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Bulgarians want Russian gas back – minister

Samizdat – April 28, 2022

Bulgarian businesses want Sofia “to make it possible to resume talks with Gazprom” after the Russian energy giant cut off gas supplies to the country, according to Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Kornelia Ninova.

“We propose that, by then, gas prices should be frozen or capped at their level in the contract with Gazprom and the difference with the higher prices of alternative supplies be paid for by the State,” she said at a press conference after meeting with the Bulgaria Professional Employer Organization (PEO).

The calls come a day after Gazprom ceased delivering gas to Bulgaria after the country refused to pay for energy supplies in rubles. Bulgaria relies on Russia for nearly 90% of its gas, with the remainder coming from Azerbaijan.

Earlier in the day, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said that Bulgaria has enough gas supplies to last more than one month should nothing change, stressing that Sofia would not accept Russia’s terms on exports of gas.

“But we hope to complete the construction of a new interconnector with Greece by the end of June. And we also look forward to a common strategy for the procurement of liquefied gas by the European Commission,” Petkov said in an interview with Le Monde.

April 29, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Russophobia | | 1 Comment

Bulgaria insists it’s a loyal NATO ally, but won’t send troops to Ukraine

RT | January 26, 2022

Bulgaria is a “loyal ally in NATO” and the alliance’s unity is the best response to the current crisis over Ukraine, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on Wednesday, amid conflicting reports on Sofia’s participation in the US military buildup in Eastern Europe.

Petkov’s government voted on Wednesday to follow the “Bulgarian strategy” of reducing tensions between NATO and Russia, including “absolutely all options for resolving this dispute by diplomatic means,” according to the state news agency BTA.

The strategy will be based on rebuilding the Bulgarian military, Petkov said. Defense Minister Stefan Yanev explained that the “top priority” will be investing in building a battalion combat team, a unit of around 1,000 soldiers.

Yanev would not comment on reports by Bulgarian National Radio that Sofia would not accept the deployment of 1,000 US soldiers on its soil, but would be fine with French troops instead. This was reported early on Wednesday by BNR correspondent in Brussels, Angelina Piskova, who quoted a “well-informed diplomatic source.”

The minister said such a thing has not been discussed on the political level, according to BNR.

Local media reported that Yanev also told lawmakers that Bulgarian soldiers won’t fight in Ukraine without parliamentary approval, which he “does not see coming.”

Earlier on Wednesday, CNN reported that Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania were in discussions with the US to accept 1,000 American troops each, as part of Washington’s effort to “reassure” NATO members in Eastern Europe and “deter” the alleged Russian invasion of Ukraine. The US intelligence has heralded such an invasion since late October, though Moscow dismissed it as “fake news.”

Speaking before the parliamentary defense committee on Tuesday, Yanev said that neither Russia nor anyone else is preparing to invade Bulgaria, and urged the lawmakers to “reduce tensions, stop reading the foreign press, and stop speculating.”

January 26, 2022 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

UKRAINE CRISIS: US ‘Toolboxes’ Are Empty

By Scott Ritter | Consortium News | January 22, 2022

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in a hastily scheduled, 90-minute summit in Geneva yesterday, after which both sides lauded the meeting as worthwhile because it kept the door open for a diplomatic resolution to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. What “keeping the door open” entails, however, represents two completely different realities.

For Blinken, the important thing appears to be process, continuing a dialogue which, by its very essence, creates the impression of progress, with progress being measured in increments of time, as opposed to results.

A results-oriented outcome was not in the books for Blinken and his entourage; the U.S. was supposed to submit a written response to Russia’s demands for security guarantees as spelled out in a pair of draft treaties presented to the U.S. and NATO in December. Instead, Blinken told Lavrov the written submission would be provided next week.

In the meantime, Blinken primed the pump of expected outcomes by highlighting the possibility of future negotiations that addressed Russian concerns (on a reciprocal basis) regarding intermediate-range missiles and NATO military exercises.

But under no circumstances, Blinken said, would the U.S. be responding to Russian demands against NATO expanding to Ukraine and Georgia, and for the redeployment of NATO forces inside the territory of NATO as it existed in 1997.

Blinken also spent a considerable amount of time harping on the danger of an imminent military invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces said to be massing along the Ukraine-Russian border. He pointed out that any military incursion by Russia, no matter what size, that violated the territorial integrity of Ukraine, would be viewed as a continuation of the Russian “aggression” of 2014 and, as such, trigger “massive consequences” which would be damaging to Russia.

Blinken’s restatement of a position he has pontificated on incessantly for more than a month now was not done for the benefit of Lavrov and the Russian government, but rather for an American and European audience which had been left scratching their collective heads over comments made the day before by President Joe Biden which suggested that the U.S. had a range of options it would consider depending on the size of a Russian incursion.

“My guess is he [Russian President Vladimir Putin] will move in, he has to do something,” Biden said during a press briefing on Wednesday. While presenting a Russian invasion as inevitable, Biden went on to note that Putin “will be held accountable” and “never have[sic] seen sanctions like the ones I promised will be imposed” if Russia were, in fact, to move against Ukraine. Biden spoke of deploying additional U.S. military forces to eastern Europe, as well as unspecified economic sanctions.

Biden then, however, hedged his remarks, noting that the scope and scale of any U.S. response would depend on what Russia did. “It’s one thing,” Biden said, “if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do.”

Almost immediately the Washington establishment went into overdrive to correct what everyone said was a “misstatement” by Biden, with Biden himself making a new statement the next day, declaring that he had been “absolutely clear with President Putin. He has no misunderstanding, any, any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion,” and that there should be “no doubt at all that if Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price.”

And just in case the President was not clear enough, Blinken reiterated that point following his Friday meeting with Lavrov.

Immutable

The U.S. narrative about Russia and Ukraine was immutable; Russia was hell bent on invading, and there would be massive consequences if Russia acted out on its intent. This was no idle threat, Blinken said, but rather represented the unified position of the United States and its allies and partners.

Or was it? In a telling admission, CNN’s White House correspondent, John Harwood, stated that the “minor incursions” statement by Biden was harmless, because (Harwood said) Putin already knew through sources that this was, in fact, the U.S. position. As for Europe and Ukraine, their collective confusion and outrage was merely an act, a posture they had to take for public consumption, since the optics of Biden’s statement “sounds bad.”

In short, the lack of an agreed-upon strategy on how to deal with a Russian incursion/invasion of Ukraine was an open secret for everyone except the U.S. and European publics, who being fed a line of horse manure to assuage domestic political concerns over being seen as surrendering to Russian demands.

Biden and his administration are old hands at lying to the American public when it comes to matters of national security. One only need look to Biden’s July 23, 2021, phone call with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for a clear precedent into this inability to speak openly and honestly about reality on the ground. “I need not tell you,” Biden told Ghani, “the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things are not going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban. And there is a need,” Biden added, “whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”

This, in a nutshell, is the essence of the posture taken by the Biden administration on Ukraine. Blinken has indicated that the U.S. has a toolbox filled with options that will deliver “massive consequences” to Russia should Russia invade Ukraine. These “tools” include military options, such as the reinforcement of NATO’s eastern flank with additional U.S. troops, and economic options, such as shutting down the NordStream 2 pipeline and cutting Russia off from the SWIFT banking system. All these options, Blinken notes, have the undivided support of U.S. European allies and partners.

