession to U.S. farmers facing soaring stockpiles. On top of that, Beijing has cut tariffs on U.S. cars, news which will have been welcomed by the beleaguered American automobile industry.

But what about China’s trade policies, which have long been central to the U.S. grievance, particularly unfair industrial subsidies? On that it’s hard to see what China has really offered. Xi’s team has made a general commitment to stop subsidizing domestic industries and drowning global markets, but it’s been making these promises for the last 10 years without much action on it, so analysts would be forgiven for being cynical. Observers describe the latest pledges as light on detail, particularly as China offers little information about how it would go about implementing subsidy cuts.

All the indications suggest that China will continue pumping out aluminium and steel, two of America’s – and the EU’s – keenest focus areas. Even after Trump slapped huge tariffs on the two metals last year, Chinese manufacturers continued to ramp up production. For example, in the first two months of 2019 unwrought aluminium and aluminium product exports reached multi-year highs as producers responded to slack domestic demand by dumping their product overseas.

The effect this will have on the international market will continue to be serious, particularly in the aluminium sector already decimated by years of Chinese over-production. The resultant price slump has effectively wiped out entire industries in countries such as the U.K. and the Netherlands. Worse, the tide shows little sign of turning, with aluminium prices on the London Metal Exchange hovering near multi-year lows. With experts suggesting that around 40% of the world’s smelters are now losing money, the ripple effect from China’s subsidies extends far beyond the U.S deep into Europe’s industrial heartland.

Long-term interest

Of course, this doesn’t mean Trump will necessarily force China to stop dumping in the global, or even national, interest. Considering his desire for simple, easy-to-sell results, he will likely accept a deal if China simply agrees to buy more U.S. goods. In that case, he would likely skirt round the fundamental issues about market distortion – a serious risk that is becoming ever more acute as Trump’s image as a cunning dealmaker is showing cracks in the wake of the failed nuclear summit with North Korea, increasing his desperation to prove himself.

As most recent reports suggest, Washington’s will to hold out for the sake of a “great” trade deal is indeed weakening. Although the thorniest issue, insider sources say U.S. negotiators are backpedalling on the demand that China cut subsidies in a move to push a trade agreement in the next month. This is in line with former White House advisor Gary Cohn’s claim that Trump is mostly interested in closing a deal to boost stock markets and give himself the ideal fillip for his re-election campaign.

Yet, for the long-term health of the global community, Trump must press China on this issue. A quick-fix deal will doubtless cheer the global economy subjected to serious collateral damage from the trans-Pacific spat. But it risks stoking further conflict in the future, and ultimately a renewal of the stand-off. China may have been hurting to secure an agreement, but now it may about to be handed one with terms more beneficial than Beijing had imagined from the outset.

Rather than giving in with the end in sight, Trump needs to go all out for total victory, one that justifies the turmoil his trade war has caused. If he doesn’t, his deal may only be a ceasefire.

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By 3-to-1, Americans Want Assange Prosecuted

Eric Zuesse

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A YouGov poll of 2,455 Americans taken on April 11th found that by a margin of 53% to 17%, or by slightly over 3 to 1, Americans want Julian Assange to be prosecuted. 

The question was: “Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was arrested in London. Do you think he should or should not be extradited to the US?”

This was a remarkably bipartisan hostility toward Assange. As the YouGov news-report on that finding indicated:

“That majority increases among both Republicans (59% supporting extradition) and Democrats (62% supporting extradition), but decreases to a plurality (46%) among Independents. Independents were more likely to respond with uncertainty (32% saying they don’t know) than Republicans and Democrats, and a little more than one in five Independents (22%) are opposed to extradition.”

During 18-20 November 2018, YouGov had polled Americans on “Do you have a favorable or an unfavorable opinion” on Assange, and separately the same on Wikileaks. On each, Americans were predominantly unfavorable toward Assange by 38% to 20%, and toward Wikileaks by 44% to 29%. Another question in that poll was “Do you support or oppose the prosecution of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks?” “Support” was 29%. “Oppose” was 19%. 

