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15,000 NATO troops from 14 nations, including the US, Sweden, Finland and Ukraine, start drills near Russia

Samizdat | May 16, 2022

Large-scale NATO military drills started in Estonia on Monday. The exercise dubbed ‘Hedgehog 2022’ is one of the largest in the Baltic nation’s history, according to the military bloc. The drills will involve some 15,000 troops from 14 nations, including both military bloc members and their partners.

Soldiers from Finland, Sweden, Georgia and Ukraine are among those that will take part in the exercise, Finnish public broadcaster Yle reported. The drills will include all branches of the armed forces and will involve air, sea and land exercises, as well as cyber warfare training, according to the broadcaster.

According to a NATO statement, the drills will also see the US Navy Wasp-class landing ship ‘Kearsarge’ take part in the exercises. Both the military bloc and Estonian Defense Forces deputy commander, Major General Veiko-Vello Palm, have denied that the drills just over 60km from the Russian border have anything to do with Moscow’s ongoing military action in Ukraine.

The drills started just a day after Finland and Sweden officially announced their plans to join NATO, and were planned long before the conflict in Ukraine broke out, Western officials have said.

The exercises in Estonia are, however, just one part of NATO’s large-scale military activities near the Russian border. Another Baltic state, Lithuania, is hosting the ‘Iron Wolf’ exercise, which involves 3,000 NATO troops and 1,000 pieces of military equipment, including Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks.

Two of NATO’s biggest exercises – ‘Defender Europe’ and ‘Swift Response’ – are taking place in Poland and eight other countries, involving 18,000 troops from 20 nations, according to NATO’s statement on Friday.

“Exercises like these show that NATO stands strong and ready to protect our nations and defend against any threat,” the military bloc’s spokesperson, Oana Lungescu, said, adding that the drills “help to remove any room for miscalculation or misunderstanding about our resolve to protect and defend every inch of allied territory.”

The NATO Response Force is currently taking part in the 7,500-strong ‘Wettiner Heide’ drills in Germany. The Mediterranean Sea is about to witness ‘Neptune series’ naval drills involving the USS ‘Harry S. Truman’ carrier strike group that will be placed under NATO command. This will only be the second time since the end of the Cold War that a US carrier group has been transferred under the military bloc’s command, NATO has said.

In June, the Baltic States and Poland will host what NATO describes as “Europe’s largest integrated air and missile defense exercise,” which would involve 23 nations.

In late April, Finland hosted NATO naval drills. Now, it is also hosting a joint land exercise, in which troops from the US, the UK, Estonia and Latvia are participating.

The massive military wargames are taking place amid heightened tensions between Russia, NATO and some of the military bloc’s partners. Finland, which shares a long border with Russia, and Sweden decided to reconsider their long-standing policy of non-alignment following a major change in public opinion after the launch of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

The development sparked a wave of criticism from Moscow, which warned that it would have to respond if Finland and Sweden join NATO. Moscow also maintains that it considers NATO’s expansion as a direct threat to its own security.

May 16, 2022 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | 10 Comments

‘Finns & Swedes won’t benefit from NATO’

Samizdat | May 16, 2022

NATO membership won’t make Finland and Sweden more secure, but would likely see them fighting somebody else’s wars and hosting American bases, Dr. Jan Oberg, director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, has told RT.

“It’s a disastrous decision,” Oberg said on Sunday, following an official declaration by the Finnish government that it is planning to join the US-led military bloc. Hours later, a similar announcement was made by the ruling party in Sweden. The two Nordic nations stayed out of NATO during the Cold War, but their governments said Russia’s military operation in Ukraine has become a game-changer.

Finland and Sweden have failed to carry out “long-term consequence analysis,” he added. “Nobody seems to ask whether NATO is the right thing to join. After all these years since 1945, NATO has proven that it’s not able to deliver what taxpayers are paying for, namely stability, peace and security… and then Finland and Sweden say: ‘We’ll join this failed organization,’” he remarked.

“We have to ask ourselves: ‘Who caused the conflict [between Moscow and Kiev]?’ Everybody talks about the Russian invasion, which I deplore too, but underlying that is the conflict, which has to do with the NATO expansion,” the peace researcher said.

Making sure Ukraine becomes a neutral country that will never join NATO has been cited by Moscow as one of the main reasons for its ongoing military operation.

Oberg said he understood Russia’s concerns about the expansion of the bloc towards its borders. “If I was sitting in Moscow, I would feel that this was threatening,” he observed, referring to Finland and Sweden’s possible membership. “When you move troops up to the very border on both sides you increase tension; you decrease reaction time; you do all the things you shouldn’t do strategically if peace was your goal. Peace is not the goal of these people.”

The military-industrial complex – “those who sell weapons and profit from wars” – will gain from NATO adding two new members, he said. “The Swedish people and the Finnish people will not benefit from this. It’ll be completely new for them that they are now supposed to participate… in somebody else’s wars.”

