Friday, March 24, 2017

Merkel turning toward Moscow? Bavaria’s governor leads huge German delegation to Russia

Merkel turning toward Moscow? 

Besides French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s surprise meeting with Vladimir Putin today, another important meeting between German leaders and Russia’s president happened last week, but has gone almost unreported outside German media.
Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer, who holds a powerful position in German politics, visited Moscow on March 16th, bringing with him a massive delegation of German political and business leaders.
Seehofer has gone on record many times as a staunch opponent of the EU’s anti-Russian sanctions, saying they are killing German businesses. He’s also said that, “Without Moscow, may of the world’s crises can’t be solved,” and praised Putin as “noble” for not involving himself in Germany’s domestic affairs.
Spiegel Online gave the following details of the trip:
[Mr. Seehofer] came with a 80 member delegation representing Bavarian society groups, cultural representatives, journalists, industry and agriculture. Those last two branches of the economy have been long demanding at least an easing of sanctions imposed after the annexation of Crimea, and they hope for an end to Russia’s embargo in return.
There are more than 5,000 firms active in Russia with German share holders, and more than a quarter come from Bavaria. The volume of trade between Bavaria and Russia last year was €7.62 billion. Four years ago, i.e. before the sanctions, the figure stood at €13.1 billion.Putin received Seehofer like none other,” declared the headline from German news channel Welt24. Indeed, the governor was treated, and behaved essentially as if he were, a head-of-state.
Bavaria, as the largest and most economically powerful state in Germany, does carry weight in Berlin. Seehofer represents Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) political party – the longtime ally of Angela Merkel’s CDU which is the mainstream conservative party in the rest of Germany.
Of course, Bavaria is not a sovereign state (not for more than a century, anyway) and Seehofer has no right to conduct an independent foreign policy. Berlin certainly tacitly approved the trip, even though there are differences in the public positions of Seehofer and Merkel on a range of issues from refugee policy to anti-Russian sanctions.
During the meeting, the governor conveyed “especially warm greetings” from the German chancellor to the Russian president, thus fulfilling diplomatic protocol.
She reminded me several times not to forget that,” he added, chuckling.
Seehofer also revealed something else: that Angela Merkel will herself visit Putin in Moscow on May 2nd.
This is important news, as it will certainly come prior to any future summit between Trump and Putin, which will remain politically impossible for Trump for some time.
Having just left discussions with Donald Trump in Washington, the question is what agenda Angela Merkel will advance when she arrives in Moscow in May. Will she continue representing the neo-con globalist camp and it’s policy of confrontation, or will she pivot to Donald Trump’s position, bringing proposals for rapprochement?
A rapprochement is very much what is desired in Munich. And without the support of Seehofer and Bavaria’s CSU, Merkel cannot prevail in German parliamentary elections scheduled for this September.

MoreTectonic Shifts : Australia Careful not Provoking China

‘We have a strong ally in Washington & a good friend in Beijing’ – Australian PM

‘We have a strong ally in Washington & a good friend in Beijing’ – Australian PM
Australia should not have to choose between China and the US, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said during an official visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
Speaking to reporters in Canberra on Friday, Turnbull said there was no need to pick between the two economic giants as Australia has good relations with both.
"We have a staunch, strong ally in Washington — a good friend in Washington — and we have a very good friend in Beijing," Turnbull said.
"The idea that Australia has to choose between China and the United States is not correct," he added.
Li Keqiang, who is currently on a five-day trip to Australia, has made it clear he’s satisfied with Australia’s approach.
“We respect your choices in your foreign policy,” Li said at a speech Thursday. “We don’t want to see taking sides as happened during the Cold War.”
Li’s visit to Australia is the most senior by a Chinese official since President Xi Jinping signed off on a major bilateral trade deal in 2014.
On Friday, Turnbull and Li completed a series of bilateral talks and agreements, including one in which China lifted restrictions on Australian beef imports. Previously, only 11 Australian suppliers had been allowed entry into the Chinese market.
"Australia is the only country in the world with this market access,"Turnbull told reporters. "This new agreement will drive significant future growth."
Australia has been a consistent ally of the United States since World War I, but more recently has been careful not to provoke China, one of its biggest trading partners. In 2015, the two countries signed the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), and bilateral trade currently exceeds $107 billion.
Last year, Australia allowed a Chinese company, Landbridge, to secure a 99-year lease over the Port of Darwin, which has strategic access to the South China Sea. The move reportedly alarmed the US government, which has a marine training base nearby.
But so far, the Australian PM’s relationship with US President Donald Trump may have been less productive. Trump reportedly described his phone call to Prime Minister Turnbull in February as the “worst so far,” according to White House sources, after the two leaders allegedly argued about an agreement deal made by the Obama administration in which the United States would take in 1,250 asylum seekers being held in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. In a tweet, Trump referred to the plan to “take thousands of illegal immigrants” as a “dumb deal.”

French Desire For Detente: Diana Johnstone on RT about Le Pen's Visit to Moscow

Nobody's stooge: Le Pen meets Putin, shows 'French desire for détente with Russia'

Nobody's stooge: Le Pen meets Putin, shows 'French desire for détente with Russia'
Marine Le Pen has been demonized all through her career, so she is no stranger to criticism. Meeting Vladimir Putin is a gamble to attract voters outside her core support who want better relations with Russia, says political author Diana Johnstone. 
The French National Front leader is in Moscow and has been meeting with President Puting, their first official face to face.
During the talks, Vladimir Putin stressed the importance of relations with France and said despite having the right to meet any potential candidate, the country has no intention of meddling in April's presidential election.
RT: What do you make of this high-profile, first face to face meeting, of the two politicians?
Diana Johnstone: It is a surprise. It is a very bold move on the part of Marine Le Pen. Because already any candidate who wants to have peaceful relations with Russia is branded as a ‘Putin stooge.’ Obviously, she is ready to face these accusations. She must believe, perhaps they have their own private polls at the National Front, that this position of wanting to end sanctions and have peaceful relations with Russia is popular enough that it can overcome the violent media reaction that you will have here, saying she is a “Putin stooge and has been brought by the Kremlin.”
They are saying that already, just as they said it about Trump in the US. But if she succeeds, this would be very important, if she could possibly succeed in this, it would be a big help to Trump to improve relations. Because right now he is blocked by all the opposition in his own country. And if France were to show itself willing to have détente with Russia, that would be very important, if it works.
RT: Marine Le Pen has seen much criticism in her country and across Europe for calling for improved relations with Russia. Is this meeting a clear sign she is not afraid of the criticism ahead of the election?
DJ: Absolutely, she has been demonized all through her career mostly because of the connections to her father who was politically quite different from Marine Le Pen. She got used to this. Her core followers don’t care about this at all. But the point is she has to reach beyond her core followers. And this is a huge gamble to see if this bold position on foreign policy could possibly attract voters that are outside her core support.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Marine Le Pen meets Putin in Moscow

‘No reason for Cold War, both Russia & US are great powers’ – Le Pen (RT EXCLUSIVE)

There is no good reason for France to engage in a Cold War-style policy against Russia, National Front leader Marine Le Pen said in an exclusive interview with RT, adding that if elected French president, she would seek balanced relations both with Russia and the US.
“I don’t see any good reason to engage in a Cold War in any form. Russia as well as the US is a great power. It’s very important for France to build up balanced relations with both of these countries. I think we could do that with Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump,” Le Pen told RT.
The National Front leader noted the importance of restoring and strengthening trade and cultural ties between the two countries, as well as boosting cooperation in the energy industry and in the fight against terrorism.
“I believe France shouldn’t put limits on itself when it comes to improving relations with Russia. First of all, we should lift the sanctions [against Russia] that actually have been forced upon us by the European Union.”
When touching upon the accusations of Russian meddling in the French election campaign, Le Pen said the claims were groundless.
“I hear all the time [French President] Hollande talking about it, but I have never seen any proof to these accusations,” Le Pen said.
“At the same time, I see that Hollande does not ask the US for explanations, although it turned out the CIA eavesdropped on some European leaders and the 2012 candidates for the [French] presidential elections,”she said.
“I think we should stop this policy of double standards – this is what creates a sense of injustice not only for Russian people, but for many nations worldwide,” Le Pen concluded.
French presidential candidate Le Pen and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a meeting in Moscow on Friday, focusing on the need for joint efforts in fighting terrorism.