Is Germany still a member of the Western alliance?

Germany’s decisions on China’s Huawei, Russia’s Nord Stream 2 & now Iran-backed Hezbollah

That is a tweet from Velina Tchakarova.  Germany will not list Hezbollah as a terrorist group, in case you missed that piece of news.  And the country will not ban Huawei infrastructure as a potential piece of its communications networks.  Furthermore:

The projections peg the [German] military budget to be several billion euros short of the trajectory to meet the government’s goal of reaching 1.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2024. Analysts even see the current spending curve unable to sustain 1.35 percent in the years ahead.

NATO members in 2014 agreed to boost their defense spending to 2 percent of GDP within 10 years.

Italy, by the way, just endorsed China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, the only G7 member to do so.

For all the talk about Brexit, these may end up being the relevant “exits” of our time.  And if anyone is working hard to make Brexit seem like a somewhat less bad idea, I suppose that is Germany and Italy, not anyone in British politics.


The rephrase should be that the Germany centre is holding and improving aggregate and incremental decision making whilst other players at the table try to bluster, bluff and spend other people's money. By other people I mean consumers, taxpayers and innovators who pick up the tab from all the posturing.

Check out Joshua Ramos' The Age of the Unthinkable if you want more information about why Hezbollah's political characterization isn't as straightforward as one might think.

As for the 2% NATO spending goal, Jim Rogers has an interesting--and relevant--take on America's own military spending:

"America is borrowing money to pay for military hardware that sits and rusts in the sun. The man who manufactures the hardware makes money, but after that, there is no beneficiary. The investment does not represent an ongoing source of production, the way a canal or a railroad does."

'about why Hezbollah's political characterization isn't as straightforward as one might think'

Look, they are certainly terrorists, and the reason we can be confident in that classification is it is in Israel's direct interest in having them classified that way.

Those crafty Israelis, manipulating the entire world but the shrewd Germans have caught on. Just like they caught on to this sort of manipulation in the past.

Sort of like how those shrewd Germans caught on to another regime that butchers journalists (literally), and cut off arms sales to them.

And hard as it might be to imagine, but the Israelis also think that Saudi Arabia is a dangerous adversary, though efforts to stop American arms sales that might threaten Israel have not been met with resounding success over the past few decades.

@C_p: "butchers journalists (literally), and cut off arms sales to them." - literally or figuratively? It's cruel to deny an arm sale to a one-armed journalist...even more so to a one-armed economist. Poetic license for the putative sale...

The most costly wars in history have always followed large scale disarmament and underfunding of military hardware. Investing in hardware is not just about having perishable goods, it is also about deterring aggression.

Actual conflict is far more costly than our current status quo. Vietnam, for instance, burnt through something like 88% of annual GDP over its duration in military spending. Spending 2% of GDP to stop such a war means that if you deter one small regional conflict once every other generation, you have made the most cost effective choice. Deterring a conflict like WWI or WWII need only happen once every century or so to make hardware purchases quite cost effective.

Much like with police officers, the by far cheapest option is to deter troublesome behavior before it starts. The world has tried disarmament several times; it was most vigorously tried in 1907 (Hague) and 1932-1937 (Geneva Disarmament Conference). These mistakes proved far more costly than just having enough hardware to maintain the status quo balance of power. In contrast, the massive military build up of the late 70s and 80s saw some of the largest gains in quality of life and peace in world history.

'The most costly wars in history have always followed large scale disarmament and underfunding of military hardware.'

The Mongols would disagree. It is quite likely that the Greeks and Persians would also disagree, but in all fairness, their wars tended to be smaller scale. And the limitation of scale applies even more fully to the Peloponnesian War, though the ends of Athens did have a certain impact.

But sad to say, even though the war only ended a century ago, that sentence does not describe WWI. This was just one component of that conflict -

Well, the AfD has certainly never seen itself part of a decadent alliance that tolerates pluralism, supranational organizations, or anything but a defender of what it considers real Western Civilization.

