December 7, 2011
UK Govt. Public meeting (R14) Re Climate Change Act
As the second most populous former Soviet republic, Ukraine has seemed uncomfortable with its independence since 1991 and less than committed to making it work. The fundamental issue has always been, does the country remain entwined with its larger neighbour Russia, or does it succumb to the blandishments of the West and distance itself completely from a country with which it was co-joined for over 1000 years?
Within the USSR Ukraine was an economic power house with a large heavy industrial sector and flourishing agriculture based on its excellent ‘black soil’. To Western eyes, the typical Ukrainian was Nikita Khrushchev — a plump, jolly fellow; a bit crude, perhaps, but a good, stolid Soviet citizen. When Gorbachev arranged a referendum on preserving a reformed Soviet Union in March 1991, 76 percent of voters in Ukraine supported remaining in the USSR. Yet only eight months later 90 percent of them voted for independence. Some might say, how capricious! Could things have changed so quickly? They obviously did, meaning that the Communist apparatchiki jumped the sinking ship and the sheep followed.
Since then, the country has been ruled by a mixture of ex-Soviet officials and Komsomolski joined by a growing band of oligarchs, some who have grown rich from the oil and gas transportation business. Typical of this genre is Yulia Timoshenko, the former prime minister, now serving a prison sentence for embezzlement and therefore regarded as a saintly martyr by the EU oligarchs who regard ripping off the peasantry as far less of a sin than being imprisoned for it.
Making matters worse is the fact that Washington and its European allies have repeatedly involved themselves in Kiev’s dysfunctional politics for their own purposes not the country’s well-being. The country is a strategic linchpin mainly because of its Black Sea coast where the Russians still maintain an important military base in the Crimea, rented from Ukraine.
The Curse of Orange
In 2004, large sums of Western money were poured into Kiev to overturn the results of the country’s presidential election which had been won by Viktor Yanukovich, a mundane but competent bureaucrat from the more Russian-leaning eastern Ukraine. Fears were that he might be less amenable to the ‘reform agenda’ pushed by Brussels and Washington. For several weeks hordes of young people camped in a tent city in central Kiev alleging fraud and claiming that their chosen candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, was the real winner of the poll. They were joined by members of the European Parliament and supported by the U.S. embassy mainly in the form of orange paraphernalia – scarves, flags, T-shirts – which gave the movement its name: the Orange Revolution. At the time, Western-sponsored, allegedly spontaneous ‘colour revolutions’ were all the rage in the former USSR.
By fair means (and certainly foul) the Oranges prevailed. A repeat election was held and Viktor Yushchenko – inevitably – was the winner. He became president and Mrs Timoshenko, also a heroine of the Orange Revolution, was appointed his prime minister. The youth melted away from Kiev now that the free food and drink, provided by the revolution’s western funders, had disappeared. But, soon, all was not well. Yushchenko and his prime minster fell out and she was dismissed a year later, in 2005.
The falling out inside the Orange camp was a symptom of the fractious and feuding nature of Ukraine’s post-Communist elite. The Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada) was another woeful example of institutional failure. Increasingly dominated by supporters of the defeated (or deposed) President Yanokovich, as the Orange factions fell out and lost support in fresh parliamentary elections, it was the scene of regular fisticuffs and brawls between different factions – all shown on television. Mrs Timoshenko’s supporters were usually the first to throw the punches. It seemed that the Orange team’s promise of Western-style, cutting edge politics was a forlorn dream.
In 2010 the reviled Yanukovich was elected president – again. Allegations of his 2004 election fraud were forgotten. The U.S. and its European friends had made little attempt to rescue their Orange protégées, still, the fear lurked that the new president would lurch perilously towards Moscow. But, surprisingly, his first post-election visit was to Brussels and he seemed keen to pursue closer ties with the EU. However, relations with Russia did improve and Yanukovich began to contemplate Ukraine’s possible participation in the Russian-Belarusian-Kazakh Customs Union, a rival organisation to the EU – certainly when it came to seducing former Soviet republics into the fold. It is at this point that the latest Ukrainian drama – potentially, its most consequential – begins to unfold.
Enter Salvation: the EU beckons
The European Union aware that its members were enlargement weary came up with the idea of a ‘Union Lite’ – the Eastern Partnership – to ease the remaining post-Soviet orphans into the club but, sort of, through the back door. Unveiled in 2009, the idea was heavily promoted by Poland, whose Foreign Minister, Radislav Sikorski, promised all sorts of free trade and other economic benefits to the six potential ‘partners’, including Ukraine – the main one being closer contact with the economic paradise inhabited by their neighbours, the Poles. In truth, any ‘economic benefits’ that did emerge would go to the West rather than the poverty-stricken ‘partners’ who would find that Brussels’ largesse was restricted to its cronies.
Like the rest of the bloc, Ukraine’s economy had suffered during the 1990s as its Soviet markets disappeared. Things began to improve during Leonid Kuchma’s presidency (and Yanukovich’s premiership). Although courted by the west, Kuchma did not completely shut down the country as required by the ‘Washington consensus’. In fact, with economic boom in places like China, Ukraine’s raw materials (iron and steel from the east) were in strong demand. The country’s agricultural base had survived and its farms were productive – unlike the Polish version in Sikorski’s Euro-paradise.
Immediately, things started to go wrong as the Orange team began their time in office by interfering in the gas transit arrangements with Russia. In early 2006, after much provocation, Moscow cut off gas supplies to the West through the Ukrainian pipeline system due to Kiev’s arrears of payment as well as its aberrant behaviour. Negotiations with Moscow followed, and fed up with the debts and messing around, the Russians started to charge the Ukrainians more for their domestic supplies of gas. This impacted the country’s energy-dependent, heavy industrial base which was about to be hit anyway by the economic collapse in 2008 which resulted in less global demand for iron and steel.
Despite a change of government in 2010 rather than cease trouble making and find a solution to disagreements with Moscow, it seems that the apparat in Kiev has decided to walk away and accept the West’s somewhat poisoned chalice. Even the apparently, Moscow-friendly Yanokovich. In August 2013, his government indicated that it would sign the partnership agreement in November 2013 during the forthcoming European summit in Lithuania (another lucky beneficiary of the European project).
Tug of War: Moscow Reacts
The Russians have reacted angrily, stating that Ukraine cannot be a member of both customs unions. Ukraine’s economy is heavily dependent on Russia which takes 35 percent of Ukrainian exports. As Vladimir Putin’s envoy Sergei Glazyev points out: “Millions of people working in the industrial sector, with which we cooperate and which has thousands of ties with Russia, want [Ukraine's accession to the Customs Union]. These are rocket constructors, shipbuilders, chemists, metallurgists, and especially farmers and producers of food, whose products are not in demand anywhere else except Russia,” Glazyev said in an interview published in the Russian-language Ukrainian newspaper Vesti.
If the agreement is finally signed, Moscow says it will impose tariffs on Ukrainian goods which are likely to be ‘dumped’ in Russia as Ukraine is flooded with imports from the EU. But, the Ukrainian elites aren’t worried by any of this. They yearn to belong to the Euro club with its juicy perks and prospects for further self-enrichment. As Glazyev noted: “Numerous political scientists and experts, who have fed on European and American grants for 20 years … are doing a certain political job on their clients’ behalf. In addition, a whole generation of diplomats and bureaucrats has appeared after the years of the ‘orange’ hysteria, who are carrying out an anti-Russian agenda”.
Having embraced several economic basket-cases (including the over-hyped Poland) since 2004, what is in the deal for Europe? Yes, they can flood Ukraine with food and drink (thus destroying the country’s still productive agricultural base) and they can – for a price – plaster the country with European super and hyper markets. For Tesco, Aldi & co. a population of 48 million is virgin territory – a boost for Tesco whose eastern European outlets have lost money in the last few years. Otherwise, after 22 years of ‘freedom’ there is precious little left for the much vaunted ‘strategic foreign investor’ to gobble up.
Cheap labour and cut-price prostitution will be Ukraine’s major exports if the Polish or Baltic model of European integration is anything to go by. Poland’s main ‘export’ is cash remittances from almost three million migrants scattered across the western EU, especially in Britain. Maybe Foreign Minister Sikorski hopes that Ukraine will replace Poland as the mega-El Salvador of Europe if it accedes to a visa-free association with the EU?
For Ukraine’s future, the immediate and most troubling issue is energy: the country is haunted by its fragile status as a transit route to Western Europe and its own parlous ability to pay the world market price for fuel .
In 2010 a joint Russian-German pipeline began to carry Russian gas to Europe under the Baltic sea. Moscow’s decision to redirect energy exports to the west had been driven by ongoing problems with the Ukrainian route, mainly caused by the Orange politicians (and encouraged by the west). By 2013 Ukraine’s revenues for transporting Russian gas to Europe had nearly halved. Meanwhile, under pressure to ‘distance’ themselves from their evil neighbour, in 2012 Ukraine started to import some gas (at subsidised prices) from Germany’s Ruhrgas. Presumably, this was Russian gas going on a rather roundabout journey but, for good, geopolitical reasons.
Ukraine: an economic basket case?
However, the much promoted energy independence might be achieved – at least, sometime in the future. In 2013, with hubris at fever pitch, various regions in Ukraine began signing contracts with companies like Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell for shale gas exploration. Initial tests have indicated large deposits around the country. Perhaps, finally, the Ukrainians would be free from Russian imports, although exactly when is unknown (2050 is one date bandied about). And, will the domestic customer benefit from lower prices, especially when the profits will go to Chevron & co.? None of this concerns the greedy mix of energy companies and Ukrainian politicos, noses already in the trough and snouts sniffing for more kickbacks.
But, maybe the Europeans have failed to take note of some of the risky business practises encountered by Western investors in Ukraine. According to the Financial Times “Swissport, for example, claims to have spent much of this year struggling to reverse a court ruling that stripped it of a 70 per cent stake in Ukraine’s largest air cargo handler. It won a victory in Ukraine’s highest commercial court on October 2, but could face further legal challenges. London & Regional Properties recently lost management control over Globus one of Ukraine’s top shopping malls. Even McDonalds has been caught up. The fast food giant claims that raiders are trying to seize ownership of one of its 75 local restaurants. Other investors whose assets have faced legal threats in Ukraine steelmaker ArcelorMittal , the biggest foreign investor in the country.
Sometimes, pressures appear to be applied by state law enforcement itself. In two separate incidents last month, fraud investigators raided and temporarily paralysed the local subsidiary of Italy’s Unicredit bank; at Vitmark Ukraine, a juice manufacturer owned by private equity fund Horizon Capital, documents, computers and other items were seized.
On top of this, Ukraine is in debt and, again, poised to go cap in hand to the IMF for further loans. At the end of September the cost of insuring 3-year Ukrainian debt hit a three year high. Among emerging markets, the country has one of the biggest burdens of short-term external debt relative to foreign exchange reserves. Its reserves fell by about 30 per cent to less than $20bn in the year to the end of August. According to Moody’s, this provides 2.3 months’ import coverage. The ratings agency said in its downgrade note”.
Bizarre, then, that while he was in Germany in May 2013, President Yanukovich boasted that the Partnership Agreement “will have a substantial positive influence on the European economic situation and will help Europe emerge from the crisis”. As one commentator pointed out “even without any trade liberalization Ukraine is buying more and more German goods, but it essentially has nothing to export there. Under these circumstances, offering itself as the “saviour of Europe” is a bit presumptuous”. Germany isn’t going to promote anything in Ukraine that might smack of competition (in heavy industry, for example). Instead various ‘green’ projects were floated around at the May meeting.
So, Ukraine is broke; its goods are of an inferior quality and unlikely to appeal to the European consumer; its business practices (including their legal underpinning) are dubious. Why bring the EU closer to such a place when over twenty years of western involvement has not led to any improvement? The answer, as everyone really knows, is political. This is the first really promising opportunity to drag Ukraine away from Russia, a country with which is shares a long border, a common language and historical experience as well as family and religious ties. But, the hatred felt in the west for Mr. Putin has only intensified with his intervention to stop an attack on Syria. Sealing Ukraine’s ties with Europe are a good way of giving him a bloody nose.
The deal still needs to be finalised and this seems to pivot upon Yanukovich agreeing to Brussels’ demand that Yulia Timoshenko, jailed in 2011 for embezzlement and abuse of office, be freed. The Europeans see her plight as a human rights tragedy almost on a par with Nelson Mandela’s incarceration on Robben Island, ignoring the fact that this is the second time she has been imprisoned for economic crimes – in 1994 she was convicted of money laundering and extortion. Many Ukrainians find this sanctification hard to take. They are more likely to accept Matthew Brzezinski’s description of her modus operandi as the ‘gas princess’ in his book Casino Moscow. The incarceration of a rich and powerful lady with a shady past is what seems to separate the Ukrainians from economic nirvana in the EU’s embrace.
As of this writing, Timoshenko’s release looks to be imminent, as Yanukovich has indicated his support for parliamentary action to allow her to be released from prison and sent to Germany, ostensibly for medical treatment.
Why does all this matter? Several basket cases have been absorbed into the EU already but with many negative repercussions, never mentioned by politicians like Sikorski. As people in former Soviet Bloc countries have fled the poverty resulting from membership of the EU, Ukrainians will also flee to western Europe once the ‘free trade’ rules kick in and visa rules are liberalised. How much more migrant labour can countries like Britain support? The Russians seem to be much angrier by Ukraine’s European aspirations than they were when the Baltic States joined NATO and EU. At the recent Yalta Conference where old globalist hands like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton urged Ukraine forward to the promised land, Putin’s envoy, Glazyev (also present) warned that signing the pact – rather than entering a Russian customs union – could tip Ukraine into default.
If the EU’s embrace of Ukraine precipitates a crisis in the debt-laden country with its currency worthless and Russia breathing down its neck, won’t Brussels feel obliged to ‘rush forward’ to save Ukraine by offering immediate entry into the EU? In the past, admission to NATO has preceded EU accession in ex-Communist countries. But when Ukrainians have been polled on joining an anti-Russian alliance, with them in the front-line, they have rejected the idea. So now the double-headed Western political monolith in Brussels is pushing EU accession first, to be followed by membership of NATO down the road.
With its shaky economy and political turmoil in several EU and euro member states, is this what the European Union really needs? With Russia now showing a more robust approach to what it sees as its ‘national interest’ who knows whether what seems on the surface to be an economic spat could lead to something deadlier. The EU’s claim to be a stabilising force for peace on the European continent looks set to collide with its geo-political ambition to do down the Russian state regardless of the costs to ordinary people inside the EU, Ukraine and Russia itself.
 “Putin’s aide calls opinion that all Ukrainians want European integration “sick self-delusion”” Interfax, 21st August, 2013 http://www.interfax.co.uk/ukraine-news/putins-aide-calls-opinion-that-all-ukrainians-want-european-integration-sick-self-delusion-2/
Roman Olyarchik: “EU beckons but investors still getting a rough ride” Beyond Brics Blog, Financial Times, 3rd October, 2013 http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2013/10/03/ukraine-eu-beckons-but-investors-still-getting-a-rough-ride/#ixzz2gfuGquIJ
 Luke Smolinski “Ukraine:investors get nervous” Beyond Brics Blog, Financial Times, 26th September, 2013http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2013/09/26/ukraine-investors-get-nervous/#ixzz2gfuSIfSP
 Natalya Meden, “What Lies Behind the Idea of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement” Strategic Culture Foundation, 26th June, 2013 http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2013/06/26/what-lies-behind-idea-eu-ukraine-association-agreement.html
 For, Matthew Brzezinski on Timoshenko, see for example: “City reaps benefits of native sons. Dnepropetrovsk is home to 220 national politicians. That is too cozy — and too influential — a relationship to suit many Ukrainians.” Wall Street Journal, 28th February, 1997
Christine Stone is a UK-based lawyer and journalist. She was Director of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group. She is the author most recently (with RPI Academic Advisor Mark Almond) of Post-Communist Georgia: A Short History.
By HAZEM I. KIRA | October 21, 2013
A little more than three-hundred years ago, the most notorious case of mass hysteria erupted in Salem, Mass. Thankfully, the witchcraft trials, which took place in the pre-revolutionary era, would serve as a cautionary tale for the nation’s Founding Fathers who wished to embed into our national memory the ideals of freedom and due process. Nearly a hundred years after the trials, 39 of these great citizens would sign the U.S. Constitution, a revolutionary document recognizing the inalienable rights given to every person at birth, irrespective of citizenship.
Regrettably, after the atrocities of September 11 another wave of mass hysteria swept through America. But this time, it was not of imaginary witches, but rather imaginary terrorist cells bubbling in the caldrons of every peaceful neighborhood, mosque, and city around the world. Fear of the “other” crept into the American psyche and lapses in due process became more and more frequent. Three-hundred years ago, citizens in Salem gladly set aside their due process at the mere mention of a “witch.” In the wake of September 11, the mere mention of “terrorist” has a similar effect upon our countrymen. Explore patterns of history, and one discovers that every new villain is born, first, in the imagination of a people, to describe the unknown and undesirable.
Almost all of the 164 detainees at Guantanamo Bay have never been charged with a crime. More than 80 inmates who have been cleared for release, by the U.S. government following an assessment by the Guantanamo Review Task Force set up by President Barack Obama, have yet to be released because of Congressional restrictions on the transfer of detainees to the U.S. and other countries. This, in part, is based on the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which states that “no court, justice or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial or conditions of confinement of an alien who is or was detained by the United States.” On Friday, a federal appeals court wrestled with a challenge to force-feed hunger strikers, many of whom are far from death. Detainee lawyer Jon Eisenberg said that he objects to this incredibly painful process of nasogastric force-feeding (through the nose), in principle, arguing that the international community sees it as “unethical and equivalent to torture.”
In 1798 Thomas Jefferson and James Madison sought to remind this country of what it had forgotten and even threatened to secede from the Union after the passage of similar set of unconstitutional actions, the Alien and Sedition Acts by then president John Adams. The Acts curtailed key civil liberties, such as freedoms of speech and press, and were aimed at French and Irish immigrants who opposed war with France– most of whom were Catholics and/or Democrats (Anti-Federalists). Jefferson and Madison’s threat to leave the Union was to remind the country that the ideals found in the Constitution are more than just mere words, but the foundations of a stable and just society.
While in Salem accused “witches” who did not confess, were hanged; in Gitmo (Camp Delta), accused “terrorists” have been tortured, held indefinitely without trial, nasogastric force-fed, and even gifted with “extraordinary rendition” to rogue nations, only to disappear out of existence.
To protest their indefinite detention at Gitmo, more than 100 prisoners have for the past seven months engaged in a hunger strike. To try to break the protest, the US military subjected dozens of the hunger strikers to the cruel and degrading practice of nasogastric force-feeding. This last Friday, the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, DC heard a case that it first ruled on in July, seeking an injunction against force-feeding at Guantánamo on the grounds that it violates human rights and the right of religious worship.
At the height of the terrorist hysteria following 911, many believed that water boarding would exorcise the truth out of accused terrorists. Similarly, in Salem, accused witches were often put through “enhanced interrogation” with the hope of achieving a similar end. One unique practice of New Englanders was the use of “pressing,” a process that involved placing heavy stones on the accused’s chest until he/she confessed or died. In 1692, after being arrested for witchcraft, Giles Corey refused to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty and was subjected to “pressing,” where he died a couple days later.
Not surprisingly, most of the accused in Salem, Massachusetts were individuals with an independent streak, barren women, the homeless or litigious, or those that challenged the status quo. In Gitmo, many of the prisoners include children, individuals who were part of a warring tribe or had strong political opinions, as well as victims of bounty hunters interested in making a quick buck at the expense of the innocent.
America, critics argue, has lost its bearings like a ship lost at sea, no longer able to lead– even itself. Many have attributed America’s decline on the international scene to weak leadership, but perhaps a more sensible reason, is that America is no longer true to its core identity and ideals. Since George W. Bush established the detention camp on the isolated base in Cuba, in the hopes of operating outside normal standards of the US constitution, and President Obama continues with the practice, our moral high ground has been compromised.
Apparently, for both the Bush and Obama Administrations, the mere accusation of terrorism continues to suffice for guilt. Ironically, in the Salem witchcraft trials, accusers were afforded, at least, a pseudo-trial. In Guantanamo, prisoners are deemed indefinitely guilty without even the pretense of a trial. One wonders what the Founding Fathers’ would think of this debacle. One can only hope that the next president and Congress will work feverishly to dismantle, completely and permanently, this most un-American of institutions and return America to its founding ideals. Here’s for hoping.
Hazem I. Kira teaches US History and Government in the San Francisco Bay Area.
By Ian March 1, 2012
Tonight, the Keene city council could have made history as the first ever political designation to reject arms manufacturer LENCO and the federal government’s pushing of the BEARCAT police attack “tank“.
They could have heard the voices of the people who were crying out against this intimidating monstrosity that will inevitably militarize the Keene police even more, and as city councilor Carl Jacobs appropriately pointed out, distance them further from the community they supposedly serve.
They could have. But they didn’t. The BEARCAT passed 9 to 4.
Despite the outpouring of opposition in the community against the BEARCAT, not a single councilor changed their vote from December, when they originally voted in favor of it. That vote was 13 to 1. Why were the numbers different? The new city councilors who took office in January were the ones to vote against it. So, the councilors who originally voted for it completely disregarded all the input they received from the community in various forms:
- In a Keene Sentinel online poll, 72% said they city council was wrong to accept the BEARCAT. (Only 12% favored the BEARCAT in the poll.)
- WKBK’s Dan Mitchell stated on-air that 90% of his callers were against the BEARCAT.
- City councilor Bettina Chadbourne related during tonight’s meeting that of the 80 phone calls she received from various members of the community, (old, young, business owners, men, women, etc) only ten calls were in favor of the BEARCAT.
- The public hearing on the BEARCAT featured dozens of speakers, the supermajority of which opposed the BEARCAT.
- A random walk down Main St. would show anyone who bothered to ask people that the supermajority of people oppose the BEARCAT.
- Most letters to the editor of the Keene Sentinel were in opposition to the BEARCAT.
- During the meeting the councilors who favored the BEARCAT got no applause from the packed room, while the councilors who spoke in opposition to the BEARCAT were blasted with applause.
The reasons given for supporting the BEARCAT by the councilors were pathetic. Mitch Greenwald believes the Department of Homeland Security has our best interests in mind. Dale Pregent believes it will help in a flood. Janice Manwaring trusts the Keene Police to be good boys with their new, violent toy. Look for video here at Free Keene soon.
Not one of them changed their minds. The emails they received, the calls, the personal contacts – none of it mattered. None of it outweighed what the Keene police wanted. [...]
Congratulations to the people calling themselves the Keene Police and City of Keene. Tonight they succeeded in proving that they don’t give a damn about what the people in the community want and effectively destroyed even more of the precious legitimacy that is so crucial to people seeing them as something other than an occupying criminal gang. Even though the advocates of peace lost in the vote, we won in the long view, because the aggressors have shown their hand yet again. They don’t care about your desires to live in a peaceful place. They only do what aggregates more power and money to them and their buddies. It’s clear they are the masters, not the servants. … Full article
US troops join Dutch, Spanish, British and Senegalese forces during patrols and amphibious landings in Dakar, Senegal, in September of 2013.
The Pentagon has begun a surge of spending in Africa through expanding its main base on the continent and making investments in various fields there.
The Pentagon is currently increasing investments in air facilities, flight services, telecommunications and electrical upgrades in the African continent, The Tribune Washington Bureau (MCT) reports.
According to unclassified federal documents, hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing into Africa, indicating the importance the US is attaching to the continent.
Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, on the cost of Gulf of Aden north of Somalia, is the place where the Pentagon is expanding its activities the most.
The camp has been the Pentagon’s main facility in the continent for nearly 10 years now. It currently houses approximately 4,000 US military personnel and civilian contractors.
The Pentagon views the base as the constellation center of US military sites across Africa, including facilities in Manda Bay, Kenya; Entebbe, Uganda; and the West African nation of Burkina Faso.
Last month, $200 million was awarded in contracts to revamp the power plants at the base and construct a multistory operations center, an aircraft hangar, living quarters, gyms and other facilities.
The project is just part of $1.2 billion which is projected to be spent there for improvement purposes during the next 25 year.
The US is also training regional militaries in the continent, increasing air strikes and conducting drone surveillance.
Thousands of US soldiers are now gearing up for missions in Africa as part of a new Pentagon strategy to train and advise indigenous forces, the New York Times reports.
In addition to training African militaries, the US has been launching a massive build-up of troops into Italy, putting 13,000 troops in the nation to be able to launch raids into Africa, particularly northern Africa, at a moment’s notice.
There is also a growing constellation of small US drone outposts in countries like Niger, Ethiopia, and Djibouti, strategically placed on the Gulf of Aden.
France has called for an explanation for the “unacceptable” and “shocking” reports of NSA spying on French citizens. Leaked documents revealed the spy agency records millions of phone calls and monitors politicians and high-profile business people.
The US Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin was summoned by the French Foreign Ministry to account for the espionage allegations on Monday morning.
“I have immediately summoned the US ambassador and he will be received this morning at the Quai d’Orsay [the French Foreign Ministry],” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told press. He added that “we must quickly assure that these practices aren’t repeated.”
In addition, citing the report on French publication Le Monde, Interior Minister Manuel Valls spoke out on national television against US spy practices.
“The revelations in Le Monde are shocking and demand adequate explanations from the American authorities in the coming hours,” said Valls on television channel Europe 1.
He went on to say that it is totally unacceptable for an allied country to spy on France.
Ambassador Rivkin refrained from commenting on the spy allegations on Monday morning and told Reuters that French-US ties are the “best they have been for a generation.”
Le Monde revealed in a report based on the security leaks of former CIA worker Edward Snowden that the NSA recorded 70.3 million phone calls between December 10, 2012, and January 8, 2013.
The NSA reportedly carries out its espionage in France using a program called ‘US-985D’ which is able to listen in on specific telephone calls and pick up on text messages according to key words used.
Moreover, Le Monde also wrote that it had reason to believe that the spying was not just limited to citizens suspected of being involved in terrorism. According to the data released by Snowden the NSA also eavesdropped on politicians and prominent business figures.
The newspaper did not give any indications as to the identity of the high-profile people.
France is not the only EU nation to be targeted by NSA surveillance. Germany took issue with the US government after it was revealed the NSA was tapping phone lines and recording electronic data in the country.
The EU will take steps to curtail US data mining on Monday in a vote to change data protection rules. The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties is expected to decide on the issue that would authorize fines for violation of EU data protection.
The US maintains that its spying activities are in the interests of national security and protect against terrorism. However, Snowden leaks released by Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald showed the NSA had monitored Brazilian state-owned oil giant Petrobras and infiltrated the electronic communications of the Brazilian and Mexican presidents.
Mexico has also demanded an explanation for reports released by Der Spiegel on extensive spying on Mexican top officials and politicians.
Der Spiegal revealed that former President Felipe Calderon had also been a target for NSA espionage. Citing a classified internal report, it said the US monitors “diplomatic, economic and leadership communications which continue to provide insight into Mexico’s political system and internal stability.”