In March 2011, Reuters’s Ipsos polling firm asked 18,829 people in 23 countries, “As you may know, the mission of the Wikileaks internet site is to publish copies of confidential government or corporate files and information to the public. Do you support or oppose this type of site that would post such materials?” Globally, there was 74% “Support” and 26% “Oppose.” The lowest support was in U.S.: 29% support versus 61% opposition. (The second-lowest support of Wikileaks was in UK or “Great Britain,” where the opposition to Wikileaks was 38% instead of America’s 61%.) That poll also asked “Would you consider the publishers of the materials” from such a site to be “public service” or “mischief makers” or “criminals” or “heroes” or “other”; and the predominant one of those choices worldwide was “public service,” which was selected by the same percentage of people as the total percentage who had chosen either “mischief makers” or else “criminals” (the second and third preferred options) and it was eight times as many as those who had chosen “heroes.” (NOTE: These latter opinions pertained to the news-media that published information from Wikileaks — not to Wikileaks itself.) However, yet again, in this poll, Americans stood alone for the extremity of their hostility towards a national press that’s not being controlled by the Government (which is what Wikileaks is all about): only one third as large a percentage of Americans as the global percentage chose “public service,” whereas the percentage of Americans who chose “criminals” (42%) was more than three times the global percentage (13%) who chose that. The second-highest to that degree of extreme hostility against a press that’s authentically independent of the government was likewise “Great Britain”: 20%. Canada was the third-highest, at 19%. In other words: the #1 most-hostile nation against democracy was 42% in America, and the next-most-hostile to democracy was 20% in “Great Britain” — less than half as high a percentage of hostility against democracy, as compared to the U.S. percentage; and Canada was only slightly less hostile toward democracy than was the UK.

That same poll also asked: “Wikileaks recently posted thousands of confidential US government diplomatic notes. … Julian Assange, who is responsible for leaking the documents should be viewed as a” — and  49% of Americans said “criminal,” whereas only 17% globally did. (Great Britain was, yet again, on this, the second-highest hostility against democracy, at 26%.) Globally, 29% of all respondents said that Assange had provided a “public service,” but only 11% of Americans said that.

By overwhelming margins, Americans thought that their Government should have an unqualified right to hide from the public, basically, anything it wants to hide. The U.S. Government actually does possess unlimited authority to categorize whatever it wants, as being “Classified.” Overwhelming majorities of the U.S. public approve of this root-principle of dictatorship. Assange is being condemned, fundamentally, because he violates that intrinsic principle (government-secrecy, regardless of how arbitrarily it is imposed), of dictatorship, anywhere.

Clearly, then, the American people were far more favorable toward dictatorship than the public was, in any of the 22 other nations that were sampled.

(NOTE: For the purposes of this article, effective control by the government over the nation’s press is defined as dictatorship, and effective freedom of the press to report any truth — regardless of what the government wants — is defined as democracy. So: the U.S. belongs in the category of a 100% dictatorship, since the Government can classify anything it wishes to.) 

An interesting sidelight to these findings, of an extremely pro-dictatorship U.S. public — and with Great Britain being right behind (though not nearly as pro-dictatorship as Americans are) — is that, in 2002 and 2003, the national press in each of those two countries was so strongly controlled by the government as to deceive (via their stenographic ‘news’-media) their respective public into invading Iraq, on the basis of that stenographic reporting by the nation’s press of the government’s lies against Iraq. This is the result of both countries being dictatorships. This is true irrespective of whether Iraq also was.

Further confirmations of the extreme degree of dictatorship in the United States are that it’s the nation which has the world’s highest percentage of its people in prison, and that in the periodic polling by the Gallup organization, the one “institution” that always scores at the very top as being the most highly respected of all institutions in America is “the military.” That is the finding which would reasonably be expected in a total dictatorship.

So: if Assange gets extradited by Great Britain to the United States for prosecution, he will face here not only the most hostile government but the most hostile public. Presumably, this would please the leaderships (even if not the publics) in all U.S.-allied nations, including especially NATO — America’s anti-Russia military alliance, which after 1991 absorbed the entirety of the no-longer-existing Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact mirror organization which had countered America’s NATO alliance. NATO itself is strongly supported not only by the governments but by the people within the respective member-nations, and polling in June 2014 found that “A little more than half of EU respondents (56%) said it was desirable that the United States exert strong leadership in world affairs.” So, the publics in those nations (at least back in 2014) wanted their own government to continue to be led by the U.S. Government. That was more than a decade after the U.S. Government (and Great Britain) had invaded and destroyed Iraq, on the basis of lies. So: perhaps the public, not only in America but in other countries, learns nothing from experience, and they are perennially suckers of their respective national leaderships. But, in any case, the American public are international standouts for supporting dictatorship — not merely accepting it, but actually endorsing it. Obviously, if Assange is not freed from Great Britain and especially from the U.S., his prospects are exceptionally dismal. His only actual ‘crime’ is having stood up internationally for democracy. If that’s not a “hero,” who is? But perhaps, now, democracy has become a hopeless cause. Perhaps, in the final analysis, Assange’s fate will turn out to have been the fate of democracy, too — the canary in this coal mine.

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