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UN Urges Full-Fledged Probe Into Allegations of Secret CIA Prison in Lithuania

Sputnik – 27.07.2018

In 2016, Lithuania told the European Court of Human Rights that the country wasn’t harboring a secret US Central Intelligence Agency prison where terrorist suspects were allegedly detained.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has urged Lithuanian authorities to fully investigate allegations that a secret CIA prison operated in the Baltic state.

“The UNHRC is concerned about the fact that the pre-trial investigation was not completed, no suspects were identified, and all information about the progress and results of this inquiry is classified,” the committee was cited by the Latvian news network Delfi as saying.

The UNHRC also called on Vilnius to investigate the possible complicity of government officials in human rights violations related to detainees’ treatment in the alleged secret CIA prison in Lithuania.

“The state must ensure that the perpetrators are convicted and if found guilty, punished with the appropriate sanctions; victims should be guaranteed access to effective legal protection,” the UNHRC pointed out.

In late June 2016, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg held a public hearing in the lawsuit brought by Guantanamo Bay detainee Abu Zubaydah against Vilnius. Abu Zubaydah, who is accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks, claimed that he was subjected to inhuman conditions and torture in a secret CIA prison in Lithuania.

The ECHR ruled that Lithuania should pay 130,000 euros to Abu Zubaydah, a decision that has yet to be appealed by Vilnius.

In November 2009, the Lithuanian parliamentary committee on National Security and Defense opened a probe into ABC News claims that Lithuania provided the US Central Intelligence Agency(CIA) with a building near the capital Vilnius to detain and possibly interrogate eight al-Qaeda members between 2004 and 2006.

The committee finally concluded that there were conditions for the existence of a secret CIA prison in Lithuania, adding that in 2005 and 2006 the CIA planes that landed in the country were not inspected by customs services.

The United States did not cooperate with the committee on the issue, which is why the question of whether al-Qaeda militants were ever transferred to Lithuania has yet to be clarified.

July 27, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

Germany to help Baltic states establish Russian-language media

Press TV – February 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4,000 NATO troops take part in Lithuania’s largest exercise near Russia’s border

RT | November 20, 2016

Eleven NATO countries have sent 4,000 troops to Lithuania, the largest Baltic nation, to participate in this year’s Iron Sword exercises. The war games are meant to test the country’s ability to rapidly deploy a large number of troops.

The exercise, which started on Sunday and is set to last till December 2, involves training at two separate sites in Lithuania.

“This time poses new unexpected challenges before our military. We have to prepare units and their commanders to efficiently respond to conventional military threats,” General Waldemar Rupšys, the head of Lithuania’s Land Forces, told journalists ahead of the exercise.

This year’s Iron Sword maneuver, which is the third and, by far, largest held so far, involves almost 4,000 troops from the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Luxemburg, and the three Baltic states. The exercises held in the last two years had 2,500 and just over 2,000 troops participating, respectively.

The troops will train to execute offensive and defensive operations, rapid deployments, and other tasks, Lithuania’s Defense Ministry said.

Iron Sword 2016 is Lithuania’s first chance to test its new Žemaitija (Iron Wolf) brigade, which was formed earlier this year. It currently has two battalions and support units, but is to add two more battalions next year. The brigade consists of soldiers conscripted after Lithuania reinstated mandatory military service in March of 2015.

NATO is placing additional military assets in Eastern Europe and conducting intensified training there, claiming that such measures are necessary to deter what it calls “Russian aggression.” However, Moscow denies threatening its neighbors and says the alliance is using the notion as a pretext to justify increased military spending and encroach on Russia’s border.

Lithuania, like some other European NATO members, is struggling to meet its obligation to spend two percent of its GDP on defense, but the government says it will be able to meet this benchmark by 2018.

November 20, 2016 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burns adduces four reasons for NATO’s continuing necessity.

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

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

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

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

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

Strength. Power. Confidence.

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

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

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

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

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

Germany mulls sending NATO troops to Lithuania – defense official

RT | April 29, 2016

NATO is looking at a number of strategies to boost its presence in Eastern Europe, including sending German troops to Lithuania, according to German media citing a Defense Ministry spokesman.

“There are various models under preliminary discussions and voting in NATO is underway,” the ministry’s spokesman Jens Flosdorff told the DPA news agency. “Decisions will be made this fall at the NATO summit in Warsaw.”

The remark confirmed Thursday’s reports that the country’s military was ready for a broader engagement to protect NATO’s eastern frontiers. The military alliance is to meet in the Polish capital Warsaw in July. The 28 member states are expected to agree on a roadmap to enhance combat readiness in Eastern Europe amid what NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has described as a challenging regional security situation.

Der Spiegel that German armed forces may send some 1,000 soldiers to take part in the NATO mission in Lithuania if the alliance’s members approve the plan.

In March, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said he hoped Germany would support the need to increase NATO’s military presence in the Baltic States. He urged NATO not to rush to get back to normal dialogue with Russia as long as Moscow does not change its “aggressive policy.” NATO suspended all military cooperation with Moscow in the aftermath of Crimea’s accession to Russia.

According to Linkevicius’ comments made for the American newspaper Politico, a true partnership between Russia and NATO can only be restored if Moscow takes steps to withdraw its troops from Ukraine and ceases to carry out military exercises and military aircraft flights in the Baltic Sea.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov singled out Lithuania as the “most aggressive, Russo-phobic country” within NATO, adding it is pushing the alliance in an “anti-Russian direction.”

“After they [the Baltic nations] became free – the way they perceive it – and independent, after they proclaimed all the decisions concerning their sovereignty, they began to strive for NATO membership,” Lavrov said in an interview published Friday in the Swedish Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

“Moscow didn’t make a single attempt to pull them back, to say nothing of using force against them […] they were admitted to NATO but failed to develop any kind of tranquility and this particularly concerns Lithuania. It now makes up the most aggressive and Russo-phobic kernel within NATO,” he said.

Anti-Russian rhetoric, however, does not sit well with citizens of NATO member-states. As a recent Pew Research Center revealed, majorities in such NATO states as Germany (56 percent), Italy (51 percent) and France (53 percent) oppose the idea of protecting the Baltic States from a “military threat” allegedly posed by Russia. According to the poll, some 58 percent of Germans surveyed do not deem Russia a threat to their country, with 49 percent firmly against the idea of permanent deployment of NATO forces in Poland or any of the Baltic States.

Last week, permanent envoys from Russia and NATO member states met for the first time in two years. The meeting failed to yield any significant results due to “profound and persistent disagreements” on a number of geopolitical issues.

NATO has been increasing its military presence in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea since the Ukrainian crisis began in 2014, in response to what it considers Russia’s aggression. Moscow has repeatedly dismissed accusations related to Ukraine, at the same time stressing that increased NATO activities near Russian borders could undermine both regional and global stability.

Read more:

Russia to boost military force if Sweden allies with NATO – senator

‘No business as usual’: Issues remain after first NATO-Russia Council meeting since 2014

April 29, 2016 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

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

Sputnik – 03.07.2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russia has better things to do than start WW3

By Bryan MacDonald | RT | June 8, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

NATO and the G7 – 2 sides of 1 coin?

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

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

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

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

A world of ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’

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

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

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

Russia – a Middle East/North Africa battleground?

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

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

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

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

Decline of the Balts

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

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

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

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

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

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

EU Parliament Drafts New Anti-Russian Resolution Calling for More Sanctions

Sputnik – 06.05.2015

A proposed declarative resolution by a group of MEPs has called on the European Union to step up sanctions against Russia, provide Ukraine with weaponry and further strengthen NATO forces in Eastern Europe, should Russia refuse to return Crimea to Ukraine or fail to abide by the Minsk ceasefire, a press statement for the body stated Tuesday.

The aggressively worded document, drafted Monday and liaised by Romanian MEP Ioan Pascu for the parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, warns that increased Russian military presence in Crimea necessitates EU nations to strengthen their military capabilities, stating that NATO must give its East European members a “strong strategic reassurance.”

Commenting on the proposed resolution, Pascu suggested to the EU’s news service that the strengthening of Russian defense capabilities in Crimea is “in practice creating another launching pad, of the proportions of Kaliningrad, this time in the Black Sea.” The MEP threatened that “in one year the defensive force which existed there has been transformed into a strike force… with which Russia can threaten Central Europe, the Balkans, Southern Europe and also [the] Eastern Mediterranean and even the Middle East.”

Supported by MEPs from Lithuania, Estonia, Poland and Spain, the belicose resolution, pending Foreign Affairs Committee approval, also accuses Russian authorities of mistreating the Crimean Tatars. Furthermore, it suggests that Russia may next move to cut off Ukraine from the Black Sea entirely by annexing its coastal territories. Pending approval, the belligerent document will face a vote at the parliament’s upcoming session in June, asking “EU member states to speak with one united voice,” regarding “EU relations with Russia.”

May 6, 2015 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Poland approves joint force with Ukraine & Lithuania, calls on EU to spend more on defense

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RT | May 4, 2015

Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski has signed a resolution approving the organization of a joint Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian brigade, whose creation has been in the works since 2007.

When brought to full operation in 2017, the brigade is set to constitute 4,500 servicemen. They will operate separately from the three countries’ respective militaries, but will take part in NATO exercises and missions. Preliminary drills are scheduled for later this year. The brigade will be stationed at its headquarters in Libulin, Poland. So far, it only houses 250 servicemen and 50 command staff contributed by the Polish military.

The joint force was discussed as far back as 2007, but the agreement to create it was signed by the three countries’ defense ministers in September 2014, in response to the Ukrainian crisis and what they call Russian aggression.

Creating the joint force is “part of a wider plan … to support Ukraine, among others, in the area of modernization,” President Bronislaw Komorowski said as cited by Reuters.

He also urged other European countries to spend more on defense. To that end, President Komorowski has suggested excluding defense spending from EU rules on budget deficit limits. This means that EU nations will be able to allocate more money to the military without fearing increased budget controls from Brussels. Komorowki’s offer comes at a time of heightened tensions with Russia.

Poland now has the fifth-strongest army in the EU, and has ambitious plans to modernize it, spending about $36 billion until 2022. However, the Polish government is unhappy about a lack of similar eagerness in some of the other European nations, the Rzeczpospolita newspaper reports.

While NATO is advising its member states to spend the maximum allowed of three percent of GDP on defense, most are spending far less: Germany allocates 1.2 percent of its GDP, the Netherlands 1.3 percent and Spain under 1 percent. France is the only Western European country that is boosting defense spending. However, some Eastern European nations are increasing their military expenses citing what they call Russian aggression. Lithuania, for instance, wants to allocate twice as much on defense as last year.

May 4, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CIA Black Sites and Washington’s Allies

Re-Opening the Investigation

By BINOY KAMPMARK | CounterPunch | April 7, 2015

They certainly sought to please in those initial dark days when a position at the NATO table was at stake. This was something of a New World Order – the attacks after September 11, 2001 did certainly allow Washington to make that spurious case. The stakes were high, and the “need” for pressing intelligence saw a crude clipping of various liberties and protections.

Unfortunately, in so doing, willing allies and proxies lined up their maps, their facilities, and their accomplices in what became a global program of interrogation and torture. These locations willingly offered by host states came to be known as “black sites” and proved all too attractive to powers and institutions.

Lithuania’s case is a particularly conspicuous one. Its authorities have been reluctant to admit providing cover for CIA activities, let alone any specific location. A parliamentary inquiry held during 2009-2010 went so far as to suggest that such a provision had, in fact, been made, advising that prosecutors take the lead. The report in question noted a detention centre set up near Vilnius in 2004-2006.

But it also spoke in tones of reservation – CIA aircraft had landed in Lithuania, but it was not clear whether human cargo had accompanied it. (Why such aircraft would be found on Lithuanian soil without such cargo is an odd point in itself.)

Four years ago, the prosecutors dropped the investigation like a steaming hot potato. The action suggested that something foul was afoot – such a procedure did not look good for the US-Lithuanian relationship, and uncovering any more details than was necessary would have proven, at least in the public eye, impairing.

This has not stopped such actions as those of Saudi-born Abu Zubaydah, who became a near cult figure of the extraordinary rendition program during the Bush years. Zubaydah’s recourse has been through the European Court of Human Rights, where he is seeking to show that Lithuania violated the European Convention on Human Rights. He is arguing that Lithuania is responsible for his unlawful detention, torture and ill-treatment, the deprivation of the right to private and family life, the unlawful transfer from Lithuania, and ongoing violations of his right to legal recourse.

Then came the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on the CIA’s interrogation program, one waged with tentacle-like spread across a range of jurisdictions and continents. Its lurid subject matter got various prosecutors in a range of countries concerned. Had they been too slow off the mark? Much evidence suggested that they had.

The detention centre “Violet” noted in the Senate report seemed eerily close to the descriptions put forth in the Lithuanian parliamentary investigation. The Senate report noted how an amount approximating to $1 million was provided by the US to “show appreciation” for its creation, money which was conveyed via various “complex mechanisms” to evade the government ledgers.

Initially, it did not seem that much would change. Last month, Loreta Grauziniene, speaker of the Lithuanian parliament, told Reuters that, “No new inquest will be considered, because there is no longer sufficient support for it among parliamentary members.” In making such an observation, the speaker merely affirmed the link between state criminality and the will behind prosecuting it. Former president Valdas Adamkus typifies such indifference, insisting that “there were no prisons or prisoners in Lithuania,” a view he would maintain till seeing the incriminating “documents before my eyes”.

This month saw a slight modification of the stance. Lithuania’s senior prosecutor, Irmantas Mikelionis, “decided on January 22 to cancel the January 21, 2011 decision of prosecutors to stop the investigation into possible abuse, and has restarted the investigation.” According to Rita Stundiene, a spokeswoman for the prosecutors, “The prosecutor renewed a previously terminated probe and merged it with the ongoing pre-trial investigation [into the case of Mustafa al-Hawsawi].”

Emphasis will be directed at the alleged violation of two articles of the Lithuanian criminal code: the illegal transportation of a foreigner through Lithuanian territory (the case on CIA prisoner Mustafa al-Hawsawi provides a classic example); and the abuse of power by a state employee resulting in significant harm. In themselves, these read like misdemeanours, minor procedural blots. In actual fact, such conduct was the hallmark of CIA interrogatory procedures, aided and abetted by various state authorities.

Whether the renewed investigation is going to do anything more than keep the common record busy for a time is hard to know. As one of Zubaydah’s lawyers, Helen Duffy, argues, the gesture on the part of the Lithuanian prosecutors might also be construed as a tactic to ward off more concrete legal scrutiny in Strasbourg. “There is every reason to be sceptical about whether this is a meaningful investigation.” Any investigation, to be effective, had to be total.

Such prosecutorial actions tend to be kept on the books, and rarely move off them into the realm of action and consequence. Too much is deemed at stake for such alliances. Justice, in that sense, takes the most distant of backseats, while the soiled hands of the torturers remain in service.

Lithuania’s politicians generally have less of an interest in seeing CIA operatives, and their accomplices, behind bars than holding the fort against what is seen as a viable Russian threat from the east. Bigger enemies loom. Prosecutorial grit, in other words, is lacking.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

April 7, 2015 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lithuania’s CIA prison investigation ‘small step’ after ‘years of foot-dragging’ – Reprieve

Reprieve | April 2, 2015

Reuters has today reported that Lithuanian prosecutors have reopened an investigation into secret CIA prisons – or ‘black sites’ – which the country hosted as part of the US Agency’s rendition and torture programme. Lithuania had closed a previous probe into the matter in 2011. The re-opening of the investigation follows the submission by international legal charity Reprieve of a dossier to Lithuanian prosecutors in January this year, which detailed evidence of CIA black sites hosted by the country.

Commenting, Reprieve legal director, Kat Craig said: “While this is a small step in the right direction, it remains the case that Lithuania has for years dragged its feet when it comes to investigating CIA torture sites on its soil.

“Now that the US Senate has clearly established that the CIA did indeed hold prisoners in the country, the Lithuanian Government’s 2011 conclusion that there was ‘nothing to see here’ is even more difficult to understand. Lithuania must publish the findings and conclusions of its previous investigation in full, in order to explain how it managed to get things so wrong in the past.”

April 2, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

New evidence shows CIA held prisoners in Lithuania

Reprieve | January 16, 2015

New analysis and previously unpublished documents released by legal charity Reprieve show that the CIA held prisoners in Lithuania in 2005 and 2006, contrary to official denials.

In a dossier and briefing submitted to the Lithuanian Prosecutor today, Reprieve reveals how the newly declassified US Senate Report on CIA detention correlates with flight data and contracting documents; and demonstrates that prisoners were moved into Lithuania in February and October 2005, and out of Lithuania to Afghanistan in March 2006.

A previous investigation by Lithuanian prosecutors, shelved in 2011, concluded that the CIA built a facility in a converted stable outside Vilnius, but argued there was no evidence that prisoners were ever held in it.

Reprieve’s analysis, combined with material in the declassified report, now shows that several prisoners were held in the site – called “Violet” in the Senate report – before it was closed down on 25 March 2006.

Flights through Lithuania were organised by Computer Sciences Corporation working alongside several operating companies under the auspices of a series of contracts first set up in 2002. The companies used multiple techniques to disguise their routes, and border guards were prevented from checking their cargo. Partial and incorrect routes for the planes were recorded by a Lithuanian inquiry. Reprieve determined the correct routes of the aircraft by cross-referencing a broader range of data sources and matched their dates to disclosures in the Senate report.

Reprieve investigator Crofton Black said: “The Lithuanian authorities have long hidden behind a smokescreen of increasingly implausible deniability. This new dossier shows beyond reasonable doubt that CIA prisoners were held incommunicado in Lithuania, contrary to European and domestic law. Reprieve looks forward to assisting the Lithuanian prosecutor in his further investigations.”

January 16, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Leave a comment