But what is really amusing is what will happen if Trump goes through with this, because there likely won't be any American forces left in Germany at all - 'Under the formula, countries would pay the full cost of stationing American troops on their territory, plus 50 percent more, said U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the idea, which could have allies contributing five times what they provide. .... Trump has long complained that U.S. and NATO allies freeload on U.S. military protection, but the cost-plus-50 formula has only gained traction in recent months, said current and former U.S. officials, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations. .... Trump does not accept the argument that U.S. forces in Germany are a strategic asset for the United States and maybe an overall cost savings because they help facilitate U.S. military actions in the Middle East and Africa as well as across the European continent, former U.S. officials said.

That disconnect predates the discussion of billing Germany for the cost of basing forces there, and some former advisers had hoped they could steer Trump toward a wider view of what the United States gains from the arrangement. American lives that might have otherwise been lost on the battlefields of Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, for example, are often saved at Landstuhl military hospital in Germany.'

'these may end up being the relevant “exits” of our time'

Well, not if one thinks that the EU is actually a counterweight to the U.S., since basically no one believes the Germans are about to leave the EU (though several East European countries are going to lose a couple of billion in German gas transit fees, this is not the same as invoking Article 50).

And really, it is remarkable how steadfast President Trump has been in holding the Western alliance together, isn't it? Just imagine how things would look without his leadership.

(And Huawei? That is a real reach considering just how secure American telecommunications infrastructure is when used by foreign customers, right? Besides, as an American, one can be confident that the NSA can listen to Merkel's phone conversations regardless of the manufacturer involved.)

Has a nation ever been more completely cucked than Germany?

I can't think of a better term to describe their strange 30-year policy mix of mix of guilt, self-hatred and demographic immolation. Germany is a socially-woke Fraulein getting it hard from the east whilst her husband looks haplessly on.

All this and a contempt for their commitments and the allies that keep them safe. Who can trust such a polity?

Regarding Huawei: At this point you have to assume that any infrastructure devices will be compromised by the government of the producer, whether that's China, the US, Canada or whomever. So the decision rests a lot on which country you feel will most likely harm you. Which makes Germany's decision to go with Huawei an interesting view on their calculus of the relative threats the US and China pose.

What's the evidence against Huawei? Why is Nordstream bad for Germany? Why is OBOR bad for Italy? These days I'm less inclined to automatically agree with technocrats without good, hard evidence.

It's like you have never played a sport chess before. You don't seem to have the intuition that comes with competition and exertion.

*a sport or chess

You didn't address anything I said. Again, I'm open to hearing out any evidence one way or the other. I just don't believe in just sleepwalking in to the next taxpayer funded "big adventure" based on hearsay.

Ok, so you want "hard evidence" that China uses its companies as extensions of its authoritarian government? That Russia is an anemic former superpower propped up by hydrocarbon revenues? That OBOR is meant for two way transmission of goods, services, ideas and influence? Just clarifying, that's what you want citations for?

'Ok, so you want "hard evidence" that China uses its companies as extensions of its authoritarian government?'

Maybe you could give us the Chinese equivalent of Room 614A? 'Room 641A is located in the SBC Communications building at 611 Folsom Street, San Francisco, three floors of which were occupied by AT&T before SBC purchased AT&T. The room was referred to in internal AT&T documents as the SG3 [Study Group 3] Secure Room. It is fed by fiber optic lines from beam splitters installed in fiber optic trunks carrying Internet backbone traffic and, as analyzed by J. Scott Marcus, a former CTO for GTE and a former adviser to the FCC, has access to all Internet traffic that passes through the building, and therefore "the capability to enable surveillance and analysis of internet content on a massive scale, including both overseas and purely domestic traffic."'

If the Chinese had their own Mark Kleins and Edward Snowdens, perhaps you wouldn't be so daft.

Ah, you mean because occasionally Americans get to see their tax dollars at work in apparently illegal universal surveillance, you cannot tell us anything about China?

You have heard of the Great Firewall one assumes, which is exhibit A in such discussions.

However, this is the MR comment section, where fact free comments are apparently preferred by most, so no need to worry about having yet to provide a single actual fact or link concerning how China uses its companies as extensions of its authoritarian government.

Maybe America should not support Red China if Red China is so dangerous it "uses its companies as extensions of its authoritarian government"?

You can easily find articles, by people with a good reputation in gheir field, to the effect that all are state sponsored and subsidised projects for geopolitical ends. In any case, the majority of German and Italian ally states judge them to be so. What standard of evidence are you looking for? The contention is mainly that these things are a sign of Germany being a poor ally among Western nations, not that Nordstream for'ex does not pursue its narrow, short term business interest.

And oddly, Prof. Cowen seemed to forget where the New Silk Road ends in Western Europe - Duisburg. Which actually seems even more important than a G7 nation endorsing it.

'Some 30 trains a week travel between China and Germany on the New Silk Road, part of the ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure project that’s backed up by billions in Chinese government subsidies. Four out of five trains from China now make Duisburg their first European stop, with most taking the northern route through Kazakhstan and Moscow.

Duisburg’s growing importance to China raised eyebrows in 2014, when Chinese President Xi Jinping made the city one of the few stops on his state visit to Germany. Timed to coincide with an incoming Chinese freight train festooned with red ribbons, Mr. Xi’s arrival was greeted by an orchestra playing traditional mining songs and children holding banners in Chinese.'

And here is even more evidence of apparent German perfidy regarding its Western allies - 'Duisport is keen to beef up the Silk Road’s southern route, too. Near Istanbul, the Germans are jointly developing a logistics center with Turkey’s Arkas Holding to serve as a regional hub for truck and rail transport. And in Italy, a cooperation agreed last year with the port of Triest will open a maritime link on the southern route via markets in Greece and Turkey.'

Though I cannot remember at the moment - is Turkey still a member of the Western alliance or not?

I take it as axiomatic that everyone will play to their own self-interest at all times, and that all multinational projects by Russia / China are deliberate tools of policy in addition to their economic aspects and come with hidden prices.

The problem is that Germany seems to be an outlier when it comes to accepting such "gifts" despite the misgivings of nearly all its allies.

In LoTR terms, Germany is Angmar jumping up and down smugly:, "Hey, Elrond, I got a magic ring from Sauron! He gave you nuthin! I guess he really likes me! Looooooser!"

The horror of Russia and China using mutually beneficial trade as a tool of policy.

If only that were just free trade..

None of the big Russian/Chinese trades are private companies in the western sense. When you deal with them, you're dealing with Xi / Putin and political calls.

Give British people dual citizenship in US. And most favored nation status in trade.

Clearly, the Brexiters would reject dual citizenship - after all, as EU citizens, every British citizen currently has the right to live and work in any EU country. Well, until March 29.

And as a member of the EU, the UK already has 'most favored nation status' - which they will also lose on March 29.

The Brexiters are interested in taking back control.

Thanks, Jorod,

The gesture is appreciated, but we fear your extra-territorial tax laws. We'll just take the trade agreement, please.

What, you wouldn't want to pay American and British income taxes?

You don't need to be an American citizen for that privilege - a green card is more than sufficient. (Really -'If you are a resident alien, the rules for filing income, estate, and gift tax returns and paying estimated tax are generally the same whether you are in the United States or abroad. Your worldwide income is subject to U.S. income tax the same way as an U.S. citizen. You are a resident alien of the United States for tax purposes if you meet either the green card test or the substantial present test for the calendar year.'

Yup, I know. Saw that one coming. One set of income taxes is enough.

Did you notice Boris Johnson renounced his (Joint Anglo)-US citizenship over such? That and his not so secret ambition to be Prime Minister.

Well, the other reason he paid the over 2000 dollar fee to become a non-American citizen is that he just happened to be foreign minister of the UK at the same time. That's right, one of those take back control figures was actually a dual citizen.

He discovered the hard way about US citizen tax requirements when he sold his London flat and had to pay US capital gains taxes on it.

Italy may have endorsed Belt and Road, but the UK was the first Western nation to join China's Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, in a transparent attempt to pander to the Chinese.

Such is the action of the "leaders of the free world".

You're not afraid Germany might stop being part of some 'Western Alliance'.

You're afraid it might stop doing what the USA tell them.

Well, that is one possible interpretation, but a real clue is 'Brexit.'

As of today, it looks like Brexit is going to be a disaster, and one that can be solely placed on the shoulders of those voting Leave, and no one else. Yes, there will be some desperate attempts to somehow blame the EU for the fact that Britain voted to enjoy all the benefits and privileges of being a non-member of the EU, but generally, such pathetic attempts are only likely to work with the sort of people who still believe that the UK leaving the EU will mean an extra 350 million pounds a week for the NHS.

