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EU Tries to Save Face amidst Coronavirus Debacle

By Paul Antonopoulos | March 26, 2020

The European Union’s decision to open negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania is a propaganda act from Brussels that attempts to reassure members of the Union that countries, even in the midst of the epidemic, want to become members of the organization. This is a cheap propaganda trick that attempts to restore confidence in the European Union at a time when it has completely failed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic that has shown weakness in the alliance.

Maurizio Massari, Italy’s ambassador to the EU, said earlier this month that “the coronavirus crisis is a test of the EU’s cohesiveness and credibility — one that can only be passed through genuine, concrete solidarity. Europe must act according to the principle of mutual defense and help those members whose security is under threat.” With nearly 60,000 people confirmed infected and over 7,500 deaths, the European Union has failed in this test as no member states came to the aid of Italy and instead looked inwardly towards their own borders.  The European Union’s cohesiveness was exposed as a fantasy when days ago member state Poland closed its airspace to a Russian plane delivering aid to fellow European Union member Italy, forcing the aircraft to take an alternate route that is 1,000 kilometers longer.

Essentially the European Union that is currently the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic has exposed why the Union is dysfunctional and without any solidarity. It has shown a huge gap between words and action. The European Union as an example of the liberal world order endlessly spoke of humanity but have proven they are inhumane. They promoted the idea of efficiency but proven they are actually ineffective. In short, the announcement to progress the European Union membership of Albania and North Macedonia is a cheap propaganda gimmick for Brussels at a time when it is under heavy scrutiny for showing a lack of solidarity and assistance to Italy, raising questions regarding the credibility of the organization. It is negotiating in a way that has never existed, utterly undefined, with a big question mark as to what will be.

According to a draft decision signed by the bloc’s 27 members, which Reuters had access to, the hope of membership for the two Western Balkans countries has often been shattered in recent years due to the scepticism expressed, primarily by the Netherlands and France, as they correctly highlight that both countries are highly corrupt. However, the start date of the negotiations is not specified and will be subsequently determined when the European Commission prepares the framework for the negotiations.

Michael Roth, Germany’s state secretary for European affairs, wrote on Twitter on March 24, “Congrats to Tirana+Skopje, it’s well deserved,” after the agreement was reached during a videoconference. This was followed by European Union Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi also going to Twitter, saying that he is “very pleased that EU member states today reached political agreement on opening of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. I wholeheartedly congratulate both countries. This also sends a loud and clear message to Western Balkans: your future is in EU.”

North Macedonia is unlikely to face resistance in joining the European Union, and is already being rapidly ascended into NATO after it resolved its name issue with Greece. However, the accession is not yet guaranteed for Albania as Greece raises concerns on the rights and treatment of the Greek minority in occupied Northern Epirus in southern Albania. Approximately 200,000 Greeks of Northern Epirus face daily discrimination with Albanian authorities removing bilingual road signs that display Greek, the confiscation of property belonging to Greeks, and Albanian police even murdering a Greek in a shootout as they removed a Greek flag from a cemetery, among many other forms of discrimination. On these grounds, Greece may veto Albania’s accession, but this is likely to be a temporary measure as the Greek political establishment always eventually capitulate to the demands of Brussels and Germany. Once this issue is resolved, it is likely that Albania with North Macedonia will be accelerated into the European Union, and this will prove necessary as the bloc wants to maintain the illusion that it is not in disarray in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

This begs the questions though as to why Albania and North Macedonia would want to ascend into the European Union after seeing the alliance’s treatment of its own long-time member states like Italy. Albania has always been a pro-Western state, owing to the Western world its existence, its occupation of Northern Epirus, and its indirect occupation of Kosovo. It is therefore unsurprising that it wants to be further integrated into the Western world. North Macedonia since the very beginning of its foundation with the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s wanted to join the European Union and NATO, but was prevented from doing so because of the name dispute with Greece. With this issue resolved, it now has a clear path towards the bloc. None-the-less, both states are not even remotely close in an economic or so-called democratic sense to being candidates, but will be fast-tracked to help save face after the European Union’s debacle with the coronavirus pandemic.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

March 26, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Former MKO members expose anti-Iran ruse in Albania

Press TV – October 26, 2019

Albanian police on Wednesday claimed that they had foiled planned attacks by Iranian agents against an exiled terrorist group living in Albania, but several former members of the group have come forward to reveal that they are the real individuals being accused of the plot.

Since 2014, some 3,000 MKO members have settled in a camp in Albania after being transferred by the US from Iraq. Earlier this week, Albanian authorities claimed that they had discovered an active cell of the Iranian Quds Force and prevented their “plan of March 2018″ to attack the camp.

In March 2018, two people were held in Albania but set free for lack of evidence. At the time, an opposition leader denounced the announcement as a ploy by Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama to divert attention from Tirana’s failure to start entry talks with the European Union.

The accusation was similar to those made against Iran in Europe, including by France in October 2018 which accused Tehran of plotting to attack an annual MKO rally outside Paris.

The timing of the accusations was suspicious. They came as European governments apparently sought to save a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran after the US abandoned the agreement.

From the outset, Tehran vehemently dismissed the claims as false flag operations, while those detained in connection with the alleged plots were released later due to lack of evidence.

On Saturday, a Canadian-Albanian historian released a video of his interview with several individuals who said they had defected the MKO, but were now being framed by the terrorist group as Iranian agents sent to attack the camp near Durres, Albania’s main port.

Dr. Olsi Jazexhi, who carried out the interview, explained that a “cold war” is underway in Albania between former MKO members and the ringleaders of the terrorist organization.

Jazexhi, who specializes in the history of Islam, nationalism and religious reformation in Southeastern Europe, described those speaking in the interview as former terrorists who have abandoned terrorism against Iran and decided to lead a civilian life.

He has already aired a TV show called the “Opinion” in Albania, which said the MKO runs its own secret service in the impoverished European country, and that it spies on former members of the organization who live there.

A former member of the MKO in the video, labelled as an agent of Iran, is heard saying, “I don’t want to fight anything, any side. I want my own life, personal life, civilian life and I don’t want to fight.”

“For this reason, the MKO does not want us to live here. They put pressure on us to leave this country because if another member in the MKO comes out for anything or any work and see us we have a free [life], maybe they want to come out and have a free life. For this they make fake news against us, accuse us of being agents and mercenary of Iran,” the man says.

Last year, Albania expelled two Iranian diplomats suspected of “involvement in activities that harm the country’s security.”

Iran denounced the expulsions, saying Albania has fallen prey to a scenario fabricated by the US and Israel and certain terrorist groups.

The MKO has carried out numerous attacks against Iranian civilians and government officials over the past three decades and is listed as a terrorist organization by much of the international community.

Out of the nearly 17,000 Iranians killed in terrorist assaults since the victory of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, about 12,000 have fallen victim to MKO’s acts of terror.

October 26, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , , | Leave a comment

Albania fell prey to Israeli-US scenario by targeting Iran diplomats: Tehran

Press TV – December 20, 2018

Tehran has denounced Albania for expelling two Iranian diplomats, saying the Balkan country fell prey to a scenario fabricated by the US and Israel.

Albania’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that it had expelled two Iranian diplomats suspected of “involvement in activities that harm the country’s security.”

A ministry spokesman told the Associated Press that the expulsions followed talks with others, including Israel.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Thursday that Albania’s move was “in line with previous such scenarios meant to damage Iran-Europe relations at the current sensitive juncture.”

He said the expulsions come while Tehran has “always had appropriate relations with Albania and respected all of its domestic regulations in a move based on principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign policy.”

US National Security Adviser John Bolton was quick to publicly support Albania’s decision.

“We stand with PM [Edi] Rama and the Albanian people as they stand up to Iran’s reckless behavior in Europe and across the globe,” he tweeted.

Qassemi said that Washington’s stance on the issue and Albania’s declaration that its move had been coordinated with foreign security services, prove that the US and the regime in Israel had been behind the expulsions.

Albania, he added, had fallen prey to a scenario fabricated by the US and the Israeli regime and certain terrorist groups.

The Iranian official further called on the Albanian government “to defend its sovereignty, independence and security” in the face of the US-Israeli scenario,” stressing that the country “must not allow others to affect and hamper its relations with Iran due to special political reasons.”

Albania hosts thousands of members of the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), a notorious anti-Iran terror group.

The MKO has carried out numerous attacks against Iranian civilians and government officials over the past three decades and is listed as a terrorist organization by much of the international community.

Out of the nearly 17,000 Iranians killed in terrorist assaults since the victory of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, about 12,000 have fallen victim to MKO’s acts of terror.

Albania is not the first European country to make such claims against Iran.

Back in June, Belgian authorities said that an Iranian diplomat had been arrested along with a 38-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman, suspected of plotting a bomb attack on an MKO meeting in Paris attended by US President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and several former European and Arab ministers.

Assadollah Assadi, 46, was arrested in Germany and later extradited to Belgium in defiance of Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961.

Later on October 30, Danish intelligence chief Finn Borch Andersen claimed that an Iranian intelligence service had tried to carry out a plot to assassinate an Iranian Arab opposition figure on Denmark’s soil.

Swedish security police also said a Norwegian citizen of Iranian descent had been arrested on October 21 in connection with the alleged plot and extradited to Denmark.

Israeli media later revealed that the Israeli spy agency Mossad had provided Denmark with “intelligence” concerning the alleged plot by Tehran.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has admitted that Tel Aviv is behind what Iranian Foreign Minister described as “false flags” in Europe.

Tehran said “invisible hands” were at work to damage Iran’s ties with Europe at the time when the two sides are closely cooperating to save the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal following the US’s pullout.

December 20, 2018 Posted by | Deception | , , , | Leave a comment

US govt spent $9mn on Soros-backed political campaign in Albania – documents

RT | April 5, 2018

Documents the State Department was forced to publish show that it spent almost $9 million on political reform in Albania coordinated with billionaire George Soros. The US government denies the expenditure was inappropriate.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) channeled funds into a ‘Justice for All’ campaign to reform the judicial system in Albania in 2016. The campaign was run by Soros’s East West Management Institute, according to the conservative watchdog Judicial Watch. The group obtained 32 pages of State Department documents in a legal battle, which concluded with the US government submitting to a Judicial Watch Information Act (FOIA) request in exchange for a dropped lawsuit.

“The Obama administration quietly spent at least $9 million in US taxpayers’ dollars in direct collusion with left-wing billionaire George Soros’s backing of a socialist government in Albania,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement.

Soros is a billionaire and “shouldn’t be receiving taxpayer support to advance his radical left agenda to undermine freedom here at home and abroad,” Fitton added.

Following the report’s publication, a USAID official told Fox News that the agency did not provide grants to Soros’s Open Society Foundation (OSF) in Albania, which is technically true according to the Judicial Watch publication. Instead, the US embassy in Tirana and the OSF “each provided funding to a local organization to conduct a public opinion poll on attitudes towards the Judicial Reform effort,” a document from February 2017 said. The poll’s result sounded favorable for the judicial reform championed by the OSF and the Obama administration.

“For decades, there has been broad bipartisan agreement in Washington, DC, on the need to promote democracy and human rights abroad,” a spokesperson for OSF told Fox News in a statement, adding: “Of late there has been an unfortunate and misguided effort to politicize this process.”

Fitton and Judicial Watch were especially critical of US Ambassador to Albania Donald Lu, whom the group called in the statement “a holdover from the Obama administration” and an official with inappropriately close ties to Soros. The embassy in Tirana, they point out, frequently asks representatives of the OSF to “participate in technical reviews” of applications for funding USAID receives, according to a February 2017 memo.

Judicial Watch accuses Lu of interfering in Albanian politics by backing the country’s ruling Socialist Party at the expense of the opposition. The group said that in May 2017 Lu declared that the US would recognize the results of the Albanian general election even if the opposition refused to participate.

In March 2017, five Republican senators wrote to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, asking about claims that US taxpayer funds were spent on interfering in the internal politics of countries such as Albania, as well as neighboring Macedonia.

“This includes reports of diplomats playing political favorites, USAID funds supporting extreme and sometimes violent political activists, and the US government working to marginalize the moderates and conservatives in leadership roles,” Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) said at the time, adding that “this behavior is unacceptable and must be halted immediately.”

Judicial Watch has also made FOIA requests about the activities of Soros groups in Macedonia, Romania and Colombia.

Judicial reform in Albania remains a matter of controversy. In December last year, opposition parties in the national parliament tried to stop the appointment of an interim prosecutor general – with is part of Albania’s transition to the new system – by igniting smoke bombs in the chamber. The radical move was meant to express protest against what they called an unconstitutional move by the ruling party.

Last month, the political establishment in Washington was up in arms over the Trump administration’s proposal to cut the budget for “democracy promotion” activities abroad, specifically funding for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its partisan adjuncts, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI).

Read more:

Establishment alarmed as Trump threatens to gut US ‘democracy promotion’ racket

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Russia Pushes Back on NATO Expansion

By Natylie Baldwin | Consortium News | July 9, 2016

Can Russian President Vladimir Putin turn the tables on NATO and the European Union in the Balkan states that are not yet members of the Atlanticist project? According to Filip Kovacevic, a political science professor who specializes in Russia and Eastern Europe, Putin has a plan. Some details were provided in an exclusive report in May on the nascent project by Russia to counter NATO expansion into the remaining Balkan countries that have not yet been swept into the Western alliance.

The plan has its origins in the grassroots movement that arose in the aftermath of the first Cold War, which called for non-alignment and cooperation with both East and West. Kovacevic describes the movement as follows:

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

Putin addresses the UN,  09-28-15. (UN Photo)

Their members were generally young people who were enthusiastic, honest and genuinely committed to the public good, but were plagued by the lack of funding and faced with frequent media blackout and open discrimination. Nonetheless, their programs articulated the most promising and humane geopolitical vision for the Balkans. They conceptualized the Balkans as a territorial bridge between the West and the East rather than as the place of persistent confrontation, or the ‘line of fire’ as formulated by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015. They wanted the Balkans to become a force for peace and human dignity in the world. Their vision still remains the best option for the Balkans people.

This desire for non-alignment is understandable as a continuation of the policy of Tito’s Yugoslavia during the Cold War – the nation that several of the modern day Balkan states were a constituent part of.  However, according to Kovacevic, these groups were easily overwhelmed, in terms of both financial and propaganda resources, in the 1990s by pro-NATO forces in the West.

In addition to providing resources to build up pro-NATO sentiment in the media and NGO sectors of these countries, financial resources and pressure was used to sway a large number of politicians to favor NATO membership, often in opposition to the general population’s views. Some of the unsavory forms of incentive or pressure include what amounts to blackmail and bribery, Kovacevic told me in an email interview:

This is a long-term process. In the U.S. intelligence community it is called ‘seeding.’ The intelligence scholar Roy Godson defines it as ‘identifying potential agents of influence’ at an early stage and then acting to advance their careers. This is typically done covertly, but there have been the historical examples of overt support. …

In the Balkans, the key role in the process of ‘seeding’ was accomplished by various institutes, conferences, retreats, grants, etc. For instance, I was told by a confidential source who participated in the same U.S.-NATO program, the long-time foreign minister and one-time prime minister of Montenegro, Igor Luksic, was a product of such a process. Luksic was chosen as a very young man to attend various conferences and retreats in Brussels and Washington and, after that, his political career really took off. All the while, he promoted the NATO agenda in Montenegro, even though this went against the will of the majority of the population.

Another example is Ranko Krivokapic who was the speaker of the Montenegrin Parliament for over a decade. He traveled on official business to the U.S. a few times every year and boasted to others that he had a lot of friends in the State Department and other institutions of the U.S. government. There are examples like these in Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, etc. All over the Balkans.

There is also the fact the European Union has dovetailed its security arrangements to such an extent with NATO that new members are now virtually brought into the NATO structures by default. For example, Mahdi D. Nazemroaya, author of The Globalization of NATO, reports that the E.U.’s Security Strategy was absorbed into NATO during its annual summit in 2006. The emphasis of the summit was on securing energy resources with the goal of ‘co-managing the resources of the EU’s periphery from North Africa to the Caucuses.’ Also implied was the goal of redefining the E.U.’s security borders in synch with both Franco-German and Anglo-American economic and geopolitical interests.

Moreover, British Russia scholar Richard Sakwa, has pointed out that the security integration of the E.U. with NATO was further intensified with the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007:

As for the comprehensive character, this is something that has been gaining in intensity in recent years as the foreign and security dimension of the E.U. has effectively merged with the Atlantic security community. The E.U.’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) since the Treaty of Lisbon (the “Reform Treaty”) of 13 December 2007, which came into effect in 2009, is now in substance part of an Atlantic system. Acceding countries are now required to align their defense and security policy with that of NATO, resulting in the effective ‘militarization’ of the E.U.

At this point, the forces seeking a non-aligned bridge role for the Balkan states are still very much around, but have suffered marginalization due to lack of resources to take on the powerful and now entrenched pro-NATO political forces. However, with increasing discontent with the weak economic prospects in certain Balkan states, combined with increasing instability in the E.U., it is believed that there is an opening for growth of the movement.

Economic Conditions in the Balkans

The Balkan states comprise Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Greece.

A map showing stages of NATO's expansion. Dark blue showing original members; lighter blue the "round one" members; aqua the "round two" members; yellow represents neutral states; and brown and red (including Ukraine), otherwise aligned. On the map, Montenegro is one of the tiny brown spots on the eastern Adriatic.

A map showing stages of NATO’s expansion. Dark blue showing original members; lighter blue the “round one” members; aqua the “round two” members; yellow represents neutral states; and brown and red otherwise aligned (including Ukraine, although that has changed since the 2014 U.S.-backed coup).

In 2007, Romania and Bulgaria became E.U. members (three years after joining NATO). Romania’s GDP has barely kept up with its 2008 rate and has a general unemployment rate of 6.4 percent, which sounds reasonable until you look at the youth unemployment rate of 21 percent, which doesn’t bode well.

Bulgaria, on the other hand, is not part of the Eurozone and has not adopted the euro as its currency. Its economic prospects since joining the E.U. have not been impressive either. In the midst of the financial crisis of 2009, its GDP contracted by 5.5 percent, with a current unemployment rate of 7 percent and youth unemployment at 17 percent. Bulgaria is also recognized as one of the union’s most corrupt countries.

Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania are all in the process of E.U. integration, with a supposed approval rate of 80-90 percent among the respective populations of these countries (except for Serbia), despite the virtual rape of Greece and the lackluster performance of Romania and Bulgaria.

It should be noted that all three Balkan nations that are actual E.U. members have higher emigration than immigration rates, another indication that accession to the E.U. doesn’t necessarily translate into a prosperous future for the average person, particularly the young.

There is also the instability highlighted by the British people’s vote to leave the E.U., spurred by disgust with austerity measures imposed by unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels along with an influx of immigrants – one-third from these poorer E.U. nations – which adversely affect lower-wage natives.

Even if the E.U. had a better track record of effectiveness in terms of improving economic conditions for the masses, it would have a very tall order with some of the prospective Balkan states. Macedonia, for example, has an unemployment rate between 24 and 25 percent as of January 2016, although it has improved from the 2005 high of 37 percent. Despite this improvement, Macedonia still has one of the lowest GDPs in Europe and 72 percent of its citizens claimed they manage their household income only with “difficulty” or “great difficulty” in 2012.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is still feeling the effects of the war of 1992 to 1995 that included major physical destruction of infrastructure and the bottoming out of its GDP. It currently suffers an unemployment rate of 42-43 percent.

Kosovo, a state that owes its existence to a NATO intervention, has 33 percent unemployment, a high crime rate and increasing political violence due to ethnic tensions and a growing ultra-nationalist movement. The Council of Europe compared the government of Kosovo to a mafia state in a 2010 report which revealed trafficking in human organs as well as drugs and weapons throughout Eastern Europe, even implicating the then-prime minister in the operation.

Russia’s Opening

Kovacevic states that the Atlanticist project of E.U. austerity economics and the enabling of Washington’s destabilizing wars via NATO is starting to chip away at its popularity among Balkan populations. He also says Putin is prepared to take advantage of this opening and, since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, has turned his attention “to the Balkans with political force and funding not seen since the days of tsar Nicholas II.”

This attention has manifested in the Lovcen Declaration, which was signed on May 6, by members of Russia’s largest political party, United Russia, and the opposition Democratic People’s Party in Montenegro in the village of Njegusi. Kovacevic explains:

One of the most powerful political figures in Montenegro, the metropolitan Amfilohije, the chief bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, was present at the signing and gave his blessing. Though in the past Amfilohije has been known to support the authoritarian and pro-NATO prime minister Milo Djukanovic around the election time, he has always publicly opposed NATO membership and has given fiery speeches on its ‘evil nature’ to the point of accusing NATO for continuing Hitler’s anti-Slavic project.

Even more importantly, Amfilohije’s involvement with the Lovcen Declaration reveals one of the fundamental components of Putin’s overall geopolitical plan – the nurturing and intensification of the religious Christian Orthodox connection between the Russians and the Orthodox peoples of the Balkans. This includes not [only] the Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians, but also the Greeks and Bulgarians whose states are in NATO and whose religious ‘awakening’ can easily subvert NATO from the inside.

Criticism and minimization of the project have set the tone in Western media, to the extent that it has been covered at all, particularly in relation to utilizing an opposition party for significant influence. But Kovacevic argues that such a dismissive attitude is disingenuous:

[T]he very same method has been used by the U.S. and NATO intelligence services to control the governments of East-Central European states since the collapse of communism. Countless small parties with just a handful of parliamentary deputies were formed with the money coming from the various ‘black budgets’ with the task of entering the governing coalition and then steering the entire government in the direction charted by their foreign founders and mentors.

These parties have had minimal public legitimacy, but have made a great political impact with their ‘blackmail’ potential. As they also don’t cost very much, the CIA, the MI6, and the BND regularly create them for every new election cycle.

Now the Russians (primarily, the SVR and the GRU) are using the same rulebook for their own geopolitical interests. In addition, however, Putin’s grand design for the Balkans embodied in the ANS is also likely to prove durable not only because it builds on the traditional cultural and religious ties linking Russia and the Balkans, but also because it rides on the wave of the enormous present popular dissatisfaction with the neoliberal Atlanticist political and economic status quo.

The fact that this declaration was signed in Montenegro is most relevant due to the fact that the country has been officially invited to join NATO, whose subsequent membership is treated in the West as a fait accompli. However, accession requires consensus approval by all current NATO members – one member could veto the move before completion of the process as happened with Macedonia when Greece vetoed their membership aspirations in 2008 when an invitation was to be offered at the Bucharest Summit – as well as approval by the population of Montenegro.

Joining any alliance treaty is arguably something that affects national sovereignty, which requires a referendum as Kovacevic, who is Montenegrin, explains:

The corrupt government of Milo Djukanovic is trying to avoid a national referendum because it knows that it does not have a majority support for NATO. If given a choice, the people of Montenegro would reject the protocol. The Constitution requires a referendum for all matters that affect national sovereignty, but Djukanovic is arguing falsely that NATO membership leaves Montenegrin sovereignty intact.

Kovacevic predicts that a show-down over NATO membership could create instability in the country: “[I]f he [Djukanovic] tries to push this decision through the Parliament (which he no doubt will), wide-scale strikes and demonstrations may take place all over the country. Whoever is pushing Montenegro in NATO is dangerously destabilizing the country in mid-to-long term.

If that happens, Washington may find for the first time in recent memory that forcing instability on a smaller country may ultimately accrue benefits to another great power, helping to facilitate a shift in geopolitics that it didn’t bargain on. As Nazemroaya comments in his book:

The [NATO] alliance is increasingly being viewed as a geopolitical extension of America, an arm of the Pentagon, and a synonym for an evolving American Empire. … Ultimately, NATO is slated to become an institutionalized military force. … Nevertheless, for every action there is a reaction and NATO’s actions have given rise to opposing trends. The Atlantic Alliance is increasingly coming into contact with the zone of Eurasia that is in the process of emerging with its own ideas and alliance. What this will lead to next is the question of the century.


Natylie Baldwin is co-author of Ukraine: Zbig’s Grand Chessboard & How the West Was Checkmated, available from Tayen Lane Publishing.  In October of 2015, she traveled to 6 cities in the Russian Federation and has written several articles based on her conversations and interviews with a cross-section of Russians.

July 9, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Macedonian Crisis: Uneasy Conscience Betrays Itself

By Dmitry MININ | Strategic Culture Foundation | 30.05.2015

Russian Foreign Chief Sergey Lavrov has made remarks on the situation in Macedonia stressing the involvement of outside actors. According to him, there was a connection between the events in Macedonia “unfolding against the background of the Macedonian government’s refusal to join sanctions against Russia and an active support from Skopje for the plans to build the Turkish Stream pipeline, to which many in Brussels and across the Atlantic are opposed.”

An extremely nervous reaction followed betraying uneasy conscience. The West says another conflict is incited in the region and Russia is the one to blame. According to it, Moscow wants to partition Macedonia. This plan meets its great power ambitions. The statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that there was talk of dividing up Macedonia and giving parts to Bulgaria and Albania was “highly irresponsible,” Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said adding that his country was not involved. Zoran Zaev, the political leader of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) flatly refused the idea of partition or federalization. But nobody is going to take his opinion into account. Besides, Sergey Lavrov said the same thing. Lavrov’s statement did not contain direct accusations against the United States. For all that, US ambassador to Macedonia, Jess Baily, said the Russian Minister’s remarks were absurd and put the blame for the growing tensions on Moscow.

In reality, it’s all different. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made his remarks during Government Hour at the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly, Moscow, May 20, 2015. The recording shows him saying the Macedonian events were influenced from outside. According to him, the outside interference pursues the goal of toppling Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski to punish him for refusing to join the anti-Russian sanctions and the stated intent of Macedonia to become part of the Turkish Stream project with the pipeline going through the territory of the country. The Albanian factor has an important role to play here. There is enough evidence to make many Western media outlets agree that these are the real reasons for deterioration of the situation in the Balkans.

Sergey Lavrov believes that the ideas to “federalize” Macedonia or turn it into a sort of “flexible federation” or “confederation” are fraught with danger. “The idea even has been expressed why not divide up (what is) an artificially-established state – to give part to Bulgaria, and some to Albania”, Lavrov said, going on to say that the Albanian prime minister spoke of “Greater Albania.” The Russian Foreign Minister made his remarks against the background of European policy. For instance, the European Union has already insisted on giving Albanians the rights that Russian minorities in other states are deprived of. According to Lavrov, “…in our discussions with the EU, we raised the issue of rights of Russians and Russian-speaking people in Estonia and Latvia, we asked, “Why did you support the Ohrid Agreement and provide Albanians in Macedonia with a substantial scope of rights but you can’t do the same for Russians in Estonia and Latvia?” There was no answer. However, the conflict in Macedonia was settled at the time. The Russian Minister said that “without reference to Macedonia, the Prime Minister in Tirana is generally declaring slogans of Greater Albania.” Is it not enough to admit the existence of plans to divide Macedonia?

Obviously their implementation would also entail the partition of neighboring Serbia and Montenegro. There was no response from Brussels and Washington on the statement of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama about Greater Albania, no matter it was explosive enough being done at the time of acute crisis in a neighboring country. The European Union and the United States have no objections. The West openly displays its permissive parenting attitude towards Albanian politicians who are forgiven anything they say or do. How can this approach be explained? Is it part of the West’s traditional policy aimed at dividing Slav people?

The Albanian Mafia, especially those who come from Kosovo, have been in control of European drug trafficking for several years. Where has money gone? With the FIFA scandal in full swing, wouldn’t it be expedient to check the activities of Western structures responsible for Balkans policy? I’m sure that a lot of interesting facts would surface.

Families of the terrorists arrested in the Macedonian town of Kumanovo organized protests in front of the government of Kosovo in Pristina asking for their relatives to be released from arrest in Macedonia. They complained about “harsh treatment of prisoners.” It proves the fact that the militants were not Macedonians. They came from Kosovo. Macedonia handed over to Pristina the bodies of nine ethnic-Albanian gunmen killed in clashes with police earlier this month. The procession carrying nine metal coffins was honored in silence by hundreds of Kosovars holding national flags. Many high standing officials attended the funeral, including the members of parliament. No reaction followed from the West. The same way the statement of Edi Rama was not condemned by either the government of Bulgaria, nor the Macedonian opposition led by Zaev. But it’s not Lavrov who actually calls for the partition of Macedonia, but the Albanian Prime Minister. The Russian Minister plainly spoke against the idea to divide the country. How can the West prove it its opposition to such plans?

A lot of sinister things take place behind the scenes in the Macedonian scenario. The West, Bulgaria and the Macedonian opposition join in chorus to affirm that the incumbent Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski was behind the actions of Albanian terrorists invading the territory of Macedonia near Kumanovo. According to them, it was done to take the people’s attention away from internal problems. The Kosovo news agency KOHA is normally cited as the information source, no matter it failed to come up with anything like solid evidence to support the version that sounds rather strange. Nobody cares much about evidence in the conditions of ongoing hybrid war. For all that, experts pay attention to the fact that the terrorist group routed in Kumanovo was formed in the municipality of Vitino (Kosovo) near the US military base Bondstill. There is no way that 80 armed men coul pass by the facility unnoticed with all the detection means used by the US military to provide surveillance in the area.

It’s an interesting fact that Mirsad Ndrecaj, the leader of the group captured alive by Macedonian security services, goes by the name of “Commander NATO.”

Misha Jurkovic of Institute for European Studies, Belgrade, says there have been “orange revolutions” style coup attempts staged in 30 countries during the recent 15 years.

It all started with protests organized by the Serbian youth resistance movement Otpor. Its leaders, Slobodan Đinović and Srđa Popović, became professional international revolutionaries. Paid by the US, they move from one country to another organizing protest actions. Srđa Popović was seen in Skopje before the events in question. It should be noted that US Ambassador to Macedonia Jess Baily was Deputy Chief of Mission in Ankara at the time in which the US-supported the Taksim Square protests in an attempt to topple Recep Erdogan. Who else can do a better job opposing the plans to build the Turkish Stream across the Balkans? It’s not a coincidence that Baily came out in support of protesters as soon as they hit the streets of Skopje. He is dry behind the ears in making “popular” protest movements look right in the eyes of the public.

The Macedonian opposition has a powerful sponsor lending a helping hand. Suffice it to remember the 6-months-old wire-tap scandal sparked by revelations that came to light thanks to the efforts undertaken by patriots. An almost surreal scandal involving 700 thousands of secretly recorded conversations caught top government officials discussing everything from rigging votes to covering up killings. Opposition Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev said the tapes were made illegally by the government as part of mass surveillance operation targeting 20,000 allies and opponents alike. They were leaked to him by a whistleblower. With so many recorded conversations everyone is free to make guesses and conclusions to his heart’s content. The government is accused of illegal spying against opposition. But total control over the government is a real tall order. One can hardly imagine anybody in Macedonia being equal to the task. Willy-nilly one gets the impression that the powerful US National Security Agency with the spying capabilities provided by PRISM program (a clandestine surveillance program under which the United States National Security Agency (NSA) collects internet communications of foreign nationals) has a hand in it. Perhaps, the Agency decided that the time is right to forget the damage inflicted by Edward Snowden, an American computer professional who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency, and put to good use the information gathering capabilities acquired by NSA at huge expense. There is solid ground to believe that that the National Security Agency acted together with the Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND (German Federal Intelligence Service directly subordinated to the Chancellor’s Office) to make amends for US spying on German politicians.

Nikola Gruevski knows exactly what Macedonian national intelligence can do. According to him, there is no room for doubt that the recordings were given to the opposition by “a foreign intelligence agency.” Zoran Zaev, the opposition leader, often says that the Prime Minister is not a patriot because he has discussed with his accomplices the possibility ceding to Western pressure and renaming the Republic of Macedonia the “Upper Republic of Macedonia” or the “Northern Republic of Macedonia.” Athens is adamant in its insistence on the name change. Citing historical and territorial concerns resulting from the ambiguity between the Republic of Macedonia, the adjacent Greek region of Macedonia and the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia which falls mostly within Greek Macedonia, Greece opposes the use of the name “Macedonia” by the Republic of Macedonia without a geographical qualifier, supporting a compound name such as “Northern Macedonia” for use by all and for all purposes. Until now Greece has been hindering the process of Macedonia’s membership in international organizations. The recorded text that became public domain testifies to the fact that Gruevski has been informed about ideas initiated from outside, but he never supported them and expressed doubts it would be acceptable to the people of the country. It proves that all accusations against him hold no water.

According to recent news from Skopje, Nikola Gruevski said he would join the Turkish Stream and let it pass across the country’s territory only on the condition the plan is approved by European Commission. As soon as he said that, the criticism against him began to die down. EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn is expected to visit the country on June 1. Together with US Ambassador Jess Baily (his participation gives an idea of who in reality controls the situation) they will try to act as intermediaries in an effort to make peace between the government and the opposition. The whole country was brought to the verge of civil war and dozens of people were sacrificed to serve mercantile interests.

May 30, 2015 Posted by | Deception | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Syria’s Chemical Weapons Destruction

Chaos, Corruption, Grand Theft, and an Experiment

By Felicity Arbuthnot | Dissident Voice | February 19, 2014

On September 12, 2013, Syria’s President al-Assad committed to surrender Syria’s chemical weapons, with the caveats that the United States must stop threatening his country and supplying weapons to the terrorists. He has been as good as his word. The same cannot be said for the US and its boot licking allies.

Three days earlier US Secretary of State John Kerry – who had been killing Vietnamese in the US onslaught on Vietnam as American ‘planes rained down 388,000 tons of chemical weapons on the Vietnamese people  – had threatened Syria with a military strike if the weapons stocks were not surrendered within a week, stating that President Assad “isn’t about to do it and it can’t be done.”

The ever trigger-happy Kerry was right on the second count.  It can’t be done for two reasons — extracting dangerous chemicals from a war zone is, to massively understate, a foolhardy and hazardous business. Additionally, it seems having received Syria’s agreement, the “international community” and the Nobel Peace Prize winning Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had no disposal plan in place and had not a clue what to do with them, whilst at every turn Syria is blamed.

As ever double standards and hypocrisy rule. According to CNN (October 10, 2013): “The United States estimates it will be at least another decade before it completes destruction of the remaining 10% of its chemical weapons, estimated at more than 3,100 tons.”  And Syria? “U.S. intelligence and other estimates put its chemical weapons stockpile at about 1,000 tons.”  They are believed to be “stored in dozens of sites”, in the circumstances a logistical nightmare and a massive danger to the public and those driving them to be insisting on transporting them anywhere.

CNN also quotes Wade Mathews who had worked on “the U.S. project to destroy its chemical stockpile” who doubted that Syria could meet the deadlines. The US operation, he said, “took billions of dollars, the cooperation of many levels of government – including the military – and a safe environment to make sure the destruction was done safely.  We had a coordinated effort, we had a government that insisted that it be done safely and that the community was protected … I don’t think those things are in place in Syria.”

Having received Syria’s compliance, the OPCW started shopping around for a country – any country it seems – to destroy the weapons. Norway, approached by the US, was first choice. They declined, since the country had no experience in dealing with chemical weapons, the Foreign Ministry website stating: “… Norway is not the most suitable location for this destruction.” The second country approached was Albania, a request which the country’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said also came direct from the United States.

According to the Berlin-based Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative, Albania is one of the most corrupt countries in Europe and the most corrupt in the Balkans, plummeting from a woeful 95 out of the 176 countries monitored in 2011, to 113 in 2012 and 116 in 2013, on their Corruption Perception Index.

In their end of year Report, the Initiative quotes Transparency International:

In Albania corruption is registering a new physiognomy in a favorable political environment, with characteristics like a new systems for money laundering, financing of political parties from illegal activities, the capture of the state through the control of procurement and privatization, human and narcotics trafficking and the impunity of high State officials before the justice system and the law.

Protestors against the weapons destruction took to the streets in thousands, some wearing gas masks and protective clothing. Protests also took place in neighbouring Macedonia, with rallying outside the Albanian Embassy.

Albania finally rejected with Rana apologetically grovelling to Washington: “Without the United States, Albanians would never have been free and independent in two countries that they are today”, he said referring to Albania and Kosovo and the massive March 24, 1999 – June 10, 1999 NATO and US assault on the former Yugoslavia with depleted uranium weapons which are, of course, both chemical and radioactive. A Science Applications International Report explains re the residue from the weapons:

Soluble forms present chemical hazards, primarily to the kidneys, while insoluble forms present hazards to the lungs from ionizing radiation … short term effects of high doses can result in death, while long term effects of low doses have been implicated in cancer.

In addition to concerns regarding corruption in Albania – terrorist groups would undoubtedly offer high sums for such weapons – safety might surely have been a consideration. In 2008 an explosion at an ammunition storage depot near Albania’s capitol Tirana, killed 26 people, wounded 300, and damaged or destroyed 5,100 homes. The disaster was said by investigators to be caused by a burning cigarette – in a depository for 1,400 tons of explosives.

Worse, when Albania was pressured to destroy its own chemical weapons stocks, some tons left over from the Cold War.

The U.S. offered to pay for their destruction and later hired some private company which destroyed the weapon capability of the chemicals but otherwise left a horrendous mess.

Hazardous waste was left in containers, on a concrete pad. Inevitably they started to leak.

“In late 2007-early 2008, the US hired an environmental remediation firm, Savant Environmental, who determined the problem was worse than originally thought. Many of the containers were leaking salts of heavy metals, primarily arsenic, lead and mercury.”

Moreover, the conexes – large, steel-reinforced shipping containers – were not waterproof, thus lethally contaminated condensation and water leakage dissolved some of the contaminants which leaked onto the ground.

“Savant Environmental repackaged the waste and placed it in twenty shipping containers. There it sits, visible from space”, on the concrete pad – in the open.

All in all, why was Albania considered?

It is surely coincidence that on October 3, 2013, Tony “dodgy Iraq dossier” Blair, also an enthusiastic backer of Washington and NATO in their Balkans blitz, was appointed as adviser to the Albanian government to advise the impoverished country how to get into the EU. Heaven forbid he might have advised that taking on lethal weapons no one else was prepared to touch, might tick quite a big approval box and made a call to someone somewhere in Washington. This is, of course, entirely speculation.

However, as Pravda TV opined at the time, apart from the sorely needed financial boost: “It will increase the status and prestige of a poor country in Europe, Albania is in Europe’s backyard, in this case it will be going foreground.”

Belgium and France also declined an invitation to dispose of Syria’s weapons, with Ralph Trapp, a consultant in disarming chemical weapons, quoted as saying that “there remain very few candidates” for the task; “the hunt continues” commented The Telegraph (November 18, 2013.)

The trail goes cold as to how many other governments may have been frantically begged to accept cargo loads of poisoned chalices as the US imposed clock ticked, but Italy caved in allowing around sixty containers to be transferred from a Danish cargo ship to a US ship in the Italian port of Giola Tauro, in Calabria, with further consignments also expected to arrive.

The permission caused widespread demonstrations in Southern Italy, the government accused of secrecy and one demonstrator summing up the prevailing mood: “They are telling us that the material carried is not dangerous, but, in fact, nobody knows what is inside those containers.” Not dangerous eh? Does any government, anywhere ever tell the truth?

The Giola Tauro port, which accounts for half the Calabria region’s economy “has been in crisis since 2011”, with 400 workers on temporary redundancies – out of a total workforce of 1300. Not too hard to arm twist, the cynic might think.

The port also suffers from allegations of being a “major hub for cocaine shipments to Europe by the Calabria-based ‘Ndrangheta mafia.” However, Domenico Bagala, head of the Medcenter/Contship terminal where the operation is planned, countered with: “Since Gioia Tauro handles around a third of the containers arriving in Italy, it is normal that it has more containers that are seized”, adding, “We operate in a difficult territory but we have hi-tech security measures in place.”

Calabria is, in fact, plagued by corruption and organized crime. A classfied cable from J. Patrick Truhn, US Consul General in Naples (February 2, 2008) obtained by Wikileaks stated:

If it were not part of Italy, Calabria would be a failed state.  The ‘Ndrangheta organized crime syndicate controls vast portions of its territory and economy, and accounts for at least three percent of Italy’s GDP (probably much more) through drug trafficking, extortion and usury.

Further:

During a November 17-20 visit to all five provinces, virtually every interlocutor painted a picture of a region … throttled by the iron grip of Western Europe’s largest and most powerful organized crime syndicate, the ‘Ndrangheta.

Moreover: “The ‘Ndrangheta is the most powerful criminal organization in the world with a revenue that stands at around fifty three billion Euros (seventy two billion U.S. dollars – forty four billion British pounds)” records Wikipedia, noting operations in nine countries, on four continents. Arguably, a less ideal transit point than Calabria for a stockpile of chemical weapons would be hard to find.

Of special concern to Carmelo Cozza of the SUL trade union is the port’s neighbouring village of San Ferdinando which has protested the operation: “The schools are right next door!”

However, when it comes to dodgy dealings, organized crime could seemingly learn a thing or two from the EU. Large amounts of Syria’s financial assets, frozen by the European Union, have simply been spirited from accounts, in what the Syrian Foreign Ministry slams as: “a flagrant violation of law.”

Last week the EU endorsed the raiding of Syria’a financial assets frozen across Europe and the the transfer of funds to    “ … the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) … a flagrant violation of the international law and the UN Charter and understandings reached by the executive board of the OPCW”, commented a Foreign Ministry source, adding: “the European step violates the resolution of the OPCW executive board adopted on 15th November 2013 which acknowledged Syria’s stance which was conveyed to the Organization, officially stating the inability to shoulder the financial costs of destroying the chemical weapons.”

The theft of Syria’s monies was condemned as a “swindle policy practiced by some influential countries inside the EU at a time when they reject to release frozen assets to fund purchase of food and medicine which is considered the priority of the Syrian state … (meanwhile) the EU allowed its members to arm the terrorist groups which are responsible for bloodshed in Syria … ” the source added.”   It is hard to disagree.

The EU/UN/OPCW has apparently learned well from the UN weapons inspectors and other UN benefits from the Iraq embargo, which bled the country dry from “frozen” assets, to which they helped themselves, as the children died at an average of six thousand a month year after year, from “embargo related causes.” As the UN spent Iraq’s monies, Iraq’s water became a biological weapon, the lights went off and medical and educational facilities largely collapsed. Are UN embargoes the UN’s shameful new money spinner?

So, can things get worse in the black farce which is the chaotic, dangerous, disorganised disposal attempts of Syria’s chemical materials? You bet they can. The companies selected to destroy the chemicals are Finland’s Ekokem and the US subsiduary of the French giant Veolia.

“The most dangerous materials are to be neutralized at sea by the Cape Ray, an American naval vessel specially outfitted for that purpose, which departed its Norfolk, Va., home port on Jan. 27 for the Mediterranean.” (New York Times, February 14, 2014.) A method which has never been tried before, an experiment seemingly to take place in the Mediterranean, not in US territorial waters. “It’s Not Just a Job, It’s An Adventure”, was a US Navy recruiting slogan. Doubt the population of the countries bordering the near enclosed Mediterranean feel quite the same, from Europe to Anatolia, North Africa to the Levant.

Additionally, the inclusion of Veolia as a suitable partner in the whole dodgy venture is in a class of its own. The company has long been involved in waste management and vast transport projects in the illegal settlements in Israel.

In November 2012 Professor Richard Falk, wrote, on UN notepaper, to the (UK) North London Waste Authority who were considering awarding £4.7 billion worth of contracts to Veolia. His letter  quoted in part below, detailing his concerns regarding the company’s compliance with international legal norms, speaks for itself:

I am writing to you in my capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 to urge you not to select Veolia for public contracts due to its active involvement in Israel’s grave violations of international law.

Due to its deep and ongoing complicity with Israeli violations of international law and the strength of concern of Palestinian, European and Israeli civil society about the role played by Veolia, I decided to select Veolia as one of the case studies to include in my report. I have attached the report for your consideration.

Veolia is a signatory to the UN Global Compact, a set of principles regarding business conduct. Yet its wide ranging and active involvement in Israel’s settlement regime and persistent failure to exercise due diligence show utter disregard for the human rights related principles of the Global Compact.

It is my view that Veolia’s violations of the UN Global Compact principles and its deep and protracted complicity with grave breaches of international law make it an inappropriate partner for any public institution, especially as a provider of public services.

Professor Falk concludes:

I urge you to follow the example set by public authorities and European banks that have chosen to disassociate themselves from Veolia and take the just and principled decision not to award Veolia any public service contracts. Such a measure would contribute to upholding the rule of law and advancing peace based on justice.

So a company in breach of international law is being awarded a contract to a UN body (the OPCW) in spite of being condemned by a distinguished UN legal expert and Special Rapporteur.

The final anomaly, for now, as Bob Rigg – former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, and former senior editor for the OCPW and former Chair of the New Zealand National Consultative Committee on Disarmament – points out:

At present, Israel has a monopoly on nuclear weapons in the middle east. Once the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons is complete, Israel will enjoy a near regional monopoly over a second weapon of mass destruction -chemical weapons. In addition to Israel, Egypt is the only regional power with a chemical-weapons capability.

At all levels, lawbreakers rule supreme.

February 20, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Progressive Hypocrite, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment