A US-led military maneuver has begun in western Ukraine, amid continued fighting between government troops and pro-Russian forces in the country’s east.
The military drill, dubbed “Rapid Trident 14,” started early Monday near Ukraine’s border with Poland and involves 1,300 troops from over a dozen countries.
According to the US army, the troops come from 12 NATO members, including Germany, the UK, Poland, Norway and Canada, as well as non-members Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova.
The eleven-day drills will take place near the western city of Yavoriv and will not involve the live firing of weapons.
The US Defense Ministry said the exercise will increase interoperability among Ukraine and the participating nations.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey earlier announced that NATO member states have begun supplying weapons to the country’s forces despite a truce between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russians.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting between government troops and pro-Russian forces continues around the eastern city of Donetsk. According to Donetsk city hall officials, six civilians were killed on Sunday in heavy shelling around the city and its airport.
Kiev accused pro-Russians of threatening the truce by intensifying attacks against government positions. This is while, on September 13, the pro-Russia forces defending a checkpoint near the village of Olenivka, south of Donetsk accused the Ukrainian army of violating the truce.
The ceasefire agreement was reached between Kiev and the pro-Russians on September 5, after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hammered out a compromise deal aimed at ending the heavy fighting.
Germany and Poland will lose the most trade with Russia, and neighboring Finland and Baltic states Lithuania and Latvia will lose a bigger proportion of their GDP. Norway will see fish sales to Russia disappear, and US damages would be very limited.
Russia has banned imports of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy products from the 28 countries of the EU, the US, Canada, Norway, and Australia for one year.
EU trade is heavily dependent on Russian food imports. Last year Russia bought $16 billion worth of food from the bloc, or about 10 percent of total exports, according to Eurostat.
In terms of losses, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands- the top three EU food suppliers to Russia in 2013 – will be hit hardest. Food for Russia makes up around 3.3 percent of total German exports.
French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said his government is already working together with Germany and Poland to reach a coordinated policy on the new Russian sanction regime.
Last year, Ireland exported €4.5 million worth of cheese to Russia, and not being able to do so this year is a big worry, Simon Coveney, the country’s agriculture minister, said.
Farmers across Europe could face big losses if they aren’t able to find alternative markets for their goods, especially fruit and vegetables.
Some are already demanding their governments provide compensation for lost revenue.
“If there isn’t a sufficient market, prices will go down, and we don’t know if we can cover the costs of production, because it is so expensive,” Jose Emilio Bofi, an orange farmer in Spain, told RT.
The US sanctions against Iran have cost Washington as much as USD 175 billion dollars in losses for not doing business with the Islamic Republic, a Washington-based think-tank has found.
“The United States is by far the biggest loser of all sanctions enforcing nations. From 1995 [when the US imposed trade embargo on Iran] to 2012, the US sacrificed between USD 134.7 and USD 175.3 billion in potential export revenue to Iran,” the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) concluded in a report.
During the same period, the report said, the United States lost 51,000 to 280,000 jobs a year due to the sanctions slapped on Iran.
“Texas and California are likely the biggest losers in terms of lost employment, due to their size as well as the attractiveness of their industries to Iran’s economy,” it said.
The US sanctions also cost the European economies billions of dollars in losses through the 2010-2012 period.
“In Europe, Germany was hit the hardest, losing between USD 23.1 and USD 73.0 billion between 2010 and 2012, with Italy and France following at USD 13.6-USD 42.8 billion and USD 10.9-USD 34.2 billion respectively,” it said.
The think-tank recommended that the US government consider lifting sanctions against Iran as nuclear negotiations are under way between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the Unites States, Britain, France, Russia and China – plus Germany.
“Decision-makers must… ask themselves if the cost of sanctions to the US economy is worth shouldering if other options do exist,” it said.
At the beginning of 2012, the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.
Germany’s plan to bring back the nation’s gold reserves to Frankfurt by 2020 has fizzled, and instead has for now decided to leave $635 billion of gold in US vaults.
Home to the world’s second largest gold reserves, worth $141 billion, Germany only keeps about one third of its gold ‘at home’, the rest is abroad. 45 percent is in the US Federal Reserve in New York, 13 percent in London, 11 percent in Paris, and only 31 percent in the Bundesbank in Frankfurt.
“The Americans are taking good care of our gold, we have no reasons for mistrust,” Nobert Barthle, the German Parliament Budget spokesman, told RT.
Critics of the slow progress disagree.
“Why we haven’t been allowed to inspect escapes me, I’m no conspiracy theorist, but the Bundesbank should be able to audit the gold once a year like it does with reserves in Frankfurt,” Hans Olaf Henkel, German member of the European Parliament, told RT.
At the end of June for the first time a German delegation traveled to New York to check up on their gold holdings, the first in the last 10 years. The lack of inspection has led some to question whether it’s still there.
The movement to ‘bring the gold home’ was largely led by euroskeptics who campaigned to repatriate all the country’s precious metal by 2020. So far, they’ve only managed to bring back 10 percent, or 300 tons. Another 374 tons from the Banque de France is set to be returned to Germany in the near future.
“We are still missing for example published bar number lists, even though the US Federal reserve publishes this list for their own gold,” says Peter Boehringer, Founder of Repatriate our Gold Campaign.
However, auditors last week said they were pleased with the US continuing to look after Germany’s treasures. The delegation said there is no rush to bring it home, and that keeping it there even offers an advantage, as it can be used for emergency currency for gold swaps.
After World War II, Germany bought gold from the US Federal Reserve, but decided to keep in overseas instead of back to the Bundesbank. During the Cold War, fear of a Soviet invasion made overseas storage a safer option.
Recently, the Bundesbank has been criticised for not holding its reserves in Frankfurt, so it has decided that some should be brought back to Germany.
Transporting the gold will be a high security operation. When France transferred its reserves in 1966 it used a submarine.
The arrest of a German intelligence employee for allegedly spying for the US has caused an uproar among German politicians. The country’s foreign minister has demanded an immediate clarification of the situation from Washington.
“If the reports are true, then we’re not talking about trifles,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on a visit to Mongolia, DPA reports. He added that prompt clarification of the details in the case were in the “US’s own interest.”
Earlier, US Ambassador to Germany John B. Emerson was summoned to the German Foreign Office to answer questions concerning the recent arrest of a 31-year-old German foreign intelligence agency (BND) employee, who confessed to having spied for the US.
German tabloid Bild reported that the man had been a double agent for two years, during which time he exchanged bundles of secret documents for €25,000 ($34,100).
The harshest reaction so far has come from German President Joachim Gauck. If the spying allegations are confirmed, “one really has to say, enough is enough,” he told the ZDF broadcaster Saturday.
Angela Merkel on Sunday expressed surprise and disappointment over the possible involvement of US intelligence in the BND espionage scandal, according to German businessmen, accompanying her on her trip to China, Spiegel Online reports. She has not made any comment so far, however.
Last October, Merkel was enraged to learn she was allegedly on the NSA’s tapping list since 2002. The Chancellor called the alleged spying, which became known thanks to Edward Snowden’s leaks, “unacceptable.”
A German parliamentary committee has been holding hearings on the NSA’s spying activities in Germany.
Ironically, the classified materials from the hearings on US spying could get into the hands of US intelligence, as they allegedly were part of the documents stolen by the suspected double agent.
“If the suspicion of espionage is confirmed, that would be an outrageous attack on our parliamentary freedom,” said Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary leader of the SPD party, a coalition partner of Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
Opposition parties have called for caution in future cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies.
“All cooperation of the German security authorities with friendly services needs to be reviewed,” Green Party leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt told Spiegel Online.
The German government is demanding that the US replace its employees at the Joint Intelligence Staff based in the US Embassy in Berlin, Bild reports.
While most of the criticism is focused on the US, some believe it’s the German leadership’s inability to react properly to the NSA tapping leaks that’s led to the yet another spying scandal. Merkel’s opponents have repeatedly blamed her for too mild a response to the NSA global surveillance revelations.
“That’s a result of Merkel’s transatlantic hypocrisy,” co-chair of the Left Party Katja Kipping said, Der Tagesspiegel reported.
Citing concerns over the NSA’s wiretapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel and other top officials’ phones, the German Interior Ministry announced Thursday that it will not renew its contract with Verizon to provide service for government ministries.
As part of an effort to revamp its secure communications networks, the country will instead rely on Germany’s Deutsche Telekom, Reuters reported.
Since the beginning of the NSA scandal, US businesses have expressed concern over the potential blowback of the revelations on their bottom lines. Fearing foreign governments and other firms will no longer trust them to provide secure products and services, they’ve pushed back against the government, demanding more transparency of how the intelligence community operates.
Verizon is one of the first companies that can point to the NSA as a direct cause for a failed business deal. The Interior Ministry released a statement Thursday, saying “the ties revealed between foreign intelligence agencies and firms in the wake of the U.S. National Security Agency affair show that the German government needs a very high level of security for its critical networks.”
Although it was the first company outed by journalist Glenn Greenwald and British newspaper The Guardian as providing the NSA with millions of instances of metadata on a daily basis, Verizon is not the only – or necessarily the first – to do so.
As far back as 2001, the NSA reportedly collected data from AT&T by re-routing information on its network to government computers. Reporting by Wired revealed documents from AT&T technician Mark Klein showing how the feat was accomplished using hardware in a now famous secret room at the company’s San Francisco data center.
Though the US and Germany are allies, documents released over the past year by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed an American intelligence community with access to a wide variety of German communications. The fallout has been a chilling of relations between the two nations, with the Bundestag (German parliament) especially fierce in its criticisms and demands for answers from the US.
To the consternation of American officials hoping to prosecute Snowden for espionage, the German parliament even invited the leaker to testify about the NSA’s practices in a formal hearing.
Chancellor Merkel, however, has a mixed history with demanding answers from the US.
At first reacting with outrage and comparing the NSA to the Stasi – the communist East German secret police – she also demanded the two nations agree to a “no-spying” pact.
Her attitude changed markedly, however, after meeting with President Barack Obama in May. Stressing the need for unity, Merkel attempted to brush the scandal that has outraged German citizens under the rug. This was not received warmly by opposition parties and many of her constituents, a large number of whom view Snowden as a hero.
Meanwhile, further allegations regarding US surveillance continue to be brought forward. According to a report recently published by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung , NDR and WDR, the NSA had been given access to large swaths of telecoms data by the country’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND). For at least three years raw data was fed directly to the US agency out of Frankfurt — the city is a telecoms hub for much of Europe and beyond.
The former Minister of the Interior, Hans-Peter Friedrich, declared last year that if a foreign intel service had been given a tap into the telecoms node in Frankfurt, it would be a violation of Germany’s sovereignty.
NATO leaders are currently acting out a deliberate charade in Europe, designed to reconstruct an Iron Curtain between Russia and the West.
With astonishing unanimity, NATO leaders feign surprise at events they planned months in advance. Events that they deliberately triggered are being misrepresented as sudden, astonishing, unjustified “Russian aggression”. The United States and the European Union undertook an aggressive provocation in Ukraine that they knew would force Russia to react defensively, one way or another.
They could not be sure exactly how Russian president Vladimir Putin would react when he saw that the United States was manipulating political conflict in Ukraine to install a pro-Western government intent on joining NATO. This was not a mere matter of a “sphere of influence” in Russia’s “near abroad”, but a matter of life and death to the Russian Navy, as well as a grave national security threat on Russia’s border.
A trap was thereby set for Putin. He was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t. He could underreact, and betray Russia’s basic national interests, allowing NATO to advance its hostile forces to an ideal attack position.
Or he could overreact, by sending Russian forces to invade Ukraine. The West was ready for this, prepared to scream that Putin was “the new Hitler”, poised to overrun poor, helpless Europe, which could only be saved (again) by the generous Americans.
In reality, the Russian defensive move was a very reasonable middle course. Thanks to the fact that the overwhelming majority of Crimeans felt Russian, having been Russian citizens until Khrushchev frivolously bestowed the territory on Ukraine in 1954, a peaceful democratic solution was found. Crimeans voted for their return to Russia in a referendum which was perfectly legal according to international law, although in violation of the Ukrainian constitution, which was by then in tatters having just been violated by the overthrow of the country’s duly elected president, Victor Yanukovych, facilitated by violent militias. The change of status of Crimea was achieved without bloodshed, by the ballot box.
Nevertheless, the cries of indignation from the West were every bit as hysterically hostile as if Putin had overreacted and subjected Ukraine to a U.S.-style bombing campaign, or invaded the country outright – which they may have expected him to do.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry led the chorus of self-righteous indignation, accusing Russia of the sort of thing his own government is in the habit of doing. “You just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests. This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext”, Kerry pontificated. “It’s really 19th century behavior in the 21st century”. Instead of laughing at this hypocrisy, U.S. media, politicians and punditry zealously took up the theme of Putin’s unacceptable expansionist aggression. The Europeans followed with a weak, obedient echo.
It Was All Planned at Yalta
In September 2013, one of Ukraine’s richest oligarchs, Viktor Pinchuk, paid for an elite strategic conference on Ukraine’s future that was held in the same Palace in Yalta, Crimea, where Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill met to decide the future of Europe in 1945. The Economist, one of the elite media reporting on what it called a “display of fierce diplomacy”, stated that: “The future of Ukraine, a country of 48m people, and of Europe was being decided in real time.” The participants included Bill and Hillary Clinton, former CIA head General David Petraeus, former U.S. Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers, former World Bank head Robert Zoellick, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, Shimon Peres, Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Mario Monti, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite, and Poland’s influential foreign minister Radek Sikorski. Both President Viktor Yanukovych, deposed five months later, and his recently elected successor Petro Poroshenko were present. Former U.S. energy secretary Bill Richardson was there to talk about the shale-gas revolution which the United States hopes to use to weaken Russia by substituting fracking for Russia’s natural gas reserves. The center of discussion was the “Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement” (DCFTA) between Ukraine and the European Union, and the prospect of Ukraine’s integration with the West. The general tone was euphoria over the prospect of breaking Ukraine’s ties with Russia in favor of the West.
Conspiracy against Russia? Not at all. Unlike Bilderberg, the proceedings were not secret. Facing a dozen or so American VIPs and a large sampling of the European political elite was a Putin adviser named Sergei Glazyev, who made Russia’s position perfectly clear.
Glazyev injected a note of political and economic realism into the conference. Forbes reported at the time on the “stark difference” between the Russian and Western views “not over the advisability of Ukraine’s integration with the EU but over its likely impact.” In contrast to Western euphoria, the Russian view was based on “very specific and pointed economic criticisms” about the Trade Agreement’s impact on Ukraine’s economy, noting that Ukraine was running an enormous foreign accounts deficit, funded with foreign borrowing, and that the resulting substantial increase in Western imports could only swell the deficit. Ukraine “will either default on its debts or require a sizable bailout”.
The Forbes reporter concluded that “the Russian position is far closer to the truth than the happy talk coming from Brussels and Kiev.”
As for the political impact, Glazyev pointed out that the Russian-speaking minority in Eastern Ukraine might move to split the country in protest against cutting ties with Russia, and that Russia would be legally entitled to support them, according to The Times of London.
In short, while planning to incorporate Ukraine into the Western sphere, Western leaders were perfectly aware that this move would entail serious problems with Russian-speaking Ukrainians, and with Russia itself. Rather than seeking to work out a compromise, Western leaders decided to forge ahead and to blame Russia for whatever would go wrong. What went wrong first was that Yanukovych got cold feet faced with the economic collapse implied by the Trade Agreement with the European Union. He postponed signing, hoping for a better deal. Since none of this was explained clearly to the Ukrainian public, outraged protests ensued, which were rapidly exploited by the United States… against Russia.
Ukraine as Bridge… Or Achilles Heel
Ukraine, a term meaning borderland, is a country without clearly fixed historical borders that has been stretched too far to the East and too far to the West. The Soviet Union was responsible for this, but the Soviet Union no longer exists, and the result is a country without a unified identity and which emerges as a problem for itself and for its neighbors.
It was extended too far East, incorporating territory that might as well have been Russian, as part of a general policy to distinguish the USSR from the Tsarist empire, enlarging Ukraine at the expense of its Russian component and demonstrating that the Soviet Union was really a union among equal socialist republics. So long as the whole Soviet Union was run by the Communist leadership, these borders didn’t matter too much.
It was extended too far West at the end of World War II. The victorious Soviet Union extended Ukraine’s border to include Western regions, dominated by the city variously named Lviv, Lwow, Lemberg or Lvov, depending on whether it belonged to Lithuania, Poland, the Habsburg Empire or the USSR, a region which was a hotbed of anti-Russian sentiments. This was no doubt conceived as a defensive move, to neutralize hostile elements, but it created the fundamentally divided nation that today constitutes the perfect troubled waters for hostile fishing.
The Forbes report cited above pointed out that: “For most of the past five years, Ukraine was basically playing a double game, telling the EU that it was interested in signing the DCFTA while telling the Russians that it was interested in joining the customs union.” Either Yanukovych could not make up his mind, or was trying to squeeze the best deal out of both sides, or was seeking the highest bidder. In any case, he was never “Moscow’s man”, and his downfall owes a lot no doubt to his own role in playing both ends against the middle. His was a dangerous game of pitting greater powers against each other.
It is safe to say that what was needed was something that so far seems totally lacking in Ukraine: a leadership that recognizes the divided nature of the country and works diplomatically to find a solution that satisfies both the local populations and their historic ties with the Catholic West and with Russia. In short, Ukraine could be a bridge between East and West – and this, incidentally, has been precisely the Russian position. The Russian position has not been to split Ukraine, much less to conquer it, but to facilitate the country’s role as bridge. This would involve a degree of federalism, of local government, which so far is entirely lacking in the country, with local governors selected not by election but by the central government in Kiev. A federal Ukraine could both develop relations with the EU and maintain its vital (and profitable) economic relations with Russia.
But this arrangement calls for Western readiness to cooperate with Russia. The United States has plainly vetoed this possibility, preferring to exploit the crisis to brand Russia “the enemy”.
Plan A and Plan B
U.S. policy, already evident at the September 2013 Yalta meeting, was carried out on the ground by Victoria Nuland, former advisor to Dick Cheney, deputy ambassador to NATO, spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton, wife of neocon theorist Robert Kagan. Her leading role in the Ukraine events proves that the neo-con influence in the State Department, established under Bush II, was retained by Obama, whose only visible contribution to foreign policy change has been the presence of a man of African descent in the presidency, calculated to impress the world with U.S. multicultural virtue. Like most other recent presidents, Obama is there as a temporary salesman for policies made and executed by others.
As Victoria Nuland boasted in Washington, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States has spent five billion dollars to gain political influence in Ukraine (this is called “promoting democracy”). This investment is not “for oil”, or for any immediate economic advantage. The primary motives are geopolitical, because Ukraine is Russia’s Achilles’ heel, the territory with the greatest potential for causing trouble to Russia.
What called public attention to Victoria Nuland’s role in the Ukrainian crisis was her use of a naughty word, when she told the U.S. ambassador, “Fuck the EU”. But the fuss over her bad language veiled her bad intentions. The issue was who should take power away from the elected president Viktor Yanukovych. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party been promoting former boxer Vitaly Klitschko as its candidate. Nuland’s rude rebuff signified that the United States, not Germany or the EU, was to choose the next leader, and that was not Klitschko but “Yats”. And indeed it was Yats, Arseniy Yatsenyuk , a second-string US-sponsored technocrat known for his enthusiasm for IMF austerity policies and NATO membership, who got the job. This put a U.S. sponsored government, enforced in the streets by fascist militia with little electoral clout but plenty of armed meanness, in a position to manage the May 25 elections, from which the Russophone East was largely excluded.
Plan A for the Victoria Nuland putsch was probably to install, rapidly, a government in Kiev that would join NATO, thus formally setting the stage for the United States to take possession of Russia’s indispensable Black Sea naval base at Sebastopol in Crimea. Reincorporating Crimea into Russia was Putin’s necessary defensive move to prevent this.
But the Nuland gambit was in fact a win-win ploy. If Russia failed to defend itself, it risked losing its entire southern fleet – a total national disaster. On the other hand, if Russia reacted, as was most likely, the US thereby won a political victory that was perhaps its main objective. Putin’s totally defensive move is portrayed by the Western mainstream media, echoing political leaders, as unprovoked “Russian expansionism”, which the propaganda machine compares to Hitler grabbing Czechoslovakia and Poland.
Thus a blatant Western provocation, using Ukrainian political confusion against a fundamentally defensive Russia, has astonishingly succeeded in producing a total change in the artificial Zeitgeist produced by Western mass media. Suddenly, we are told that the “freedom-loving West” is faced with the threat of “aggressive Russian expansionism”. Some years ago, Soviet leaders gave away the store under the illusion that peaceful renunciation on their part could lead to a friendly partnership with the West, and especially with the United States. But those in the United States who never wanted to end the Cold War are having their revenge. Never mind “communism”; if, instead of advocating the dictatorship of the proletariat, Russia’s current leader is simply old-fashioned in certain ways, Western media can fabricate a monster out of that. The United States needs an enemy to save the world from.
The Protection Racket Returns
But first of all, the United States needs Russia as an enemy in order to “save Europe”, which is another way to say, in order to continue to dominate Europe. Washington policy-makers seemed to be worried that Obama’s swing to Asia and neglect of Europe might weaken U.S. control of its NATO allies. The May 25 European Parliament elections revealed a large measure of disaffection with the European Union. This disaffection, notably in France, is linked to a growing realization that the EU, far from being a potential alternative to the United States, is in reality a mechanism that locks European countries into U.S.-defined globalization, economic decline and U.S. foreign policy, wars and all.
Ukraine is not the only entity that has been overextended. So has the EU. With 28 members of diverse language, culture, history and mentality, the EU is unable to agree on any foreign policy other than the one Washington imposes. The extension of the EU to former Eastern European satellites has totally broken whatever deep consensus might have been possible among the countries of the original Economic Community: France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux states. Poland and the Baltic States see EU membership as useful, but their hearts are in America – where many of their most influential leaders have been educated and trained. Washington is able to exploit the anti-communist, anti-Russian and even pro-Nazi nostalgia of northeastern Europe to raise the false cry of “the Russians are coming!” in order to obstruct the growing economic partnership between the old EU, notably Germany, and Russia.
Russia is no threat. But to vociferous Russophobes in the Baltic States, Western Ukraine and Poland, the very existence of Russia is a threat. Encouraged by the United States and NATO, this endemic hostility is the political basis for the new “iron curtain” meant to achieve the aim spelled out in 1997 by Zbigniew Brzezinski in The Grand Chessboard: keeping the Eurasian continent divided in order to perpetuate U.S. world hegemony. The old Cold War served that purpose, cementing U.S. military presence and political influence in Western Europe. A new Cold War can prevent U.S. influence from being diluted by good relations between Western Europe and Russia.
Obama has come to Europe ostentatiously promising to “protect” Europe by basing more troops in regions as close as possible to Russia, while at the same time ordering Russia to withdraw its own troops, on its own territory, still farther away from troubled Ukraine. This appears designed to humiliate Putin and deprive him of political support at home, at a time when protests are rising in Eastern Ukraine against the Russian leader for abandoning them to killers sent from Kiev.
To tighten the U.S. grip on Europe, the United States is using the artificial crisis to demand that its indebted allies spend more on “defense”, notably by purchasing U.S. weapons systems. Although the U.S. is still far from being able to meet Europe’s energy needs from the new U.S. fracking boom, this prospect is being hailed as a substitute for Russia’s natural gas sales – stigmatized as a “way of exercising political pressure”, something of which hypothetic U.S. energy sales are presumed to be innocent. Pressure is being brought against Bulgaria and even Serbia to block construction of the South Stream pipeline that would bring Russian gas into the Balkans and southern Europe.
From D-Day to Dooms Day
Today, June 6, the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day landing is being played in Normandy as a gigantic celebration of American domination, with Obama heading an all-star cast of European leaders. The last of the aged surviving soldiers and aviators present are like the ghosts of a more innocent age when the United States was only at the start of its new career as world master. They were real, but the rest is a charade. French television is awash with the tears of young villagers in Normandy who have been taught that the United States is some sort of Guardian Angel, which sent its boys to die on the shores of Normandy out of pure love for France. This idealized image of the past is implicitly projected on the future. In seventy years, the Cold War, a dominant propaganda narrative and above all Hollywood have convinced the French, and most of the West, that D-Day was the turning point that won World War II and saved Europe from Nazi Germany.
Vladimir Putin came to the celebration, and has been elaborately shunned by Obama, self-appointed arbiter of Virtue. The Russians are paying tribute to the D-Day operation which liberated France from Nazi occupation, but they – and historians – know what most of the West has forgotten: that the Wehrmacht was decisively defeated not by the Normandy landing, but by the Red Army. If the vast bulk of German forces had not been pinned down fighting a losing war on the Eastern front, nobody would celebrate D-Day as it is being celebrated today.
Putin is widely credited as being “the best chess player”, who won the first round of the Ukrainian crisis. He has no doubt done the best he could, faced with the crisis foisted on him. But the U.S. has whole ranks of pawns which Putin does not have. And this is not only a chess game, but chess combined with poker combined with Russian roulette. The United States is ready to take risks that the more prudent Russian leaders prefer to avoid… as long as possible.
Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of the current charade is the servility of the “old” Europeans. Apparently abandoning all Europe’s accumulated wisdom, drawn from its wars and tragedies, and even oblivious to their own best interests, today’s European leaders seem ready to follow their American protectors to another D-Day … D for Doom.
Can the presence of a peace-seeking Russian leader in Normandy make a difference? All it would take would be for mass media to tell the truth, and for Europe to produce reasonably wise and courageous leaders, for the whole fake war machine to lose its luster, and for truth to begin to dawn. A peaceful Europe is still possible, but for how long?
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. She can be reached at email@example.com
The German government has been trying to avoid upsetting either the US by denouncing the large-scale surveillance being carried out by the NSA in its country, or the German people by not denouncing it. It finds itself in the same quandary as regards opening a formal investigation into the spying, which is probably why it has held off for so long. But now, the German authorities have come up with a sort of compromise, as GigaOM reports:
Germany’s federal prosecutor has launched the country’s first formal investigation into the activities of the NSA in Germany, specifically the U.S. intelligence agency’s reported bugging of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.
Harald Range said on Wednesday that the other potential avenue of investigation — that of the surveillance of the German people — remained open, though no investigation was being launched yet due to a lack of evidence.
Leaving aside the question just how much evidence the federal prosecutor needs before he investigates whether the German people have been subjected to US surveillance — a signed confession from President Obama perhaps? — the other issue here is the astonishing lack of sensitivity this move displays. The German government seems to be saying that spying is outrageous and must be investigated immediately if it’s directed against the powerful; but if it’s against the little people, then, well, sorry: we need more evidence before we could possibly risk upsetting the US.
The foreign ministry said Monday that France and Germany intend to prevent Syrians living in their countries from voting in Syria’s presidential election, expected to return President Bashar al-Assad to power.
Germany and France are “preventing Syrians living in their territory from voting,” the foreign ministry said.
“France… is carrying out a hostile press campaign” against next month’s election, it said in a statement carried by state news agency SANA.
“It has officially informed our embassy in Paris of its opposition to the holding of the vote on French territory, including the Syrian embassy.”
French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal implicitly confirmed the decision.
“The organization of foreign elections on French soil is covered by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of April 24, 1963,” he told AFP.
“As we are authorized by this convention, French authorities have the right to oppose the holding of this election anywhere on French territory.”
He reiterated France’s demand for a “political solution” to conflict in Syria as well as a transition process and Assad’s departure from office.
“Bashar al-Assad, who is responsible for the death of 150,000 people, cannot represent the future of the Syrian people,” Nadal said.
The foreign ministry said Germany had “joined the countries trying to block the presidential elections in Syria.”
It accused Berlin of “supporting, funding and arming terrorist groups in a bid to destroy Syria,” referring to the anti-Assad opposition.
“It is not surprising that these countries have taken the decision to prevent Syrian citizens living in their territory from exercising their constitutional right to vote in the embassies of their country,” the ministry added.
Damascus has set the presidential election for June 3, with expatriate voting to take place on May 28.
In Germany these days, very many citizens object to the endless Russia-bashing of the NATO-oriented mainstream media. They may point out that the U.S.-backed regime change in Kiev, putting in power an ultra-right transitional government eager to join NATO, posed an urgent threat to preservation of Russia’s only warm water naval base in Crimea. Under the circumstances, and inasmuch as the Crimean population overwhelmingly approved, reinstating Crimea in the Russian federation was a necessary defensive move.
In Germany, anyone who says something like that can be denigrated as a “Putinversteher” (a Putin understander).
That says it all. We are not supposed to understand. We are supposed to hate. The media are there to see to that.
While the West doggedly refuses to understand Putin and Russia, Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, seems to understand things pretty well.
He seems to understand that he and his nation are being systematically lured into a death trap by an enemy which excels in the contemporary art of “communication”. In a war situation, NATO communication means that it doesn’t matter who does what. The only thing that matters is who tells the story. The Western media are telling the story in a way which depends on not understanding Russia, and not understanding Putin. Putin and Russia become fictional villains in the Western version, just the latest reincarnation of Hitler and Nazi Germany.
The horrific massacre in Odessa on May 2 proved this. The photographic evidence, the testimony of numerous eye witnesses, the smoldering bodies and the shouts of the killers are all there to prove what happened. Tents erected to collect signatures in favor of a referendum to introduce a federal system into Ukraine (now a politically divided but totally centralized state) were set on fire by a militia of fascist thugs who attacked the local federalists as “separatists” (accusing them of wanting to “separate” from Ukraine to join Russia, when that is not what they are seeking). The local activists fled into the big trade union building on the square where they were pursued, assaulted, murdered and set on fire by “Ukrainian nationalists”, acting on behalf of the illegitimate Kiev regime supported by the West.
No matter how vicious the assaults, Western media saw no evil, heard no evil, spoke no evil. They deplored a “tragedy” which just sort of happened.
Odessa is proof that whatever happens, the NATO political class, political leaders and media united, have decided on their story and are sticking to it. The nationalists that seized power in Kiev are the good guys, the people being assaulted in Odessa and in Eastern Ukraine are “pro-Russian” and therefore the “bad guys”.
So despite everything, let’s try to understand President Putin, which is really not very hard. Behind every conscious action there should be a motive. Let’s look at motives. Today, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, who certainly gives every sign of never understanding – or wanting to understand – anything, parroted the NATO line that Russia was “trying to orchestrate conflict and provocation” in Ukraine’s east and south.
That makes no sense. Putin has absolutely no motive to want civil war to rage in neighboring Ukraine, and very strong reasons to do all he can to avoid it. It confronts him with a serious dilemma. Ongoing vicious attacks by fanatic nationalists from Western Ukraine on citizens in the east and south of the country can only incite the victimized Russian-speaking Ukrainians to call on Russia for help. But at the same time, Putin must know that those Russophone Ukrainians do not really want to be invaded by Russia. Perhaps they want something impossible. And it is perfectly obvious that any use of Russia’s military force to protect people in Ukraine would let loose an even wilder demonization of Putin as “the new Hitler” who is invading countries “for no reason”. And NATO would use this, as it has already used the reunification of Crimea with Russia, as “proof” that Europe must tighten its alliance, establish military bases throughout Eastern Europe and (above all) spend more money on “defense” (buying US military equipment).
The Western takeover of the Kiev government is clearly a provocation to draw Putin into a trap that certain Western strategists (Zbigniew Brzezinski being the chief theorist) hope will cause Putin’s downfall and plunge Russia into a crisis that can lead to its eventual dismemberment.
Putin can only wish to find a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian mess.
While Washington reverts to Cold War “containment” policy to “isolate” Russia, Putin today held talks in Moscow with Didier Burkhalter, the Swiss president and current chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), in hope of initiating some sort of peaceful mediation.
Putin Pulls Back From False Flag Plan?
On this occasion, Putin announced that he had pulled back Russian forces from the border with Ukraine. He indicated that this was to ease concerns over their positioning, meaning claims that Russia was preparing an invasion. He also advised against holding referendums for greater autonomy in the Russophone areas until “conditions for dialogue” can be created.
However, news reports indicated that this reported military pullback caused new concerns among some Ukrainians, who felt Russia was abandoning them in their hour of need, and among some Russians, who feared the President was backing down under Western pressure.
It is not impossible that the pullback order was linked to a Novosti RIA report dated May 6, which indicated that the Ukrainian secret service was planning an imminent false flag operation in order to accuse Russia of violating the border with Ukraine.
Novosti said it had learned from security circles in Kiev that the Ukrainian secret service SBU had secretly shipped about 200 Russian army uniforms and some 70 forged Russian officer IDs into the Eastern Ukrainian protest stronghold of Donetz, to be used to stage a false attack on Ukrainian border patrols.
Novosti said the reports were unconfirmed, but they could nevertheless be taken seriously by the Russians. “The plan would be to simulate an attack on Ukrainian border troops and to film it for the media”, the report said. In connection with the plan, a dozen or so combatants from the ultranationalist Right Sector were to cross the border and kidnap a Russian soldier in order to present him as “proof” of Russian military incursion. The operation was scheduled for May 8 or 9.
By pulling Russian troops farther away from the border, Putin could hope to make the false flag operation less plausible and perhaps to forestall it.
The whole Ukrainian operation, at least partly directed by Victoria Nuland of the U.S. State Department, has been characterised by false flag operations, most notoriously by the snipers who suddenly spread murder and terror in Maidan square in Kiev, effectively wrecking the internationally sponsored transition agreement. “Pro-West” insurgents accused President Yanukovych of sending the killers and forced a rump parliament to give government power to Ms Nuland’s protégé, Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk. However, there has been plenty of evidence to show that the mysterious snipers were pro-West mercenaries: photographic evidence, followed by the telephone statement by the Polish foreign minister to that effect, and finally by the German television channel ARD whose Monitor documentary concluded that the snipers came from the extreme right anti-Russian groups involved in the Maidan uprising. Indeed, all known evidence points to a fascist false flag operation, and yet Western media and politicians continue to blame everything on Russia.
So whatever he does, Putin now has to realize that he will be deliberately “misunderstood” and misrepresented by Western leaders and media. Over the heads of the American people, over the heads of the Germans, French and other Europeans, a private consensus has obviously been reached among persons we may describe as our own Western “oligarchs” to revive the Cold War in order to provide the West with an “enemy” serious enough to save the military-industrial complex and unite the transatlantic community against the rest of the world.
This is what Russian leaders are obliged to understand. What they need most to save the world from endless and useless conflict is the understanding of all those Americans and Europeans who have never been consulted or informed about this perilous shift in strategy, and who, if they understood, would surely say no.
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Germany’s Chancellor Merkel is in the White House for the first time since it was revealed the NSA monitored her personal communications. During bilateral talks with Barack Obama, Merkel is expected to broach sanctions on Russia and US spying.
Relations between Washington and Berlin are showing signs of tensions, as German companies call for a halt to sanctions on Russia. Furthermore, Germany is still reeling from the NSA spy revelations that affected millions of German citizens, as well as high-ranking businessmen and politicians.
Merkel reiterated earlier this week that Germany would support any further financial sanctions against Russia. However, growing calls from the German business sector may force her to change her policy in Friday’s meeting.
“The Germans are very clear they are not going to pursue factions that hurt German industry. That would be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Michael Hudson professor of Economics at the University of Missouri to RT.
Indeed, some major corporate figures have already spoken out against a potential escalation of the sanctions, maintaining they will do more harm than good to the German economy.
“If there’s a single message we have as business leaders, then it’s this: sit down at the negotiating table and resolve these matters peacefully,” Eckhard Cordes told a recent conference in Berlin. Cordes is a former Daimler AG executive who now heads the Ostauschuss, German industry’s branch for Eastern Europe, reported the Wall Street Journal.
So far the US, EU, Canada and Japan have imposed sanction on Russia for its alleged role in the unrest in eastern Ukraine. Moscow has denied claims it is involved in the unrest and has pointed the finger at Washington for orchestrating the situation in Ukraine as part of its geopolitical strategy in the region.
The espionage antics of the US National Security Agency remain a bone of contention between Berlin and Washington. It emerged earlier in April that Merkel had been denied access to her NSA file, following reports the agency had monitored her personal communications. The revelations had a profound effect on German society, prompting calls for Washington to account for its actions.
“First the US denied spying on Merkel’s cell phone, then admitted it, now it just continues, because Obama says ‘we reserve the right to collect information.’ I just see Angela Merkel going to the US to pick up new instructions,” Ken Jebson, Redaktion radio host told RT’s Peter Oliver.
While WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafsson, said the German government’s lack of resolve over the NSA spy scandal is indicative of European cowardice in the face of US dominance.
“I think the proof of the cowardice of governments and politicians and their unwillingness to tackle this in a meaningful way, despite what they say publicly, was when European countries closed their airspace and forced the presidential plane of Evo Morales to land in Austria, on a hunch that Edward Snowden was on board,” he told RT.
Earlier this year Washington pledged that it would no longer spy on world leaders, but stated it would still gather information on the intentions of foreign powers through its espionage programs.
German authorities on Tuesday raided the offices of a charity organization that allegedly has ties to Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, accusing it of raising money for the group.
Around 150 police officers searched premises across six states and confiscated cash, computers and around 40 boxes of files.
Two bank accounts with a total of around 60,000 euros were frozen but no arrests were made, the German interior ministry said.
The ministry said it had outlawed the “Waisenkinderprojekt Libanon” (Orphan Children Project Lebanon) with immediate effect.
“The name of the group masks its actual purpose,” ministry state secretary Emily Haber said in a statement.
She said the organization based in the western city of Essen had raised 3.3 million euros ($4.5 million) in donations between 2007 and 2013 for the Lebanese Shahid Foundation, which supports families of fallen Hezbollah fighters.
Haber claimed the funds were used to recruit fighters “to combat Israel, also with terrorist measures” and compensate the families of suicide bombers.
The statement did not cite its evidence. Hezbollah used to carry out suicide missions against Israeli occupation forces in South Lebanon prior to their retreat in 2000.
The group has not used that tactic since Israel pulled its army from Lebanon 14 year ago.
“Organizations that directly or indirectly from German soil oppose the state of Israel’s right to exist may not seek freedom of association protection,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in the statement.
He said the group’s goals violated Germany’s constitution.
The European Union in July last year also listed Hezbollah’s so-called military wing as a “terrorist organization.” But the EU said it would continue to deal with Hezbollah as a political entity.
The German interior ministry said it had put Waisenkinderprojekt Libanon, which has about 80 members, under surveillance since 2009.