And Brexit is a direct rejection of much of what Prof. Cowen professes to believe in - free trade bringing benefits to a significant number of countries and free movement within those countries, to give two related and concrete examples.

But as with many other people, Prof. Cowen seems surprised by the realization that Brexit is likely to a major blow to many of the frameworks we have taken for granted since the 1970s. For example, the U.S. being able to count on the UK to reliably represent American interests within the EU. Or that economics trumps ideology. Why yes, the Trump tariff wars have also been a demonstration of this - not that President Trump is generally criticized in direct terms here, something that he shares with how the Brexiters are treated.

The real irony would be if Brexit causes a serious enough global recession that it wipes out Trump's chances for re-election.

Yes, because after Leave won the referendum, 85% of Brits voted for parties pledging to honour the result in 2017.

Negotiations were then led by a Remainer Prime Minister, and a Remainer Chancellor, and when the Leaver Sec State for Brexit resigned in disgust, he got replaced by another who also resigned in disgust, who got replaced by a Remainer. All this in a House of Commons which is probably 75% Remainer.

And the subsequent foul up is supposedly the fault of Vote Leave?!?! How exactly have Brexiteers been running these negotiations at any point?

'And the subsequent foul up is supposedly the fault of Vote Leave?!?!'

Well, I am talking about the cliff edge or hard Brexit, though if you wish to call the ERG and DUP (the party that rejected the EU's position that the border could be in the Irish Sea, so to speak) blameless in what will apparently happen in 3 weeks, no one will surprised.

I would paraphrase this a bit. It's not that Germany is no longer part of "Western Alliance", it's more likely that they are no longer part of "Anti-Eastern Alliance". Perhaps they have understood that it's actually to build bridges and not try to subjugate other countries. Which also include those hated "authoritatrian hell-holes", which somehow still exist and seemingly continue to work, regargless of how hated they are in the West.

Somthat is it. Peace for our time! Munich!

When all you have is a hammer.... every nail looks like Hitler, or something like that.

Indeed! A historic Ribbentr...I mean a Rapproachment with the Ostpolitik! Critics should be Molotov'd.....Umm....I mean mollified. Germany is bur...erm, building bridges! There should be a pact! To symbolise the New Friendship with Russia! 20 Years of Peace!

And then partition Poland.

So that is it. A thousand-year Reich.

Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the resurgence of al Qaeda. Think about the logic of that. Should one blame Saudi Arabia for Hezbollah? Israel? Should one blame Obama for Trumpism? I am a believer in a balance of power as the key to stability: an imbalance of power provides the inducement for further enhancement of the imbalance. On the specific question of NATO and the Western Alliance, isn't Trump the leading advocate of going it alone and, consequently, the erosion of the alliance? Trump would be the last person to believe a balance of power is the key to stability: in his simple mind, the erosion of the alliance enhances the power of America. End of story. And end of stability.

Your mind is ruined.

Also, you don't understand systems-theory as it relates to stability on any level.

rayward, if you're going to try to change the subject, you should do like prior and dump some unrelated Wikipedia content; people always seem to take that bait. Just saying, "but Trump," has gotten a little tired by now.

"do like prior and dump some unrelated Wikipedia content"

Nah, prior is usually smart enough to make it tangentially related. But at the end of the day, instead of addressing criticisms all prior ever actually does is try and point the finger somewhere else.

With systems-theory (phenomena happen), Iran is to be blamed for the Sunni Muslim terrorists who attacked America on 9/11, Iran is to be blamed for the Sunni Muslim insurgents who killed and maimed thousands of American soldiers in Iraq, and Iran is to be blamed for the Sunni Muslim extremists', ISIS, unspeakable acts of violence in Syria and Iraq. Lebanon has about an equal number of Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims, the balance in population encouraging the two sects to compromise. Hezbollah in Lebanon is a Shiite organization. It's no bargain, but compared to Sunni Muslim extremists, it hasn't been a direct threat to Americans. For context, over 85% of Muslims worldwide are Sunni, less than 15% are Shia. Sunni Muslims believe Shia are infidels and must reform or else. Given the overwhelming different in numbers, who feels under threat, Sunnis or Shia? With systems-theory, phenomena just happen, is the imbalance of power between Sunni and Shia irrelevant?

Germans have been attracted to chaos and disruption ever since Immanuel Kant. Not in a good way, I should add.

Yet, it is Americans who praise disrupting the economy and impoverishing workers.

NATO members in 2014 agreed to boost their defense spending to 2 percent of GDP within 10 years.

That makes zero practical sense. Defense, ie. the structure necessary to negate an existential threat to a nation's government,doesn't have any relationship to a country's GDP. Instead, it's determined by geography, the animosity of its neighbors and their offensive capabilities. GDP is meaningless in this context.

Yes, and additionally against an adversary with tactical nukes like Russia (including short range atomic missiles -- thanks Trump!) you'd really need nukes as well to have any chance in a full scale war. And Germany is prevented from that by the 2+4 treaty. So the first step would be dissolving that treaty and developing a nuclear arsenal (never going to happen).

1. They're all part of NATO, which includes the US and our nukes.
2. France already has nukes.
3. (including short range atomic missiles -- thanks Trump!) Russia has had these for a while, we're just not burying our heads in the sand, so 'Thanks you' yes.

1. Trump already questioned article 5. Now he's talking about paying up, like it's some mercenary force. Disregarding how much influence he actually has/how much he means it, this is was is being reported here and what influences public discourse and how we see the future relationship with the US.
2. Yeah, but they are for MAD. It is unclear how much help they would be in a war where we don't all die from nuclear fallout (if they have an INF arsenal). It's low probability but I can see Putin pushing west Ukraine style and then nuking tanks once they roll in from Germany (at least that's what we are preparing for with the 2% GDP right?) and then France not responding because they don't want to be glassed.
3. He could have coordinated with allies to push Russia into conforming to the treaty or breaking it from their side. Maybe the 2% GDP are better spent on Russia sanctions until they follow the treaties they signed?

You can’t really blame Trump for Russia’s refusing to abide by its missile treaty agreements. His administration merely called them on it.

" (including short range atomic missiles -- thanks Trump!) "

Once again Trump is responsible for what happened years before he was President. Who knew he had such control over the Obama White House.

"The United States has concluded that Russia violated a landmark arms control treaty by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile, according to senior American officials, a finding that was conveyed by President Obama to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in a letter on Monday."

And if anyone is working hard to make Brexit seem like a somewhat less bad idea,

Pretty amusing how in the moderator's worldview, transferring discretion from corruptocrats in Brussels to elected officials counts as a 'bad idea'.

You are aware of the fact that Brexit was based on a referendum, and not due to elected officials, right? Unless one wishes to blame elected officials for handing over their actual responsibility and allowing a referendum in the first place, which can be argued both ways in a certain sense.

Though it did take a law suit on the part of British MP to actually have Parliament take back control in voting to approve Brexit, as such decisions are exclusively Parliament's responsibility.

Ironically the decision to require parliament to have a vote on the Brexit deal has vastly increased the chances of a hard Brexit. May would already have signed her deal by now but for this. So fanatical remainers secured a hard Brexit.

"China’s Huawei"

The only secure alternative is to make their own hardware. It's not like the Germans can trust the Americans.

"Russia’s Nord Stream 2"

Either they go forward with this, they pay more for gas, or they find other forms of heating. Nuclear is clean and cheap, but the Germans have a severe phobia of atomkraft.

"Iran-backed Hezbollah"

Relevant how? I thought we were talking about Europe, not Israel.

So the idea is to keep the Russians as poor and backward as possible while the West continues to enable the enlightened Saudis' financing of jihad? The Russians dispensed with hardcore communism but that still isn't enough to get them out of the cross-hairs of US super-heavy artillery. They're just naturally bad people. That darn Maria Butina could probably win a South Dakota house seat. Lucky thing the feds have kept the Siberian yuppie babe in solitary confinement for 8 months or we'd all be speaking a dialect of Russian and eating borscht for lunch every day.

"So the idea is to keep the Russians as poor and backward as possible"

I'm trying to be charitable to Cowen here, so I wouldn't put it quite that way, but indeed it seems rather strange for a proponent of markets as "progress" to be complaining about this. The Russians have gas, the Germans need it, and so they make a deal. Similarly with EU-China trade.

I think Cowan's thought on markets, and he can correct me if I'm wrong, tends to stress market outcomes *between* private individuals, not dodgy deals between fairly corrupt state directed and subsidized monopoly enterprises (Gazprom).

If Cowan were an advocate between "crony capitalists" setting up and managing business concerns to meet the goals of their political paymasters, I think he'd be clearer about it.

When you're at the point where state monopolies doing deals for obviously politically directed purposes (in this instance to increase Russian leverage over Ukraine and Poland) is construed as "market outcomes", then you have lost much sight of what "free market outcomes" means.

Certainly there are practical differences between state owned firms like Gazprom and publicly traded firms like Exxon, though even in the latter case states put constraints on publicly traded firms in order to advance political objectives and publicly traded firms exert pressure on states to advance their interests (read the US diplomatic leaks on Wikileaks for recent examples of this). While a country like Russia makes no bones about Gazprom's deals needing to be consistent with political goals, in a country like the US, the revolving door between government and corporations makes the relationship more opaque and less predictable. Free markets are a useful abstraction, and maybe a goal to which to aspire, but are hard to find in nature.

"doing deals for obviously politically directed purposes"

Not always so obvious, and the political game goes both ways. Ukraine is a dysfunctional state and unreliable transit partner, both under Russia-friendly or Russia-antagonistic governments, so there are very practical reasons for Gazprom not to run gas lines through there. (I know a Russian who worked as a negotiator between Tymoshenko and Gazprom, and he considered the former outrageously corrupt, even by Russian standards.) Poland has made it clear that they consider it in their geopolitical interest to host a terminal for importing LNG from the US. It's their right to make that calculation as they see fit, but it's naive to expect Germany to make the same calculation. So I suspect a publicly traded Russian gas company would almost certainly make

"If Cowan were an advocate between "crony capitalists" setting up and managing business concerns to meet the goals of their political paymasters, I think he'd be clearer about it."

I try to be charitable, but it is sometimes hard not to suspect Cowen is being inconsistent in exactly this way. The argument for importing LNG to Europe is wholly politically motivated, while the argument for importing Russian gas is at least partly economic: the Russians have it, the Europeans need it, and it's cheap.

The president of Germany just sent a congratulatory telegram to Iran's mullah regime in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

This is the same person who vehemently declined congratulations after the 2016 US elections.

Keep in mind: This is the head of state of Germany.

His best friend is Gerhard Schröder. Schröder has been the Chancellor before Merkel. Schröder has been Putin's best bud for decades. Putin bought Schröder quite openly and Schröder gladly took the money. This extreme corruption has never been a scandal in Germany. Compared to Steinmeier and Schröder, Trump is a saint.

Do you know Ramstein AB? If not, google it on Google maps:,7.5866871,2957m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x479674d1b564a3b7:0x8ab9f92dc7234016!8m2!3d49.4400412!4d7.597129
It is not a German air force base - I reckon Germany doesn't have a sufficient number of airplanes to fill the base.

Oh scheisse! Germany does not follow the neocon "consensus" blindly therefore it is not a US ally as opposed to a BS freeloading "ally" like Israel.

How many troops, bases, ports, airfields, etc. has Israel ever contributed to any dumb American NATO imposed adventure? And how many US dollars and free hardware has it accepted?

Merkel didn't have to accept all those US caused Middle East refugees but she did at a huge political and social cost.

And how many US ships have Israelis sunk compared to Germany in past 50 years: 1-0.

After violating the JCOPA, and now trying to impose sanctions on those who are still in compliance with it (including Germany), is the USA still a member of the Western alliance?

"Is Germany still a member of the Western alliance?"

To be quit honest: I can't tell you. And I am from Germany.

China is increasingly the world's dominant power now. It's not rational to be hostile to China. Trump is acting irrationally, it does not much make sense to be allied with the country run by him.

Germany and Italy will re-aling the EU to China and away from US, Brexit will make it easier: the UK will be the US's last ally in the "western alliance".

I guess people will learn to live with an authoritarian superpower doing stuff like that Huawei thing, that is not be regarded as acceptable right now.

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