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‘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

Russia Pushes Back on NATO Expansion

By Natylie Baldwin | Consortium News | July 9, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Economic Conditions in the Balkans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russia’s Opening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Omar Nayef Zayed assassinated in Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria

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UPDATE/11:44 am/26 February: Bulgarian media and police sources are reporting that Omar was killed by falling from a high story of the building. They have noted that him being pushed is “not excluded.”  “Israeli media have been the first to report explicitly that Omar was ‘assassinated.’ This comes as no surprise. They’re simply the most knowledgeable and honest about the workings of their government and its intelligence agencies,” said Joe Catron of Samidoun.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network | February 26, 2016

Omar Nayef Zayed, a former Palestinian political prisoner and escaped hunger striker whose extradition from Bulgaria Israel demanded in December, was found dead this morning inside the Palestinian embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he had sought refuge.

“Omar Nayef Zayed was targeted as a Palestinian, as a struggler, as a former political prisoner,” Charlotte Kates, international coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, said. “His case, his targeting and his assassination were an attempt to demonstrate that no Palestinian anywhere is safe from the long arms of the Israeli occupation. This is clearly a threat to all Palestinians – especially former prisoners and veterans of the struggle in Europe. We are committed to stand with the family of Omar Nayef Zayed to pursue accountability for those responsible for taking his life and to build the movement for which his life was taken – for a free Palestine.”

The precise physical cause of Omar’s death is not yet clear, but it is clear that the cause of his death is the Israeli state’s vengeance against a Palestinian struggler committed to live free for himself and for all of his fellow Palestinians. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network demands an independent autopsy of Omar’s body and a full investigation by Bulgarian and Palestinian officials into the death of Omar. We demand that all those responsible for the targeting of Omar Nayef Zayed and the taking of his life be held fully accountable.

“We hold Israel and its intelligence services, the Palestinian Authority and the Bulgarian government responsible for the killing of Omar Nayef Zayed, whose life was taken as he lived his life, in the struggle for freedom for Palestine,” Mohammed Khatib, a Brussels, Belgium-based member of Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, said.  “He was assassinated; he was not protected; and he was constantly threatened and pursued.  The Israeli intelligence services have a long history of pursuing and assassinating Palestinians around the world – especially in Europe – targeting young leaders and veteran resisters for assassination and elimination. This outrageous crime happened inside the Palestinian embassy, inside Bulgaria. The killers and those who made this killing possible must be held accountable.”

Zayed, 52, was born in Jenin, in Palestine’s West Bank. He was arrested by occupation forces in May 1986 and sentenced to life imprisonment. After a 40 day hunger strike in 1990, he was transferred to a hospital in Bethlehem where he escaped in May, disappeared and left Palestine.

In 1994, he traveled to Bulgaria. Omar married a Bulgarian citizen and has Bulgarian children; he runs a Palestinian grocery and is well-known in the Palestinian community of Sofia.

On Tuesday, 15 December, the Israeli embassy sent a letter to the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice demanding the extradition of Omar Nayef Zayed, labeling him a “fugitive from justice.”

Omar’s home was raided on Thursday, 17 December. He was not home and his son was arrested for one day. The Bulgarian prosecutor was quoted in Arabic media calling for his imprisonment and quick extradition to Tel Aviv.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes and mourns Omar Nayef Zayed, a former Palestinian political prisoner who struggled all his life for the freedom of Palestine and the Palestinian people. We extend our deepest condolences to the family of Omar Nayef Zayed, in Palestine, in Bulgaria and everywhere, and to the entire movement for the liberation of Palestine,  which has had a loving father and husband and a committed struggler for a free Palestine taken away at the hands of those who would see Palestine, and its people, forever imprisoned.  We are committed to working in all ways to hold those responsible for his death fully accountable for this vicious crime against the Palestinian people, and to struggle for the freedom – of Palestinian prisoners and of Palestine itself – which Omar Nayef Zayed held so dear.

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bulgaria closes busy border crossing with Turkey

Press TV – December 13, 2015

Bulgaria has shut its busy border crossing with Turkey, which is known for notorious activities of human trafficking and smuggling.

The busy Bulgaria-Turkey border crossing at Kapitan Andreevo, which is an important point of entrance to the European Union, would remain closed until further notice.

The closure came after Bulgaria detained some 14 customs officials in an anti-corruption raid on Sunday.

“All customs officers from the morning shift, who control the entries into Bulgaria at the Kapitan Andreevo (border checkpoint) were detained within a probe against contraband,” Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) quoted Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov as saying.

“We apologize to travelers” over the closure, the prosecutor added.

Media reports indicated that a queue of a dozen kilometers long of trucks, waiting to enter Bulgaria, had formed on the Turkish side.

According to Tsatsarov, State Agency for National Security (SANS) conducted about 100 raids in five towns close to the border.

Kapitan Andreevo is the largest and busiest border checkpoint in the Balkans. The crossing is also considered a major crossing point on the route between Europe and the Middle East.

In recent years, Bulgaria has deported hundreds of refugees at its border with Turkey as the poorest country of the European Union grapples with a sharp rise in the number of refugees from non-EU states.

The developments also come as European countries reportedly remain divided over how to deal with refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict-hit zones in the Middle East and Africa.

The influx of asylum seekers into Europe has sparked pro- and anti-refugee sentiments across the continent.

Leader of several Balkan countries have repeatedly threatened to shut their borders if their northern European Union neighbors refuse to accept refugees.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov recently announced that Balkan nations desired a Europe-wide solution to the crisis, but would not become a “buffer zone” for the tens of thousands of newly-arriving refugees.

Sofia has already started mobilizing hundreds of forces to its border with Turkey to stop trespassing refugees amid ongoing measures elsewhere across Europe to counter the influx.

According to the recent figures released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over 924,140 refugees have reached Europe’s shores so far this year while more than 3,670 people have either died or gone missing in their perilous journey to the continent.

December 13, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , | 1 Comment