With the US pushing for bases in Denmark and Norway, “are we to believe that there will not be American bases or American troops or something, you know, more permanent in Sweden and Finland?” he wondered.

NATO membership would also be “opening these countries for potential nuclearism that should never have been done in this particular area,” the peace researcher added.

Oberg said it was “appalling” that the governments in Helsinki and Stockholm didn’t put the issue to a referendum. “This is unheard of with such an important decision as joining NATO.”

While opinion polls have shown an overwhelming support for NATO membership in Finland, in Sweden the idea was backed by less than 50% of the public, he noted. “I’m amazed that there’s so little public discussion, so little uproar in terms of huge demonstrations in large cities in Sweden,” the scholar said.

He blamed the media, of which “80% to 90% is pro-NATO,” for this situation. “It’s very difficult to get into the media today with an alternative view… There’s no democracy and free media practice in this,” Oberg insisted.

Jan Oberg is a Danish-Swedish peace researcher, who received his doctorate from Lund University in Sweden. He taught courses in several countries, including Japan, Austria and Switzerland.

In 1986, the scholar co-founded the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Futures Research (TFF), an independent think tank aimed at promoting conflict-mitigation and achieving peace through peaceful means around the globe. He assisted on-the-ground work in ex-Yugoslavia, Georgia, Burundi, Iraq, Iran and Syria. In 2013, Oberg and TTF were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for their activities.

May 16, 2022 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 6 Comments

Will Sweden and Finland feel safer after joining NATO?

By Drago Bosnic | April 20, 2022

NATO expansion has been the main culprit behind all instability in Europe for the last 30+ years. Of course, NATO’s aggression against many countries, either as an organization, or separately, by each of its member states resulted in the deaths of millions, with orders of magnitude more of those whose lives may not have been physically lost, but they certainly have been ruined by the Alliance’s actions. The absolute havoc and the trail of death and destruction left in the wake of NATO invasions across the Middle East, always euphemistically dubbed “humanitarian interventions“, stand as a grisly testament to that.

The expansion of this supposedly “defensive alliance” which has not conducted a single truly defensive operation in well over 70 years of its existence, has first destroyed the relatively prosperous Yugoslavia, which was subjected to nearly a decade-long siege throughout the 1990s. During the 2000s, Russia’s attempts to create an atmosphere of trust and cooperation with the North Atlantic Alliance have been futile. No matter what Russia did, the alliance kept creeping closer to its borders. By the early 2010s, it was clear that NATO had no intention of stopping. The conflict in Ukraine is NATO’s latest brainchild, although there has hardly been any actual thinking behind it. It has been more like bulldozing its way towards Russia.

The last 8 years have shown where all this leads to, with the last nearly 2 months reaching a boiling point between the Russian Federation and the ever increasingly belligerent alliance. A recent announcement by both Sweden and Finland that they feel supposedly “threatened” and that they are very likely to enter NATO seems rather strange, especially given that they did not officially join NATO during the Cold War, when the USSR had undisputed control over the Baltic region.

An obvious question arises, why would Sweden and Finland feel threatened now, when the strategic situation has all but reversed, with Russia’s presence in the Baltics limited to relatively tiny areas around Saint Petersburg and Kaliningrad? It’s quite obvious that this can only be seen as another encroachment on Russia’s borders, another part of NATO’s larger geopolitical offensive. Still, although it may seem that NATO’s further expansion into Scandinavia is going to jeopardize Russia’s northwestern areas, Russia doesn’t seem particularly fazed by this prospect. While certainly not happy with this turn of events, Russia’s decision makers and strategic planners aren’t exactly pulling their hair out and running in circles over this.

First, it should be understood that both Sweden and Finland are neutral countries in name only. During the Cold War, both Scandinavian countries served as a hotbed of NATO intelligence activities, with the CIA and MI6 operating extensively in both countries. Soviet and later Russian intelligence were well aware of this.

During the 1990s, this became even more prominent, when both countries entered the EU, but also increased their official cooperation and interoperability with NATO. Naturally, over the years, this cooperation grew to unprecedented levels and the Russian military acted accordingly. The strategic military command structures in the Kremlin have treated both countries as de facto NATO member states for decades.

This is especially true for Finland, particularly after it announced it will be acquiring at least 65 F-35A fighter jets from the US military industrial giant Lockheed Martin. This jet, despite hundreds if not thousands of critical flaws and other shortcomings, is a serious ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) asset. The jet is bristling with sensors, all of which are connected to a massive network-centric warfare system, the center of which is located in the Pentagon. By operating this jet, Finland is effectively giving up on the sovereignty over its own air force and ceding it to the United States.

The Russian military is perfectly aware of this and has already made plans to react accordingly. Earlier, Finland’s official neutrality from a military standpoint complicated this. But now, rather ironically, the Scandinavian country might even make things easier for Russia’s strategic military planning by joining the ever expanding “defensive” alliance.

However, does this change anything for Finland and Sweden? Will NATO really make both countries safer? The short answer is simply no. By joining the North Atlantic Alliance, countries effectively cede much of their sovereignty to the US. Given the US’ strategic obsession with encircling Russia, the Kremlin feels strongly about this matter and it simply doesn’t take any chances.

Thus, the only “benefit” Sweden and Finland get is becoming meat shields for the US in the case of a nuclear exchange, because Russia is simply going to dedicate a portion of its thermonuclear arsenal to these countries. And if Russia doesn’t have a shortage of something, it’s nuclear weapons. Given the US’ and NATO’s track record, who is to blame then?

April 20, 2022 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 2 Comments

Le Pen promises to pull France out of NATO

By Uriel Araujo | April 15, 2022

NATO now has become one of the most important issue in Europe, with the new developments in Sweden and Finland, and electoral impacts in France. French Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen (who heads for the second round to be held on April 24) has vowed to pull France out of NATO’s military command. It would not be unprecedented, as the country did it in 1966. Le Pen claims the alliance structure “perpetuates the anachronistic and aggressive logic of the Cold War bloc”.

France was one of the Alliance’s founding members in 1949 and even hosted it for 15 years. This was a major event in French history. To help French ordinary citizens to accept the presence of foreign troops on their territory in times of peace, films like À votre service were shown in movie theaters, as part of a NATO PR campaign, so to speak. France’s relationship with the Anglo-Saxon structure (which is hegemonic within NATO), and with the alliance itself has always been complex, and Le Pen’s promise should be understood in this context and not necessarily as mere “extremism”.

In doing so, if elected, Le Pen would be in fact following the steps of general Charles de Gaulle (who ruled the country 1940-46 and 1958-1969). The conservative French leader wanted a truly independent nuclear France who would engage with Washington on more equal terms, becoming perhaps a kind of third force in the then Cold War’s bipolar world and even possibly reaching a détent with the USSR. The British-American “special relationship” was seen by him as detrimental to Europe.

Moreover, the US veto power regarding nuclear weapons also prevented Paris from pursuing its own atomic goals. Unable to place France in the tripartite directorate he proposed in his 1958 memorandum to US President Dwight Eisenhower and UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, de Gaulle refused to sign the 1963 agreement against nuclear testing – and, by 1969, France was already a fully fledged nuclear power. He also vetoed British entry into the European Union in the same year and, in 1964, told West Germany it should cease to follow a policy subordinated to Washington and adopt one for European independence (albeit not hostility). Of course, no NATO country followed his lead.

Isolated, France went on to withdraw from the Alliance’s so-called integrated military structure in 1966 (although not completely leaving the Treaty) and expelled all of its headquarters and units on French territory. It was  President Nicolas Sarkozy who finally ended Paris “estrangement” from the organization in 2009 – so it took 43 years for Paris to change its course.

Even though Paris still hosted some NATO meetings and civilian structures, the spirit of Gaullism still shaped to some degree French strategic thinking during the Cold War, and the NATO-France relationship alternated between phases of rapprochement and tension. It was President Miterrand who started to bring France back into the Alliance’s integrated military command. And even so, it has been a kind of “flexible membership” (as it is often described).

Charles de Gaulle was one of the most important political leaders of the 20th century and even so, France remained relatively isolated in the European continent pertaining to its stance on NATO during the time of his leadership. He also faced several challenges, as the European countries acted in concert to try to neutralize many of his efforts. One cannot really tell whether Le Pen would be up to such a task, and estranging from NATO in any case is obviously not so simple, but the current situation on the other hand is also full of contradictions from a French and European perspective.

Meanwhile, on April 13 both Finland and Sweden took a major step towards joining NATO. In their joint press conference, the Prime Ministers Sanna Marin (Finland) and Magdalena Andersson (Sweden) both claimed that the security landscape in the continent has changed. Marin stated that Finland which shares a border with Russia will decide within weeks whether to join the Alliance. While a tight majority in Sweden now are in favor of joining the Atlantic Alliance, according to a recent poll, about 70% of Finnish people back it and this figure has more than doubled since the current Russian-Ukrainian war started.

Currently, both Nordic countries are NATO partners, since they abandoned their previous neutral stance by joining the European Union in 1995 and thus take part in military exercises and intelligence exchange, but they are not full-fledged members. Both countries were publicly assured by NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg that their applications would indeed be welcome, and they also received public support from Germany, France, and the UK. Joining or leaving the Alliance is not so simple – an application to join it  must be accepted by all 30 member states, and this should take a minimum of four months and probably at least a whole year to be processed. In any case, it will be seen by Moscow as yet another provocation, amid a situation of escalating tensions.

Experts such as University of Chicago political scientist  John Mearsheimer have been warning since 2014 that the ongoing Ukrainian war was mainly the West’s fault and Mearsheimer maintains it remains the West’s fault to this day. NATO’s constant expansion breaking the 1990 promises that were made during the fall of the Soviet Union as well as Washington’s policy of “encircling” and “containing” Moscow have cornered it to its limits. As Russian President Vladimir Putin said in December 2021: “What would Americans do if we went to the border between Canada and the U.S. or to the border with Mexico and deploy our missiles there?” Mearsheimer also warns that should tensions escalate, there is a real risk of a nuclear war.

Today the world faces the risks of a global food crisis and hunger, as well as on-going international energy crises, and a migration crisis in Europe. It is up for responsible Western leaders to open communication and dialogue channels with the Kremlin. Further provoking Moscow at this point is simply irresponsible and not in Europe’s best interests. France could thus play a key role in the continent. The EU in fact now faces the hard choice between being a self-dependent Europe or an Atlantic Europe.

Uriel Araujo is a researcher with a focus on international and ethnic conflicts.

April 15, 2022 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Russia comments on outcome of Sweden and Finland joining NATO

Samizdat | April 15, 2022

Sweden and Finland will lose part of their sovereignty while compromising their security if they join NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned on Friday, referring to the two nations’ expected requests for formal membership in the US-led military bloc.

Sweden and Finland have long been close to the organization but have maintained formal nonalignment with NATO since the Cold War. Both may soon apply for membership amid the ongoing security crisis in Ukraine. The Russian ministry warned that Sweden and Finland would not gain anything by moving forward with the plan.

NATO membership “is unlikely to help build Sweden’s and Finland’s international prestige,” spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in a comment released by the Russian ministry. She said the two nations will lose the opportunity to act as “conveyors of many constructive, unifying initiatives” as they did in the past.

“Naturally the choice belongs to the authorities of Sweden and Finland. But they should realize the consequences of such a move to our bilateral relations and the European security architecture, which currently is in a state of crisis,” she added.

The official argued that the two nations would become platforms used by NATO to threaten Russia and that neither they, nor the region of northern Europe as a whole, would benefit from it. She added that NATO membership “implies de facto surrender of a part of sovereignty in making decisions on defense, and also on foreign policy.”

Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president and prime minister, who is currently deputy chairman of the country’s Security Council, implied earlier this week that, if the two nations joined the trans-Atlantic bloc Russia, would deploy nuclear weapons in the Baltic region.

Finland and Russia have a 1,340-km-long land border. Finland used to be part of the Russian Empire before making a successful bid for independence when Russia was torn apart by the revolutions of 1917. The USSR and Finland fought a bloody war in 1939-1940 in the build-up to World War II that resulted in some territorial concessions on Helsinki’s part.

Sweden was Russia’s primary rival in northern Europe for several centuries, with the two powers fighting multiple wars for dominance. The conflict of 1808-1809 ended with the eastern part of the Kingdom of Sweden relinquished to Russia as the Grand Duchy of Finland.

Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk Agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

April 15, 2022 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Should We Commit to Fight Russia — for Finland?

BY PAT BUCHANAN • UNZ REVIEW • APRIL 15, 2022

The prime ministers of Sweden and Finland, Magdalena Andersson and Sanna Marin, both signaled Wednesday that they will likely be applying for membership in NATO.

The “prospect” is most “welcome,” says The Washington Post: “Finland and Sweden Should Join NATO.”

The editorial was titled “A Way to Punish Putin.”

Before joining the rejoicing in NATO capitals, we might inspect what NATO membership for these two Nordic nations would mean for the United States.

Finland is a nation the size of Germany, but with a population only 4% of that of Russia and a border with Russia that is 830 miles long.

Should Finland join NATO, the United States, under Article 5 of the NATO treaty, would be obligated to go to war with the world’s largest nuclear power to retrieve Finnish lands that an enraged Russia might grab.

Moscow has already indicated that, should Sweden and Finland join NATO, Russia will introduce new nuclear weapons into the Baltic region.

Why is it wise for us to formally agree, in perpetuity, as NATO is a permanent alliance, to go to war with Russia, for Finland?

Given the war in Ukraine and concomitant crisis in Eastern Europe, it is understandable why Stockholm and Helsinki would seek greater security beneath the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

But why would we voluntarily agree to give Sweden and Finland these war guarantees? Why would we commit to go to war with Putin’s Russia, a war that could, and likely would, escalate to the use of tactical nuclear weapons, especially if Russia were losing?

Finland was neutral during the Cold War. Sweden has been neutral since the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century.

How did we suffer from their neutrality?

In Helsinki and Stockholm, the benefit of a U.S.-NATO commitment to go to war for Finland or Sweden is understandable.

But how does it benefit our country, the USA, to be obligated to go to war with a nation that commands the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons — over some quarrel in the Baltic Sea or Gulf of Finland that does not affect us?

Asked for his view on Sweden and Finland’s campaign to join NATO, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had a note of warning:

“We have repeatedly said that the (NATO) alliance remains a tool geared towards confrontation and its further expansion will not bring stability to the European continent.”

Should Putin’s Russia clash with Finland or Sweden today, the U.S. is free to respond, or not to respond, as it sees fit, depending on our own assessment of risks and rewards.

Why not keep it that way? Why surrender our freedom of action in some future collision involving our main adversary?

History holds lessons for us here.

In March 1939, six months after Munich, when Czechoslovakia disintegrated into its ethnic components, Britain issued an unsolicited war guarantee to Poland, then negotiating with Germany over the port city of Danzig taken from Germany by the victorious Allies after World War I.

When Germany, on Sept. 1, 1939, invaded Poland, Britain was obligated to declare war on Germany over a matter that was not a vital interest of Great Britain or its worldwide empire.

Lest we forget, it was the Bucharest Declaration of 2008, opening the door to membership in NATO for Ukraine and Georgia, that led to the recent crises in Eastern Europe and the current war.

The Russia-Georgia War of August 2008, the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014, and Putin’s annexation of Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine all proceeded from NATO’s decision in 2008 to open the door to membership for Georgia and Ukraine.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine today is partly due to the U.S. and Ukraine’s refusal to rule out NATO membership for Kyiv.

No NATO nation today has a border with Russia nearly as long as that of Finland. If Finland joins NATO, will we put U.S. boots on the ground along that 830-mile border with Russia? Will U.S. warplanes fly in and out of Finnish airfields and air bases up to the border of Russia?

Collective security is said to be a good idea.

But the core of NATO security is provided by U.S. war guarantees, while most of the collecting is done by our 29 NATO allies, which could become 31 by summer’s end.

Otto von Bismarck predicted that the Great War, when it came, would be ignited by “some damn fool thing in the Balkans.”

And World War I was indeed triggered by the assassination of the Austrian archduke in Sarajevo in June 1914. The Germans came in in part because the kaiser had given Austria a “blank check” for war.

What enabled America to stay out of both world wars for years after they began was our freedom of “entangling alliances” when they began.

But today we not only lead an alliance of 30 nations, but we are adding two more members, one of which has a border of 830 miles with Russia.

How long does our luck last?

April 15, 2022 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

Denmark is First EU Country to Scrap All COVID Restrictions

21st Century Wire | January 29, 2022

Later this week, England is scheduled to drop its problematic mask mandate for shops and public transport, along with its highly unpopular vaccine passport regime. Up north, Scotland says it will “relax” so-called ‘work from home guidance,’ and reopen nightclubs, as well as ending venue capacity limits.

While the UK and Ireland gingerly roll-back their highly disruptive COVID restriction policies, other European countries are now leading the way by scrapping the entire ‘pandemic’ regime altogether.

Financial Times reports…

Denmark said it would lift almost all Covid-19 restrictions and stop designating it a “societally critical” disease on Wednesday in the latest sign that western European countries are easing or even eradicating strict measures brought in to combat the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Magnus Heunicke, Denmark’s health minister, wrote to parliament on Wednesday saying that he would remove all Covid-19 restrictions on February 1, except for testing on arrival from abroad. Just as the Danish government did in September, when it lifted all restrictions, it will also stop calling Covid-19 a “societally critical disease”, meaning that it will no longer have the legal basis to introduce wide-ranging curbs.

“Tonight we can begin to lower our shoulders and find our smiles again,” said Mette Frederiksen, Danish prime minister, on Wednesday evening. “The pandemic is still here, but with what we know now, we can dare to believe we are through the critical phase.”

Denmark is the latest European country in recent days to announce it is dropping most or nearly all measures as it follows in the footsteps of the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands…

Meanwhile, mainstream media outlets like Politico report this latest development with the accompanied fear-mongering over the latest “subvariant” – allegedly on the loose:

The announcement comes as a new subvariant of Omicron, BA.2, is gaining a foothold in Denmark and driving infections up, with 46,000 new COVID-19 cases recorded on Wednesday.

“Recent weeks have seen very high infection rates, in fact the highest in the entire pandemic,” Frederiksen said. “Therefore, it may seem strange and paradoxical that we are now ready to let go of the restrictions.”

Some 82 percent of Denmark’s population is fully vaccinated with two doses, of whom 50 percent are boosted with a third dose, according to the Danish Health and Medicines Authority.

However, as the FT points out, with this alleged rise in “cases” (aka PCR positive tests) promoted in the media – there is no corresponding rise in serious illness as a result COVID-19:

Denmark still has one of the highest number of Covid-19 cases per capita in the world, currently more than 10 times its previous peak as Omicron causes tens of thousands of daily infections. But the number of patients in intensive care continues to fall and, even with Omicron, never hit the peaks reached from April 2020 and January 2021.

Elsewhere in Scandinavia, Sweden, Norway and Finland have all announced they will also be easing their restrictions in the coming weeks.

January 29, 2022 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Health watchdog urges limits on jabbing children against Covid

RT | December 6, 2021

Children aged between five and 11 should get a Covid-19 jab only if there is a “high risk” of severe infection for them or for someone in their inner circle, Finland’s health watchdog has said.

Vaccination for all children aged between five and 11 cannot be recommended until there is more information available on the vaccination safety for this age group, including rare side effects, Finland’s Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) said in a statement last week, adding that relevant government decrees should be amended before a general vaccination campaign for young children could be launched.

So far, only those facing an acute risk of severe infection or who have “severely immunocompromised people” within their inner circle should get a jab, the THL said. It added that a vaccination campaign for children could start early next year provided sufficient evidence for the jabs’ safety is there.

“The main reason THL does not recommend vaccinations now for all children aged 5 to 11 is their own low incidence of the disease. Infection in children of this age is usually mild and severe symptoms are very rare, compared to other diseases that have been prevented by vaccinations,” said Hanna Nohynek, THL’s chief physician.

The health watchdog believes that vaccination of children “does not significantly slow down the epidemic” in its current form. “If a society wants to influence the course of the epidemic by vaccinating children, and … benefits are small, safety information is even more important,” Nohynek explained.

In Finland, just about 5% of children aged between five and 11 were diagnosed with Covid-19 by the end of November 2021. Only 33 children have been treated in a hospital since the start of the pandemic, THL said, adding that treatment courses lasted just one or two days on average. All vaccinations, including those against Covid-19, are voluntary when it comes to children, it added.

December 6, 2021 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

NATO’s colonization of Ukraine under guise of partnership

By Scott Ritter | RT | June 13, 2020

NATO has extended yet another in a long line of “incentives” designed to tease Ukraine with the prospects of joining the transatlantic alliance, while stopping short of actual membership.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has designated Ukraine as an “Enhanced Opportunity Partner,” making it one of six nations (the others being Georgia, Sweden, Finland, Australia and Jordan) rewarded for their significant contributions to NATO operations and alliance objectives by having the opportunity for increased dialogue and cooperation with the alliance.

A main objective of this enhanced interaction is for NATO and Ukraine to develop operational capabilities and interoperability through military exercises which will enable Ukrainian military personnel to gain practical hands-on experience in operating with NATO partners.

Seen in this light, the “Enhanced Opportunity Partner” status is an extension of the “Partnership Interoperability Initiative” designed to maintain the military interoperability between NATO and Ukraine, developed after more than a decade of involvement by Ukraine in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Thus Kiev keeps open the door for the possibility of military cooperation in any future NATO operational commitment, ensuring that Ukrainian military forces would be able to fight side by side with NATO if called upon to do so.
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The designation of “Enhanced Opportunity Partner” is the latest example of NATO outreach to Ukraine, which fosters the possibility of full membership, something that the Ukrainian Parliament called its strategic foreign and security policy objective back in 2017. The current president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has likewise expressed his desire to put engagement with NATO at the top of his policy priorities.

The dream of Ukraine becoming a member of NATO dates back three decades. Dialogue and cooperation between NATO and Ukraine began in October 1991, on the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union, when a newly independent Ukraine joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC). NACC was envisioned as a forum for dialogue and cooperation between NATO and the non-Russian members of the former Warsaw Pact. Then came the “Partnership for Peace” program in 1994, giving Ukraine the opportunity to develop closer ties with the alliance.

In July 1997 Ukraine and NATO signed the “Charter on a Distinctive Partnership,” which established a NATO-Ukraine Commission intended to further political dialogue and cooperation “at all appropriate levels.” In November 2002 Ukraine signed an “Individual Partnership Plan” with NATO outlining a program of assistance and practical support designed to facilitate Ukraine’s membership in the alliance, and followed that up in 2005 with the so-called “Intensive Dialogue” related to Ukraine’s NATO aspirations.
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In 2008 NATO declared that Ukraine could become a full member when it was ready to join and could meet the criteria for membership, but refused Ukraine’s request to enter into a formal Membership Action Plan. The lack of popular support within Ukraine for NATO membership, combined with a change in government that saw Viktor Yanukovych take the helm as President, prompted Ukraine to back away from its previous plans to join NATO.

This all changed in 2014 when, in the aftermath of the Euromaidan unrest Yanakovych was driven out of office, eventually replaced by Petro Poroshenko, who found himself facing off against a militant minority in the Donbas and the Russian government in the Crimea. The outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine since 2014 prompted Poroshenko to renew Ukraine’s call to be brought in as a full-fledged NATO member, something the transatlantic alliance has to date failed to act on.

There is a saying that if something looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck. Given its lengthy history of political and military interaction with NATO, including a decade-long military deployment in Afghanistan, Ukraine has achieved a level of interoperability with NATO that exceeds that of some actual members. US and NATO military personnel are on the ground in Ukraine conducting training, while Ukrainian forces are deployed in support of several ongoing NATO military commitments, including Iraq and Kosovo. Ukraine looks like NATO, talks like NATO, acts like NATO – but it is not NATO. Nor will it ever be.
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The critical question to be asked is precisely what kind of relationship NATO envisions having with Ukraine. While the status of “enhanced opportunity partner” implies a way toward eventual NATO membership, the reality is that there is no discernable path that would bring Ukraine to this objective. The rampant political corruption in the country today is disqualifying under any circumstances, and the dispute with Hungary over Ukraine curbing minority rights represents a death knell in a consensus-driven organization like NATO.

But the real dealbreaker is the ongoing standoff between Kiev and Moscow over Crimea. There is virtually no scenario that has Russia leaving it voluntarily or by force. The prospects of enabling Ukraine to resolve the conflict by force of arms simply by invoking Article 5 of the UN Charter is not something NATO either seeks or desires.

Which leaves one wondering at NATO’s true objective in continuing to string Ukraine along. The answer lies in the composition of the six nations that have been granted “enhanced opportunity partner” status. Four of them – Ukraine, Georgia, Sweden and Finland – directly face off against Russia on a broad front stretching from the Arctic to the Black Sea. Jordan’s interests intersect with Moscow’s in Syria. Australia provides NATO with an opening for expanding its reach into the Pacific, an objective recently outlined by NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg.

NATO aspires to be a political organization, but in reality it is nothing more than a military alliance with geopolitical ambition. Its effectiveness rests in its ability to project military power, and in order to do this effectively, the military organizations involved must possess a high level of interoperability across a wide spectrum of areas, including command and control, logistics and equipment.
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By extending the status of “enhanced opportunity partner” to Ukraine and the other five nations, NATO is expanding its military capabilities without taking on the risks associated with expanding its membership; Ukrainian troops can be sacrificed in some far-off land void of any real national security interest to the Ukrainian people, and yet NATO will never mobilize under Article 5 to come to Kiev’s aid on its own soil. In many ways, the relationship mirrors that of a colonial master to its subjects, demanding much while delivering little. At the end of the day, the status of “enhanced opportunity partner” is little more than that of a glorified minion who trades its own flesh and blood for the false promise of opportunity that will never materialize.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer. He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter

June 13, 2020 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Scientific Journal Advocating Child-Free Life Sparks Fury in Low-Fertility Finland

Sputnik – 09.09.2019

The 13/2019 edition of the magazine Tieteen Kuvalehti, which addressed climate change and numerous ways of minimising the carbon footprint, has struck a chord in Finland.

After listing more conventional ways of reducing one’s carbon footprint, such as abstaining from consuming meat and minimising air and car travel, Tieteen Kuvalehti concluded that the right (and the single best) thing for a climate-aware person to do is to abstain from having children.

The idea that having babies is bad for the environment, complemented by an exed-out image of a baby on the cover, was ill-received in Finland, where the birth rate is currently at a historic low: according to the United Nations report World Population Prospects 2019, the number of children under age five in 2015 was 300 million, compared with 501 million in 1950.

A Centre Party MP called for the magazine to be “hidden” in shops, libraries and kiosks.

“I believe conveying the message that a baby is a source of emissions is going too far. It gives children and youth the impression that they are a burden, and I find this horrible”, Aittakumpu told national broadcaster Yle.

Christian Democrat MP Päivi Räsänen was also outraged by on the cover.

“The message of the cover image is offensive to babies and families with babies … Children that are well cared for and educated will come up with the solutions to future problems, not be the cause of them. I support a counterattack to propaganda of this nature that says ‘All babies are welcome!’”, Päivi Räsänen said, as quoted by Yle. […]

​Meanwhile, the number of births in Finland fell for the eighth consecutive year in 2018, as the total fertility rate hit a historic low of 1.41 children per women, Statistics Finland indicated. The last time Finland experienced baby blues of comparable proportions was during the great famine that happened about 150 years ago.

However, this is not the first time scientific papers suggest abstaining from having children for the sake of the planet. A 2017 study from Lund University in Sweden, suggested having fewer children, living car-free, avoiding air travel and eating a plant-based diet, claiming that these measures are more efficient in reducing emissions than commonly promoted strategies like comprehensive recycling or relying on energy-efficient household lightbulbs.

Helsinki University world politics professor Teivo Teivainen stressed that the decision to have fewer children includes many ethical considerations. While underscoring Finland’s responsibility, he stressed that the birthrate of the small nation has almost no significance on the global scale.

Tieteen Kuvalehti is the Finnish version of the Danish periodical Illustreret Videnskab, published by the Swedish media house Bonnier Group, which is run by the Bonnier family and operates in more than a dozen countries. It circulation is about 550,000 copies.

September 9, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 3 Comments

Washington’s Nord Stream 2 Sanctions May Have Boomerang Effect on US Interests – German Media Reports

By Svetlana Ekimenko – Sputnik – 27.08.2019

The US Congress has moved forward with legislation to impose sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project in defiance of criticism from Washington’s allies in Europe, as the joint venture brings together Russia’s Gazprom, Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall, Austria’s OMV, France’s Engie, and Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell.

Possible US sanctions against companies involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline could potentially harm US oil and gas projects in the Gulf of Mexico, writes the German business newspaper Handelsblatt.

“From the point of view of Germany, the name of the US proposed sanctions bill, ‘Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act’, is in itself an insolence”, writes the author.

The US is pushing to impose sanctions against Nord Stream 2 despite likely consequences that such restrictions may have.

Thus, European companies involved in laying the pipeline and targeted by Washington’s sanctions play a key role in the global energy market.

For a long time, these companies worked in the Gulf of Mexico as subcontractors of the American corporations Chevron and Exxon Mobil, recalls Handelsblatt.

Therefore, if they are included in the sanctions lists, projects in the Gulf of Mexico will be disrupted, since it is impossible to quickly replace such highly specialised firms.

Overall, the US economy views the proposed sanctions against Nord Stream 2 critically, the author points out. Such restrictions would also be likely to harm US gas exporters, prompting European buyers to reduce LNG imports from the United States and increase supplies from other countries.

Proposed US Sanctions on Nord Stream 2

The Nord Stream 2 project has long drawn opposition from a number of countries, with the United States, which is trying to sell more of its own liquefied natural gas to overseas allies, insisting that the project will make Europe dependent on Moscow – claims that Russia has repeatedly rebuffed.

Moscow has insisted that the pipeline project is strictly commercial, ultimately seeking to boost Europe’s energy security.

Nevertheless, in early August, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill on sanctions against companies providing vessels for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.

The document prohibits entry into the US for anyone involved in the “sale, lease, provision or assistance in providing” ships for laying Russian offshore pipelines at a depth of 30 metres or more, as well as the freezing of their assets in US jurisdiction.

Companies from Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Finland, and Sweden may fall under the sanctions.

The project is being implemented by Nord Stream 2 AG, with Gazprom investing half of the funds, and the remainder being contributed by European partners: Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall, Austria’s OMV, France’s Engie, and Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell.

Germany has been strongly behind Nord Stream 2, emphasizing the commercial focus of the project.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she supported the BDI’s (Federation of German Industries) stance that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline for delivering Russian natural gas to Europe is necessary given the German initiative to stop using nuclear and coal energy.

Austria, which is interested in reliable supplies of fuel, and Norway, whose government owns 30 percent of the shares of Kvaerner, one of the gas pipeline construction contractors, also spoke in favor of the project.

Nord Stream 2 Project

The 745-mile-long (1,200 km) Nord Stream 2 twin pipeline is set to run from Russia to Germany through the territorial waters or exclusive economic zones of Denmark, Finland, Germany, Russia, and Sweden to deliver Russian gas to European consumers.

The completed project will double the capacity of the existing Nord Stream pipeline network, allowing a total of up to 110 billion cubic metres of Russian natural gas to be transported to Western Europe via pipelines at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

According to a statement made by project operator Nord Stream 2 AG on 26 August, the pipeline is 75 percent complete.

August 27, 2019 Posted by | Economics, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lavrov Says Alleged Russian Links to GPS Glitches During NATO Drills Fantasy

Sputnik – 12.02.2019

MOSCOW – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday called claims of Russia’s alleged involvement in GPS disruptions during last year’s NATO drills a fantasy, a day after Norway renewed similar allegations concerning signal interference near its border.

“I must say that a matter was not looked into because it is impossible to explore fantasies that are not confirmed by any facts. It’s all along the lines of ‘highly likely,'” Lavrov said at a press conference after meeting with Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini.

In turn, Soini said that Finland had requested information from Russia on what could be causing the GPS disruptions.

“The situation [with GPS failure] last fall caused concern in Finland. And this situation does not in any way contribute to increasing the level of stability in the region. Naturally, the safety of air traffic and security in the broad sense should not be compromised in any circumstances. We expect and believe that there will be no such events in the future. We discussed this issue and asked for information on what these obstacles may be related to,” Soini told reporters after the meeting.

On Monday, the Norwegian Intelligence Service said in its annual report that in repeated incidents since 2017, Russia had blocked GPS signals in Norwegian regions near the border with Russia, adding that these incidents coincided with military drills in Norway.

Between late October and early November, NATO’s Trident Juncture military drills, held in several northern European countries, including Norway and Finland, were overshadowed by several incidents in which pilots reported losing GPS signals.

On November 13, the Norwegian Defense Ministry issued a statement blaming Russia for the disruption of GPS navigation signals. Finland also alleged that Russia could be responsible for jamming the signal. Moscow has denied the allegations, and Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has noted the existing trend of accusing Russia of “various deadly sins,” saying that such accusations were, as a rule, unfounded.

February 12, 2019 Posted by | Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment