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Sputnik Estonia Journalists to Terminate Employment Over Threats – Rossiya Segodnya

Sputnik – December 31, 2019

Sputnik Estonia journalists are forced to terminate their employment starting January 1, 2020, over a fear of criminal prosecution in the country, Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency said, slamming the Estonian government’s pressure on the journalists as a totalitarian campaign violating the freedom of speech.

“Due to the threat of criminal prosecution by the Estonian authorities under an article envisioning up to five years of imprisonment, Sputnik Estonia employees have been forced to make a decision to terminate their employment with the agency starting January 1, 2020. Sputnik Estonia and Rossiya Segodnya support this decision of their employees”, Rossiya Segodnya said in a statement, adding that it does not find it possible to put the journalists’ freedom at risk.

“We consider the Estonian regime’s actions targeting the citizens of our country as overt bullying, lawlessness, a manifestation of totalitarianism and a gross violation of the principles of freedom of speech, which has no precedents in the European Union. The only thing the journalists are ‘guilty’ of is working for a Russian media outlet,” the agency added.

Harlem Desir, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s representative on freedom of the media, has already said that EU sanctions on Dmitry Kiselev cannot be extended on Sputnik Estonia journalists, the news agency added.

“We will take all the necessary steps, legal and others, to enable Sputnik journalists to work without fear of criminal prosecution by Estonian security structures”, Rossiya Segodnya said, adding that the operation of the Sputnik Estonia website will be resumed later, although it will take time.

The information agency called on all the international and European organisations to express their position regarding Tallinn’s steps, and thanked global politicians and journalists for their support.

The Estonian Police and Border Guard Board warned Sputnik Estonia earlier in December that its journalists could face criminal prosecution unless they severed their ties with the Moscow-based parent news agency, Rossiya Segodnya, by 1 January. The Estonian authorities cited the 2014 European Union’s sanctions, imposed on a range of entities and persons in light of the events in Ukraine, as a pretext for the possible legal action.

December 31, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | | Leave a comment

Journalist groups call to protect Sputnik reporters from police harassment in Estonia

RT | December 20, 2019

The International Federation of Journalists urged Estonian authorities to stop threatening journalists working for Russian news media Sputnik Estonia with criminal prosecution over EU sanctions on Russia’s media chief.

“Media professionals should be allowed to freely carry out their duties, without threats from higher authorities,” IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said while commenting on the harassment of Sputnik journalists by Estonian police. At the same time, the organization’s Vice President Timur Shafir stressed that the threat of criminal proceedings “goes beyond all existing norms,” especially taking into account the fact that the majority of Sputnik Estonia office employees are Estonian citizens.

Sputnik Estonia’s editor-in-chief Elena Chernysheva said that journalists have been receiving letters from the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of Estonian Police and Border Guard Board, in which they were threatened with “criminal liability” unless they cut work ties with the Russian state-owned media agency Rossiya Segodnya, Sputnik’s parent company, by January 1.

“In other words, they want to jail us for simply working for Russian state-owned media.”

The head of the FIU, which primarily deals with money laundering, Madis Reimand, confirmed that the journalists were getting “notices” because Rossiya Segodnya’s chief Dmitry Kiselyov is currently under EU sanctions.

Reimand told Estonian ERR media company that sanctions against Kiselyov mean that certain individuals “are banned from working for him,” even if they have not been placed on a sanctions list themselves.

Rossiya Segodnya reported earlier that several foreign banks, operating in Estonia, have unexpectedly frozen transfers of money used to pay taxes and rent for Sputnik’s office in the country. The transfers of salaries to employees, the vast majority of whom are Estonian nationals, have also been frozen.

The company argues that Sputnik itself is not subjected to any sanctions. Sputnik and RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan has already asked the Estonian president to not allow the journalists to be arrested.

A veteran journalist and media producer, Kiselyov, was sanctioned in 2014 after Crimea voted to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia. He blasted the sanctions as “a shame for the European Union” and argued that they “can be equated to the sanctions against the freedom of speech.”

Secretary General of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) Ricardo Gutierrez told RIA Novosti that Estonia’s actions are based on “an excessive interpretation of the European sanctions” and is “absolutely unacceptable.” He added that the actions of authorities lack transparency and “remain unclear.”

“The EFJ urges the Estonian authorities to reconsider applying restrictive and selective measures to foreign journalists working in Estonia.”

On Friday, Valery Fadeyev, the head of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights called the situation around Sputnik Estonia “highly disturbing.” He sent letters to the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic asking both to investigate the case.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Stephane Dujarric, said that he is looking into the case.

During a Q&A session on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned Estonia for pressuring Sputnik. They are “afraid of the truth you are telling your viewers and listeners,” he told reporters.

December 21, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | | Leave a comment

International Federation of Journalists Says Concerned Over Threats to Sputnik Estonia

Sputnik – December 20, 2019

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expressed concern over the threats, received by employees of Sputnik Estonia, and called on Tallinn to respect freedom of media.

On Wednesday, the Rossiya Segodnya International News Agency said that employees of Sputnik Estonia had received letters from the Baltic country’s Police and Border Guard Board that warned they would face criminal prosecution unless they stopped working for the news agency by 1 January. The Estonian authorities cited the 2014 EU sanctions as a pretext for possible legal action. Sputnik and RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan has already asked Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid to not allow the journalists to be arrested.

“We are concerned by the current situation of Sputnik journalist in Estonia. Media professionals should be allowed to freely carry out their duties, without threats from higher authorities. We call on the Estonian government to respect press freedom, regardless of the journalists’ nationality,” IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said on late Thursday.

IFJ Vice President and Russian Union of Journalists’ Executive Secretary Timur Shafir described the threats to employees of Sputnik Estonia as a violation of the journalists’ rights and freedom of speech.

“The Estonian Police and Border Guard Board actions are a gross violation of the journalists’ rights and freedom of speech. The threat of criminal proceedings only for the fact of cooperation with the Russian media goes beyond all existing norms. What is particularly surprising is the fact that the majority of Sputnik Estonia office employees are Estonian citizens, so we can observe that the government applies repressive actions not only to the Russian media, but also to Estonians,” Shafir noted.

The situation was condemned by the Russian Foreign Ministry, which called it outrageous and called on international organizations and rights groups to react immediately.

According to Rossiya Segodnya, which Sputnik is a part of, the news agency is planning to urge the United Nations; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe; Council of Europe; and European Court of Human Rights to address this unprecedented violation of the right to free speech and take measures to protect the right of journalists to work in their professional capacity.

Russian media in Estonia and its two Baltic neighbors have been frequently targeted by authorities. The Russian Foreign Ministry has accused the three nations of a coordinated crackdown on media, which is not in line with the principle of freedom of expression.

December 20, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 1 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

NATO troops head for Poland ‘to deter Russian offensive actions’

RT | March 25, 2017

At least 1,350 American, British and Romanian soldiers have been sent to Poland from a base in Germany. US commanders said that the troops were ready “to deter Russian aggressive actions.”

The US, British and Romanian soldiers left the Rose Barracks military base in Vilseck, western Germany, for Poland where they are expected take part in NATO’s mission. The troops are “fully prepared to deter Russian offensive actions,” US Colonel Patrick Ellis said at the departure ceremony on Saturday.

“As a result of Russia’s aggressive actions and in light of the changing and evolving security environment, at the Warsaw summit in July 2016 NATO members agreed to strengthen our deterrence and defensive posture,” US Major General Timothy P. McGuire said.

The NATO group is to be stationed in the town of Orzysz, 220 kilometers northeast of the capital, Warsaw, according to Reuters.

NATO troops in Estonia

Also on Saturday, NATO’s heavy armored vehicles of the French armed forces were delivered to Estonia, according to a video published by the General Staff of the Estonian Defense Forces.

France’s heavy armored vehicles include Leclerc tanks and VBCI infantry fighting vehicles, as well as dozens of VAB armored vehicles, a spokesman of the 1st Infantry Brigade said, according to the Kuulutaja newspaper.

The UK is to deliver Challenger 2, Titan and Trojan tanks to Estonia as well as self-propelled artillery mounts AS90, Warrior infantry fighting vehicles and reconnaissance drones, he added.

The battalion will be stationed in the military town of Tapa and will interact with the first infantry brigade of the Estonian Defense Forces.

The alignment of forces in Estonia is planned to finish in early April. By that time, Estonia is to host 800 soldiers from the UK and around 300 soldiers from France. The French group is to spend some eight months in the Baltic country. After that, Danish soldiers are expected to replace them.

NATO leaders agreed to deploy four multinational battalions to Poland as well as Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia on July 8 at the summit in Warsaw.

Russia has repeatedly criticized NATO’s military buildup along its borders, seen as a threat to national security.

In February, Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed NATO for provoking a conflict with Moscow and using its “newly-declared official mission to deter Russia” as a pretext.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference in February, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that “NATO’s expansion has led to an unprecedented level of tension over the last 30 years in Europe.”

Moscow has condemned the new US ground-based missile defense system in Eastern Europe and increased presence of NATO vessels in the Black Sea.

March 25, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NATO’s scaremongering about ‘Russia threat’ to Baltic States ‘is all about money’

RT | March 2, 2017

The US security establishment is trying to justify its existence, says Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Peace Institute, commenting on a new report which lists how NATO can help the Baltic States counter Russian ‘hybrid warfare.’

The American global policy think-tank, the RAND Corporation, published a report that claims NATO should do more to counter the potential Russian threat and strengthen the Baltic countries’ forces. The US government-funded body issued a report titled “Hybrid Warfare in the Baltics: Threats and Potential Responses.”

The document raises concern over “Russian use of “hybrid warfare” best understood as covert or deniable activities, supported by conventional or nuclear forces, to influence the domestic politics of target countries.”

The author of the report, Andrew Radin claims “these tactics are of particular concern in the Baltic countries of Estonia and Latvia, which have significant Russian-speaking minorities.” He warns that there is concern Russia will seek to use these minorities to gain influence in the region, “use covert action to seize territory, use subversion to justify a conventional attack, or otherwise use deniable or covert means to gain influence in the Baltics and undermine the EU and NATO.”

RT discussed the report with McAdams and asked him why potential “Russian aggression” is in the spotlight again. Is there a real threat?

In his view, what we are seeing is just another example of the national security establishment in the US “having to justify its existence.”

“The report itself outlines many things that NATO has to do to help the Baltics. The Baltics are absolutely irrelevant to the security of NATO. Their only relevance is geographic. They are close to Russia. Therefore, NATO can hold exercises on Russia’s border to provoke Russia. As far as the Baltics, look at Latvia, for example, if it is so concerned about Russian warfare or hybrid warfare, why do they spend 0.9 percent of their GDP on defense? They are clearly not worried. It really is just a ploy to get more free things from NATO. And for NATO to keep itself alive after it should have been shut down,” McAdams said.

In his opinion, “hybrid warfare” – the report refers to – is a term used when there’s no evidence that Russia has done anything wrong.

It was hybrid warfare when Russia “invaded Ukraine.” And that is just because we didn’t see any Russian military in Ukraine. It was hybrid warfare with “the little green men” in Crimea. Well, those little green men in Crimea were already there legally as part of the leased base in Sevastopol. All of these things are made up, it’s part of NATO’s ongoing aggression toward Russia, provocation of Russia and it is desperate to keep itself alive, to keep its budgets rising,” the analyst said. “And sadly, unfortunately, we are seeing that the US president who was rightly critical of NATO, calling it outdated, said in his recent speech to Congress that he loves NATO and thinks it’s great. So, unfortunately, it looks like it is going to be propped up for a while longer. And yes, it is about money,” he added.

March 2, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Germany to help Baltic states establish Russian-language media

Press TV – February 28, 2017

Germany plans to help Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania establish Russian-language media outlets to counter the “disinformation” allegedly being spread by Russian channels broadcasting in the region.

The plan was announced by German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer, RT reported on Tuesday.

The announcement came ahead of German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel’s trip to the Baltic states and Sweden, which is due to take place this week.

“During his trip, Mr. Gabriel will also employ what we already started last year in the Baltic states, which is — as we say in new German — handling Russian ‘fake news’ together with appropriate partners,” Schaefer said on Monday.

He added that the main goal of the initiative was to launch Russian-language radio and TV channels, which will be “attractive to Russian speakers living in the three Baltic states” in order to produce news “in a different way” from the Russian media.

The United States, too, recently announced plans to launch a Russian-language television news channel. The US has long accused Russian media of propagating “fake news.” Such allegations have also been leveled by European governments, which are concerned about alleged Russian attempts to influence their elections in much the same way as the US has said Moscow influenced its recent presidential vote.

Western ties with Russia have plummeted significantly in recent years, particularly following Crimea’s separation from Ukraine and reunification with the Russian Federation after a referendum not authorized by Kiev.

Military build-ups close to the Russian borders, including in the Baltic countries, have also been a major source of tension.

February 28, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Putin’s “Threats” to the Baltics: a Myth to Promote NATO Unity

By GARY LEUPP | Defend Democracy Press | July 13, 2016

In his book 2017: War with Russia published a few months ago, former deputy commander of NATO Sir Alexander Richard Shirreff predicts that to prevent NATO expansion Russia will annex eastern Ukraine and invade the Baltic state of Latvia in May 2017. Most dismiss the book as sensationalist fantasy, but it draws attention to the fact that NATO is in fact aggressively expanding, and holding large-scale war games in Romania, Lithuania, and Poland, and Russia is truly concerned.

Why Latvia? Shirreff is not alone in trying to depict Latvia and the other Baltic states (Estonia and Lithuania) as immanently threatened by Russia. The stoking of Baltic fears of such are a principle justification for NATO expansion.

The argument begins with the assertion that Vladimir Putin (conflated with Russia itself, as though he were an absolute leader, a second Stalin) wants to revive the Soviet Union. His occasional comment that the collapse of the USSR was a “catastrophe” is repeatedly cited, totally out of context, as proof of this expansionist impulse. It continues with the observation that there has been tension between Russia and the Baltic states since their independence in 1991. And while Russia has never threatened the Baltic states with invasion or re-incorporation, the fear mongers like to conjure up Sir Richard’s World War III scenario.

So it’s not difficult to understand why NATO, in its largest war games since the end of the Cold War, would choose Poland, which borders both Russia (the Kaliningrad enclave) and Lithuania, as their setting. Dubbed Anaconda-2016, the ten-day exercise involves 31,000 troops from 24 countries including non-NATO members Kosovo, Macedonia and Finland. Germany, whose foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has actually criticized the exercise as “saber-rattling and warmongering,” has sent 400 military engineers but no combat troops.

This follows the June announcement that NATO would deploy four multinational battalions (about 4000 troops) in the Baltic states and Poland to “bolster their defenses against Russia.” The idea is that Russian actions in Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine since 2014 show that Russia poses a grave threat to European security.

It doesn’t actually. Its military budget is one-twelfth of NATO’s. It has no motive. Russia has responded to the unrelenting expansion of NATO to encompass it with stern words and defensive military measures but calm and ongoing appeals for cooperation with nations it (despite everything) continues to refer to as “our partners.”

But since the Baltics have become the focus of (supposed) NATO-Russian contestation, let’s look at what the problem is all about.

The three states were part of the Russian Empire under the tsars from the 18th century up to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. While most of the component parts of that empire soon became Soviet Socialist Republics (such as Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan etc.), others, including Poland, Finland and the Baltic states gained their independence at that time.

But in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, there remained large ethnic Russian, and Russian-speaking minorities, as there are today. In 1940 the Soviet army invaded these countries and incorporated them into the USSR. This was part of a strategy to avoid German invasion through the signing of the “Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact” that also meant the temporary division of Poland. (We can criticize this, as I surely do, but that’s the history.) A year later the Nazis invaded the Baltic republics and the Soviet Union as a whole. But the Soviets won the war, and the Baltics remained Soviet up to 1991.

The Baltic states, never truly happy campers in the Soviet Union, initiated the breakup of the country when, from June 1987, protests in Latvia and Estonia led to demands for secession, which the USSR recognized in September 1991. These demands for independence were generally supported by ethnic Russians in the republics. They no doubt expected that they would retain their longstanding linguistic rights.

(This issue of language rights is a huge problem in the former Soviet republics, including especially Ukraine. But it is little understood nor appreciated by U.S.opinion-makers, especially U.S. State Department officials and their media echo chamber.)

Today the Baltic republics have a population of a little over six million, including about one million ethnic Russians. The Russian figure has declined by about one-third since 1991. It is currently lowest in Lithuania (6 to 14%), and 24-30% in the other states.

The restoration of independence produced a wave of nationalist sentiment that included an attack on existing rights of ethnic Russians, distinguished from the others less by looks than by language. As recently as May 2016 a survey co-conducted by the Estonian and Latvian governments found that 89% of ethnic Latvians and 84% of ethnic Estonians are unhappy with this presence and want the Russians to “move back to Russia,” although many are from families who have lived in these countries for centuries.

In Latvia, the State Language Law (passed in 2000) requires that documents to local and national government, and to local and national state public enterprises, be submitted in Latvian only, as the sole national language. (Earlier they could be submitted in Russian, or even English or German.) Aside from being perceived by the minority as an attack on their own culture and identity, this requirement imposes hardships especially for older citizens who have never mastered the “national” language. A similar situation pertains in Estonia. Protests not only by Russia but by other countries have resulted in rulings against Latvia by the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee.

Moscow sees itself as the protector of ethnic Russians from Ukraine to the Baltics. This should not be so hard to understand. But that does not mean that Moscow—however annoyed it is by NATO expansion to its borders—has plans to invade its neighbors and spark a general conflagration. NATO in 2013 had 3,370,000 service members in 2013, to Russia’s 766,000 troops. NATO expenditures in 2015 were $892 billion on defense in 2015, compared to Russia’s $70 billion.

The idea that Russia poses a threat to any NATO nation is as plausible as the notion that Saddam Hussein threatened the world with weapons of mass destruction. Or that Libya’s Gadhafy was preparing a genocidal campaign against his own people. Or that Iran plans to use nukes to wipe Israel off the map. These are all examples of the Big Lie.

Wait, some will ask, what about Georgia? Didn’t Russia invade and divide that country? Yes, it did, in defense of South Ossetia, which had resisted inclusion in the Republic of Georgia formed in 1991, fearing its ultranationalist leadership. South Ossetia, inhabited by an Iranian people, had been included as an autonomous oblast in the Georgian Soviet Republic but as the Soviet Union dissolve sought unity with Russia. So did Abkhazia. These two “breakaway republics” had been involved in a “frozen conflict” with Georgia until real war broke out in August 2008, producing a Russian invasion of Georgia and Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia as well as Abkhazia as independent states.

One can see this as tit-for-tat for the U.S. dismemberment of Serbia in 1999 and subsequent recognition of Kosovo as an independent state in February 2008. This act in plain violation of international law, condemned by U.S. allies such as Greece, Romania and Spain, was explained by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a sui generis case. Well then, that 1999 NATO war on Serbia has led to more sui generis cases, hasn’t it?

And what about Ukraine? The limited moves Russia has taken there have been in direct response of the U.S.-led effort to incorporate Ukraine into NATO, most notably in backing the pro-NATO (and neo-fascist) forces who pulled off the coup of February 22, 2014. Any support Russia has offered to ethnic Russians in the Donbass opposed to the ultranationalist (and dysfunctional) new regime in Kiev hardly constitute an “invasion.”

It’s all about NATO. Unfortunately, the U.S. masses don’t even know what NATO is, or how it’s expanding. It is rarely mentioned in the mainstream press; its existence is never problematized, or discussed in U.S. political debates (except when Trump says the U.S.’s NATO allies are getting a “free ride”); the fact that its dissolution is not subject to questioning is all very depressing.

But wait, I must correct myself. Stephen Kinzer, a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, got an op-ed published in the Boston Globe a few days ago, entitled “Is NATO Necessary?” Without calling for its outright abolition, he declares, “We need less NATO, not more.”

But the next day the newspaper website included (as if by way of apology) an op-ed by Nicholas Burns, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the George W. Bush administration and now professor of the practice of diplomacy and international politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. It’s entitled, “Why NATO is vital for American interests.”

Burns adduces four reasons for NATO’s continuing necessity.

“The first is Vladimir Putin’s aggression — his division of Georgia and Ukraine, his annexation of Crimea, his threats to the Baltic states, and his military’s harassment of US forces in international airspace and international waters.” (In other words, Russia’s restrained response to NATO’s provocations is reasons for NATO to continue, as a provocateur. And what “threats” of Putin can Burns cite? There have been none.)

“The second challenge is a dramatically weakening and potentially fractured European Union, now exacerbated by the possible departure of the United Kingdom.” (In other words, as the contradictions within European capitalism intensify, the U.S. must keep its camp together as—if nothing else—an anti-Russian alliance. What logic is this, other than fascist logic?)

“The third is the tsunami of violence spreading from the Levant and North Africa into Europe itself.” (In other words, when NATO actions result in so much pain in Libya and Afghanistan, and U.S.-led wars to so much chaos in Iraq and Syria that a million people flood into Europe, destabilizing European unity on the question of migration policy, the U.S. needs to be there somehow using the military alliance to hold it all together.)

“The fourth is uncertain and sometimes seemingly unconfident European and American leadership in the face of these combined challenges.”

(In other words, the U.S. needs to instill confidence by taking such actions as the invasion of Iraq that Burns supported as a State Department official, and the Libya slaughter he supported as a Boston Globe op-ed writer.)

Strength. Power. Confidence.

Burns and Gen. Jim Jones (former National Security Advisor for Pres. Obama) “believe NATO should station military forces “on a permanent basis in Poland, the Baltic states, the Black Sea region, and the Arctic,” and that the “US should extend lethal military assistance to Ukraine so that it can defend itself.” As though it has been attacked.

His final point is “that our most complex challenge may come from within the NATO countries themselves. Our strongest link is that we are all democracies. But, many of us, including the United States, are confronting a wave of isolationist sentiment and ugly extremism in our domestic political debates. NATO will need strong, unflinching American leadership to cope with these challenges.”

This conclusion is of course a reference to Donald Trump and his “extremism” in daring to—-among his many inchoate and clueless pronouncements—opine that the U.S. is protecting Europe for NATO, but spending too much money on it, and Germany should do more for Ukraine. It seems a statement in favor of that Iron Lady Hillary, who was so unflinching in her support of the Iraq War, and the Libya regime change, and who is hot to trot to bomb government buildings in Damascus.

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Book Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

US pledges $68mn NATO investment into Estonian military bases

RT | August 8, 2015

The US will invest $68 million to develop military base infrastructure in Estonia, as part of European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) that offers Eastern European countries additional military aid and training to better serve NATO interests near the Russian borders.

The announcement of additional funding comes as a US delegation visited the tiny Baltic state to meet Estonian Defense Minister Sven Mikser. Headed by Congressman Rob Wittman, the US side promised to invest in Estonia’s military bases in Amari and Tapa.

The development project will be implemented “through NATO’s support program of eastern countries European Reassurance Initiative (ERI),” Estoinia’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

The Soviet-built army base at Tapa is one of the Estonian Army’s largest military bases. It is excellent for live artillery firing training and maneuvers. The Soviet Amari Air Base will serve as a NATO airfield in the future.

“Head of the [US] delegation… Rob Wittman said that the presence of US troops was important, because the rotation of US soldiers in Estonia would help them gain experience and knowledge of the situation in the region,” the Ministry added.

The ERI, funded through Congress, was introduced by President Barack Obama last year and is designed to keep Russia in place after its alleged “aggression” in the Ukrainian conflict. The program aims to create a permanent US air, land, and sea presence in the region, especially in Central and Eastern Europe.

Since June, Washington has pledged to develop military training facilities in six countries on or close to Russia’s borders including Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, as well as Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. In fact, news from Estonia comes the same day as Polish national daily Rzeczpospolita reported that a former Polish military base in the town of Ciechanow may now be used to house American troops.

READ MORE: US to share military base in central Poland – Polish media

August 8, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | 1 Comment

Austrian Institute Clarifies True Costs of the EU’s Anti-Russian Sanctions

Sputnik – 03.07.2015

The Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO) published a monograph clarifying the projected short and long-term costs of anti-Russian sanctions to the EU 28 plus Switzerland. A summary of the report published Friday has confirmed that Europe as a whole expects €92.34 billion in long-term losses, along with over 2.2 million lost jobs.

While the report attempts to downplay somewhat the losses attributed to sanctions, noting that politicized export restrictions must be considered together with the ongoing Russian recession and other factors, the figures speak for themselves.

The report projects an “observed decline in exports and tourism expenditures of €34 billion value added in the short run, with employment effects on up to 0.9 million people.” Switching to a longer-term perspective, the report estimates “the economic effects increas[ing] to up to 2.2 million jobs (around 1 percent of total employment) and €92 billion (0.8 percent of total value added), respectively.”

Commenting on the geographical disbursement of the economic and jobs losses, WIFO’s report shows that “geographical closeness highly correlates with the relative size of the effects at the national level, with the Baltic countries, Finland and the Eastern European countries being hit above the EU average of 0.3 percent of GDP in the short and 0.8 percent in the long run.” The report also notes that Germany, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of all EU 27 exports to Russia, has been hit the hardest in absolute terms, and is projected to lose €23.38 billion in losses in the long term. Italy is second, with €10.93 billion in projected losses. France rounds out the top three with €7.92 billion in losses.

The study’s figures also show that Estonia is the single most heavily affected country in both the short and the long term, with the country suffering a €800 million (4.91 percent) and €2.1 billion (13.24 percent) decline, respectively. Estonia is followed by Lithuania (-6.37 percent long term), Cyprus (-3.25 percent), Latvia (-1.87 percent), and the Czech Republic (-1.53 percent).

In employment terms, Estonia, Lithuania and Cyprus are also the hardest hit in percentage terms, and are projected to suffer 16.3 percent, 10.84 percent and 4.21 percent losses, respectively. In absolute terms, Germany (losing 395,000 jobs) Poland (300,000), and Italy (200,000) have been the hardest hit; Spain, Lithuania and Estonia are projected to lose between 100,000 and 190,000 jobs.

As for the economic sectors most heavily impacted, the WIFO study found that agriculture and food products, metal products, machine-building, vehicles, and manufacturing-related services are hardest hit in the short term, with construction, business services, and wholesale and retail trade services also projected to suffer disproportionately in the long-term.

Speaking to Radio Sputnik about the report, WIFO economist Oliver Fritz noted that while EU politicians still hope that the sanctions will have some effect on Russian policy, pressure is building on them to change their policy, since the economic consequences are rapidly beginning to add up.

While the economist noted that he does not see the sanctions being lifted in the short term, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel successfully keeping other EU nations in line, Fritz noted that as losses mount, EU politicians may eventually decide to consider rethinking their decisions.

Last month, WIFO conducted research for Europe’s ‘Leading European Newspaper Alliance’, estimating up to €100 billion in losses if anti-Russian sanctions remain in place.

Since March 2014, the United States, European Union, and other Western countries have placed sanctions on Russia’s banking, defense and energy sectors over Moscow’s alleged role in the Ukrainian crisis. In August, Moscow imposed a year-long food embargo on the countries that had sanctioned it. Last month, the EU’s foreign ministers agreed to extend sanctions against Russia until January 31, 2016.

July 4, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Russia has better things to do than start WW3

By Bryan MacDonald | RT | June 8, 2015

Vladimir Putin said this weekend that “Russia would attack NATO only in a mad person’s dream.” Unfortunately, there are a lot of mad people working in western politics and media.

If the G7 were based on GDP, adjusted for purchasing power, it would be comprised of the USA, China, India, Japan, Russia, Germany and Brazil. Such a lineup would have remarkable clout. Members would boast 53% of the globe’s entire GDP and the planet’s 3 genuine military superpowers would be represented.

The problem for Washington is that this putative G7 might actually be a forum for a real debate about the world order.

Instead of a real G7, we have a farce. An American dominated talking shop where the US President allows ‘friendly’ foreign leaders to tickle his belly for a couple of days. There is no dissent. Washington’s dominance goes unquestioned and everyone has a jolly time. Especially since they kicked out Russia last year – Vladimir Putin was the only guest who challenged the consensus.

However, the problem is that this ‘convenient’ G7 is way past its sell-by-date. The days when its members could claim to rule the world economically are as distant as the era of Grunge and Britpop. Today, the G7 can claim a mere 32% of the global GDP pie. Instead of heavyweights like China and India, we have middling nations such as Canada and Italy, the latter an economic basket case. Canada’s GDP is barely more than that of crisis-ridden Spain and below that of Mexico and Indonesia.

Yet, the Prime Minister of this relative non-entity, Stephen Harper, was strutting around Bavaria all weekend with the confidence of a man who believed his opinion mattered a great deal. Of course, Harper won’t pressure Obama. Rather, he prefers to – metaphorically – kiss the ring and croon from the same hymn sheet as his southern master.

NATO and the G7 – 2 sides of 1 coin?

There was lots of talk of “Russian aggression” at the G7. This was hardly a surprise given that 6 of the 7 are also members of NATO, another body at which they can tug Washington’s forelock with gay abandon. Obama was at it, David Cameron parroted his guru’s feelings and Harper was effectively calling for regime change in Russia. It apparently never occurred to the trio that resolving their issues with Russia might be easier if Putin had been in Bavaria? The knee-jerk reaction to remove Russia from the club was hardly conducive to dialogue.

Meanwhile, Matteo Renzi stayed fairly quiet. It has been widely reported that the Italian Prime Minister privately opposes the EU’s anti-Russia sanctions due to the effects on Italy’s struggling economy. Also, Renzi’s next task after the G7 summit is to welcome Putin to Rome.

With that visit in mind, Putin gave an interview to Italy’s Il Corriere della Sera where he essentially answered the questions that Obama, Cameron and Harper could have asked him if they hadn’t thrown their toys out of the pram and excluded Russia from the old G8. Putin stressed that one should not take the ongoing “Russian aggression” scaremongering in the West seriously, as a global military conflict is unimaginable in the modern world. The Russian President also, fairly bluntly, stated that “we have better things to be doing” (than starting World War 3).

Putin also touched on a point many rational commentators have continuously made. “Certain countries could be deliberately nurturing such fears,” he added, saying that hypothetically the US could need an external threat to maintain its leadership in the Atlantic community. “Iran is clearly not very scary or big enough” for this, Putin noted with irony.

A world of ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’

For Washington to maintain its huge military spending, it has to keep its citizens in a state of high alarm. Otherwise, they might insist that some of the armed forces’ cash is diverted to more productive things like hospitals and schools. These services, of course, are not very profitable for weapons manufacturers or useful for newspaper and TV editors looking for an intimidating narrative.

Following the collapse of the USSR, Russia was too weak and troubled to be a plausible enemy. Aside from its nuclear arsenal – the deployment of which would only mean mutual destruction – the bear’s humbled military was not a credible threat. Instead, the focus of warmonger’s venom shifted to the Middle East and the Balkans, where Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Slobodan Milosevic and Osama Bin Laden kept the general public’s attention occupied for roughly a decade and a half. However, they are now all dead and pro-war propaganda needs a new bad guy to play the Joker to America’s Batman.

Kim Jong-un looked promising for a while. Nevertheless, the problem here is that North Korea is too unpredictable and could very feasibly retaliate to provocations. Such a reaction could lead to a nuclear attack on Seoul, for instance, or draw Washington into a conflict with China. Even for neocons, this is too risky. Another candidate was Syria’s Basher Al-Assad. Unfortunately, for the sabre rattlers, just as they imagined they had Damascus in their sights, Putin kyboshed their plan. This made Putin the devil as far as neocons are concerned and they duly trained their guns in his direction.

Russia – a Middle East/North Africa battleground?

In the media, it is noticeable how many neocon hacks have suddenly metamorphosed from Syria ‘experts’ into Russia analysts in the past 2 years. Panda’s Mark Ames (formerly of Moscow’s eXILE ) highlighted this strange phenomenon in an excellent recent piece. Ames focused on the strange case of Michael Weiss, a New York activist who edits the anti-Russia Interpreter magazine (which is actually a blog). The Interpreter is allegedly controlled by Mikhail Khodorkovsky and a shadowy foundation called Herzen (not the original Amsterdam-based Herzen) of which no information is publicly available.

Weiss was a long-time Middle East analyst, who promoted US intervention to oust Assad. Suddenly, shortly before the initial Maidan disturbances in Kiev, he re-invented himself as a Russia and Ukraine ‘expert,’ appearing all over the US media (from CNN to Politico and The Daily Beast ) to deliver his ‘wisdom.’ This is despite the fact that he appears to know very little about Russia and has never lived there. The managing editor of The Interpreter is a gentleman named James Miller, who uses the Twitter handle @millerMENA (MENA means Middle East, North Africa). Having been to both, I can assure you that Russia and North Africa have very little in common.

Weiss and Miller are by no means unusual. Pro-War, neocon activists have made Russia their bete noir since their Syria dreams were strangled in infancy. While most are harmless enough, this pair wields considerable influence in the US media. Naturally, this is dressed up as concern for Ukraine. In reality, they care about Ukraine to about the same extent that a carnivore worries about hurting the feelings of his dinner.

Russia’s military policy is “not global, offensive, or aggressive,” Putin stressed, adding that Russia has “virtually no bases abroad,” and the few that do exist are remnants of its Soviet past. Meanwhile, it would take only 17 minutes for missiles launched from US submarines on permanent alert off Norway’s coast to reach Moscow, Putin said, noting that this fact is somehow not labeled as “aggression” in the media.

Decline of the Balts

Another ongoing problem is the Baltic States. These 3 countries have been unmitigated disasters since independence, shedding people at alarming rates. Estonia’s population has fallen by 16% in the past 25 years, Latvia’s by 25% and Lithuania’s by an astonishing 32%. Political leaders in these nations use the imaginary ‘Russian threat’ as a means to distract from their own economic failings and corruption. They constantly badger America for military support which further antagonizes the Kremlin, which in turn perceives that NATO is increasing its presence on Russia’s western border. This is the same frontier from which both Napoleon and Hitler invaded and Russians are, understandably, paranoid about it.

The simple fact is that Russia has no need for the Baltic States. Also, even if Moscow did harbor dreams of invading them, the cost of subduing them would be too great. As Russia and the US learned in Afghanistan and America in Iraq also, in the 21st century it is more-or-less impossible to occupy a population who don’t want to be occupied. The notion that Russia would sacrifice its hard-won economic and social progress to invade Kaunas is, frankly, absurd.

The reunification of Crimea with Russia is often used as a ‘sign’ that the Kremlin wishes to restore the Soviet/Tsarist Empire. This is nonsense. The vast majority of Crimean people wished to return to Russia and revoke Nikita Khrushchev’s harebrained transfer of the territory to Ukraine. Not even the craziest Russian nationalist believes that most denizens of Riga or Tallinn wish to become Russian citizens.

Putin recalled that it was French President Charles de Gaulle who first voiced the need to establish a “common economic space stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.” As NATO doubles down on its campaign against Moscow, that dream has never looked as far off.

Bryan MacDonald is an Irish writer and commentator focusing on Russia and its hinterlands and international geo-politics. Follow him on Facebook

June 8, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment