Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Useful Idiot or Trojan Horse? Belarusian opposition figure Tikhanovskaya’s links to NATO’s Atlantic Council adjunct raise eyebrows

By Kit Klarenberg | RT | October 16, 2020

‘Accidental politician’ Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has captured the West’s imagination, her lack of political experience presenting an ideal blank canvas for news-narrative weaving – and all too easily manipulated by malign forces.

From the moment she announced her candidacy for the Belarusian presidency after her husband Sergey was spuriously jailed for electioneering activities that would be considered normal in the rest of Europe, Tikhanovskaya has been a darling of the Western media. With her improbable ascension from stay-at-home mother to leading opposition figure, then proto-revolutionary leader-in-exile, documented on an almost daily basis.

Along the way, Tikhanovskaya has been keen to stress the upheaval in Belarus is neither pro-Western nor pro-Russian in character, but pro-democracy, a key message reiterated uncritically over and again by mainstream journalists. However, not a single one has deigned to mention, much less question, the fact that one of her key confidantes, Franak Viacorka, is a ‘non-resident fellow’ at Atlantic Council, a think tank that aggressively propagandizes in support of NATO, and wider American financial, political, military and ideological interests in Europe and beyond.

This position isn’t mentioned in his Twitter bio, and it’s unclear precisely when he became Tikhanovskaya’s ‘international relations advisor.’ Viacorka’s Atlantic Council appointment was announced on August 15 – in a Washington Post op-ed published the same day, he and Melinda Haring, deputy director of the council’s Eurasia Center, painted a glowing, provocative portrait of the would-be president of Belarus, framing her as part of a wider feminist uprising against the country’s “deeply patriarchal” elite, an upheaval central to the radical shakeup of the country.

The council billed Viacorka as a “journalist from Belarus,” which is true, to an extent. A long-time anti-Lukashenko activist, his campaigning as a teenager in the run-up to the 2006   presidential election was even the subject of an award-winning documentary. Subsequently, he spent seven years at US government-controlled media outlets Radio FreeEurope and Radio Liberty, before moving to Washington DC in August 2018 to serve as Digital Media Strategist   for the US Agency for Radio Free Europe’s parent company US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), a role which ended just before he joined the Atlantic Council. In August 2018, USAGM’s then-CEO acknowledged its media outlets’ “global priorities reflect US national security interests.”

Founded in 1961, the council is best understood as NATO’s intellectual wing-cum-propaganda arm. Just as the alliance’s paradoxical purpose is, in the phrase of academic Richard Sakwa, “to manage the security risks created by its existence,” so too the organization exists to promote the notion of a Russian threat, in order to justify NATO’s post-Cold War endurance.

In this sense, the Atlantic Council is no different from most other ‘think tanks’ in that its raison d’etre is to defend and further the concerns of its financiers – in pursuit of that goal, as with most other lobby groups of this nature, it often publishes highly dubious, biased ‘research’ under the guise of objective academic inquiry, and recruits to its ranks individuals who advance its objectives in some way, promoting these as ‘independent experts.’

Some clue as to the council’s concerns and aims can be found in the publicly-available list of its key donors, which includes the US embassies of UAE and Bahrain, Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk, defense giant Raytheon, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), and the US State Department. From 2006  to 2016, the council’s annual revenue leaped ten-fold, from $2 million to $21 million – a period in which, concurrently and not coincidentally, corporate and state budgets typically reserved for lobbying firms were increasingly directed to think tanks. Its board of directors is likewise highly illustrative, a veritable ‘who’s who’ of warmongers, comprising Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Robert Gates, Michael Hayden, David Petraeus, and many others.

Despite a host of council apparatchiks frequently popping up in media reporting, and in turn influencing debate, public perceptions and government policy, one would be hard-pressed to find a single mainstream article making even passing reference to the organization’s politically-charged agenda and funding sources. Indeed, the Atlantic Council’s press relations strategy has been astonishingly effective, its in-house ‘fellows’ and Digital Forensics Lab (DFRLab) operatives universally positioned as experts in an array of fields, ever-ready to provide insight on pressing issues in the form of op-eds, marketable quotes and more.

There’s no more palpable example of this phenomenon than former DFRLab chief Ben Nimmo, who for years has been widely-touted as an eminent authority on Moscow’s ‘information warfare’ and ‘cyber operations,’ as well as on Kremlin strategy and thinking – despite boasting zero discernible acumen in Russian politics, data analysis, information technology, or social media. Despite his palpable lack of relevant skills, Nimmo’s tour of duty at DFRLab saw him appear in a panoply of articles, reports and academic papers on the threat posed to the world by Russian ‘disinformation,’ in the process disseminating a vast amount of damaging untruths himself.

He was also a pivotal player in the council’s ‘anti-fake news’ partnership with Facebook. Launched in May 2018, DFRLab was granted exclusive and unprecedented access to the social media giant’s private data, in order to identify and study “disinformation networks,” before earmarking particular accounts and pages for deletion and banning. That an effective wing of Western state power was afforded such capacity failed to provoke any mainstream alarm, even when the initiative got off to a highly inauspicious start – a number of accounts Nimmo identified as Kremlin-directed ‘bots’ and ‘trolls’ and which were subsequently banned by social networks turned out to be real people.

Since then, at intermittent intervals this partnership has led to the purging of untold numbers of pages and accounts from the social network, among them many alternative media outlets, independent journalists, political groups, and other legitimate information sources, highlighting issues and events the mainstream media consistently downplays or ignores, including US interventionism, drug legalization, police brutality and more.

Viacorka’s work for the Atlantic Council to date hasn’t been quite so destructive, authoring articles for its website, and making appearances on major news networks, promoting Tikhanovskaya as the legitimate president of Belarus and perpetuating disputed and extremely questionable claims that she’d received up to 70 percent of the vote in that country’s recent election – key messages the council itself began aggressively advancing the day after the election.

Ever since, Tikhanovskaya has repeatedly appealed to US and EU leaders to recognize her as the winner and duly-elected president of Belarus, claiming she’ll step aside within six months of taking office, but her call has been ignored by international bodies and every government in the world, bar that of Lithuania.

Instead, typically at most an election re-run has been called-for, a somewhat odd display of reticence, given Washington, London, Berlin and Paris have priors in formally recognizing individuals with far less legitimate claims than she as de-facto leaders of countries, such as Juan Guaido in Venezuela. This may suggest Western governments aren’t actually as convinced of her alleged landslide victory as they publicly profess to be, and fear Lukashenko’s removal from office by external and internal force and/or without a viable, stable alternative in place could mean the country descends into further chaos, and in turn becoming a fresh flashpoint in Europe.

Viacorka himself acknowledged the disorganized nature of the protests in an Atlantic Council article – while taking as inevitable Lukashenko’s ouster and Belarus’ transition to democracy, he bemoaned how “a lack of coordination between the different elements within the protest movement” had left it “vulnerable to the divide-and-conquer tactics of authorities.”

Viacorka went on to note that, in a bid to address this “absence of leadership,” Tikhanovskaya had founded a Coordination Council to serve as the country’s effective government in waiting. He dubbed the endeavor “the main threat to Lukashenko” and “the first attempt to create a credible alternative,” but his description raises serious questions about whether it’s a legitimate attempt to provide a coherent, tangible face to the movement, or an opportunistic hostile takeover.

“The Coordination Council provides a degree of clarity for government officials and international observers looking to gain a better understanding of who represents the diverse opposition movement… The Council must occupy the political vacuum at the forefront of Belarus’s democratic uprising. Leaderless street protests have shaken the Lukashenka regime to its foundations, but they are not enough to bring about the kind of historic transition to democracy millions of Belarusians now expect… The Council features a number of members drawn from the professional classes… who are expected to play important roles in the attempt to move beyond today’s mass protests towards a national political transition,” Viacorka wrote.

One wonders whether the coordination council was an idea Viacorka himself presented to Tikhanovskaya in his capacity as her ‘international relations advisor’ – and if, in turn, his thinking was in any way influenced by the Atlantic Council.

Whatever the truth of the matter, it’s almost certain the Atlantic Council’s meddling in Belarusian politics has a clandestine element, given the organization’s key role in the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) initiative Open Information Partnership (OIP). Officially, under its auspices DFRLab, Bellingcat, Zinc Network and Media Diversity Institute “work together through peer-to-peer learning, training and working groups to pioneer methods to expose disinformation,” in collaboration with a sizable network of NGOs across Europe.

However, leaked documents make clear the endeavor is, in fact, a secret UK government information warfare outfit seeking to covertly further Whitehall’s global policy objectives, by, among other things, influencing “elections taking place in countries of particular interest to the FCO.” A file setting out the terms of the project indicates Belarus is one of a dozen “high impact, priority countries” for the OIP, strongly suggesting this year’s presidential vote was very much “of interest” to the project.

The same document indicates DFRLab, Bellingcat, Zinc Network and Media Diversity Institute had conducted a secret operation in Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus in 2018, “delivering audience insights and recommendations to increase reach and resonance of selected independent media outlets.”

While innocent-enough sounding, examples offered of the organization’s work offered elsewhere in the file indicate OIP has engaged in numerous ‘astroturfing’ initiatives across Eastern Europe, helping organizations and individuals to produce flashy, FCO-funded propaganda masquerading as independent citizen journalism, which is then amplified globally via its NGO network and other channels.

For instance, in Ukraine the Open Information Partnership worked with a 12-strong group of online ‘influencers’ “to counter Kremlin-backed messaging through innovative editorial strategies, audience segmentation, and production models that reflected the complex and sensitive political environment,” in the process allowing them to “reach wider audiences with compelling content that received over four million views.”

In Russia and Central Asia, OIP established a covert network of ‘YouTubers,’ helping them create videos “promoting media integrity and democratic values.” Participants were also taught how to “make and receive international payments without being registered as external sources of funding” and “develop editorial strategies to deliver key messages,” while the consortium minimized their “risk of prosecution” and managed “project communications” to ensure the existence of the network, and indeed OIP’s role, were kept “confidential.”

Were similar efforts undertaken in Belarus at some point subsequently, and if so, how many of the citizen journalists on the ground covering the protests this year have received funding and training from OIP, and what role has the organization and its extensive pan-European NGO matrix played in promoting their “compelling content” the world over?

At the very least, another leaked FCO file indicates a number of organizations in the country had exploratory discussions with OIP, including the Belarusian Association of Journalists, and Euroradio – both were said to have “expressed an eagerness to be part of the network,” and to be operating in “the most vital space in the entire network.”

It may be significant that Franak Viacorka has been a prominent amplifier of Euroradio’s “fearless” coverage of the unrest that has engulfed the streets of Minsk for the past two months.

October 16, 2020 Posted by | Deception | , , | Leave a comment

European Union sanctions against Belarus will backfire and deepen Minsk’s ties to Moscow

By Paul Antonopoulos | October 2, 2020

Yesterday, it was agreed upon at the European Council special meeting that Belarus will be sanctioned. However, the scope of the sanctions and the long path to agree on them, demonstrates that the European Union is in a crisis and cannot project its power as it wishes. German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the bilateral agreement on Belarus and the strategic approach to Turkey as a step forward. The chancellor stated that “we had many discussions today on the issues of Belarus and Turkey, Cyprus and Greece. In short, I can say that they were completely successful.”

This comes in the aftermath of the Greek and Cypriot Prime Minister’s continually vetoing any sanctions against Belarus unless the European Council agreed to a strong joint statement against Turkey and for sanctions to be implemented by December if Ankara continues to violate the maritime space of Greece and Cyprus. Diplomatic sources in Athens revealed that despite the insistence of the majority of the European Council to pass a strong statement against Turkey and a pathway towards sanctions, Germany became isolated and had to eventually give up its resistance to stop an appeasement policy towards Turkey.

None-the-less, with Athens and Nicosia satisfied with the European Council’s statement and plan for sanctions against Turkey, the path was now open for Belarusian officials to be sanctioned without veto objections. This is despite Belarus not being a European Union member or candidate state, or threatening military action against EU member states like Turkey does.

“It was a long and difficult debate, because of course Greece and Cyprus demanded their rights as our member states. But we also had a very frank discussion about the need to look at all of our relations with Turkey,” Merkel said with seeming disappointment. “We can say today that there are sanctions against actors in Belarus, which means that the European Union is now taking action against those who oppose the democratic movements. I think this sends a very important signal.”

Minsk announced today the imposition of sanctions against European officials in response to those imposed by the European Union on Belarusian officials. The European Union claims that the officials who have been sanctioned are involved in the alleged suppression of anti-government protests and/or falsifying the August 9 elections in which President Alexander Lukashenko won 80.10% of the vote. Belarus’ foreign ministry said it had drawn up a list of European officials barred from entering the country, but added that the list would not be made public.

The European Union agreed to impose sanctions on some 40 Belarussian officials, however, Lukashenko is not among them. This in itself is a sign of weakness and desperation from the European Union as it strangely does not sanction Lukashenko, who won the election, but only those associated with him.

Lukashenko in recent years has been trying to court the European Union while also resisting further integration with Russia, even clashing with Moscow over gas and oil prices. Although protests against the election result had the appearance of a Ukraine-like colour revolution, the European Union immediately expressed solidarity, burning all bridges that had been built between Minsk and Brussels. This has only pushed Belarus firmly back into Russia’s sphere. The Belarusian President and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin held a meeting for over four hours in Sochi last month, which Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said was “constructive, lengthy and substantive in content.” The meeting also resulted in a $1.5 billion loan for Belarus.

It is evident that the attempted colour revolution failed to materialize, Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has not amounted much domestic influence and Lukashenko will not be removed from power soon. Rather than attempting to quickly repair relations to bring Belarus back closer to Brussels, the sanctions demonstrates that the European Union is moving forward with its foreign policy blindly and against their own interests.

The problem the European Union has is that if it repairs its relations with Lukashenko, it will mean an acknowledgment of weakness as they were not able to achieve what they wanted in Belarus. This is in the midst of the European Union already being deeply divided between a small German-led bloc and the rest of the Union in policies towards Turkey.

Another conundrum for Brussels is that from Lukashenko’s perspective, the European Union is now untrustworthy. Successive provocations, like having diplomats lay flowers where rioters died and saying Lukashenko is an illegitimate president, has likely created a permanent rift between Minsk and Brussels. Therefore, coupled with newly passed sanctions, the European Union has lost all influence they once might have had on Minsk, and therefore weakened their own interests while strengthening Russia’s by forcing the deepening of Belarus’ ties with Moscow.

With the European Union’s divorce with the United Kingdom becoming uglier, having tense relations with Turkey, and the endless rift it has with Russia – all completely different issues to each other – European policymakers have demonstrated that they are incapable of self-reflection and identifying weaknesses and failures in their foreign policy. For what the European Union wanted to achieve in Belarus, it has been a serious failure. By not sanctioning Lukashenko, Brussels has left a door open to normalize relations. However, from Lukashenko’s perspective, he will likely end his years-long flirtation with Brussels and move to more deeply integrate Belarus with Russia.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

October 2, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

US troops to stay longer in Lithuania: Defense minister

Press TV – September 22, 2020

A new battalion of US military forces, equipped with tanks and other armored vehicles, is to be deployed to Lithuania in November and will remain there until next June, the country’s defense minister says.

Lithuania’s Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis made the announcement on Tuesday, though he said the deployment was “not connected at all to the situation in Belarus.”

He said the new battalion would replace an American troop contingent that was stationed in the country near Belarus’ border earlier this month for a two-month tour.

NATO activity has picked up near the borders of Belarus, where there has been unrest after the re-election in August of President Alexander Lukashenko.

Lukashenko has said Western countries seek to destabilize Belarus and has put the country’s military on high alert and shut its borders with Poland and Lithuania.

The US battalion currently deployed in Lithuania arrived earlier and is staying longer than the government had indicated before the outbreak of protests in neighboring Belarus.

Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin warned in a recent televised interview that an American armor battalion had redeployed its tanks to a location in Lithuania close to the Belarusian border.

Lukashenko also accused the US of organizing the post-election protests in Belarus through social media platforms. He said Americans, acting through centers in Poland and the Czech Republic, were controlling the social media platforms that are playing a leading role in the unrest.

Earlier this month, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry issued a statement saying that the US would deploy 500 troops to the country to engage in war games near the border with Belarus.

September 22, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Belarusian sanctions vetoed by Cyprus exposes deep divisions between Mediterranean and Northern Europe

By Paul Antonopoulos | September 22, 2020

Yesterday there was a meeting between all of the EU’s Foreign Ministers to pass sanctions against Belarus. It created massive controversy and revealed the significant divide between Mediterranean and Northern European nations. The EU has been completely disinterested in Turkey’s blatant violations against the maritime space and continental shelf of Cyprus, one of its 27 member states, for well over a year and a half now. However, following the Belarusian elections on August 9, the EU rapidly mobilized to sanction President Alexander Lukashenko and another 40 individuals associated with him. This was on the allegations of electoral fraud and state-perpetrated violence and repression against opposition supporters. To the great frustration of the EU, Cyprus was the only country to veto sanctions against Belarus.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs went on Twitter and said that Cyprus is “hostage taking” the EU on sanctions against Belarus, which “sends a wrong signal to Belarusians, our societies and the whole world.” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said on Twitter that “some colleagues should not link things that must not be linked,” referring to Cyprus vetoing Belarusian sanctions so long as Turkey is not sanctioned. Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, now the Co-Chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, was especially angered and in a series of Tweets complained that “Cyprus is profoundly embarrassing the EU with its linking of Belarus sanctions to unrelated issues,” that Cyprus is “misusing” its veto rights, and that “the meeting of EU foreign ministers […] will unfortunately be remembered for Cyprus again blocking any sanctions on Belarus.”

To be clear, Cyprus, one of the smallest countries in the EU with only 1.2 million inhabitants, is not taking a great moral stand to oppose sanctions against Belarus, which is neither an EU member, an EU member candidate, or a direct threat to any EU members. Rather, Cyprus is making a stand as the EU is prioritizing sanctions against Belarus as they believe it will weaken Russian influence in the Baltics and Eastern Europe. The EU has been very slow in their response to Turkish threats against Greece and Cyprus, with many member states not wanting to sanction Turkey, yet wanting fast tracked sanctions against Belarus. Cyprus will approve sanctions against Belarus as soon as sanctions against Turkey are approved by the other EU member states.

The EU’s reluctance to sanction Turkey is curious considering it is militarily threatening two EU member states, Greece and Cyprus, yet wants to prioritise sanctions on Belarus, which as previously stated, is neither an EU member, an EU member candidate, or threatening EU members. Brussels continues the line of an imagined Russian threat via Belarus against the Baltic countries and Poland, while ignoring the open and direct threats of Turkey against Greece and Cyprus.

Unsurprisingly, Bildt was exposed in a report by the Stockholm Center for Freedom in having very intimate and close relations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, perhaps including indirect funding. Bildt, as a northern European Swede, is not threatened by Turkish aggression due to the obvious restrictions in geography. This is the same reason for the indifferent attitudes of the Baltic countries, Sweden, Germany and other northern European countries for their disinterest in Turkish aggression against Cyprus and Greece. And herein lays the polar differences between Mediterranean and Northern Europe, which is beginning to split the EU apart.

Although Moscow continually announces its desire for cooperation with the EU, Northern Europe, led by the Baltic states and Poland, continue to pressurize Russia because of a perceived threat against these states. Russia, unlike Turkey, does not violate the sovereignty of any EU member state, nor does it make near daily military threats.

Turning Cyprus from a victim of Turkish aggression, especially considering that the latter invaded the northern portion of the island in 1974, to perpetrator, is not only an egregious injustice to Turkey’s history of violations, it also plays right into Erdoğan’s endeavour to once again avoid sanctions. This year the Dutch vetoed an EU stimulus package to help European economies struggling with COVID-19 restrictions and the Austrians vetoed Operation Irini to prevent Turkish arms from reaching Libya. Yet, only the Cypriots are being harshly criticized for their veto on Belarus sanctions. The double-standards that characterize the Berlin-led EU foreign policy strategy in dealing with the Eastern Mediterranean crisis exposes internal inconsistencies within the Union.

What many Northern Europeans refuse to acknowledge is that Cyprus, Greece and the wider European Mediterranean region, do not have the luxury of friendly neighbors like Sweden and Germany do, and rather have to contend with an aggressor state like Turkey that openly announces its intentions to invade Greek islands and the rest of Cyprus, whilst simultaneously being militarily involved in fellow Mediterranean countries like Libya and Syria.

A small state like Cyprus, that does not have a professional military, has very limited options in dealing with such aggression, especially when its EU colleagues rush to shield Ankara from sanctions rather than defend Cyprus from an external threat. This comes to the crux of the so-called raison d’être of the EU – a supposed unity between Europe. However, Northern Europe has only demonstrated to Mediterranean Europe that there is certainly no unity, especially when two of its 27 member states are being directly threatened and violated by an external state.

On August 29, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a “Pax Mediterranea” which can be interpretated as a new Mediterranean order, one becoming increasingly independent of the EU and involving the close cooperation of Mediterranean states. With Northern Europe disinterested with security issues in the Mediterranean as they prioritize their economic relations with Turkey, there is every chance we will see a significant bloc emerge in the Mediterranean that better serves its own interests rather than those of Northern Europe.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

September 22, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Belarus Warns to Consider Tikhanovskaya’s Meeting With EU Foreign Ministers Meddling

Sputnik

MINSK  The participation of former Belarusian presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in the upcoming meeting of EU foreign ministers next week will amount to interference in Belarus’ internal affairs, Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Anatoly Glaz said on Saturday.

“It could certainly be funny and curious if it were not so sad. It is quite obvious, in fact, that such actions, if any, are an impudent and open interference in the internal affairs of our country and complete disrespect for its citizens,” Glaz said.

“Why hold any elections at all if it is possible to simply appoint someone all the way convenient from abroad and pretend to build a relationship with them?” the spokesman said.

If the meeting ends up taking place with Tikhanovskaya’s participation, Glaz said there would be no need left to prove that “a course to undermine Belarus’ sovereignty is being implemented.”

“Of course, our principled and understandable position on this matter has already been communicated to the EU envoy in Minsk, as well as to the relevant persons in Brussels,” the spokesman added.

EU foreign ministers are scheduled to convene this upcoming Monday in Brussels. Tikhanovskaya’s press secretary Anna Krasulina has confirmed the Lithuanian-exiled Belarusian ex-presidential candidate’s attendance.

September 19, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

‘Provocative & unacceptable’: Minsk says Lithuania’s recognition of Tikhanovskaya as Belarusian president breaks international law

By Jonny Tickle | RT | September 15, 2020

Lithuania’s decision to recognize Svetlana Tikhanovskaya as the leader of Belarus “violates the norms of international law,” according to a statement by the Council of the Republic, the upper house of parliament in Minsk.

Last week, the Lithuanian Seimas (parliament) adopted a resolution titled “On the Illegitimate Union Imposed by Russia on Belarus,” naming former presidential candidate Tikhanovskaya as the “elected leader” of the Belarusian people, and incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko as “illegitimate.”

“The decision of Lithuanian MPs to appoint a ‘leader of the people of Belarus’ is beyond the scope of common sense,” the Presidium of the Council of the Republic’s statement read. “Such actions are provocative and unacceptable, and violate the norms of international law.”

The statement also called Lithuania’s actions “blatant interference,” accusing the Seimas of “showing open disrespect for the sovereign right of the Belarusian people to choose their own leadership.”

Tikhanovskaya fled across Belarus’ northern border to Lithuania on August 11, two days after official election results suggested that she had come in a distant second place. Following the vote, thousands of Belarusians took to the streets throughout the country to protest over what they believe to have been a wholly rigged election. During days of demonstrations, police and internal troops used tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets to disperse protesters, while strikes began at large factories.

Following her arrival in Lithuania, Tikhanovskaya formed a body called the Coordination Council, with the goal of organizing a peaceful transition of power away from President Lukashenko, and of holding new elections. The group, which includes Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich as part of its leadership, has been accused by the Belarusian authorities of “aiming to seize state power” and “harming national security.”

September 15, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Iran, China, Russia to partake in Caucus 2020 military drills

Press TV – September 10, 2020

Military forces from Iran, China, and Russia are scheduled to take part in joint military exercises with a number of other countries in southern Russia later this month.

China’s Defense Ministry made the announcement in a news release on Thursday and said troops from Armenia, Belarus, Myanmar, and Pakistan would also participate in the drills, code-named “Caucus 2020.”

The ministry added that the exercises, to be held from September 21 to 26, would focus on defensive tactics, encirclement, and battlefield control and command.

The drills have special significance “at this important moment when the entire world is fighting the pandemic,” the ministry said.

The United States administration has insinuated that the coronavirus was artificially developed in a Chinese lab. China has rejected that insinuation.

Iran, China, and Russia have over the past years increased their military and diplomatic cooperation to counter the United States’ hostile policies and extra-territorial presence in their regions.

Late last year, the three countries held four days of naval exercises code-named the “Marine Security Belt” to promote regional security and peace and safeguard international trade in the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean.

September 10, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Anatomy of coup attempt in Belarus

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | August 30, 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin disclosed in a TV interview on August 27 that the Americans, among others, had fuelled the unrest in Belarus. He explained that the controversial presence of 33 Russian nationals (with military background) in Minsk in the run-up to the presidential election in Belarus on August 8, which briefly created misunderstanding between Minsk and with Moscow, itself was a joint operation by Ukrainian and US intelligence agencies.

The Russian nationals were apparently given job offers and were “simply lured there (Minsk), dragged across the border … de facto they were brought in on fake documents.” Evidently, Russia is in possession of hard intelligence.

Putin spoke up even as US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun wrapped up talks with top Russian officials in Moscow Wednesday. According to a VOA report, Biegun’s consultations “marked an intensifying U.S. effort to find a peaceful solution in Belarus.” The report took note that en route to Moscow, Biegun had “signalled that Washington was not eager to accept efforts by [Belarus President Alexander] Lukashenko to cast the election standoff as an East versus West showdown that might trigger direct Russian involvement.”

Simply put, Biegun was on a “damage control” mission. This can be taken as admission of defeat in the US-backed regime change project in Belarus. Conceivably, Russian officials shared with Biegun their intelligence regarding the CIA involvement. Later, crisply anodyne identical readouts were released by the Russian and American sides without divulging any details.

The CIA would roll back its Belarus operation — for the time being, at least. A commentary titled What’s Next for the Peaceful Uprising in Belarus? by the United States Institute of Peace sees “potential to bring change” in Belarus, but concludes saying, “While there are no guarantees of success, there is cause for hope. At a minimum, Belarusians have gained a new-found sense of dignity and belief in the power of nonviolent collective action.”

This appears to have been a well-planned operation. Under the garb of journalists, western intelligence deployed dozens of special agents in Belarus. Lukashenko has ordered their expulsion. Associated Press, Radio Liberty and BBC “reporters” have had their accreditation cancelled. A Swedish “photo journalist”, presumably an intelligence operative, was detained and was released at the personal intervention of the Swedish ambassador to Belarus and flown out of Minsk.

From the pro forma reaction by the European Union so far, Brussels has a fair idea of what really happened — that there has been a US operation with active participation of Poland and Lithuania (both EU countries) and Ukraine. Unsurprisingly, NATO statements have been rather combative. The NATO also began air exercises in Poland and Lithuania coinciding with the unrest in Belarus. 

However, major European powers — Germany, France, Italy — didn’t want to get entangled. Their top leaders telephoned Putin to ease the tensions. The EU initially proposed OSCE as mediator, but Moscow sensed that it might lead to backdoor entry by the US intelligence. The OSCE is manned by NATO powers and is under American thumb.

The clincher has been the stern warning by the Kremlin that if the western operation continued, Russia will be left with no option but to intervene. The warning came at Putin’s level, making it very clear that Russia will not countenance a regime change in Minsk to hijack Belarus into the American camp. Moscow has asserted its special interests in Belarus under international law. In his TV interview on Thursday, Putin emphatically stated:

“Indeed, the Union Treaty… and the Collective Security Treaty (CSTO) include articles saying that all member states of these organisations, including the Union State, which consists of two states only – Russia and Belarus, are obliged to help each other protect their sovereignty, external borders and stability… In this connection, we have certain obligations towards Belarus, and this is how Mr Lukashenko has formulated his question. He said that he would like us to provide assistance to him if this should become necessary. I replied that Russia would honour all its obligations.

“Mr Lukashenko has asked me to create a reserve group of law enforcement personnel, and I have done this. But we have also agreed that this group would not be used unless the situation becomes uncontrollable… we came to the conclusion that now it is not necessary, and I hope that it will never be necessary to use this reserve, which is why we are not using it.” Putin made it abundantly clear that Moscow stands by Lukashenko.”

The events in Belarus constitute a watershed moment. Russia will not allow another Ukraine-type colour revolution in the “near abroad”, aimed at encircling it with hostile governments. But Moscow’s intervention, if at all, will conform to international law and stem out of invitation by the country concerned.

That is to say, Russia regards it to be the prerogative of the CSTO countries to handle their internal affairs without outside unlawful interference. Having said that, Moscow has invoked the CSTO’s collective security doctrine. This sets a precedent. The CSTO comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. A CIA-sponsored regime change project in any of these countries can run into the CSTO’s crosshairs. Considering that the CSTO is de facto led from Moscow, any more regime change project in Central Asia or Caucasus will trigger Russian countermeasures.

Most important, Moscow will not be prescriptive. Putin has supported Lukashenka’s proposal to draft a new constitution and hold fresh presidential and parliamentary elections, but transition should be lawful and orderly. This Russian approach has been already evident in Kyrgyzstan (2005) Turkmenistan (2006), and Uzbekistan (2016). Even in the case of Georgia (2003) and Ukraine (2004 and 2014), Russia didn’t oppose  transitions but the West turned them into geopolitical contestations to install anti-Russian regimes.

However, a caveat must be added. Putin also underscored that Belarus is a very special case. He said, in a clear reference to the US, “some forces would like to see something different happening there (Belarus). They would like to influence these processes and to bring about the solutions that would suit their political interests.” Russia cannot afford to see such nefarious designs succeed in Belarus.

In Putin’s words, “This nation is very close to us (Russian Federation) and perhaps is the closest, both in terms of ethnic proximity, the language, the culture, the spiritual as well as other aspects. We have dozens or probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of direct family ties with Belarus.” Not only that, Russia sources from Belarus almost 90 percent of its imports of agricultural products.

August 30, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Putin says West looks as if prepared response to Belarus’ election in advance

Press TV – August 30, 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin says there is reason to suspect that Western countries prepared their rejection of Belarus’ recent presidential election result before the vote was even held.

Speaking in an interview with the Russia-1 TV channel that was aired on Saturday, President Putin said Belarusian authorities had invited representatives from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to monitor the August 9 elections, which incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko won, but the OSCE refused to send monitors.

“Belarusian authorities have invited the OSCE ODIHR to participate in the monitoring of the election. Why didn’t they come? This immediately makes us think that, basically, the position on the results of this election has already been prepared,” Putin said, referring to the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

Western countries and Belarus’ opposition have rejected Lukashenko’s re-election, claiming that voter fraud took place and demanding that the election be repeated. Mass protests have been staged by the Belarusian opposition since the results were announced.

The Belarusian government has rejected the allegations of vote rigging and ruled out a repeat election. Lukashenko has also warned of a Western plot to destabilize Belarus and has turned to President Putin for help with maintaining security.

In his Saturday interview, the Russian president said Belarus’ election was an internal issue of the country.

“We believe this is, first and foremost, an internal matter of the Belarusian society and the people of Belarus,” Putin said.

But he said Russia was ready to help. Belarus, he said, is “probably, the closest country to Russia ethnically, culturally, and spiritually.”

Putin said Lukashenko had asked him to have a group of law enforcement officers on standby to be dispatched to Belarus if necessary. The Russian president said that he expected the crisis to be resolved peacefully but that the group had been formed.

“We agreed that the group would not be deployed unless the situation in Belarus spirals completely out of control,” he said.

Putin said Moscow would only involve itself in Belarus if “extremist elements acting under the cover of political slogans cross certain red lines and engage in banditry, start burning houses and banks, [and] try storming government buildings.”

On Thursday, the Russian president urged Belarus’ government and opposition to resolve their differences peacefully.

August 30, 2020 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

Is Belarus a color revolution? The real problem is that ANY protest these days may be

By Nebojsa Malic | RT | August 20, 2020

Whenever there is a mass protest against a government somewhere in the world, one of the first questions from skeptics will be whether it’s a ‘color revolution,’ a technique of turning legitimate grievances into a coup d’etat

The recent events in Belarus are a perfect example. It’s not a color revolution, but President Alexander Lukashenko “repeating Soviet mistakes,” argues Bradley Blankenship. While he is looking at the behavior of the protesters on the ground, however, Caitlin Johnstone is looking at the State Department. Foggy Bottom’s actions and “imperial narrative management” by official US propaganda outlets have her convinced it is a color revolution. She’s not the only one.

That’s precisely the problem, however: in a world where “color revolutions” have become normalized, it’s nearly impossible to tell if a mass protest is a spontaneous, grassroots event or an astroturfed regime-change operation. To the creators of color revolutions, this is a feature, not a bug.

The tactic has been around for two decades now, first tested following the September 2000 elections in Serbia. It involves activists trained by US-backed “NGOs,” copious amounts of cash, strategies and tactics outlined in a manual written by the late Gene Sharp. The key element is narrative management, through which the revolutionaries usurp the initial protests and direct them towards their own ends.

One distinguishing feature of astroturf campaigns is a visual marketing campaign, such as the stenciled fists of Otpor in Serbia (used elsewhere since), or the 2004 orange scarves and banners in Ukraine. The sudden omnipresence of white-red-white flags in Belarus – used briefly in 1918 and again under Nazi occupation – seems to fit this pattern. So do the signs like “Belarusian Lives Matter,” appealing not to the locals but to the West.

Washington’s hand in these “spontaneous” uprisings. Stories about “suitcases full of cash” that fueled the revolt in Serbia appeared shortly after the coup in Belgrade. In November 2004, the Guardian wrote approvingly about how the US has created a “slick” operation of “engineering democracy through the ballot box and civil disobedience,” developing since Belgrade a “template for winning other people’s elections.”

These days, there is no boasting, but the practice continues nonetheless. Most recently, the scenario played itself out in Bolivia (successfully), Venezuela (not) and Hong Kong, where “pro-democracy” protests against an extradition bill lasted long after it was withdrawn.

What changed is that the US and its media machine switched to denying involvement and pretending the “color revolutions” were actually genuine expressions of democracy, after some targeted governments managed to defeat these astroturf rebellions. This remained the case even as color revolution tactics came home to the US this summer.

Back in June, Franklin Foer of the Atlantic magazine – a megaphone of the establishment – actually wrote a favorable comparison of the riots across the US, posing as peaceful protests for “racial justice,” to the color revolutions in places like Ukraine and Serbia. Note that Foer believes these revolutions were good and genuine things, rather than a hostile takeover tactic that was basically a mockery of democracy.

Democracy, at its essence, it’s a straightforward deal. Citizens vote on an issue or for a candidate, and agree to abide by the rules whether they win or lose. But what happens when that vote is manipulated – through street violence, in this case – by outsiders, and the rulebook gets thrown out the window?

This is what makes color revolutions not just wrong, but evil. They literally destroy democracy, by corroding the very rules it is founded on. When they fail, things can escalate along the lines of Libya, Syria or Ukraine.

Even when they fail peacefully, like the 2006 “jeans revolution” in Belarus, they poison a country’s politics so thoroughly, that the government sees any street demonstrations going forward as foreign-sponsored coup attempts. Especially when foreign powers openly express support for it, as has been the case with recent events.

Whatever may be happening in Belarus right now, democracy it is not. The US may not be one for long, either, if things carry on as they have. Two decades of color revolutions have made sure of that.

August 20, 2020 Posted by | Deception | | Leave a comment

Weaponized media coverage & off-the-scale hypocrisy as the West promotes ‘regime change’ in Belarus

By Neil Clark | RT | August 19, 2020

Lukashenko has always admitted his style is authoritarian but notwithstanding this, media coverage of the crisis in Belarus has been slanted and the West’s condemnation of the crackdown on protests reeks of double standards.

You can tell a ‘regime change’ is afoot in Minsk simply by looking at the coverage of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Their website at the weekend was headed by a large caption ‘Post election crackdown in Belarus’, which has now changed to ‘Crisis in Belarus‘. The five lead articles on Sunday were all about Belarus. It’s the same on Tuesday.

Radio Free Europe/RL is funded by the US Congress through the United States Agency for Global Media. Up to the early 1970s it was funded covertly by the CIA.

It was a soft-power tool of the old Cold War, sometimes with calamitous consequences. In their book ‘Cold War’, Jeremy Isaacs and Taylor Downing tell how in the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 “Radio Free Europe, the CIA-backed station that broadcast into Eastern Europe, was dramatically talking the situation up, proclaiming the West’s backing for what it called Hungary’s ‘freedom fighters.‘”

But the backing never came, and indeed was never likely to come and the uprising, having been encouraged by RFE, was ruthlessly suppressed.

You might have thought RFE/RL would have been wound up in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down, but there was still a job to do.

It says it reports the news in countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established and while some of its journalism is perfectly fine the truth is that it usually stops reporting once a country is locked into Euro-Atlantic security structures. When it starts broadcasting to a country it’s invariably a sign that the US ‘Deep State’ wants its government toppled. For example, in 1998 it began broadcasting to Iraq, and we all know what happened there five years later. RFE/RL is undoubtedly ‘state-affiliated media’ yet you won’t see that warning attached to its tweets, as you now see attached to RT when it tweets this article.

It’s no great surprise that Franak Viacorka,  the journalist and social media promoter of the anti-Lukashenko protests has worked for RFE/RL. As flagged by Ben Norton last week, Viacorka’s organization DigiCom.Net details his close link to US bodies. Viacorka works for the US Agency for Global Media, the parent of RFE/RL and has served as a ‘creative director’ for the Belarus service of Radio Free Europe, as well as being a consultant for the US State Department-funded ‘Freedom House’. He is also a non-Resident Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council, his appointment lauded by Michael McFaul, the former US Ambassador to Russia.

To be fair to Viacorka he is absolutely open about his US connections and in fact seems very proud of them. And they don’t mean the 32-year-old isn’t genuine about his commitment to ‘democracy and personal freedom’. That’s even though he appeared to make criticism of Lukashenko’s Covid-19 policies (the Belarusian leader failed to impose a draconian lockdown such as we’ve seen in many Western countries), on a NBC programme earlier in the year. (You can watch that here)

Also gunning for Lukashenko is the Economist, the bible for neoliberal globalists. This week, the magazine denounced the “West’s response” to what was going on in Belarus as “feeble.”

It referred to Lukashenko as “a 65-year-old dictator.” The language of the Economist has been unusually emotional of late, showing they want regime change in Minsk quite badly. Yet in January 2019 they referred to the Belarusian leader more respectfully as “Mr Lukashenko” and said he was “no ordinary politician.” That was when they thought he was upsetting Vladimir Putin and “cosying up to the West.”

One suspects that if Lukashenko announced he had won 80 percent of the vote but then said he was going to promptly apply to join NATO, the EU and sell off the entire economy to Western finance capital, as well as imposing a ‘Covid lockdown’, the Economist would not be quite so angry.

Hypocrisy was also on show from the very grand EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “We need additional sanctions against those who violated democratic values or abused human rights in Belarus,” von der Leyen declared on Twitter.

We are still of course waiting for the EU sanctions, additional or otherwise on Spain for the authorities’ crackdown on Catalan protesters in 2017 and the jailing of nine separatist leaders.

Or sanctions on France for the brutality meted out to the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ street protesters, who did not receive globalist approval.

How convenient after all that has gone on in 2020, that Belarus and the big bad Lukashenko is there to allow Western virtue signallers and self-proclaimed ‘liberals’ the chance to show off how much they care about ‘democracy’ again. While supporting the curtailing of basic human freedoms still further in their own countries.

Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. His award winning blog can be found at http://www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66

August 19, 2020 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Leave a comment

Kremlin denies Russian military convoys heading to Belarus, says no need right now for CSTO or Union State assistance to neighbor

RT | August 19, 2020

Vladimir Putin’s spokesman has rubbished speculation that Moscow is either conducting or is preparing to carry out some sort of military intervention in neighboring Belarus, with which it has mutual-assistance agreements.

Dmitry Peskov said that while Russia is treaty-bound to assist Minsk, the conditions for such support don’t currently exist.

Both countries form a Union State, under a 1999 agreement, and are also members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), a Moscow-led security alliance that serves as an alternative to NATO. Peskov explained that these treaties “indeed, stipulate a number of commitments of the sides on mutual assistance.” He was answering a reporter’s question on the circumstances in which such assistance would be possible.

“But, as you know, now there is no such need and the Belarusian leadership has itself admitted that there is no such need now,” he added. “In this case, any hypothetical deliberations are absolutely unacceptable and impossible.”

“We believe that Belarusians will iron out their own problems in the framework of dialogue, within the legal framework, and without any foreign meddling,” the Kremlin spokesman said.

Commenting on media reports that convoys of Russian military equipment were allegedly heading to the Belarusian border, the presidential spokesman emphasized that “Russian military equipment is on Russian territory and that’s why there is nothing to comment on here.”

Meanwhile, Alexander Lukashenko’s spokeswoman has claimed that the President of Belarus regards the CSTO and Union State agreements as paramount. “Consultations between the Belarusian and Russian presidents are currently underway. The heads of state coordinate their actions, primarily within the framework of the existing agreements. These are both the Union State and the CSTO,” Natalya Eismont said. She also noted that the two leaders had held several phone calls.

August 19, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment