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Soros, Fake News & Italian Media: Journalist Reveals Plot to Put Rome Under Austerity

Sputnik – January 20, 2019

Sputnik Italia contributor Alessio Trovato investigates the purpose of George Soros’ recent closed-door meeting with European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, and broader campaign to convince Brussels to put Italy under the supervision of the ‘troika’ (the European Central Bank, the EC and the International Monetary Fund).

George Soros, a sworn enemy of the present right-populist coalition government in Rome, has been on something of a mission to put Italy under austerity, with Italian media reporting on such efforts going back to at least 2011. Last October, in an explosive interview for Italian TV, former Prime Minister Mario Monti revealed that Soros had called him at the height of the European sovereign debt crisis eight years ago, urging Italy to accept ‘assistance’ from the IMF to dig out from under its debt problem. Monti refused at the time, saying following Soros’ advice would have turned Italy into another Greece.

On November 26, 2018, in a meeting in Brussels with Timmermans, along with a representative of EC President Jean-Claude Juncker, Soros was again assumed to have brought up the debt issue, with Italian media speculating heavily regarding the vague comments of an EC spokesperson, who said only that they “cannot confirm or deny whether Italy’s budget was discussed.”

Meanwhile, Sputnik Italia contributor Alessio Trovato writes, Soros’ Open Society Foundations has been cutting paychecks “to a considerable number of journalists and influencers whom (surprise) constantly refer to him as a ‘benefactor’ and ‘spontaneously’ support all of his campaigns, including his support for migration, mondialism, Russophobia and colour revolutions.”

A big part of the problem, according to Trovato, is that the mainstream media continues to completely ignore Soros’ activities, or to report on them only with reluctance, even as the billionaire seeks to interfere in democratic processes and the internal affairs of sovereign nations.

Soros’ Agents in Mainstream Media vs. Italy’s National Interest

“Even journalists who do not receive ‘favours’ from the magnate are either incapable of saying anything on this subject or prefer not to do so,” Trovato wrote. “Hence we come to the case of Ivo Caizzi, Luciano Fontana and Federico Fubini, who are likely to become a classic in the annals of Italian journalism, and show the battle for journalistic independence being waged inside the mainstream media.”

Late last year, Caizzi, the Brussels correspondent of Italy’s highly influential Corriere della Sera newspaper, leaked internal email communications accusing Fubini, the paper’s chief economics commentator, and Fontana, its executive director, of publishing ‘Fake News’ in November about ‘inevitable sanctions’ against Italy for its violation of EU budget legislation. In reality, Rome managed to avoid sanctions, reaching a compromise deal with Brussels in December. However, reports of imminent sanctions from a respectable mainstream newspaper are thought to have threatened the country’s economic stability.Last week, Caizzi wrote an open letter to his employers, asking them to respond to several serious questions in the interests of the newspaper, his fellow journalists, and readers. In the editorial, the journalist asked whether editor-in-chief Fontana’s behaviour has been corrected, and whether it would be appropriate for Fontana to limit himself to expressing his personal opinions to editorials, op-eds and comments. Caizzi asked whether reports of ‘imminent sanctions’ could have adversely affected the financial markets and played in the hands of speculators (who, incidentally, include Soros) betting on the Italy’s destabilization, the collapse of the country’s stock market, and the growth of yields on Italian government obligations.

“Can we hope that in 2019, Corriere will return to its motto of ‘providing independent and high-quality information and ensuring maximum reliability of the news from the first to the last page?” Caizzi asked.

Commenting on the editorial, Trovato suggested that “even the rebellious Caizzi” did not comment on two issues which “he is certainly aware of.”

Specifically, Trovato noted, “Soros met Frans Timmermans behind closed doors in Brussels [in November]. The 88-year-old Soros is not one to head off to Brussels for no reason. If he is talking to someone, it means he has something to ask, or offer. Mr. Timmermans is not just anybody, but the so-called ‘spitzenkandidad’, the lead candidate for the presidency of the European Commission in the event of victory for the socialists and the democrats in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament. What did they talk about? A trifle –Soros seems to have asked Timmermans to take measures so that the European Commission rejects the Italian tax maneuver to allow the troika to be brought to Italy. In effect, Soros essentially asked Juncker’s deputy… to turn Italy into the same kind of hostage to the EU as Greece. In this sense, [Corriere’s reporting] turned Italian media into a sort of fifth column, preparing the markets for the upcoming speculative moves from the inside.”

Secondly, the journalist noted, Federico Fubini is a member of the European Advisory Board of the Open Society Foundations, and, ironically, on the European Commission’s ‘expert group on Fake News’.

“The point is, how can one believe that Europe is struggling against Fake News when it also produces it? Can we believe in the impartially of information published thanks to the ‘donations of generous and disinterested benefactors’?” Trovato asked.

Ultimately, the Sputnik Italia contributor noted, “our only chance for survival lies in being aware of what’s going on and in our own analytical skills. Discuss, doubt and check everything – otherwise you will never understand who you’re up against. Maybe it’s a troll – an agent of the Kremlin, or perhaps someone funded by the Open Society, the Aspen Institute, the Bilderbergs, the Atlantic Council, the CIA, Mossad, the FSB, a proponent of the troika trojan horse, or just about anyone else. Never trust! Even those who tell you not to believe anyone!”

January 20, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

The Nuclear Lies of NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg. Brand New “Precision Guidance” Nukes Deployed All Over Europe

By Manlio Dinucci | Global Research | November 30, 2018

“Russian missiles are a danger” – the alarm was sounded by the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, in an interview with Maurizio Caprara published in the Corriere della Sera*, three days before the “incident” in the Sea of Azov which added fuel to the already incandescent tension with Russia. “There are no new missiles in Europe. But there are Russian missiles, yes”, began Stoltenberg, ignoring two facts.

First: as from March 2020, the United States will begin to deploy in Italy, Germany, Belgium, and Holland (where B-61 nuclear bombs are already based), and probably also in other European countries, the first nuclear bomb with precision guidance in their arsenal, the B61-12. Its function is primarily anti-Russian. This new bomb is designed with penetrating capacity, enabling it to explode underground in order to destroy the central command bunkers with its first strike. How would the United States react if Russia deployed nuclear bombs in Mexico, right next to their territory? Since Italy and the other countries, violating the non-proliferation Treaty, are allowing the USA to use its bases, as well as its pilots and planes, for the deployment of nuclear weapons, Europe will be exposed to a greater risk as the first line of the growing confrontation with Russia.

Second: a new US missile system was installed in Romania in 2016, and another similar system is currently being built in Poland. The same missile system is installed on four warships which, based by the US Navy in the Spanish port of Rota, sail the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea close to Russian territory. The land-based installations, like the ships, are equipped with Lockheed Martin Mk41 vertical launchers, which – as specified by the manufacturer himself – are able to launch “missiles for all missions: either SM-3’s as defence against ballistic missiles, or long-range Tomahawks to attack land-based objective”. The latter can also be loaded with a nuclear warhead. Since it is unable to check which missiles are actually loaded into the launchers parked at the frontier with Russia, Moscow supposes that there are also nuclear attack missiles, in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which forbids the installation of intermediate- and short-range missiles on land bases.

On the contrary, Stoltenberg accuses Russia of violating the INF Treaty, and sends out a warning:

“We can not allow the Treaties to be violated without punishment”.

In 2014, the Obama administration accused Russia, without providing the slightest proof, of having tested a Cruise missile (SSC-8) from a category forbidden by the Treaty, announcing that “the United States are considering the deployment of land-based missiles in Europe”, in other words, the abandon of the INF Treaty. This plan, supported by the European allies of NATO, was confirmed by the Trump administration: in the fiscal year of 2018, Congress authorised the financing of a programme of research and development for a Cruise missile to be launched from a mobile platform.

Nuclear missiles of the Euromissile type, deployed by the USA in Europe during the 1980’s and eliminated by the INF Treaty, are capable of hitting Russia, while similar nuclear missiles deployed in Russia can hit Europe but not the USA. Stoltenberg himself, referring to the SSC-8’s that Russia had deployed on its own territory, declared that they are capable of reaching most of Europe, but not the United States. This is how the United States defends Europe.

And in this grotesque affirmation by Stoltenberg, who attributes to Russia “the highly perilous idea of limited nuclear conflict”, he warns:

“All atomic weapons are dangerous, but those which can lower the threshold for use are especially so”.

This is exactly the warning sounded by US military and scientific experts about the B61-12’s which are on the verge of being deployed in Europe:

“Low-powered, more accurate nuclear weapons increase the temptation of using them, even to using them first instead of as a retaliation”.

Why is the Corriere della Sera not going to interview them?

Source: PandoraTV

This article was originally published in Italian on Il Manifesto.

Translated by Pete Kimberley

Manlio Dinucci is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Note

*The Corriere della Sera is a historical Italian daily newspaper, founded in Milan in 1876. Published by RCS MediaGroup, it is the most important Italian daily in terms of distribution and the number of readers.

November 30, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Video | , , , , , | Leave a comment

UAE to invest in Israeli plan to pipe gas to Europe

Press TV – November 25, 2018

The media in Tel Aviv have reported that the UAE has invested as much as $100 million in an ambitious Israeli project to pipe natural gas to Europe.

The investment would be made by a company based in Abu Dhabi for a pipeline project which is internationally known to be unique given its record length as well as the extreme depths it would be laid toward Europe, Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen quoted Israeli media as reporting.

The agreement has been described as “historic” by Israeli media, al-Mayadeen added.

Israel has signed a multilateral deal over the scheme – called the East Med Pipeline Project – with Greece, Italy and Cyprus. The European Union also supports the project.

The East Med Pipeline Project is to start about 170 kilometers (105 miles) off Cyprus’s southern coast and stretch for 2,200 kilometers (1,350 miles) to reach Otranto, Italy, via Crete and the Greek mainland, according to a report by The Times of Israel news website.

The pipeline will have the capacity to carry up to 20 billion cubic meters (706 billion cubic feet) of gas from Israeli fields each year. Europe’s gas import needs are projected to increase by 100 billion cubic meters (3.5 billion cubic feet) annually by 2030.

Work on the project is expected to begin within a few months, and to conclude within five years.

UAE’s investment in the project could trigger protests in the Muslim world. The Emirates has already taken moves to approach Tel Aviv with speculations recently emerging that it has even involved itself in certain military operations by Israel on Gaza.

Last December, Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said a study on the project showed that the project is feasible, even though it presents technical challenges due to the depths involved and has an estimated cost of 6.2 billion euro ($7.36 billion).

Israel has already engaged in disputes with Lebanon over tapping into Mediterranean energy resources.

Last February, Israel described as “very provocative” a Lebanese tender for projects in two of its 10 offshore blocks in the Mediterranean Sea.

Israel itself has long been developing a number of offshore gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea, with the Tamar gas field, with proven reserves of 200 billion cubic meters, already producing gas, while the larger Leviathan field is expected to go online in the coming months.

A source close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2012 that Israel’s natural gas reserves were worth around $130 billion. A Business Week estimate later that year put the reserves’ value at $240 billion.

November 25, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Italy: A Whole US/NATO Strategic Military Base

PandoraTV | November 13, 2018

Manlio Dinucci in this carefully documented Pandora TV production focuses on US-NATO military deployment in Italy and around the World in what might described as “Global NATO”.

Manlio Dinucci, distinguished Italian author, geopolitical analyst and geographer is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization CRG).

November 21, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | Leave a comment

Italy Slows Down Purchases of US F-35 Jets to Cut Spending – Reports

Sputnik – 12.11.2018

The previous government ordered some 90 of the fifth-generation jets for its military, but the Five Star and Lega parties, which won the last election, have been trying to either scrap the deal or reduce spending on it.

The Italian government is planning to reduce the number of F-35 jets it will buy over the next five years from 10 to six or seven aircraft, Defence News reported citing an anonymous source. According to the media outlet, Rome will not reduce the total amount of ordered jets, but instead will leave the final decision on their fate to the next government.

The move will allow Italy to avoid or reduce contract penalties and free up some resources for the government’s commitments, Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta told the media earlier.

“What I would like to do is lighten the load, since we have other spending commitments in Europe. We will try to stretch out deliveries instead of cutting the order, which would reduce offsets and mean penalties,” she said.

The outlet’s source added that the money saved by postponing the delivery of three or four of the F-35 jets will help Rome fund its social programs and tax cuts.

Earlier, a member of the now-ruling Five Star party in the Italian parliament, Tatiana Basilio, vowed in 2017 that the country will scrap the contract for the delivery of F-35 warplanes. Italy intends to buy a total of 90 of the fifth-generation jets. Eight jets have already been delivered to Amendola air base, and three others are being used to train pilots in the US.

November 12, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , | 2 Comments

US Blocks $199Mln in Assets Belonging to Iran, Syria, N Korea in 2017 – Treasury

Sputnik – 07.11.2018

WASHINGTON – The United States blocked nearly $200 million in assets belonging to Syria, Iran, and North Korea in 2017 as a result of the sanctions imposed on the three countries, the Treasury Department said in its annual report to Congress released on Wednesday.

“Approximately $199 million in assets relating to the three designated state sponsors of terrorism in 2017 have been identified by OFAC as blocked pursuant to economic sanctions imposed by the United States,” the report said.

The statement comes days after the US fully reinstated sanctions against Iran, including measures that curb Tehran’s oil industry. At the same time, the United States temporarily exempted eight nations — China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey — from the sanctions on importing oil from Iran.

In May, US President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and reimpose sanctions against Tehran that were previously lifted under the accord, including secondary restrictions.

The first round of the US sanctions was reimposed in August, while the second round, targeting over 700 Iranian individuals, entities, banks, aircraft and vessels, came into force this week.

November 7, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Nuclear Missiles Deployed in Italy, … against Russia

By Manlio Dinucci | Global Research | October 18, 2018

The B61-12, the new US nuclear bomb which replaces the B-61 deployed in Italy and other European countries, will begin production in less than a year. The announcement was made officially by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). It reveals that the revision of the final project has now been completed with success, and the qualification stage will begin this month at the Pantex Plant in Texas. Production will be authorised to begin in September 2019.

In March 2020, the first unit of production will begin fabricating a series of 500 bombs. As from that time, in other words in about a year and a half, the United States will begin the anti-Russian deployment in Italy, Germany, Belgium, Holland and probably certain other European countries, of the first nuclear bomb in their arsenal with a precision guidance system. The B61-12 is designed with penetrating capacity, built to explode underground in order to destroy bunkers housing command centres.

Since Italy and the other countries, in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, are offering the USA the bases, the pilots and the aircraft for the deployment of the B61-12, Europe will soon be exposed to a greater risk as the front line of the developing nuclear confrontation with Russia.

An even more dangerous situation appears at the same moment – the return of the Euromissiles, meaning the nuclear missiles which are similar to those deployed in Europe in the 1980’s by the USA, with the official aim of defending against Soviet missiles.

Source: PandoraTV [English subtitles]

This category of ground-based nuclear missiles of intermediate range (between 500 and 5,500 km) were eliminated with the INF Treaty of 1987. But in 2014, the Obama administration accused Russia of having experimented with a cruise missile (# 9M729) whose category was forbidden by the Treaty. Moscow denied that the missile violated the INF Treaty and, in turn, accused Washington of having installed in Poland and Romania launch ramps for interceptor missiles (elements of the “shield”), which could be used to launch cruise missiles bearing nuclear warheads.

The accusation aimed by Washington at Moscow, which is not supported by any evidence, enabled the USA to launch a plan aimed at once again deploying in Europe ground-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles. The Obama administration had already announced in 2015 that “faced with the violation of the INF Treaty by Russia, the United States are considering the deployment of ground-based missiles in Europe”. This plan was confirmed by the Trump administration – in fiscal year 2018, Congress authorised the financing of a “programme of research and development for a cruise missile which could be launched from a mobile road base”.

The plan is supported by the European allies of NATO. The recent North-Atlantic Council, at the level of Europe’s Defence Ministers, which was attended for Italy by Elisabetta Trenta (M5S), declared that the “INF Treaty is in danger because of the actions of Russia”, which it accused of deploying “a disturbing missile system which constitutes a serious risk for our security”. Hence the necessity that “NATO must maintain nuclear forces which are stable, trust-worthy and efficient” (which explains why the members of the Alliance rejected en bloc the United Nations Treaty for the prohibition of nuclear weapons).

So the grounds are being laid for a European deployment, on the borders of Russian territory, of ground-based intermediate-range US nuclear missiles. It’s as if Russia were deploying in Mexico nuclear missiles pointed at the United States.

This article was originally published in Italian on Il Manifesto.

Read more:

A Recurring Nightmare: Deployment of U.S. Ground-based Intermediate Range Nuclear Missiles in Europe against Russia

October 20, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Video | , , , | 1 Comment

Illegal US Nuclear Weapons Handouts

By John Laforge | CounterPunch | September 27, 2018

The US military practice of placing nuclear weapons in five other countries (no other nuclear power does this) is a legal and political embarrassment for US diplomacy. That’s why all the governments involved refuse to “confirm or deny” the practice of “nuclear sharing” or the locations of the B61 free-fall gravity bombs in question.

Expert analysts and observers agree that the United States currently deploys 150-to-180 of these nuclear weapons at bases in Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Turkey and Belgium. The authors of the January 2018 report “Building a Safe, Secure, and Credible NATO Nuclear Posture” take for granted the open secret that nuclear sharing is ongoing even though all six countries are signatory parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

In a paper for the journal Science for Democratic Action, German weapons expert Otfried Nassauer, director of Berlin’s Information Center for Transatlantic Security, concluded, “NATO’s program of ‘nuclear sharing’ with five European countries probably violates Articles I and II of the Treaty.”

Article I prohibits nuclear weapon states that are parties to the NPT from sharing their weapons. It says: “Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly….” Article II, the corollary commitment, states says: “Each non-nuclear weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly … or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices….”

What nuclear sharing means in practice

The five NATO countries currently hosting US H-bombs on their air bases are officially “non-nuclear weapons states.” But as Nassauer reports, “Under NATO nuclear sharing in times of war, the US would hand control of these nuclear weapons over to the non-nuclear weapon states’ pilots for use with aircraft from non-nuclear weapon states. Once the bomb is loaded aboard, once the correct Permissive Action Link code has been entered by the US soldiers guarding the weapons, and once the aircraft begins its mission, control over the respective weapon(s) has been transferred. That is the operational, technical part of what is called ‘nuclear sharing.’”

This flaunting of the NPT is what peace activists on both sides of the Atlantic refer to when calling the US bombs in Europe “illegal.” Nassauer notes, “The pilots for these aircraft are provided with training specific to use nuclear weapons. The air force units to which these pilots and aircraft belong have the capability to play a part in NATO nuclear planning, including assigning a target, selecting the yield of the warhead for the target, and planning a specific mission for the use of the bombs.”

“NATO nuclear sharing,” Nassauer writes, “was described in 1964 by one member of the US National Security Council … as meaning that ‘the non-nuclear NATO-partners in effect become nuclear powers in time of war.’ The concern is that, at the moment the aircraft loaded with the bomb is on the runway ready to start, the control of the weapon is turned over from the US, a nuclear weapon state, to non-nuclear weapon states. … To my understanding, this is in violation of the spirit if not the text of Articles I and II of the NPT.”

How Do the US and its Allies Explain their Lawlessness?

An undated, 1960s-era letter from then-US Secretary of State Rusk explained the US ‘interpretation’ of the NPT. The pretext for ignoring the treaty’s plain language, the Rusk letter “argues that the NPT does not specify what is allowed, but only what is forbidden. In this view, everything that is not forbidden by the NPT is allowed,” Nassaure explained.

In its most absurd section, Rusk simply denies the treaty’s obvious purpose and intent. “Since the treaty doesn’t explicitly talk about the deployment of nuclear warheads in countries that are non-nuclear weapon states,” Nassaure writes, “such deployments are considered legal under the NPT.”

It is so easy to show that the United States and its nuclear sharing partners are in violation of the NPT, the governments involved work hard pretending there is nothing to worry about, no lawbreaking underway, no reason to demand answers. This is why so many activists across Europe have become nonviolently disobedient at the air bases involved.

The transparent unlawfulness of NATO’s nuclear war planning is also the reason why prosecutors in Germany don’t dare bring serious charges against civil resisters; even those who have cut fences and occupied hot weapons bunkers in broad daylight. Some Air Force witness might testify at trial that US nuclear weapons are on base.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

September 27, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Italy’s NATO Racket… A Bridge Too Far

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 16.08.2018

The catastrophic bridge collapse in Italy this week has prompted a public outcry over the country’s crumbling infrastructure and how it is putting lives at risk. But the question the public in Italy and across Europe should be asking is: why are their governments spending extra tens of billions of dollars on NATO militarism, while neglecting vital civilian infrastructure?

When the iconic Morandi motorway viaduct came crashing down this week over the city of Genoa – with a death toll so far of 39 people – the consensus among Italian news media and members of the public is that the bridge was a disaster waiting to happen.

Nearly 200 meters of the motorway flyover section spanning a river, houses and an industrial area collapsed while dozens of cars and trucks were passing. Shocked witnesses described the scene as “apocalyptic” as vehicles plunged 40 meters along with concrete and iron girding to the ground below.

Lack of due maintenance has been blamed for why the bridge collapsed. Weather conditions at the time were reportedly torrential rain storms and lightning. But those conditions can hardly explain why a whole motorway viaduct wobbled and crashed.

The Morandi Bridge was built 51 years ago in 1967. Two years ago, an engineering professor from Genoa University warned that the viaduct needed to be totally replaced as its structure had seriously deteriorated. There seems little doubt that the disaster could have been avoided if proper action had been taken by the authorities rather than carrying out piecemeal repair jobs over the years.

Italian media reports say the latest is the fifth bridge collapse in the country over the past five years, as cited by the BBC.

Now the Italian government is calling for a nationwide survey of roads, tunnels, bridges and viaducts to assess public safety amid fears that other infrastructure facilities are prone to deadly failure.

What should be a matter of urgent public demand is why Italy is increasing its national spending on military upgrades and procurements instead of civilian amenities. As with all European members of the NATO alliance, Italy is being pressured by the United States to ramp up its military expenditure. US President Donald Trump has made the NATO budget a priority, haranguing European states to increase their military spending to a level of 2 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Trump has even since doubled that figure to 4 per cent.

Washington’s demand on European allies predates Trump. At a NATO summit in 2015, when Barack Obama was president, all members of the military alliance then acceded to US pressure for greater allocation of budgets to hit the 2 per cent target. The alleged threat of Russian aggression has been cited over and over as the main reason for boosting NATO.

Figures show that Italy, as with other European countries, has sharply increased its annual military spending every year since the 2015 summit. The upward trend reverses a decade-long decline. Currently, Italy spends about $28 billion annually on military. That equates to only about 1.15 per cent of GDP, way below the US-demanded target of 2 per cent of GDP.

But the disturbing thing is that Italy’s defense minister Elisabetta Trenta reportedly gave assurances to Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton that her government was committed to hitting its NATO target in the coming years. On current figures that translates roughly into a doubling of Italy’s annual military budget.

Meanwhile, the Italian public have had to endure years of economic austerity from cutbacks in social spending and civilian infrastructure.

Rome’s new coalition government comprising the League and Five Star Movement has called for a reversal in austerity policies and has vowed to increase public investment. Its leaders, like deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, have also at times expressed a lukewarm view of NATO.

After this week’s bridge disaster, the populist coalition government has renewed its calls for more investment in public services.

Nevertheless, why then is Italy’s defense minister giving assurances that the country will adhere to Washington’s demands for increasing its NATO budget? Minister Trenta, who belongs to the Five Star Movement, says her government remains committed to buying up to 90 units of the US new-generation F35 fighter jet.

Aggregate figures show that Italy spent nearly $300 billion over the past decade on military. The previous decade’s outlay was even higher in constant dollar terms, before the financial crash in 2008. And yet the Italian government – despite its populist appeal – is planning to allocate even more resources to military over the coming years in order to meet Washington’s ultimatum for the NATO 2 per cent of GDP target. A target figure that seems wholly arbitrary and abhorrent in the light of so many urgent social needs and neglected public infrastructure.

If Italian motorway bridges are collapsing now, the future for public safety looks even bleaker when more of the country’s economy is diverted to satisfy US-led NATO demands.

Moreover, this dilemma is not confined to Italy. All European members of NATO are being railroaded by Washington to significantly expand their military budgets. President Trump has lambasted European states as “free loaders” cadging off “American protection”. Trump has singled out Germany for harassment to boost its military budget. After all the hectoring, the Europeans seem to be responding too. At the annual NATO summit held last month in Brussels, the Norwegian secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg boasted that non-US members had increased their national military budgets by an aggregate $40 billion in one year alone.

A cruel irony is that last year NATO planners complained that Europe’s infrastructure of roads, tunnels and bridges needed significant upgrades to facilitate mass-transport of military forces in case of a war with Russia. The implication was that European governments would have to increase their national spending on civilian transport networks specifically to facilitate NATO military requirements.

That is tantamount to a parasite craving for more blood from its host. Already European infrastructure is in disrepair largely because of economic austerity enforced by disproportionate spending on NATO militarism. At a time when public need for social investment is acute, European governments are obeying orders from Washington to plough more financial resources into subsidizing the American military-industrial complex. All this madcap, irrational expenditure is supposedly to keep European citizens safe from Russian threats.

All too evidently, however, the biggest threat to European citizens is the way Washington and its NATO racket is bleeding Europe of financial resources – resources which instead should be spent on building safe roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

August 16, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Closer ties with Ukraine, Georgia would have dire consequences for NATO: Putin

Press TV – July 19, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his strong opposition to the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) eastward, warning the US-led military alliance against unspecified consequences in case it seeks to forge closer ties with Ukraine and Georgia.

Addressing a meeting of Russian ambassadors and envoys in Moscow on Thursday, Putin said there was a need to rebuild trust in Europe, and that NATO’s attempts concerning deployment of military contingents and infrastructure near Russia’s western frontiers were not acceptable.

“We will respond appropriately to such aggressive steps, which pose a direct threat to Russia,” the Russian leader said.

He added, “Our colleagues, who are trying to aggravate the situation, seeking to include, among others, Ukraine and Georgia in the orbit of the alliance, should think about the possible consequences of such an irresponsible policy.”

Putin said he had discussed the matter with his US counterpart Donald Trump at a summit in the Finnish capital of Helsinki on Monday.

Russia and Georgia fought a war in August 2008 over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. Moscow continues to garrison troops there and to support another breakaway region, Abkhazia.

The strategic Black Sea peninsula of Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on March 17, 2014 and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum, in which 96.8 percent of participants voted in favor of the move.

After Crimea rejoined Russia, an armed conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine when Kiev launched military operations to quell pro-Russia sentiments there. Kiev accuses Moscow of involvement in the conflict. Russia, in return, has denied the charge.

The US and its Western allies have imposed several rounds of sanctions against Russia over its reunification with Crimea and the Ukrainian crisis, which has killed about 10,000 people since it began in 2014.
German soldiers attend a ceremony to welcome the German battalion being deployed to Lithuania as part of NATO deterrence measures against Russia in Rukla, Lithuania, on February 7, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Earlier this year, a senior member of the Italian Five Star Movement (M5S) and vice president of the European Parliament told Russia’s Sputnik news agency that the presence of NATO troops close to Russia’s borders contributes to an arms race, and maintains an atmosphere of mistrust between Moscow and the alliance.

Massimo Castaldo also called for the easing of tensions between NATO and Moscow.

“I think that we should bet on the gradual easing of tension, including with the help of signals that we send as NATO, hoping to restore useful and constructive relations [with Russia],” Castaldo pointed out.

July 20, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Italy will not buy F-35s anymore, mulls walking out of existing contracts – Defense Minister

RT | July 7, 2018

The anti-establishment Italian government’s defense minister has said that the country won’t purchase any more Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets from the US and will review the existing order for 90 planes.

Elisabetta Trenta, the country’s new minister of defense from the Eurosceptic Five Star Movement, has ruled out new contracts with the US for the purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets, adding that the order for 60 F-35A and 30 F-35B jets, which concluded in 2012, might be placed under review.

“We won’t buy any more F-35s,” Trenta said in an interview with Italian broadcaster La7’s Omnibus program on Friday.

“We are assessing what to do regarding the contracts already in place,” she added, noting that while her party has always been a vocal critic of the program, she said that scrapping it altogether may “cost us more than maintaining it.”

The fact that the cancellation of the bulk deal and the resulting “strong financial penalties” might cost the Italian budget a hefty sum is one of the main reservations that is holding the government back, she explained.

The termination of the contract can negatively impact Italian workers who are employed in the production, she said, listing other merits of the deal such as “technological activity” and “important research” in a Facebook post accompanying the interview

Italy became the only country with an F-35B assembly line outside the US. In May 2017, it rolled out the first jets. However, they had to be delivered to the US Navy base in Maryland for certification and crew training.

The line in Cameri is set to produce a total of 30 F-35Bs to be delivered to the Italian Navy, Italian Air Force and the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

Back in 2012, Italy already downsized its initial order for 135 jets to 90 as it was battling with a sovereign debt crisis.

The March general election in Italy, following weeks of uncertainty and political bickering, propelled a new government of the right-wing Lega Nord and anti-establishment Five Star Movement to power. The fact that it is now a part of the ruling coalition might have put some constraints on the party’s policy, which has always been in stark opposition to the costly program.

As the party presented its defense manifesto in May last year, Tatiana Basilio, then a Five Star MP in the parliament, said that “there will be no ifs or buts about leaving the F-35 program” if her party clinched the vote.

“€14 billion for 90 F-35s is too costly and we are putting ourselves in the hands of the US,” Basilio said at the time.

One aircraft currently costs Italy €51.3 million, while, overall, it has to spend some €14 billion on the jets.

Meanwhile, the program has been bogged down by unresolved technical issues, such as faulty helmets, malfunctioning ejector seats and overblown costs.

July 6, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Defending the EU Rather Than One’s Own Country

By Andrew Spannaus | Consortium News | June 24, 2018

Milan – By invoking his power last month to reject a proposed government minister because of the his critique of the EU, Italian President Sergio Mattarella made it clear that his priority is not to defend the Italian state—his job, theoretically—but rather the European Union.

This put into the open something rarely admitted publicly: that Italy—like other European countries—has essentially given up its existence as a sovereign nation-state. The EU treaties adopted by national parliaments now take precedence over the basic principles of each member country’s constitution.

Mattarella had announced on May 27 that Paolo Savona, the minister of the economy proposed by the populist parties that won the March elections, was unacceptable because of his critical position towards the EU. The president said the appointment would spook the markets and threaten the survival of the Euro. When the two populist parties that had joined together to govern, the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League, insisted on keeping Savona, Mattarella exercised his power to reject their choice and began plans to appoint an IMF technocrat who would guarantee the current budget orthodoxy while taking the country towards new elections.

Luigi di Maio, the 31-year old M5S leader, ultimately got Matteo Salvini, head of the League, to partially relent, shifting Savona to another position in order to avoid the collapse of their newly-formed coalition. Yet the brief firestorm touched off by the clash with Mattarella was revealing, as it risked doing precisely what the president and his EU backers fear most—promote even more opposition to the loss of national sovereignty that has occurred over the past 25 years.

Finance Dominates Government

Mattarella: Serving the EU, not Italy.

The EU’s principle aim is to continue the pro-finance policies launched in the 1980s with wide-scale de-regulation and the emergence of what became known as globalization, i.e. the loss of national sovereignty in favor of a borderless world in which financial interests would become more important than governments. The Union adopted the free market mantra, which it imposed through increasing supra-national bureaucracy. State intervention and regulations were considered the enemies of efficiency and growth, while austerity and so-called structural reforms were launched to break down the successful mixed state/market model that had been in place for decades.

Over the years, as national institutions gradually relinquished their power to make economic policy, European political elites adopted the goal of complete EU integration. They followed this dogma despite numerous contradictions, from the failure of austerity policies to increasing economic divisions, from the lack of democratic debate to sharply different foreign policy goals among member states.

Naturally, some members of national elites recognized the folly of the EU policies, one of whom was Paolo Savona. However, he is by no means “anti-European,” against further political cooperation at the supranational level. Rather, he simply recognizes that the neo-liberal policies of budget balancing and prohibiting state intervention are harmful to Italy (and others). And, given the European institutions’ refusal to re-think these rules, he came up with what some saw as a radical idea: draw up a “Plan B” in which Italy would withdraw from the single currency. The aim was to use this threat to the very survival of the Euro to exact changes such as abandoning austerity policies and allowing for large-scale public investment.

In practical terms, it is very unlikely that Italy or any other large country would today simply “leave” the Euro on its own. A more probable scenario is that the EU architecture would crumble if some of its largest members broke with the Brussels and Frankfurt orthodoxy. So, if Italy were to dig in its heels, for example, resisting calls for further deregulation and insisting on large-scale, targeted public investment, it could potentially find support from other victims of austerity such as Greece, Portugal and Spain, but also factions critical of EU policies in France and Germany.

Most of the Italian population now supports such a scenario and populist parties big and small have used it explicitly to increase their popularity. This gave them a crucial margin of added support, beyond exploiting other hot-button issues such as immigration, which despite having taken on more importance in recent years, by itself would not have been enough to bring the outsiders to power.

Thus when Mattarella stood before the TV cameras on May 27 to declare his veto, he made what was potentially a colossal blunder, both formally and politically. Besides overstepping his authority as President, since the Constitution does not allow him to intervene regarding the political orientation of the government, he sparked a backlash that could have easily strengthened his opponents.

Populists Reject Russophobia

The new government has already shown its willingness to break with establishment policies, specifically regarding relations with Russia. At the G7 meeting in Canada this month, Prime Minister Conte supported Donald Trump’s call to bring Russia back into the fold, providing the U.S. President with support on this issue that he has lacked so far among the leaders of the world’s most industrialized countries. Conte stressed Italy’s position as a loyal ally of the United States and NATO, while still insisting that better relations with Russia are needed. This point is also felt strongly among Italian businesses and institutions, particularly due to economic ties developed over many decades.

While the popularity of M5S is based on its anti-existing-system, anti-corruption platform, the League is best-known for its anti-immigration rhetoric. But over the years, the League has also adopted the most “sovereignist” positions among the large Italian political parties regarding economic policy. It now showcases economists who reject budget constraints outright, suggesting that governments can create currency freely, if need be. Further, the party has run national campaigns to re-regulate the banking sector—which would conflict directly with EU rules; both they and M5S promise to abandon austerity policies and increase both social spending and public investment. Last, they aim to implement a soft version of a “flat tax,” simplifying the tax system with only two brackets so as to inject more liquidity into the coffers of companies and the pockets of families, while raising penalties for tax evasion.

Any of these issues can cause an open clash with the EU, given its strict budget rules. The question is if the new government will attempt to finesse the issue and avoid an open fight, or welcome a political debate over the validity of the neo-liberal policies whose failure brought them to power.

Andrew Spannaus is a journalist and strategic analyst based in Milan, Italy. He was elected Chairman of the Milan Foreign Press Association in March 2018. He has published the books “Perché vince Trump” (Why Trump is Winning – June 2016) and “La rivolta degli elettori” (The Revolt of the Voters – July 2017).

June 24, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , | 2 Comments