The toolbox is everywhere, it seems—Biden has referred to it, as has White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Blinken has alluded to it on numerous occasions.

There’s only one problem—the toolbox, it turns out, is empty.

While the Pentagon is reportedly working on a series of military options to reinforce the existing U.S. military presence in eastern Europe, the actual implementation of these options would neither be timely nor even possible. One option is to move forces already in Europe; the U.S. Army maintains one heavy armored brigade in Europe on a rotational basis and has a light armored vehicle brigade and an artillery brigade stationed in Germany. Along with some helicopter and logistics support, that’s it.

Flooding these units into Poland would be for display purposes only—they represent an unsustainable combat force that would be destroyed within days, if not hours, in any large-scale ground combat against a Russian threat.

The U.S. can deploy a second heavy armored brigade to Poland which would fall in on prepositioned equipment already warehoused on Polish soil. This brigade would suffer a similar fate if matched up against the Russian army. The U.S. can also deploy an airborne brigade. They, too, would die.

There are no other options available to deploy additional U.S. heavy forces to Europe on a scale and in a timeframe that would be meaningful. The problem isn’t just the deployment of forces from their bases in the U.S. (something that would takes months to prepare for), but the sustainability of these forces once they arrived on the ground in Europe. Food, ammunition, water, fuel—the logistics of war is complicated, and not resolved overnight.

In short, there is no viable military option, and Biden knows this.

Empty Sanctions Too

The U.S. has no sanctions plan that can survive initial contact with the enemy, which in this case is the collective weakness of the post-pandemic economies of both Europe and the U.S.; the over-reliance of Europe on Russian-sourced energy, and the vulnerability of democratically elected leaders to the whim of a consumer-based constituency. Russia can survive the impact of any sanctions regime the U.S. is able to scrape together—even those targeting the Russian banking system—far longer than Europe can survive without access to Russian energy.

This is a reality that Europe lives with, and while U.S. policy makers might think hard-hitting sanctions look good on paper, the reality is that whatever passes for U.S.-European unity today would collapse in rapid order when the Russian pipelines were shut down. The pain would not just be limited to Europe, either—the U.S. economy would suffer as well, with sky-high fuel prices and a stock market collapse that would put the U.S. into an economic recession, if not outright depression.

The political cost that would be incurred by Biden and, by extension, the Democrats, would be fatal to any hope that might remain for holding onto either house of Congress in 2022, or the White House in 2024. It would be one thing if Biden and his national security team were honest and forthright about the real consequences of declaring the equivalent of economic war on Russia. It is another thing altogether to speak only of the pain sanctions would cause Russia, with little thought, if any, to the real consequences that will be paid on the home front.

Americans should never forget that Russia has been laboring under severe U.S. sanctions since 2014, with zero effect. Russia knows what could be coming and has prepared. The American people wallow in their ignorance, believing at face value what they are told by the Biden administration, and echoed by a compliant mainstream media.

Propaganda About ‘Propaganda’

One of the great ironies of the current crisis is that, on the eve of the Blinken-Lavrov meeting in Geneva, the U.S. State Department published a report on Russian propaganda, decrying the role played by state-funded outlets such as RT and Sputnik in shaping public opinion in the United States and the West (in the interest of full disclosure, RT is one of the outlets that I write for.)

The fact that the State Department would publish such a report on the eve of a meeting which is all about propagating the big lie—that the U.S. has a plan for deterring “irresponsible Russian aggression”—while ignoring the hard truth: this is a crisis derived solely from the irresponsible policies of the U.S. and NATO over the past 30 years.

While a compliant mainstream American media unthinkingly repeated every warning and threat issued by Biden and Blinken to Russia over the course of the past few days, the Russian position has been largely ignored. Here’s a reminder of where Russia stands on its demands for security guarantees: “We are talking about the withdrawal of foreign forces, equipment, and weapons, as well as taking other steps to return to the set-up we had in 1997 in non-NATO countries,” the Russian Foreign Ministry declared in a bulletin published after the Lavrov-Blinken meeting. “This includes Bulgaria and Romania.”

Blinken has already said the U.S. will reject this.

The toolbox is empty. Russia knows this. Biden knows this. Blinken knows this. CNN knows this. The only ones who aren’t aware of this are the American people.

The consequences of a U.S. rejection of Russia’s demands will more than likely be war.

If you think the American people are ready to bear the burden of a war with Russia, think again.

January 22, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Shameless Racism’: 13 Countries Change Long-Standing Position on Palestine at UN

Palestine Chronicle – December 5, 2019

For the first time, 13 countries changed their longstanding positions and voted against a pro-Palestine measure at the United Nations on Tuesday.

Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Brazil, and Colombia voted against the annual resolution regarding the “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat”, according to the Times of Israel.

They had previously abstained on the vote.

The resolution, which includes a call to halt to illegal Israeli settlements being constructed in the occupied West Bank, still passed with a large majority voting in favor.

The Palestinian representative told the council: “If you protect Israel, it will destroy you all.” He also said Israel’s character as a Jewish state is “shameless racism”.

The New York-based Division for Palestinian Rights oversees the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

The resolution was co-sponsored by Comoros, Cuba, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

The UK, France, and Spain abstained, as they do every year, allowing the resolution to pass with a vote of 87-54, with 21 other abstentions.

The General Assembly adopted five resolutions on the question of Palestine and the Middle East, including one calling on the Member States not to recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regards to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.

December 5, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Second Whistle Blown on the OPCW’s Doctored Report

By Jeremy Salt | American Herald Tribune | December 3, 2019

Another whistleblower leak has exposed the fraudulent nature of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) report on the alleged chemical weapons attack in the Syrian city of Douma, close to Damascus, on April 7 last year.

The first leak came from the Fact-Finding Mission’s engineering sub-group. After investigating the two sites where industrial gas cylinders were found in Douma and taking into account the possibility that the cylinders had been dropped from the air it concluded that there was a “higher probability” that both cylinders were placed at both sites by hand. This finding was entirely suppressed in the final report.

The engineering sub-group prepared its draft report “for internal review” between February 1-27, 2018. By March 1 the OPCW final report had been approved, published and released, indicating that the engineers’ findings had not been properly evaluated, if evaluated at all. In its final report the OPCW, referring to the findings of independent experts in mechanical engineering, ballistics and metallurgy, claimed that the structural damage had been caused at one location by an “impacting object” (i.e. the cylinder) and that at the second location the cylinder had passed through the ceiling, fallen to the floor and somehow bounced back up on to the bed where it was found.

None of this was even suggested by the engineers. Instead, the OPCW issued a falsified report intended to keep alive the accusation that the cylinders had been dropped by the Syrian Air Force.

Now there is a second leak, this time an internal email sent by a member of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on June 22, 2018, to Robert Fairweather, the British career diplomat who was at the time Chief of Cabinet at the OPCW, and copied to his deputy, Aamir Shouket. The writer claims to have been the only FFM member to have read the redacted report before its release. He says it misrepresents the facts: “Some crucial facts that have remained in the redacted version have morphed into something quite different from what was originally drafted.”

The email says the final version statement that the team “has sufficent evidence to determine that chlorine or another reactive chlorine-containing chemical was likely released from the cylinders is highly misleading and not supported by the facts.” The writer states that the only evidence is that some samples collected at locations 2 and 4 (where the gas cylinders were found) had been in contact with one or more chemicals that contain a reactive chlorine atom.

“Such chemicals,” he continues, “could include molecular chlorine, phosgene, cyanogen chloride, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen chloride or sodium hypochlorite (the major element in household chlorine-based bleach.”  Purposely singling out chlorine as one of the possibilities was disingenuous and demonstrated “partiality” that negatively affected the final report’s credibility.

The writer says the final report’s reference to “high levels of various chlorinated organic derivatives detected in environmental samples” overstates the draft report’s findings. “In most cases” these derivatives were present only in part per billion range, as low as 1-2 ppb, which is essentially trace qualitiea.” In such microscopic quantities, detected inside apartment buildings, it would seem, although the writer only hints at the likelihood, that the chlorine trace elements could have come from household bleach stored in the kitchen or bathroom.

The writer notes that the original draft discussed in detail the inconsistency between the victims’ symptoms after the alleged attack as reported by witnesses and seen on video recordings.  This section of the draft, including the epidemiology, was removed from the final version in its entirety. As it was inextricably linked to the chemical agent as identified, the impact on the final report was “seriously negative.” The writer says the draft report was “modified” at the behest of the office of Director-General, a post held at the time by a Turkish diplomat, Ahmet Uzumcu.

The OPCW has made no attempt to deny the substance of these claims. After the engineers’ report made its way to Wikileaks its priority was to hunt down the leaker. Following the leaking of the recent email, the Director-General, Fernando Arias, simply defended the final report as it stood.

These two exposures are triply devastating for the OPCW.  Its Douma report is completely discredited but all its findings on the use of chemical weapons in Syria must now be regarded as suspect even by those who did not regard them as suspect in the first place. The same shadow hangs over all UN agencies that have relied on the OPCW for evidence, especially the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, an arm of the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights).

This body is closely linked to the OPCW and while both mostly hide the sources of their information it is evident that where chemical weapons allegations have been made, the commission of inquiry has drawn on the OPCW.

As of January 2018, the commission reported on 34 “documented incidents” of chemical weapons use by various parties in Syria. It held the Syrian government responsible for 23 of them and, remarkably, did not hold the armed groups responsible even for one, despite the weight of evidence showing their preparation and use of such weapons over a long period of time.

The commission has made repeated accusations of chlorine barrel bombs being dropped by government forces. On the worst of the alleged chemical weapons attacks, on August 21, 2013, in the eastern Ghouta district just outside Damascus, it refers to sarin being used in a “well-planned indiscriminate attack targetting residential areas [and] causing mass casualties. The perpetrators likely had access to the Syrian military chemical weapons stockpile and expertise and equipment to manipulate large amounts of chemical weapons.”

This is such a travesty of the best evidence that no report by this body can be regarded as impartial, objective and neutral.   No chemical weapons or nerve agents were moved from Syrian stocks, according to the findings of renowned journalist Seymour Hersh. The best evidence, including a report by Hersh (‘The Red Line and the Rat Line,’ London Review of Books, April 17, 2014), suggests a staged attack by terrorist groups, including Jaysh al Islam and Ahrar al Sham, who at the time were being routed in a government offensive. The military would have had no reason to use chemical weapons: furthermore, the ‘attack’ was launched just as UN chemical weapons inspectors were arriving in the Syrian capital and it is not even remotely credible that the Syrian government would have authorized a chemical weapons attack at such a time.

Even the CIA warned Barack Obama that the Syrian government may not have been/probably was not responsible for the attack and that he was being lured into launching an air attack in Syria now that his self-declared ‘red line’ had been crossed. At the last moment, Obama backed off.

It remains possible that the victims of this ‘attack’ were killed for propaganda purposes. Certainly, no cruelty involving the takfiri groups, the most brutal people on the face of the planet, can be ruled out. Having used the occasion to blame the Syrian government, the media quickly moved on. The identities of the dead, many of them children, who they were, where they might have been buried – if in fact they had been killed and not just used as props – were immediately tossed into the memory hole. Eastern Ghouta remains one of the darkest unexplained episodes in the war on Syria.

The UN’s Syria commission of inquiry’s modus operandi is much the same as the OPCW’s. Witnesses are not identified; there is no indication of how their claims were substantiated; the countries outside Syria where many have been interviewed are not identified, although Turkey is clearly one; and where samples have had to be tested, the chain of custody is not transparent.

It is worth stepping back a little bit to consider early responses to the OPCW report on Douma. The Syrian government raised a number of questions, all of them fobbed off by the OPCW.  Russia entered the picture by arranging a press conference for alleged victims of the ‘attack’ at the OPCW headquarters in the Hague.  They included an 11-year-old boy, Hassan Diab, who said he did not know why he was suddenly hosed down in the hospital clinic, as shown in the White Helmets propaganda video.

All the witnesses dismissed claims of a chemical weapons attack. Seventeen countries (Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the US) then put out a joint statement (April 26, 2018) expressing their full support for the OPCW report and dismissing the “so-called” information session at the Hague as a Russian propaganda exercise. Their statement claimed the authenticity of the information in the OPCW report was “unassailable.”

Russia followed up with a series of questions directed at the OPCW’s technical secretariat. It noted that the OPCW report did not mention that samples taken from Douma were “split” in the OPCW’s central laboratory in the Netherlands and not in the Syrian Arab republic. Fractions of samples were handed to Syria only after six months of insistent pressure (OPCW response: its terms of reference provided for Syria to be provided with samples “to the extent possible” but do not specify when or where samples should be ‘split’).

Russia also referred to the collection of 129 samples and their transfer to OPCW-designated laboratories. 31 were selected for the first round of analysis and an additional batch of 13 sent later. Of the 129 samples 39 were obtained from individuals living outside territory controlled by the Syrian army. Of 44 samples analyzed 33 were environmental and 11 biomedical: of the 44, 11 (four environmental and seven biomedical) were obtained from alleged witnesses.

As remarked by the Russian Federation, the OPCW report does not explain the circumstances in which these samples were obtained. Neither is there any information on the individuals from whom they were taken; neither is there any evidence demonstrating compliance with the chain of custody (OPCW response: there was respect for the chain of custody, without this being explained; the “standard methodology” in collecting samples was applied, without details being given.  It stressed the need for privacy and the protection of witness identities).

Russia observed that the samples were analyzed in two unnamed OPCW laboratories and on the evidence of techniques and results, it raised the question of whether the same laboratories had been used to investigate earlier ‘incidents’ involving the alleged use of chlorine. Of the 13 laboratories that had technical agreements with the OPCW, why were samples analyzed at only two, apparently the same two as used before?  Russia also observed that of the 33 environmental samples tested for chlorinated products, there was a match (bornyl chloride) in only one case.

Samples taken from location 4, where a gas cylinder was allegedly dropped from the air, showed the presence of the explosive trinitrotoluene, leading to the conclusion that the hole in the roof was made by an explosion and not by a cylinder falling through it (OPCW response: the Fact-Finding Mission did not select the labs and information about them is confidential. As there had been intense warfare for weeks around location four, the presence of explosive material in a broad range of samples was to be expected but this did not – in the OPCW view –  lead to the conclusion that an explosion caused the hole in the roof).

Russia pointed out that the FFM interviewed 39 people but did not interview the actual witnesses of the ‘incident’ inside the Douma hospital who appeared and were easily identifiable in the staged videos (OPCW response: the secretariat neither confirms nor denies whether it interviewed any of the witnesses presented by Russia at the OPCW headquarters “as any statement to that effect would be contrary to the witness protection principles applied by the secretariat”).

Russia also pointed out the contradictions in the report on the number of alleged dead. In one paragraph the FFM says it could not establish a precise figure for casualties which “some sources” said ranged between 70 and 500. Yet elsewhere “witnesses” give the number of dead as 43 (OPCW response: the specific figure of 43 was based on the evidence of “witnesses” who claimed to have seen bodies at different locations).

Russia also pointed out that no victims were found at locations 2 and 4, where the ventilation was good because of the holes in the roof/ceiling. Referring to location 2, it asked how could chlorine released in a small hole from a cylinder in a well-ventilated room on the fourth floor have had such a strong effect on people living on the first or second floors? (OPCW response: the FFM did not establish a correlation between the number of dead and the quantity of the toxic chemical. In order to establish such a correlation, factors unknown to the FFM – condition of the building, air circulation and so on – would have had to be taken into account.  It does not explain why this was not attempted and how it could reach its conclusions without taking these “unknown factors” into account).

Finally, Russia raised the question of the height from which the cylinders could have been dropped. It referred to the lack of specific calculations in the OPCW report. The ‘experts’ who did the simulation did not indicate the drop height. The charts and diagrams indicated a drop height of 45-180 meters. However, Syrian Air Force helicopters do not fly at altitudes of less than 2000 meters when cruising over towns because they would come under small arms fire “at least” and would inevitably be shot down.

Furthermore, if the cylinders had been dropped from 2000 meters,  both the roof and the cylinders would have been more seriously damaged (OPCW response: there were no statements or assumptions in the FFM report on the use of helicopters or the use of other aircraft “or the height of the flight. The FFM did not base its modeling on the height from which the cylinders could have been dropped. “In accordance with its mandate,” the FFM did not comment on the possible altitude of aircraft.  The OPCW did not explain why these crucial factors were not taken into account).

In its conclusion, Russia said there was a “high probability” that the cylinders were placed manually at locations 2 and 4 and that the factual material in the OPCW report did not allow it to draw the conclusion that a toxic chemical had been used as a weapon. These conclusions have now been confirmed in the release of information deliberately suppressed by the OPCW secretariat.

As the leaked material proves, its report was doctored: by suppressing, ignoring or distorting the findings of its own investigators to make it appear that the Syrian government was responsible for the Douma ‘attack’ the OPCW can be justly accused of giving aid and comfort to terrorists and their White Helmet auxiliaries whom – the evidence overwhelmingly shows – set this staged ‘attack ’up.

Critical evidence ignored by the OPCW included the videoed discovery of an underground facility set up by Jaysh al Islam for the production of chemical weapons.   All the OPCW said was that the FFM inspectors paid on-site visits to the warehouse and “facility” suspected of producing chemical weapons and found no evidence of their manufacture.  There is no reference to the makeshift facility found underground and shown in several minutes of video evidence.

Since the release of the report, the three senior figures in the OPCW secretariat have moved/been moved on. The Director-General at the time, Hasan Uzumlu, a Turkish career diplomat, stepped out of the office in July 2018: Sir Robert Fairweather, a British career diplomat and Chief of Cabinet at the OPCW, was appointed the UK’s special representative to Sudan and South Sudan on March 11, 2019: his deputy, Aamir Shouket,  left the OPCW in August 2018, to return to Pakistan as Director-General of the Foreign Ministry’s Europe division. The governments which signed the statement that the evidence in the OPCW report was “unassailable” remain in place.

Jeremy Salt has taught at the University of Melbourne, Bosporus University (Istanbul) and Bilkent University (Ankara), specialising in the modern history of the Middle East.  His most recent book is “The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.)

December 4, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bulgaria appeases US, Israel on bus probe

By Kaveh L Afrasiabi | Asia Times | February 7, 2013

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts – The Bulgarian government on Tuesday made a mockery of its political independence by publicly implicating Lebanon’s Hezbollah in last year’s attack on an Israeli bus in the resort city of Burgas, despite the fact that its “official investigation is still going on”, Sofia has yet to make an official announcement and there is an absence of trustworthy evidence to back the claim.

Under pressure for months by Washington and Tel Aviv to name Hezbollah as the culprit for the attack that killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver, as well as the terrorist carrying the bomb, Sofia has appeased Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who within half hour of the bombing last July publicly pointed the finger at Hezbollah and Iran.

Unsurprisingly, Netanyahu was extremely gratified by the news from Sofia and wasted no time in calling on Europeans to put Hezbollah on their list of terrorist organizations, a significant move that would likely exacerbate the present civil rights of Muslims in Europe, particularly those who are involved in charitable fund raising for Hezbollah’s plethora of social welfare services in Lebanon.

The US government likewise conveniently interpreted as “conclusive” the preliminary finding in the Burgas investigation that the “military formation of Hezbollah might be involved” in that attack, to paraphrase carefully chosen words from Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

According to a Bulgarian expert, Professor Vladimir Chukov, Tsvetanov made a “hybrid statement” that “like Britain” makes the distinction between Hezbollah as a group and its “military wing”. “This is a hybrid situation that goes on to suggest that there is little chance that Bulgaria will name Hezbollah and Iran as culprits,” Professor Chukov has told the Bulgarian media.

Tell that to the mainstream media that wasted no time in its avalanche of reports that Bulgaria has implicated Hezbollah in the Burgas bombing. Case in point, in the various reports in the Wall Street Journal, London’s Guardian, BBC, etc, there is virtually no mention of the fact that there is no official position of the Bulgarian government as of yet, and that the investigation is still on-going. According to Professor Chukov, the interior ministry’s news leak was meant simply as “a test”. Yet by all indications this is a poor and politically motivated move by an official of the Bulgarian government.

Opposition’s stern warning

“It is obvious that Bulgaria’s government has chosen a political approach and is only repeating the interpretation alleged by Israel on the very next day following the attack, when the investigation had not even started,” said Sergey Stanishev, the head of Bulgarian Socialist Party, who is also the Chair of Party of European Socialists. “The investigation is currently under way and there is no way one can be talking about decisive evidence regarding the direct perpetrators, much less regarding the organization that is behind this tragic event … This is absolutely unjustified in view of national security and the risks that are taken with respect to people in Bulgaria.”

There is no dearth of suspicion in Bulgaria and beyond that the government official’s statement that the bombing “was most likely” the work of Hezbollah militants and that there are “obvious links” to Hezbollah is based less on hard facts and more on external political pressure. According to Minister Tsvetanov, two individuals – one Canadian and the other Australian – who have lived in Lebanon since 2006 and 2010 respectively, have been linked to the attack and “there is data showing” their “obvious links to Lebanon.”

Tsvetanov’s statements are backed by Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol, claiming that there is “reasonable assumption” based on “forensic evidence, intelligence sources and patterns in past attacks” that “point to Hezbollah’s involvement.” Not so according to Stanishev, who has labeled as “poor evidence” the data cited by officials to point accusatory fingers at Hezbollah. In fact, there is a great deal of contrary evidence to suggest the attack was a carefully orchestrated Israeli “false flag” operation aimed at smearing Hezbollah and Iran and pressuring the European Union to brand Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

False flag evidence ignored

The distinct possibility of an Israeli ‘false flag’ operation can be garnered by a careful and methodical examination of the public information, including the photographs, amateur videos and instant reports on the bus attack that occurred at exactly 5:30 pm last July 18, on the anniversary of the 1994 bombing in Argentina that Israel insists was the work of Iran and Hezbollah. That was perfect timing for Israel’s propaganda machine.

As stated in this author’s investigative article written immediately after the bus attack, there are at least 10 valid reasons to question the official story that a busload of Israeli tourists was the target of a terrorist bombing. [1] Lest we forget, the autopsy results in Sofia have shown that the dead terrorist was “white and had light eyes” and initially was identified as a member of al-Qaeda, much to the chagrin of Israelis who have shown zero interest in any suspect other than Hezbollah-Iran. [2]

To reiterate the gist of this author’s own probe of this matter, a good deal of evidence exists that suggest the targeted bus was empty and the only passengers hurt were inside the adjacent bus and received light injuries.

This author has carefully examined dozens upon dozens of photographs of the Israeli tourists in question, who no doubt would have received much worse facial and other bodily injuries if they were inside the targeted bus. After all, the severed head of the bomber had been discovered some 60 meters away from the bus and an instant video shows the bus in full flames, ie, impossible for the majority of 42 purported passengers, especially the elderly females seen on stretchers en route to the hospital in various photos, to escape with little or no bodily harm, thus warranting the following 10 questions:

1. Why the amateur video of the bus taken within seconds of the explosion doesn’t show anyone jumping down the bus?
2. Why so many passengers survived with only light hand and foot injuries in an explosion involving (according to the Bulgarian officials) three kilograms of TNT in front of the bus?
3. Why did the Israeli group known as Zakar appear immediately on the site and collected the bodies of the dead, per several images, when this should have been done by Bulgarians? Why was this group at the airport at that time? And where were the Bulgarian security officials during the whole time monopolized by the Zakar individuals (in yellow uniforms)? Indeed, the fact that the Bulgarians allowed the Zakar all over the crime scene and move the dead victims (who were then frisked quickly to Israel) speaks volumes about the travesty of police investigation in Bulgaria.
4. Why did the bomb kill the Israelis sitting in the back of the bus (per reports in the Israeli media) while simultaneously killing the bus driver in the front and leaving the vast majority of bus passengers only lightly harmed?
5. Why have some bus witnesses told the media that they tried to get out through the front door but found it locked and managed to get out through a “hole on the side” when both the videos and reports indicate an instant fire following the explosion engulfing the bus?
6. Why is there no report of any injuries to the bus driver in the next bus, which sustained major damage especially on the driver’s side? Could the bus driver killed be the one in the second bus?
7. Why was there no extra security precaution even though according to the Israeli media prior to the landing of Israeli passengers the tour company had received a call that they would be “greeted with two bombs”?
8. Why was the trunk of the targeted bus empty and no sign of any luggage (per numerous images that also show the inside of the bus and the absence of any section for luggage contrary to the claim of one of the Israeli passengers who is quoted widely)?
9. Why did the passport and license of purported terrorist remain intact despite the raging fire in the bus?
10. Why did Israel rush all the passengers back to Israel early next morning instead of allowing the Bulgarian investigators to interview them? After all, Israel made no similar attempt to protect the lives of thousands of other Israeli tourists vacationing in Burgas, bottom line since it had no real worries about any terrorist attack against them after having pulled off its spectacular ‘false flag’ that must surely be a source of current pride among its Mossad intelligence officials.

Mossad agents must be patting themselves on the shoulder now for a job well-done, but then again their script perhaps was too neatly executed, given Netanyahu’s instant finger toward Hezbollah and Iran, or the widespread use of a replica bus on full flame, which on closer examination shows to be different from the actual targeted bus.

The Israelis have now mastered the art of political manipulation and their latest victory in Bulgaria simply educates us about why they are ahead of the game and keep winning the battle for world public opinion.

Notes:
1. Ten questions on Bulgaria bus attack, Critical Studies, July 31, 2012.

2. See Afrasiabi, Al-Qaeda emerges as Bulgaria bomb suspect, Asia Times Online, July 25, 2012.


Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran’s Foreign Policy (Westview Press) .

December 30, 2017 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Ukraine Hosts US Military to Be Permanently Stationed on Its Soil

By Alex GORKA | Strategic Culture Foundation | 14.08.2017

United States Naval Construction Battalions, better known as the Seabees (C.B. – construction battalion), of the Naval Construction Force held a groundbreaking ceremony for a maritime operations center on Ochakov Naval Base, Ukraine, July 25. According to the Navy.mil, the official website of the US Navy, the maritime operations center is one of three projects that are currently planned to be executed by the Seabees in Ochakov and will serve as a major planning and operational hub during future military exercises hosted by Ukraine. The Seabees arrived in Ochakov in April to establish contracts, obtain construction permits and perform other logistical tasks for the maritime operations center project.

Maritime operations centers are the operational-level warfare command and control organizations designed to deliver flexible maritime capabilities throughout the full range of military operations. The future Seabee projects in Ochakov include a boat maintenance facility and entry control points with perimeter fencing.

«Our ability to maximize European reassurance initiatives in Ukraine holds strategic importance, and will ultimately improve host nation defense capacity and infrastructure, strengthen relations, and increase bilateral training capabilities», said Lt. j.g. Jason McGee, officer in charge of Det. Ukraine.

In July, several US missile warships, including the USS Hue City Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser and the USS Carney Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, a P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft and a Navy SEALs team took part in the 12-day Sea Breeze 2017 NATO naval exercise held in the northwestern part of the Black Sea, near the port city of Odessa. 17 nations took part in the training event.

The drills were conducted in the ‘free game’ format in the Odessa and Nikolayev regions and the northwestern areas of the Black Sea. The practice scenarios cover amphibious warfare. The only country the forces could be training to assault is Russia.

During the exercise, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made his first visit to Ukraine (July 9) to demonstrate the political support of Kiev’s policy aimed at integration with the United States and NATO. He was accompanied by Kurt Volker, the newly appointed US Special Representative to the Minsk peace process, who is known as a hawk against Moscow.

The US political support is not gratuitous. In late June, the Ukrainian government took a decision to buy American coal from Pennsylvania, which is said to be almost twice as expensive as locally sourced in the Donbass – Ukraine’s traditional supplier of energy needs.

In July, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed the Law of Ukraine «On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine Regarding the Foreign Policy of Ukraine», which determines membership of the Alliance as one of the country’s foreign policy priorities. Poroshenko said that a referendum on NATO membership would be held by 2020.

Ukraine takes part in a host of NATO exercises: Operation Fearless Guardian, Exercise Sea Breeze, Saber Guardian/Rapid Trident, Safe Skies and Combined Resolve. It became the first non-member country to contribute its troops to the NATO Response Force.

On June 8, Ukraine’s parliament adopted a bill called «On Amending Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine (on Foreign Policy Course of Ukraine), setting NATO membership as Ukraine’s foreign policy goal, replacing the country’s non-aligned status.

The United States will deliver lethal weapons to Ukraine. The Joint Staff is working with US European Command to determine what the lethal defensive aid to Ukraine would look like. The House version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) cuts military aid to Ukraine from the initial $300 million to $150 million, but it provides permission for lethal arms supplies. The idea is strongly supported in the Senate. If the legislation goes through, the weapons could be legally sent to Ukraine starting October 1. The money could be used to deliver over 900 FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles designed to strike armored vehicles, fortified ground installations and low flying aerial targets at a distance of 50-2,500 meters.

Former President Barack Obama was unconvinced that granting Ukraine lethal defensive weapons would be the right decision in view of corruption widespread in Ukraine. Skepticism about sending weapons to Ukraine is common in Europe. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier opposed the idea. NATO Military Committee Chairman Petr Pavel has spoken against lethal arms deliveries to Kiev.

A recently published RAND study says that the country faces deeply embedded problems which cannot easily be solved by foreign-provided assistance.

A US military facility near Russia’s borders is a very serious threat to regional security. The Black Sea region is turning into a hot spot. US destroyers and cruisers visit the Black Sea regularly to provide NATO with long-range first strike capability. The Romania-based Aegis Ashore BMD system uses the Mk-41 launcher capable of firing Tomahawk long-range precision-guided missiles against land assets.

Romania has worked energetically to increase US and NATO force presence in the region. The US has recently taken the decision to send an additional 500 forces to the Romanian Mihail Kogalniceanu (MK) forward operating base. A brigade-size multinational NATO force is based in Craiova, Romania. Nations which have pledged to contribute include Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey and the United States. The unit is intended to facilitate the deployment of reinforcements. Georgia and Ukraine will be fully involved in the plans.

Romania calls for a regular trilateral format of joint naval exercises in the Black Sea, along with Turkey and Bulgaria, with the eventual participation of non-littoral NATO members.

The United Kingdom has decided to deploy four Typhoon aircraft to Mihail Kogalniceanu in 2017. Deveselu, Romania, is home for Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense site and a target for the Russian military.

Bulgaria has offered to participate in the Multinational Framework Brigade stationed in Romania with 400 troops. In September, about 150 US Marines, part of the Black Sea Rotational Force, are due at Novo Selo, Bulgaria. This will be the first of three six-month rotations of about 150 US Marines, part of the Black Sea Rotational Force. Under the 2006 defense cooperation agreement, the United States has access to three Bulgarian military bases.

The US plans to deploy up to 2,500 troops at Novo Selo; the base can hold as many as 5,000 during joint-nation exercises with NATO allies. The facility’s upgrade is finished to add a helicopter landing zone and an air operations building. The base is expected to host US heavy tanks. A NATO maintenance support area is to be built in Sliven or Plovdiv. This is a serious military build-up turning Bulgaria into springboard to attack Russia or a target for the Russia’s armed forces.

It’s hardly a wise decision to militarize the country against Russia when 80 percent of Bulgarian exports and imports transit the Black Sea and tourism contributes heavily to the country’s economy, increased maritime militarization could have a widespread negative economic impact in case of heightened tensions, accidents or clashes.

Since September, 2016 US and Bulgarian aircraft conduct patrol flights in the Black Sea. The patrolling mission greatly increases the risk of an accident, especially with the Russian S-400 long range systems stationed in Crimea. Russian aircraft deployed in the Northern Caucasus and Rostov region are capable of controlling the whole Black Sea. President Putin has warned NATO about the consequences such a policy would lead to.

Non-Black Sea NATO members cannot stay in the Black Sea for more than 21 days, according to the Montreux Convention. NATO has three members with Black Sea ports in Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, as well as two more aspiring members in Ukraine and Georgia. Bulgarian, Romanian, Ukrainian and Georgian navies have limited capabilities. Handing over to them some of other NATO members’ warships is an option under consideration. The ships could be reflagged to beef up permanent naval capabilities in the theater. US warships frequent the Black Sea to provide NATO with long-range first strike capability.

The Romania-based missile defense system as well as NATO air bases and headquarters will be targeted by Russian Kalibr sea- and air-based medium-range cruise missiles successfully tested in Syria some time ago. The active phase array antenna-based radar, located in Romania, can be countered by Russian ground and air-based electronic warfare systems.

In response to NATO growing presence, Russia has deployed S-400 long-range air-defense systems and Bastion-P (K-300P) anti-ship coastal defense missile systems equipped with Onyx missiles. These Mach 2.6 supersonic missiles are highly maneuverable, difficult to detect and have a range of nearly 300 kilometers. With the help of the Monolith-B radar station, the system is capable of obtaining over-the-horizon target designation many miles beyond the horizon. The long-range cruise missile capable Su-24 supersonic attack aircraft are already deployed in Crimea.

Russia has to react in view of massive militarization of the region against the background of high tensions. An accident may spark a big fire. The US military presence in Ukraine is a highly provocative step, which will very negatively affect the situation. Nothing justifies the whipping up of tensions in the Black Sea region, but the United States keeps on doing it with great vigor.

August 14, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Europe’s United Market is a ‘Project for the Business Establishment’

Sputnik – February 11, 2017

The euro currency is a major factor accelerating the process of economic and political disintegration within the European Union, according to Belgian left politician Peter Mertens.

The European Union is now “disintegrating,” Paul Magnette, Minister-President of the Belgian French-speaking region of Wallonia, said in a recent interview with L’Echo.

“We are nearing a process of political disintegration, with some countries becoming ungovernable,” the politician said.

Magnette also criticized the euro currency as poorly thought-out, which accelerated “social and financial deregulation.”

Magnette has been known as a vocal critic of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a free trade deal between the EU and Canada. In the interview, he also spoke out for withdrawal from the bloc of such countries as Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary, following the Brexit example.

Magnette’s remarks are especially surprising, taking into account the fact that such criticism came from a left-wing and pro-European politician.

Peter Mertens, the leader of the Workers’ Party of Belgium, underscored that in Belgium criticism of the current state of European integration comes from left-wing political forces, not from the right, like in France or in the Netherlands.

“From the very beginning, the euro has been a problem. The currency was designed to serve the interests of Germany, Europe’s strongest economy. It was clear that the European united market was not people’s will. It was a project for the business establishment,” Mertens said in an interview with Sputnik French.

The politician shared Magnette’s suggestion that the eastward expansion of the European Union was not conducted properly.

“In 2007-2008, several Eastern European countries joined the EU. The main reason was that German companies were looking for a cheap labor force. At the same time, it was clear that such countries as Bulgaria and Romania were not as economically developed as Central Europe. As a result, now there are two polarities in the EU, between the north and the south and between the west and the east,” Mertens pointed out.

He also agreed with Magnette that the introduction of the euro only deepened the social and economic divisions within the EU.

“In my opinion, the euro currency system was built under Germany’s surveillance. And I think that to a certain extent the current EU is autocratic and authoritarian,” he said.

Nevertheless, Mertens warned that a withdrawal of Eastern European countries from the EU would not resolve the crisis.

“We should not forget that we need to protect those countries. Now, some political forces call for cooperation only with economically developed countries. But we should continue our cooperation with Poland and other Eastern European countries,” he said.

Mertens also said that criticism of the European Union should not be monopolized by right-wing political movements.

“These concerns [about the crisis in the EU] can be expressed in many ways. For example, criticism can be expressed by the nationalists or the far-rights, like in France and the Netherlands. But it can also come from the left, like in Spain or Wallonia. The common idea is that the current political elites do not represent their people anymore,” Mertens concluded.

February 11, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | 3 Comments

Exercise Sea Shield-2017: NATO Provokes Russia in Black Sea Before Defense Ministers’ Meeting

By Alex GORKA | Strategic Culture Foundation | 10.02.2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered snap drills to be held by the Aerospace Forces and other branches to evaluate its preparedness against potential aggression. The exercise started on February 7.

Some Western media have accused Moscow of preparing to start an aggression. In reality, the action is taken in response to NATO and Ukraine’s provocative activities in the Black Sea. 16 warships, a submarine and 10 warplanes along with some 2,800 troops from Ukraine, Romania, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, Canada, and the US are taking part in exercise ‘Sea Shield 2017’ scheduled to run between February 1 and 11 in the proximity of Russian borders.

HMS Diamond of the UK Royal Navy is sent to participate in the event. It’s a rather symbolic move. This is the first time since the Cold War that a British naval vessel entered the waters of the Black Sea. According to British Defense Minister Michael Fallon, this is the way that the British government confirms its support of Ukraine – a hostile act towards Russia. After the NATO exercise, the ship will visit Odessa to hold bilateral drills with Ukraine. The destroyer has 60 Special Boat Service and Royal Marine commandos on board. It’s logical to expect amphibious landing to be part of the exercise.

According to the Daily Mail, HMS Diamond will lead a NATO task force and help protect 650 British troops who are involved in secret exercises in Ukraine. There is ground to believe that something is cooking up.

NATO defense ministers will meet February 15-16 in Brussels to discuss a package of measures aimed at bolstering military presence in the Black Sea. The proposals on two basic elements for the maritime component – a strengthened training framework and a coordination body for the Black Sea that reports to the specialized NATO command – are expected to be submitted for consideration.

The organization plans to build NATO’s Black Sea presence on land around a Romanian-led multinational framework brigade in the process of formation. Nations who have pledged to contribute include Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey and the United States. The unit is intended to facilitate the deployment of reinforcements. Georgia and Ukraine will be fully involved in the plans.

Romania calls for a regular trilateral format of joint naval exercises in the Black Sea, along with Turkey and Bulgaria, with the eventual participation of non-littoral NATO members.

The UK, Canada and Poland will send aircraft to be based in the Romanian southeastern Mihail Kogalniceanu air base. Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey are also expected to come forward with a plan to increase naval and air patrols. Romania and Bulgaria will host aircraft designed to carry out surveillance missions.

Last September, US and Bulgarian aircraft launched joint regular patrols in the Black Sea. The patrolling mission greatly increases the risk of an accident, especially with the Russian S-400 long range systems stationed in Crimea. Russian aircraft deployed in the Northern Caucasus and Rostov region are capable of controlling the whole Black Sea. President Putin has already warned NATO about the consequences such policy would lead to.

There has been a surge in airspace violations and instances where aircraft are scrambled to intercept foreign jets amid a sharp rise in tensions in the region. For instance, Sea Shield-2017 exercise started with an incident. Ukraine accused Russia of firing at its An-26 cargo aircraft on a training flight. The plane flew provocatively low over an oil rig. A security guard gave flash signals from a signal pistol to prevent the plane from crashing into the drilling tower.

Non-Black Sea NATO members cannot stay in the Black Sea more than 21 days, according to the Montreux Convention. NATO has three members with Black Sea ports in Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, as well as two more aspiring members in Ukraine and Georgia.

Bulgarian, Romanian, Ukrainian and Georgian navies have limited capabilities. It brings to the fore the possibility of major NATO sea powers handing over some of their own warships to them. The ships could be reflagged to beef up permanent naval capabilities in the theater. US warships frequent the Black Sea to provide NATO with long-range first strike capability.

Romania hosts a ballistic missile defense (BMD) site believed to be capable of launching long-range surface-to-surface cruise missiles in what constitutes a violation of INF Treaty. Aegis Ashore uses the naval Mk-41 launching system capable of firing such weapons. Located near Caracal in south central Romania, Aegis Ashore is part of the second phase of the so-called «European Phased Adaptive Approach» (EPAA) to an overall NATO missile defense architecture.

Bulgaria also plays a prominent role in NATO’s plans to bolster the bloc’s military presence in the region. This year, Novo Selo, a US military base in Bulgaria, is expected to host more American and NATO troops. The first of three six-month rotations of about 150 US Marines, part of the Black Sea Rotational Force, is due at Novo Selo in September. US Army soldiers come to Bulgaria for training on a rotational basis. Under the 2006 defense cooperation agreement, the United States has access to three Bulgarian military bases.

The US plans to deploy up to 2,500 troops at Novo Selo; the base can hold as many as 5,000 during joint-nation exercises with NATO allies. The facility’s construction is almost finished; the plans are on the way to upgrade the training ranges this year. The upgrade includes adding a helicopter landing zone and an air operations building. The base is expected to host US heavy tanks. A NATO maintenance support area is to be built in Sliven or Plovdiv.

For the US, the Black Sea is a remote region where it has no interest. It’s different for Bulgaria as 80 percent of Bulgarian exports and imports transit the Black Sea and tourism contributes heavily to the country’s economy, increased maritime militarization could have a widespread negative economic impact in case of accidents or clashes.

Nothing justifies the whipping up of tensions by NATO in the Black Sea region. Too provocative and too dangerous. An incident may spark a fire. The INCSEA agreement appears to be dead as the events in the Baltic Sea demonstrate.

While the Islamic State poses a threat to the very existence of NATO members, the alliance is engaged in provocations to intimidate Russia – its natural ally in the fight against the common enemy. Does it meet the interests of the alliance members? It would stand NATO defense chiefs in good stead if they asked themselves this question at the February 15-16 meeting.

February 10, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

15 European leaders call for new arms deal with Russia

RT | November 26, 2016

Fifteen European countries, headed by Germany, have issued a statement pushing for the reopening of “a new structured dialogue” with Russia aimed at preventing a possible arms race in Europe, according to the German foreign minister.

The countries, all belonging to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), have expressed their deep concern over the current situation in Europe and support the relaunch of a conventional arms treaty with Russia, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Die Welt newspaper in an interview published on Friday.

“Europe’s security is in danger. As difficult as ties to Russia may currently be, we need more dialogue, not less,” Steinmeier said.

The ongoing conflict in the Eastern Ukraine and the fact that Crimea joined Russia in 2014, a move most often dubbed as “annexation” by western officials, have put the question of war in Europe back on the table, Steinmeier continued. Fragile trust between Russia and European countries has suffered a significant setback and a “new armament spiral” is hanging over the continent, the foreign minister warned.

The statement contains strong anti-Russian rhetoric, blaming Moscow for violating arms deals as far back as 1990.

“The Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, which led to the destruction of tens of thousands of heavy weapon systems in Europe in the years following 1990, is no longer being implemented by the Russian Federation,” the statement said.

Russia put its participation in the treaty on hold in 2007 and then fully walked out of it last year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the suspension of the treaty following a US decision to locate missile defense facilitates in the neighbouring Czech Republic and Poland. On top of that, President Putin noted that some of the NATO members did not join or ratify the treaty and there was no point in Russia abiding by the agreement.

Later Putin signed a decree suspending the treaty due to “extraordinary circumstances … which affect the security of the Russian Federation and require immediate measures,” having notified NATO and its members of the decision.

Since then NATO has taken no steps to upgrade the treaty, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in September, 2016, adding that Moscow is ready for dialogue on the subject. However, it is not planning to be the one to initiate it.

The statement names a number of other documents that need to be overviewed, including the OSCE’s Vienna document, stipulating the exchange of information on military movements, and the Open Skies treaty, enabling the monitoring of other countries’ ground forces. The documents are either neglected or in need of modernization.

The countries that spoke in favor of Steinmeier’s initiative include France, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Sweden, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Portugal.

The group of the European foreign ministers is planning to meet again on the sidelines of a OSCE meeting in Hamburg on December, 8-9.

November 26, 2016 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Euro-Atlanticist course fails in Bulgaria

Katehon | 14.11.2016

In Bulgaria, the country’s first direct elections in the second round of presidential elections were won by the candidate who has been called pro-Russian. General Rumen Radev won the overwhelming majority of votes.

A former chief of the Bulgarian Air Force and the presidential candidate of the Socialist Party, General Rumen Radev emphasizes his independence from both Russia and the United States. Before the second round of the elections, he said: “Until recently, I was flying a Soviet-made fighter. I am a graduate of a US military academy, but I am a citizen of Bulgaria, and Bulgaria is my main priority.”

Despite the fact that he is called the pro-Russian candidate due to his policy of lifting the anti-Russian sanctions, reality is different. Moreover, Radev supports his country gaining NATO membership and continuing close ties with the West. However, he is certainly a more advantageous president for Moscow than Tsetska Tsacheva, who represented the ruling liberals.

In Bulgaria, the president does not play a serious role. However, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov announced his resignation and the dissolution of the government over the defeat of their candidate. He stressed that he would be going into the opposition and that “there will no longer be any compromises.” The current president, Rosen Plevneliev, began to make quite sharp anti-Russian statements several days before the election.

It is premature to expect any major changes before the new government is formed. But many agree that relations with Moscow will actually significantly improve even if the new president does not initiate the lifting of the EU sanctions against Russia.

In addition, the socialist Radev’s victory comes alongside the victory of the socialist Dodon in Moldova and, of course, against the backdrop of the high-profile election results in the US. Taken together, all of these new elections and their results allow one to speak of impending global changes across the whole world.

November 14, 2016 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Trump effect’ divides European opinion

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | November 14, 2016

The results of the two presidential elections held on Sunday in Bulgaria and Moldova underscore the winds of change blowing over the western edges of Eurasia. To an extent they can be called the early signs of the ‘Trump effect’. In both elections, ‘pro-Russian’ candidates won convincingly. (here and here)

In both cases, the contestation essentially boiled down to whether Bulgaria and Moldova would be better off casting their lot with the European Union or whether they need to realign with Russia. The answer is clear.

The open-ended quest for EU membership no longer holds attraction for Moldova, whereas, Bulgaria appears to be disheartened with its EU membership. On the other hand, Russia is real and it is next-door. The election results yesterday constitute a blow to the EU’s prestige. Indeed, Moscow’s influence is spreading in Eastern Europe.

This is also a swing to the Left in political terms. There is much discontent with ‘reforms’, rampant corruption, etc. in both countries. The Russophile sentiment is very substantial, and there is eagerness to boost trade with Russia to overcome economic difficulties. Also, the local partisans of the West and EU stand discredited in both countries.

In Moldova, only around 30% of population find EU attractive, while 44% would support their country joining the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union. Curiously, 66% of Moldovans trust Vladimir Putin; in comparison, only 22% place trust in Barack Obama’s words.

Against the backdrop of the election victory of Donald Trump in the US, how these trends are going to play out will be interesting to watch. Bulgaria’s president-elect Rumen Radev has called for an end to the EU sanctions against Russia. He argues that Sofia should be pragmatic in its approach to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. (This is notwithstanding Bulgaria’s long history of divided loyalties between Russia and Europe.)

The Obama administration in its lame duck phase will endeavour to pressure the EU to extend the sanctions against Russia for yet another 6-month period beyond December. But will Trump follow Obama’s footfalls when the issue crops up again toward the middle of next year? He is unlikely to show Obama’s messianic zeal to ‘contain’ Russia. That is how the EU consensus on sanctions against Russia can break down because many countries in Europe resent the American pressure and prefer to restore trade and economic ties with Russia.

Interestingly, Trump may get resonance in Old Europe as well. The Labour leader in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn made a stunning call in the weekend for Western leaders to ‘demilitarize’ the border between Eastern Europe and Russia or risk a New Cold War. He said the West didn’t have to pile up forces on Russia’s border. Corbyn told the BBC:

I have many, many criticisms of Putin, of the human rights abuses in Russia, of the militarisation of society. But I do think there has to be a process that we try –demilitarise the border between what are now the NATO states and Russia, so that we drive apart those forces and keep them further apart in order to bring about some kind of accommodation. We can’t descend into a new Cold War.

Corbyn also made a thoughtful suggestion that that the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which includes Russia, could replace NATO as a forum for solving issues in the region.

Indeed, some churning has already begun regarding European security even before Trump takes over in the Oval Office. By the way, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Sunday that American statements about possible deployment of a U.S. global missile shield’s radar in the Czech Republic are pure fiction.

He said, “A radar in the Czech territory would mean further escalation in relations with Russia. We need to use the window opening after Donald Trump’s election to have the United States and Russia sit down at one table.” Sobotka pointed out that Eastern Europe’s main security problem today is about putting an end to the war in Syria.

“The United States has considerable influence on the situation in Syria, Russia has considerable influence. So, it is necessary to use this,” he said, adding that Donald Trump can establish more efficient cooperation with Russia on Syria.

However, the fact of the matter is that neither has Trump taken his position yet on NATO nor is it going to be easy for him to seek a separation for America from the western alliance. Simply put, Europe is not ready for a post-NATO future. There is palpable fear in many quarters (both in the US and in Europe) that if the US were to withdraw from Europe, Russia would advance and exercise more assertive behaviour in Eastern Europe.

In an article in the weekend, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg made an impassioned appeal to Trump that now is not the time for the US to abandon NATO. He pointedly invoked the threat perceptions from “a more assertive” Russia. Read the opinion piece here.

The bottom line is that European opinion stands divided. Britain, France and Hungary refused to attend a contentious EU ministerial meeting last night in Brussels, backed by Germany, to align the bloc’s approach to Trump’s election. The rift within the EU on the US vote stands exposed. The irrepressible British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has publicly chided EU politicians to end their ‘whinge-o-rama’ over Trump. (Daily Mail )

Interestingly, the first politician from abroad whom Trump met after the election has been Nigel Farage, the populist Brexit campaigner.

November 14, 2016 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment