Majorityrights News > Category: Russian Politics

Minister: Russia hacked Danish defence for two years

Posted by DanielS on Monday, 24 April 2017 12:46.

Claus Hjort Frederiksen [Council]

Euractiv, “Minister: Russia hacked Danish defence for two years”, 23 April 2017:

Russia has hacked the Danish Defence Ministry and gained access to employees’ emails in 2015 and 2016, NATO member Denmark’s defence minister told newspaper Berlingske on Sunday (23 April).

The report comes at a time when several Western governments, including the United States, France and Britain, have accused Russia of hacking in order to influence elections — allegations Moscow has repeatedly dismissed as baseless.

A report from the Danish Defence Intelligence Service’s unit for cyber security said “a foreign player” had spied against Danish authorities and gained access to non-classified documents.

It did not name the country behind the espionage, but Foreign Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen told Berlingske it was Russia.

“It is linked to the intelligence services or central elements in the Russian government, and it is a constant battle to keep them away,” Frederiksen told the newspaper.

A spokeswoman from the Danish Defence Ministry confirmed that the minister had been quoted correctly but said he would give no further comments for the time being.

Spokespeople at the Kremlin were not available to comment on Sunday.

Frederiksen told Berlingske the hacking had been possible due to insufficient security around emails with non-classified material, something that has since been improved.

The group behind the attack went under the name APT28 or Fancy Bear and was one of two groups which allegedly gained illegal access to US Democrats’ emails last year, according to Berlingske.

Frederiksen said in January that Denmark plans to increase military spending in response to Russian missile deployments in the Baltic region that it perceives as a threat.

Polish Minister of National Defence Antoni Macierewicz told EURACTIV.com last June that Russia had conducted a cyber-attack against the Polish ministry of defence and stole the telephone numbers of 10,000 Polish soldiers.

Polish defence minister: ‘Helpless requests’ don’t work with Russia

“Bon voyage” to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Russia. He should know that Moscow only understands equal partnerships from a position of strength, Polish Minister of National Defence Antoni Macierewicz told EURACTIV.com in an exclusive interview.

Montenegro has reportedly been hit by cyber-attacks on the day of its last elections – 16 October 2016.

Montenegro hit by cyber-attacks on election day

The Ministry for Information Society and Telecommunications of Montenegro has announced that several important websites were targeted by cyber-attacks on Sunday (16 October), the day of the country’s parliamentary elections.

Hans-Georg Maassen, head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency BfV, recently said that his services are seeing increased cyber spying and cyber operations that could potentially endanger German government officials, members of parliament and employees of democratic parties.

German spy agency warns of rise in Russian propaganda and cyber-attacks

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency yesterday (8 December) reported a striking increase in Russian propaganda and disinformation campaigns aimed at destabilising German society, and targeted cyber-attacks against political parties.


That’s it, who’s a good goy now?

Posted by DanielS on Saturday, 15 April 2017 15:23.

Active Measures, er, RT reports the following:

Tillerson and Lavrov

RT, ‘Highly provocative: Lavrov says agreed with Tillerson no future US strikes on Syrian govt.’, 13 Apr 2017:

Moscow and Washington have reached an understanding that further US strikes similar to the one carried out against Syria’s Shayrat Air Base “should not occur again,” the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

Lavrov emphasized that this issue was raised during his discussions with the US Secretary of State on Wednesday when Rex Tillerson was visiting Moscow.

“We have discussed this issue with the US Secretary of State in details yesterday and agreed upon the fact that a similar should not occur again,” he told journalists ahead of his meeting with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallem, in Moscow.

Lavrov further underlined that the US missile strike against the Shayrat Air Base played “a highly provocative role.”

He went on to say that the US confirmed its commitment to the idea that there is no other option of resolving the Syrian conflict other than the political dialog, adding that this offers hope for the future of the peace process.

“It is encouraging to some extent that Rex Tillerson confirmed yesterday that [the US still holds] the opinion that there is no alternative to the political process [of the resolution of the Syrian crisis] despite all the recent negative developments,” he said.

A “right and responsible step” is how Lavrov described the Syrian government’s decision to invite experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to conduct an investigation of the chemical weapon incident in Idlib province.

A blog called Jewish Power posted the following back on February 2016. It looks far more like prescience than conspiracy theory:

Netanyahu and Lavrov

Jewish Power, ‘Sergey Lavrov’, 13 Feb 2016:

Medvedev the Russian token Prime Minister has said a new cold war is on the horizon.

Medvedev is easy to identify as a crypto Jew.

Lavrov the foreign minister is also a Jew, no doubt he goes along with Medvedev.

Lavrov’s daughter attended Columbia University and lived in the US for a long time.

Putin’s daughter married a Jewish banker.

All the rhetoric like these comments from Medvedev-steen are just so much bullshit.

The Jews objective is to destroy Syria..via a long drawn out civil war. It does not make any difference whether it is the Americans or Russians who are bombing the country..as long as the bombing continues.

Put it like this: The Russian government likes Russian nationalists …up to a point. However, if Russian nationalists choose to identify the role of the Jews…the Jewish oligarchs…the pillaging of Russia by Jews like Abramovich and all the rest of them…THEN something goes dramatically wrong….the nationalists start being targeted by the Russian government!!…which is just what you would expect IF Russia was controlled by the Jews…and it is.

So, as many people have pointed out…all this posturing by Russian, American, British politicians is a COMPLETE CHARADE.

Armed with this knowledge about Jewish power you can make very accurate predictions in certain areas. For example…The next president of the USA will definitely 101% be a Jew…no ifs, buts or mmaybes…the next president in the Oval Oriface will be a JEW. That is a money back guarantee of certainty.

        And remember that it was The Russian Federation that de-fanged Syria in the first place:

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar in the Jewish Museum in Moscow, Thursday, June 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Kumiko Oumae / Majorityrights.com, ‘Russia uses its leverage in the Arab world to aid Israel where it can feasibly do so.’, 10 Jun 2016:

[...]

The Jewish lobby doesn’t place all their eggs in one basket, and Russia’s economic and military connections to the Arab world can always be used as leverage to produce outcomes that are favourable to Israel.

One memorable example of this can be found during the earlier stages of the Syrian conflict in 2013, when John Kerry demanded that the government of Syria must come to the table and agree to surrender its chemical weapons and dissolve its chemical weapons battalions, thus ceding all of the strategic gains against Israel that had been secured through the development and enhancement of those weapons.

People were sceptical as to the enforceability of this demand. After all, couldn’t Syria simply go to Russia and ask to be supplied with the S-300 and some Su-30s, and thus severely decrease the ability of the United States to threaten them?

That was not to be, as Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov would ‘rise’ to Kerry’s challenge of ridding Syria of weapons within a week, by turning around and using their leverage over Syria to force them into accepting the challenge, by refusing to supply Syria with the S-300, and then brokering the handover of all Syria’s chemical weapons to the international community. [...]


Trump administration ‘will be having restless nights over Flynn testimony offer’

Posted by DanielS on Monday, 03 April 2017 17:15.

ITV News, “Trump administration ‘will be having restless nights over Flynn testimony offer”, 31 March 2017:

       
Flynn was famously pictured sitting next to Vladimir Putin at a gala in Moscow in December 2015 and it was his conversations with Russian officials that ultimately led to his downfall.

President Trump and his administration will have endured a “restless night’s sleep” following Michael Flynn’s offer to testify about possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia in exchange for immunity from prosecution, Barack Obama’s former press secretary has told ITV News.

Flynn, ousted as national security adviser in February following an onslaught of damaging headlines about his ties to the Kremlin, has told the FBI and Congress that he “has a story to tell” but wants assurances “against unfair prosecution”.

Josh Earnest, who served as the former president’s top spokesman for three years, said Flynn’s offer “is an indication that he is concerned about the information he may reveal”.

“My guess is that there were a lot of restless night’s sleep last night after that Wall Street Journal story posted,” Earnest told ITV News.

“Because everybody who thought they were having a private conversation with Mike Flynn in the last two years or anybody who sent an email over the last two years or anybody who has been responsible for publicly defending him over the last two months is now in a position where that information could be revealed to the FBI or congressional investigators.

“That has to be a little disconcerting to everybody - including the president of the United States.”

Trump’s young presidency has so far been blighted by the ongoing suspicion that his campaign colluded with the Russian government in its efforts to sway the election in his favour.

Flynn is one of a number of Trump associates under investigation by the FBI as part of the probe into Russian meddling.

Earnest said Trump’s decision to appoint Flynn to a role “so crucial” to America’s national security would again come under scrutiny.

“Appointing someone like General Flynn to be his national security adviser and have him resign after 24 days because he was being dishonest and now potentially has some criminal liability - it’s concerning and does raise questions about the president’s judgement in putting somebody like General Flynn into a position that is so crucial to our national security.”

Earnest, who now works as a political analyst for NBC, urged observers not to jump to conclusions over Flynn’s offer to testify, saying it was too early to say whether the retired three-star Army general would provide the “smoking gun” which directly links the president to Russia’s aggressive operation to meddle in the election process.

“He’s got a story he wants to tell - we’ll see what happens.”

Flynn was one of Trump’s closest confidantes on the campaign trail, gaining prominence for his raucous attacks on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server.

In comments likely to come back to haunt him, Flynn told NBC last September: “When you are given immunity, that means you have probably committed a crime.”

After Trump’s victory, Flynn was appointed as the new administration’s top security adviser despite concerns over his desire to forge closer ties to the Russian government.

He was famously pictured sitting next to Vladimir Putin at a gala in Moscow in December 2015 and it was his conversations with Russian officials that ultimately led to his downfall.

       
Michael Flynn, pictured above left with Donald Trump, was ousted as national security adviser in February following an onslaught of damaging headlines about his ties to the Kremlin Credit: AP

Flynn was forced to quit after a less than a month in the role when it emerged that he had discussed sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed on the Kremlin with the Russian ambassador - conversations which he then subsequently lied about to the Vice-President Mike Pence.

It is one of a number of scandals to have engulfed the president since he took office on January 20.

“Everyday seems to be a day of new drama in this White House and it is part of the leadership style that we’ve seen from President Trump - he likes to preside over chaos and keeping people off balance,” Earnest said.

“It’s the way he ran his campaign and it worked; But I think we are seeing that running a campaign is a lot different to running a country. When you are running a country people expect you to be a source of stability, not chaos.”


Why Trump’s ties to Russia would be way worse than Watergate

Posted by DanielS on Saturday, 01 April 2017 08:31.


Illustrations by Sophia den Breems

Why Trump’s ties to Russia would be way worse than Watergate

- Sarah Kendzior, Flyover Country Correspondent, 30 March 2017:

At 5:25 am on Monday, March 20, Donald J. Trump logged onto Twitter and wrote: “James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!”

Hours later, at a congressional hearing assembled to investigate foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election, FBI director James Comey confirmed the FBI probe into Trump’s ties to Russia that same day. Comey confirmed that Trump and “individuals associated with the Trump campaign” had been under investigation for Russian collusion since late July, and that the investigation was still ongoing.

Contrary to Trump’s assertion, this statement was not “fake news,” nor was it news at all to those who had followed the Russian interference story since it broke last summer.

In August 2016, former Democratic Senator Harry Reid implored Comey to reveal information about Russian interference that he said “is more extensive than is widely known and may include the intent to falsify official election results,” adding that the public had the right to know before the November election. Comey responded, notoriously, not by revealing that Trump was under FBI investigation, but by implying that Hillary Clinton was, in an “October surprise” faux email scandal that was retracted only after the rumor had damaged her campaign.

Reid wrote to Comey again in late October and reemphasized the Russian threat: “It has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity… and yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.”

After Trump won, calls for an investigation into Russian interference began in late November, led by Republicans like John McCain and Lindsay Graham as well as Democrats like Elijah Cummings, Maxine Waters, and Adam Schiff, the latter of whom led the interrogation of Comey and NSA head Michael Rogers at the March 20 hearings. Though it has falsely been portrayed by both the Trump administration and some media outlets as a Democrat-led witchhunt, Russian interference in the election was always a bipartisan concern. Any threat to both national security and sovereignty is a bipartisan concern, and the reluctance of the Trump administration to cooperate with the investigation has long been an ominous indication of his limitations and loyalties.

Instead of watchdogs, we have lapdogs

If you were the president of the United States, sworn under oath to protect and serve the public, wouldn’t you want foreign interference in your campaign to be investigated – at the very least, to prevent the recurrence of similar actions?

Or would you try to impede the investigation, by smearing those who seek it (among them intelligence officials, legislators, and reporters) and by installing officials who either benefit from the Russian relationship (like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson), seem selected in order to obfuscate the Russian relationship (like Attorney General Jeff Sessions), or both?

Trump chose to assemble an administration designed to cover up and aid his shady dealings with the Kremlin, leading to an administration so spectacularly corrupt and inept it has no corollary in US history.

Here’s where it currently stands:

The President is under investigation for colluding with a foreign power. He is being investigated by an oversight committee, the head of which, Republican representative Devin Nunes, has functioned less as a watchdog than a lapdog, providing information about the investigation of Trump to Trump in a breach of protocol. And this was not Nunes’ only misdeed: he was also present at a January meeting between Turkish officials and Trump’s former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, who in February resigned in disgrace after being revealed to be working secretly for the Turkish and Russian governments for millions of dollars.

In short, the US has employed a president suspected of treason, an oversight committee head who refuses to do oversight, and a national security advisor who undermined US national security.

The Trump clan and the Russian spy recruiter

Unfortunately, that’s only the beginning. There is also attorney general Jeff Sessions, who has had to recuse himself from the Russia interference investigation because he is implicated due to multiple meetings with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the campaign. (Sessions is not alone; Kislyak, rumored to moonlight as a spy recruiter, also met with Flynn, Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner, and Trump, though all have mysteriously foggy memories of these encounters.)

Then there’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, recipient of an “Order of Friendship” medal from Vladimir Putin, who does not seem to know why he is even in office, admitting this week, “I didn’t want this job, my wife told me to do this.” Unfortunately, Tillerson came to that revelation only after inflaming military tensions with North Korea.

On top of that, the Trump administration contains a burgeoning and possibly illegal nepotistic dynasty (Jared and Ivanka, currently getting security clearances and White House office space despite no experience in government)....

READ MORE...


Epshteyn will leave Trump TV to join the Trump Administration.

Posted by Kumiko Oumae on Sunday, 26 March 2017 18:57.

Jewish Daily Forward, ‘Epshteyn To Leave Trump TV’, 25 Mar 2017:

Boris Epshteyn, a prominent Trump surrogate during the election campaign, is expected to quit his post at Trump TV, Politico is reporting from many sources close to the administration.

The Trump TV project was widely seen as a post-election project if the Republican candidate had failed to win and needed to build yet another alternative to news that would outflank Fox and Breitbart on the right, and give Trump an ongoing political platform.

Epshteyn, a 35-year old attorney from a Russian-Jewish family and a college friend of Eric Trump, is expected to join the administration in an official capacity.

It’s rapidly becoming the case that The Forward is one of the most authoritative mainstream news sources on what is happening inside the Trump administration, because so many of the Trump administration’s most prominent and influential figures are Jewish.


FBI probing far-right news sites and social media platforms.

Posted by Kumiko Oumae on Sunday, 26 March 2017 18:32.

The FBI is now investigating a story that almost everyone intuitively knew was true from the start:

The Hill, ‘FBI probing far-right news sites: report’, 20 Mar 2017:

The FBI is investigating whether far-right news websites contributed to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to a new report.

The probe is focused on discovering whether Russian operatives used conservative outlets to help spread stories favoring now-President Trump, McClatchy said Monday.

McClatchy confirmed with two people familiar with the inquiry that the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division is driving the investigation.

The sources said Russian operatives seemingly strategically timed computer commands called “bots” to blitz social media with pro-Trump stories.  

The bots were used at times when Trump appeared struggling with 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, they continued.

McClatchy’s sources said the bots mainly created millions of Facebook and Twitter posts linking to articles on far-right websites including Breitbart News, InfoWars and the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News.

The sources added that some of the stories were false or contained a mixture of fact and fiction.

Federal investigators are now examining whether the far-right news organizations took any actions aiding Russian operatives, they said.

The bots could have amplified pro-Trump news on Facebook and Twitter, regardless of the outlets’ knowledge or involvement, the pair of sources noted.

“This may be one of the most impactful information operations in the history of intelligence,” one former U.S. intelligence official told McClatchy, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the matter’s sensitivity.

FBI Director James Comey earlier Monday confirmed the Department of Justice (DOJ) is scrutinizing Russia’s meddling in the 2016 race, including any possible ties between Moscow and officials from Trump’s election campaign.

“As you know our practice is not to confirm the existence of an ongoing investigation,” he said during a House Intelligence Committee hearing.

“But in unusual circumstances where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so,” Comey added, noting the DOJ had authorized him to break bureau policy and publicly disclose the probe.

“This is one of those circumstances. I can promise you we will follow the facts wherever they lead.”

Comey added the FBI’s investigation began in late July and will include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

During the campaign itself, Louise Mensch had reported on basically the same thing. You can revisit that at Heatstreet, and I’ll just give you an exerpt from that:

Heatstreet, ‘How Russia’s Twitter Bots And Trolls Work With Donald Trump Campaign Accounts’, 20 Oct 2016:

If you’ve been following the Twitter fiasco that is the Donald Trump campaign, you will be aware of his association with the Alt-right and with Russia bot accounts.
 
Broadly speaking, Trump has two categories of support on Twitter. Alt-right trolls, and Russian bot accounts pretending to be patriotic Americans.*
 
In many cases, these two groups cross over. The altright contains actual humans, such as @prisonplanet, and many, many bots.
 
In this article I shall however examine the way in which Russian bots are created and used to follow and boost Trump online.
 
It is not that Donald Trump does not have widespread support. He does; even at his current polling lows, his support includes millions of Americans. It is, rather, that Trump’s supporters are incredibly unlikely to use Twitter.
 
Broadly speaking ,Trump’s real supporters aren’t on Twitter – and Trump’s Twitter supporters aren’t real.

[...]

Three such bots that I videoed in the act of using this method were @Commander6080, @Sbragusa, and @jamesdgriffin. All have profiles that pretend to be Americans and to live in the USA.
 
How might this affect a twitter trend? What is the point of it? One scientist theorized as follows. It is a “fake trend” theory called “A Handoff”:

Let’s say you had a hashtag you wanted to get trending. You have a thousand bots (or Russian Trolls) and a popular account like Ricky Vaughn. You have the bots start using the hashtag, they start flooding twitter until it gets a high count (but not in the top 20 trends) then have a real person,  Ricky Vaughn, start pitching the hashtag to his followers. Here is where the window of timing kicks in: within minutes, Ricky Vaughn can have something trending, but before he gets the hashtag to the top 15 you have almost all of the bots automatically delete their tweets with the hashtags. You‘ve now started “a trend” quickly and have had it associated with “Ricky Vaughn” and not a 1,000 odd bots or Russian trolls.

[...]

This whole arrangement of social media manipulation is part of the communication operations side of the modern form of Russian Active Measures. The most remarkable thing about this arrangement is how it is tactically innovative and well-timed to exploit a particular weakness in American society specifically, but it is strategically unsophisticated because Russian commanders have also permanently ruined their own country’s reputation among the international journalist community and among most people on social media.

It’s highly abnormal for an entire country to transparently do something like that. Why would they choose to so carelessly and openly abandon even the appearance of any kind of ‘normality’ on national level?

There are a few reasons as to why they would have chosen to behave this way, but all of them seem to be capable of being summarised like this: Russian commanders may have been willing to sacrifice their country’s perceived journalistic integrity in the eyes of most of the world, because they’ve already given up on the idea that they could ever create a narrative that could appeal to a broad audience. Instead, Russia is seeking to cultivate a very particular audience in Europe and North America (excluding the United Kingdom which they seem to be abandoning). They are seeking to cultivate that roughly 20% of the population which is somewhere vaguely in the nationalistic spectrum and is disillusioned about the political situation in their country, but also lacks grounding and experience in how the world actually works. Russian commanders want to shape the media experience through which those people will come to terms with the world around them, and thus, create a long-term ‘following’, even if those followers are not necessarily aware of what it is that they are following.

The utility of this is clear. 20% of a population is enough to seriously impact the operation of political institutions in western democracies which operate in a pluralistic mode. Russian journalism is not seeking to be liked by everyone, or even trusted. Russia just wants 20% of any given European population to be responsive to their input because that is the bare minimum that they need.


The coming US–China trade war will present opportunities for Australia in RCEP & FTAAP.

Posted by Kumiko Oumae on Sunday, 12 March 2017 04:29.

ASPI - The Strategist, ‘Would a US–China trade war pay dividends to Australia?’, 09 Mar 2017:

Among many other colourful characters, Donald Trump’s cabinet appointments include two protectionist and anti-China hardliners, Robert Lighthizer and Peter Navarro, who sit at the helm of US trade and industry policy. That decision confirms a belligerent change of tack in Sino­–American economic relations. But what are the implications for Australia?

A number of monetary economists, including Saul Eslake, have warned that a potential escalation to a full-blown China–US trade war poses the single biggest economic threat to Australia. That position argues that the already struggling global economy can’t face a superpower trade war, likely to be triggered by the Trump administration at the monetary level, when the RMB/USD exchange rate will reach the unprecedented level of 7 to 1 (it’s currently sitting at around 6.9). Furthermore, a falling Chinese currency combined with protectionist measures in the US will dampen the Chinese economy by way of reduced volumes of exports and higher interest rates that will spread across the Asia–Pacific. According to such reasoning, that could have negative impacts for Australia’s economy; prices for iron ore, coal and natural gas could possibly drop—we’ll know by the middle of the year.

However, it’s questionable that such crisis would be detrimental to Australia. In fact, focusing on monetary dynamics alone fails to capture the role of industrial production and regulatory arrangements in the global supply chain.

On the contrary, after triangulating the trade and industrial data of the US, China and Australia and considering the current trade regulatory framework, there are substantial reasons to argue that Australia is well placed to fill the gaps left by a wrecked US–China trade relationship at the best of its industrial capacity. Australia is indeed one of a handful of countries to have solid free trade agreements in place with both the US and China.

As it currently stands, the annual US–China trade balance is worth over US$600 billion—around the yearly value of Australia’s overall trade volumes.

Australia’s rocks and crops economy—in particular the growing productivity potential of its agricultural and mining sectors—is strong enough to rise above global monetary tensions and falling commodity prices, thanks to rising export volumes to both the US and China. It appears that the harder the two superpowers use their trade relations as leverage in their strategic competition, the harder they’ll need to look for other sources to sustain their industrial production levels and corporate supply chain.

In a trade war scenario, the possible initial hiccups in the global supply chain will likely be short-lived. In fact, let’s consider that about half of US imports are estimated to be made of intra-firm trade, and that protectionist measures from abroad tend to have insignificant effects on the production input of Chinese State-owned firms. Thus, multinational corporations are proven to be particularly adept at   quickly replacing the flows of their industrial production and distribution, as is shown by history.

In other words, in the event of a Sino–American crisis, the major trading actors in both countries will be able and willing to promptly move their business somewhere else.

Thanks to the existing spaghetti bowl of international economic partnerships, Australia is in prime position to be this “somewhere else” for both countries. In fact, Australia is the second largest economy and Sino–American trading partner of the only six countries that have in place free trade agreements with both the US and China, including South Korea, Singapore, Chile, Peru and Costa Rica.

The liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade is a significant case study for Australia in this instance. Australia is the world’s second largest LNG exporter, and is set to become the first by 2020. It exports more than $16 billion a year of LNG and by 2020 the LNG industry is expected to contribute $65 billion to the Australian economy, equating to 3.5% of its GDP. 2016 saw the start of LNG exports from the US and an unprecedented boost of Chinese imports. In a trade war scenario, the US would be locked out of China’s thriving market and thus LNG prices would rise even higher than they already have. With sharply rising production capacity, Australia needs to expand and diversify its customer base to keep the lion’s share of the global LNG market. China’s response to Trump’s trade policy is set to dampen the rise of a   strong emerging competitor of Australia’s highly lucrative LNG industry, and thus open up new commercial frontiers.

The LNG example clearly shows that Australia’s economy would benefit from a contained US–China trade crisis. Nevertheless, should that trade crisis escalate beyond the economy, Australia’s luck may run out.

The Chinese leadership doesn’t hide the fact that promoting international economic integration outside of the US control serves the purpose of carving greater geopolitical autonomy and flexibility in the global decision-making processes. Beside Trump’s trade policy, Xi Jinping’s diplomatic strategy may also speed up the end of the US­–China detente initiated by Nixon and Kissinger in the 1970s. It remains to be seen whether China will also pursue hard-line policies to push the US outside of the Asia–Pacific. In that instance, Australia would be caught between a rock and a hard place.

If the US­–China trade war were to escalate to the geopolitical level, the American order in the Asia–Pacific would enter uncharted waters. For one thing, such an unsavoury development may compel Australia to make a clear choice between trading with China and preserving America’s security patronage.

Giovanni Di Lieto lectures International Trade Law at Monash University.

One of the most interesting things about all this is that while Australia is going to be compelled to make that choice, the choice has essentially already been made through the pattern of trade relationships which Australian politicians have chosen to cultivate.

The only way that Australia would choose the United States in that scenario, would be if Australians decided that they would like to deliberately take a massive economic dive so that they can ‘Make America Great Again’ even though that is not their country, and so that they can avoid being called ‘anti-White’ by the legions of anonymous Alt-Right trolls roaming around on Twitter using Robert Whitacker’s ‘mantra’ on anyone who won’t support the geostrategic and geoeconomic intertests of the United States, the Russian Federation, and Exxonmobil specifically. 

Given that we know that Australians don’t care about America or Russia more than they care about the economic prosperity of their own country, the outcome is already baked into the cake. AFR carried an article last year which can be used to forecast what is likely to happen, and I’ll quote it in full here now:

AFR.com, ‘How our free trade deals are helping Australian companies right now’, 17 Nov 2016 (emphasis added):

Free trade should be embraced, not feared.

It has lifted living standards, grown Australia’s economy and created thousands of jobs.

While it is becoming more popular to denounce globalisation and flirt with protectionism, we cannot turn our back on free trade.

Australia’s economy has withstood global challenges and recorded 25 years of continuous growth because we’re open to the world.   Since Australia’s trade barriers came down, we’ve reaped the rewards.

Trade liberalisation has lifted the income of households by around $4500 a year and boosted the country’s gross domestic product by 2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent, creating thousands of jobs.

One in five jobs now involve trade-related activities. This will grow as liberalised trade gives our producers, manufacturers and services providers better access to billions of consumers across the globe, not just the 24 million who call Australia home.

However, not everyone sees the value of free trade. Some see it, and the forces of globalisation, as a threat to their standard of living, rather than an opportunity to improve it.

When it comes to free trade, we often hear about the bad but not the good.

The nature of news means the factory closing gets more coverage than the one opening.

Chances are you heard about the Ford plant closing, but not the $800 million Boeing has invested in Australia and the 1200 people who work at their Port Melbourne facility.

You may have heard about Cubbie Station, but not heard that its purchase staved off bankruptcy, and has since seen millions of dollars invested in upgrades of water-saving infrastructure, a doubling of contractors, more workers, and of course, money put into the local economy supporting jobs and local businesses.

Key to attracting investment, jobs

The free trade agreements the Coalition concluded with the North Asian powerhouse economies of China, Japan and Korea are key to attracting investment and creating more local jobs.

The Weilong Grape Wine Company has said the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement is the reason it’s planning to build a new plant in Mildura.

This is a story being played out across the country.

Businesses large and small, rural and urban, are taking advantage of the preferential market access the FTAs offer Aussie businesses into the giant, growing markets of North Asia.

Australian Honey Products is building a new factory in Tasmania to meet the demand the trifecta of FTAs has created.

Owner Lindsay Bourke says the free trade agreements have been “wonderful” for  his business. “We know that we are going to grow and it’s enabled us to employ more people, more local people,”  he said.

It is the same story for NSW skincare manufacturer Cherub Rubs, who will have to double the size of their factory. “The free trade agreements with China and Korea really mean an expansion, which means new Australian jobs manufacturing high-quality products,” said Cherub CEO John Lamont.

It is easy to see why the three North Asian FTAs are forecast to create 7,900 jobs this year, according to modelling conducted by the Centre for International Economics.

Australia has a good story when it comes to free trade. In the past three years, net exports accounted for more than half of Australia’s GDP growth.

Exports remain central to sustaining growth and economic prosperity. Last year exports delivered $316 billion to our economy, representing around 19 per cent of GDP.

This underscores the importance of free trade and why it is a key element of the Turnbull Government’s national economic plan.

The Coalition is pursuing an ambitious trade agenda, and more free trade agreements, to ensure our economy keeps growing and creating new jobs.

On Friday I arrive in Peru for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting.

Free trade will be at front of everyone’s mind.

With the future of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) looking grim, my ministerial counterparts and I will work to conclude a study on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), which sets out agreed actions towards a future free trade zone.

We will also work to finalise a services road map, which will help grow Australian services exports in key markets including education, finance and logistics.

More to be done

The Coalition has achieved a lot when it comes to free trade, but there is more to do.

Momentum is building for concluding a free trade agreement with Indonesia, work towards launching free trade agreement negotiations with the European Union continues, we’ve established a working group with the United Kingdom that will scope out the parameters of a future ambitious and comprehensive Australia-UK FTA and we’re continuing to negotiate the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which brings together 16 countries that account for almost half of the world’s population.

The Turnbull government will continue to pursue an ambitious free trade agenda to keep our economy growing and creating more jobs.

Meanwhile Opposition Leader Bill Shorten continues to build the case for Labor’s embrace of more protectionist policies, claiming he will learn the lessons of the US election where it featured heavily.

What Labor doesn’t say though is that by adopting a closed economy mindset, they will close off the investment and jobs flowing from free trade. They’re saying no to Boeing’s $800 million investment in Australia and the Cubbie Station improvements; they’re saying no to businesses like Cherub Rubs and Australian Honey Products building new factories and the many local jobs they will create.

Steven Ciobo is the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment

Obligatory Taylor Swift
What’s not to love about all this?

I really think I love Anglo-Saxons. This is going to be fun, isn’t it? 

When Mr. Ciobo spoke of ‘a working group with the United Kingdom that will scope out the parameters of a future ambitious and comprehensive Australia-UK FTA’, he was not joking. That is happening and it is likely going to be another window that the UK will have into the formation of both RCEP and FTAAP, even though technically the UK is not physically in the Indo-Asian region.

I wrote an article several days ago called ‘A view of Brexit from Asia: Britain as a Pacific trading power in the 21st century.’ I chose at that time not to mention the Australian or New Zealand interface at all, but that article’s main point should be viewed as being reinforced by the point I’ve presented in here now.

I have also written an article today called, ‘US Government to build American competitiveness atop socio-economic retrogression and misery.’ It’s crucial to understand that time is of the essence, since the Americans are at the present moment in relative disarray compared to the rest of us. The Americans have not yet tamed and pacified the various economic actors in their own country, they are still working on that, and they also have yet to form a coherent internationalist counter-narrative to the one that is being enunciated by the governments of Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, and so on.

Some of you may be mystified by that statement. What do I mean that the Americans don’t have a coherent ‘internationalist counter-narrative’? I mean that while they are capable of explaining and rationalising their own position as a narrowly ‘America first’ position in a way that is pleasing to Americans, they are not able to export that view to regular people anywhere else in a way that would induce any other European-demography country to comply with America’s geoeconomic interests.

After all, if the Alt-Right people are going to careen all over the internet essentially screaming, “put America first ahead of your own country’s interests or be accused of White genocide”, and alternately equally absurdly, “you’re an evil Russophobe who supports White genocide if you invested in BP instead of Exxon”, then they should not expect that they are going to win the sympathy of anyone who is neither American nor Russian.

I want to say to British people, to Australians, to New Zealanders, to Canadians, Commonwealth citizens in general, that you know, it’s been a long time since you’ve taken your own side. This coming phase is going to be a time when it will become possible to do precisely that.

The time is fast approaching when it will be possible to choose neither America nor Russia. You’ll be able to finally choose yourselves and your own geoeconomic interests, and you’ll be able to choose to trade and associate with whoever else in the world you want to trade and associate with.

Kumiko Oumae works in the defence and security sector in the UK. Her opinions here are entirely her own.


The ‘Left of Launch’ Strategy: Yet another reason why Iran is not a nuclear threat to America.

Posted by Kumiko Oumae on Wednesday, 08 March 2017 18:27.

An interesting story appeared at ASPI today, regular people have now become aware of the existence of the ‘left of launch’ strategy. Which you can read about at the links included in the Cyber wrap 154 which I’ve reproduced in full below.

The utility of having people know about the ‘left of launch’ strategy is that it even further reduces the credibility of any of Donald Trump’s feigned hyperventilating about the alleged (and in fact non-existent) ‘threat’ of Iran ever attaining a nuclear weapon, much less having the ability to use such a weapon against anyone.

Armed with this information, it is possible for people to go out into the world and make the case that even if one were to entertain the idea that Iran were willing to create some improbable doomsday scenario, there is no need for anyone to send a single American aircraft, tank, or armoured patrol vehicle anywhere near Iran in order to avert such a scenario.

If Donald Trump and his supporters continue to behave like Iran is a ‘major nuclear threat’ despite the existence of the ‘left of launch’ strategy in public view, there is only one place that such a ridiculous narrative can be actually originating from, and that place is Israel. That is the case which should be made over and over again, until it becomes a kind of mantra.

Here’s ASPI’s Cyber wrap:

ASPI - The Strategist, ‘Cyber wrap 154’, 08 Mar 2017 (emphasis added):

Lightbulb

Welcome back to your weekly fix of cyber news, analysis and research.

The New York Times reported last Saturday that, back in 2013, President Barack Obama ordered cyber sabotage operations against Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. The persistently high failure rate of the US’s kinetic antimissile weapons, despite significant investment, reportedly prompted Obama to consider a cyber supplement. The project to pre-emptively undermine missiles in their development stages, known as a ‘left of launch’ strategy, receives dedicated resources at the Pentagon and is now President Trump’s to play with. However, experts are concerned that this kind of cyber offensive approach sets a dangerous precedent for Beijing and Moscow, particularly if they believe that US cyber operations could successfully undermine their nuclear deterrence capability.

Staying stateside, the future of the NSA’s spying powers are   under scrutiny this week as elements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) approach sunset. Section 702 of the Act forms the basis for the NSA’s monitoring of foreign nationals’ communications around the globe in the interests of national security. It was under this FISA authority that the US’s infamous “big brother” program PRISM—revealed in the Snowden disclosures of 2013—was established.

While the legislation is designed for foreign targets, there have long been concerns it could be used to surveil US citizens through their contact with foreigners. Human rights advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union are protesting the renewal of this legislation in defence of international privacy. The issue also has the trans-Atlantic data-sharing agreement on thin ice, especially given that EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova has made it clear that she ‘will not hesitate’ to suspend the painstakingly crafted arrangement should the US fail to uphold its stringent privacy requirements.

That task may be even more difficult after WikiLeaks’ overnight release of a dossier, dubbed ‘Vault 7’, detailing the CIA’s cyber espionage tools and techniques. WikiLeaks released over 8,000 documents it claims were taken from a CIA computer network in the agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence. The documents detail the agency’s expansive and sophisticated cyber espionage capability, including compromising the security common devices and apps including Apple iPhones, Google’s Android software and Samsung televisions to collect intelligence.

China’s Foreign Ministry and the Cyberspace Administration of China this week launched the country’s first International Strategy of Cooperation on Cyberspace. The Strategy outlines China’s basic principles for cyber diplomacy and its strategic goals in cyberspace. Encouragingly, the Foreign Ministry’s Coordinator for Cyberspace Affairs Long Zhao stated that ‘enhancing deterrence, pursuing absolute security and engaging in a cyber arms race…is a road to nowhere’. Unsurprisingly, the Strategy offers strong support for the concept of cyber sovereignty, stating that ‘countries should respect each other’s right to choose their own path of cyber development’, and emphasises the importance of avoiding cyberspace becoming ‘a new battlefield’. You can read a full English language version of the Strategy here.

The revelation that the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) was temporarily forced to rely on diesel generators during last month’s heat wave has prompted the government to significantly upgrade to the agency’s infrastructure. The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security told Parliament on Wednesday that it was recommended by ActewAGL and the NSW Department of Environment that ASD switch to back up power on 10 February as part of state-wide load shedding to protect power supplies. The new $75 million project, funded by the Defence Integrated Investment Program, is intended to bolster the intelligence agency’s resilience.

Several cyber incidents have kept the internet on its toes this week. The Amazon Simple Storage Service cloud hosting service went down last week, knocking hundreds of thousands of popular websites and apps offline. The disruptive incident, originally described by the company as ‘increased error rates’, was actually not the result of cyber criminals or hacktivists, but that of an employee’s fat fingers entering a command incorrectly—whoops! Yahoo is in the doghouse (again) with the awkward announcement in its annual report to the Security and Exchange Commission that 32 million customer accounts are thought to have been compromised through forged cookies. This isn’t to be confused with the entirely separate and very embarrassing loss of 1 billion accounts in a 2013 breach, which recently cost the company $350 million in its acquisition deal with Verizon and CEO Marissa Mayer her annual cash bonus. And if you’ve been tracking the #cloudbleed saga, catch up with some post-mortems here, here and here.

Finally we’ve got you covered for your weekly cyber research reads. A new Intel report, written by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, examines the discrepancies in cyberspace that put defenders at a disadvantage. Titled Tilting the Playing Field: How Misaligned Incentives Work Against Cybersecurity, the report reveals the gaps between attackers vs. defenders, strategy vs. implementation and executives vs. implementers, offering recommendations to overcome such obstacles. And get your fix of statistics from PwC’s annual Digital IQ assessment based on a survey of more than 2,000 executives from across the world. The research reveals that only 52% of companies consider their corporate Digital IQ to be ‘strong,’ a considerable drop from 67% last year.


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