The Russian Foreign Minister says the US should take responsibility for those whom they put in power instead issuing ultimatums to Moscow.
“Before giving us ultimatums, demanding that we fulfill demands within two or three days with the threat of sanctions, we would urgently call on our American partners to fully accept responsibility for those who they brought to power,” said Lavrov during a press conference with his colleague from Mozambique, Oldemiro Baloi.
All attempts to isolate Russia will lead to a dead end because Russia is “a big, independent power that knows what it wants,” he added
Meanwhile, the Russian FM also criticized statements from Western countries and Kiev’s authorities, which “invent possible and impossible arguments against Russia,” claiming that a large amount of Russian arms in the conflict zones proves Russian interference in Ukrainian affairs.
He called the statements absurd as Ukraine has traditionally used Russian-made arms.
“This statement is ludicrous. Everyone has Russian arms in Ukraine,” Lavrov said.
Meanwhile, he also said that TV outlets have reported that US arms were also found in Ukraine and illegal armed groups, not the Ukrainian army were in possession of these American arms.
Speaking about the crisis situation in eastern Ukraine and Kiev’s crackdown on the Donetsk region, Lavrov also said that Kiev authorities don’t want or maybe cannot control the extremists who continue to control the situation in the country.
“The authorities are doing nothing, not even lifting a finger, to address the causes behind this deep internal crisis in Ukraine,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lavrov also said that the Kiev coup-appointed government has violated the Geneva agreements of April 17, after the four-sided talks between the EU, the US, Russia and Ukraine.
“The Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) group has been “running the show” in the streets of central and western Ukraine and is trying to affect eastern regions,” he said, adding that buildings in Kiev seized by the protesters haven’t been freed and the streets haven’t been cleared.
“However, Kiev authorities say that “Maidan” is acting legally which is totally inadmissible,” he said.
Meanwhile, the attack by militants on the checkpoint in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on Easter Sunday is a crime beneficial only for those who want to derail the Geneva agreements, said the Russian FM.
“The fact that extremists started to shoot at unarmed civilians is unacceptable,” he added.
Meanwhile, he also criticized the attitude of Kiev to foreign journalists in Ukraine as journalists in the country are being arrested and the authorities won’t let them into the regions for them to observe what is happening.
He also stressed that one of the Geneva agreement’s points is to amnesty political prisoners and participants in the protests.
“Instead of releasing the Donetsk governor, Pavel Gubarev, Kiev authorities continue to arrest activists in southeastern Ukraine,” said Lavrov.
According to Lavrov, the Kiev authorities are still spinning out the implementation of constitutional reform in the country.
“Why were they waiting for so long to speak about the necessity of constitutional reform? Why are they spinning out the process?” he asked at the conference.
Lavrov also stressed the necessity of restoring order in the crisis-torn country. By this he meant stopping extremism and religious intolerance, starting constitutional dialogue and disarming the illegally armed groups.
Why capitalists do not want recovery, and what that means for America
Can it be true that capitalists prefer crisis over growth? On the face of it, the idea sounds silly. According to Economics 101, everyone loves growth, especially capitalists. Profit and growth go hand in hand. When capitalists profit, real investment rises and the economy thrives, and when the economy booms the profits of capitalists soar. Growth is the very lifeline of capitalists.
Or is it?
What motivates capitalists?
The answer depends on what motivates capitalists. Conventional economic theories tell us that capitalists are hedonic creatures. Like all other economic “agents” – from busy managers and hectic workers to active criminals and idle welfare recipients – their ultimate goal is maximum utility. In order for them to achieve this goal, they need to maximize their profit and interest; and this income – like any other income – depends on economic growth. Conclusion: utility-seeking capitalists have every reason to love booms and hate crises.
But, then, are capitalists really motivated by utility? Is it realistic to believe that large American corporations are guided by the hedonic pleasure of their owners – or do we need a different starting point altogether?
So try this: in our day and age, the key goal of leading capitalists and corporations is not absolute utility but relative power. Their real purpose is not to maximize hedonic pleasure, but to “beat the average.” Their ultimate aim is not to consume more goods and services (although that happens too), but to increase their power over others. And the key measure of this power is their distributive share of income and assets.
Note that capitalists have no choice in this matter. “Beating the average” is not a subjective preference but a rigid rule, dictated and enforced by the conflictual nature of the system. Capitalism pits capitalists against other groups in society – as well as against each other. And in this multifaceted struggle for greater power, the yardstick is always relative. Capitalists – and the corporations they operate through – are compelled and conditioned to accumulate differentially; to augment not their personal utility but their relative earnings. Whether they are private owners like Warren Buffet or institutional investors like Bill Gross, they all seek not to perform but to out-perform – and outperformance means re-distribution. Capitalists who beat the average redistribute income and assets in their favor; this redistribution raises their share of the total; and a larger share of the total means greater power stacked against others. In the final analysis, capitalists accumulate not hedonic pleasure but differential power.
Now, if you look at capitalists through the lens of relative power, the notion that they should love growth and yearn for recovery is no longer self-evident. In fact, the very opposite seems to be the case. For any group to increase its relative power in society, that group must be able to strategically sabotage others in that society. This rule derives from the very logic of power relations. It means that capitalists, seeking to augment their income-share-read-power, have to threaten or undermine the rest of society. And one of the key weapons they use in this power struggle –sometimes consciously, though usually by default – is unemployment.
Joblessness affects redistribution
Unemployment affects distribution mainly through the impact it has on relative prices and wages. If higher unemployment causes the ratio of price to unit wage cost to decline, capitalists will fall behind in the redistributional struggle, and this retreat is sure to make them eager for recovery. But if the opposite turns out to be the case – that is, if higher unemployment helps raise the price/wage cost ratio – capitalists would have good reason to love crisis and indulge in stagnation.
In principle, both scenarios are possible. But as Figure 1 shows, in America the second prevails: unemployment redistributes income systematically in favor of capitalists. The chart contrasts the share of pretax profit and net interest in domestic income on the one hand with the rate of unemployment on the other (both series are smoothed as 5-year moving averages). Note that the unemployment rate is lagged three years, meaning that every observation shows the situation prevailing three years earlier.
This chart does not sit well with received wisdom. Mainstream economics tells us that the two series should be inversely correlated; that the capitalist income share should rise in the boom when unemployment falls and decline in the bust when unemployment rises. But that is not the case in the United States. In this country, the correlation is positive, not negative. The share of capitalists moves counter-cyclically: it rises in downturns and falls in booms – exactly the opposite of what economic convention would have us believe. The math is straightforward: for every 1% rise in unemployment, capitalists can expect their income share three years later to jump by 0.8%. Needless to say, this equation is very bad news for most Americans – precisely because it is such good news for the country’s capitalists.
Remarkably, the positive correlation shown in Figure 1 holds not only over the short-term business cycle, but also in the long term. During the booming 1940s, when unemployment was very low, capitalists appropriated a relatively small share of domestic income. But as the boom fizzled, growth decelerated and stagnation started to creep in, the share of capital began to trend upward. The peak power of capital, measured by its overall income share, was recorded in the early 1990s, when unemployment was at post-war highs. The neoliberal globalization that followed brought lower unemployment and a smaller capital share, but not for long. In the late 2000s, the trend reversed again, with unemployment soaring and the distributive share of capital rising in tandem. Looking forward, capitalists have reason to remain crisis-happy: with the rate of unemployment again approaching post-war highs, their income share has more room to rise in the years ahead.
The power of capitalists can also be examined from the viewpoint of the infamous Top 1%. Most commentators stress the “social” and “political” problems created by the disproportional wealth of this group, but this emphasis puts the world on its head. Redistribution is not an unfortunate side-effect of growth and stagnation, but the main force driving them.
Figure 2 shows the century-long relationship between the income share of the Top 1% and the annual growth rate of U.S. employment (with both series smoothed as 10-year moving averages). And as the chart makes clear, the distributional gains of this group have been boosted not by growth, but by stagnation. The overall relationship is clearly negative. When stagnation sets in and employment growth decelerates, the income share of the Top 1% actually rises – and vice versa during a long-term boom.
Historically, this negative relationship can be divided into three distinct periods, indicated by the dashed, freely drawn line going through the employment growth series. The first period, from the turn of the twentieth century till the 1930s, is the so-called Gilded Age. Income inequality is rising and employment growth is plummeting.
The second period, from the Great Depression till the early 1980s, is marked by the Keynesian welfare-warfare state. Higher taxation and public spending make distribution more equal, while employment growth accelerates. Note the massive acceleration of employment growth during the Second World War and its subsequent deceleration brought by post-war demobilization. Obviously these dramatic movements were unrelated to income inequality, but they did not alter the series’ overall upward trend.
The third period, from the early 1980s to the present, is marked by neoliberalism. In this period, monetarism assumes the commanding heights, inequality soars and employment growth plummets. The current rate of employment growth hovers around zero while the Top 1% appropriates 20 per cent of all income – similar to the numbers recorded during Great Depression.
So what do these facts mean for America?
First, they make the fault-lines obvious. The old slogan “what’s good for GM is good for America” now rings hollow. Capitalists seek not utility through consumption but more power through redistribution. And they achieve their goal not by raising investment and fueling growth, but by allowing unemployment to rise and jobs to become scarce. Clearly, we are not “all in the same boat.” There is a distributional struggle for power, and this struggle is not a mere “sociological” issue. It is the center of our political economy, and we need a new theoretical framework to understand it.
Second, macroeconomic policy, whether old or new, cannot offset the aggregate consequences of this distributional struggle. Not by a long shot. Till the late 1970s, the budget deficit was small, yet America boomed. And why? Because progressive taxation, transfer payments and social programs made the distribution of income less unequal. By the early 1980s, this relationship inverted. Although the budget deficit ballooned and interest rates fell, economic growth decelerated. New methods of upward redistribution have caused the share of the Top 1% to zoom, making stagnation the new norm.
Third, and finally, Washington can no longer hide behind the bush. On the one hand, the concentration of America’s income and assets, having been boosted by large post-crisis bailouts and massive quantitative easing, is now at record levels. On the other hand, long-term unemployment remains at post-war highs while job growth is at a standstill. Eventually, this situation will be reversed. The only question is whether it will be reversed through a new policy trajectory or through the calamity of systemic crisis.
Jonathan Nitzan teaches political economy at York University in Canada. Shimshon Bichler teaches political economy at colleges and universities in Israel. All of their publications are available for free on The Bichler & Nitzan Archives.
The Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States have now locked horns at the United Nations in the dispute over Iran’s next ambassador to UN, Hamid Aboutalebi, in light of the US refusal to issue a visa for him and Iran’s stern reaction of lodging a complaint with the relevant authorities at the UN.
By all indications, the coming battle will be fought hard by both sides and may turn out to be time-consuming and involve a lengthy arbitration process. Objectively speaking, Iran’s chance of winning this battle is fair to excellent, because Iran has the weight of international law on its side.
As stated in Iran’s letter of April 14, 2014, addressed both to the UN Secretary General and the permanent representative of Cyprus, the current chair of the UN Committee on Relations with the Host Country, the US is now in breach of its international obligations by refusing to issue an entry visa to Mr. Aboutalebi.
Specifically, the US is now in contempt of its obligation under the US-UN treaty known as the “Headquarters Agreement,” which was signed in 1947. Section 11 of this Agreement expressly prohibits the US from imposing any restrictions on travel to the UN by representatives of UN member states.
Not only that, even the US’s own law, enacted in 1947, which imposes certain restrictions with respect to foreign officials who may pose a security risk to the US, does not give the US government the right to a blanket exclusion.
Section 6 of the US legislations states, “Nothing in the agreement shall be construed as in any way diminishing, abridging, or weakening the right of the United States to safeguard its own security and completely to control the entrance of aliens into any territory of the United States other than the headquarters district and its immediate vicinity.”
Clearly, this section simply does not permit the US to deny entry completely to any individual who has a right of entry, particularly the designated permanent representative of a UN member state.
What lies ahead, then, is a potentially lengthy arbitration process. Section 21 of the Headquarters Agreement provides a specific arbitration mechanism for such disputes between the US and the UN. If the negotiations between Iran, UN, and US at the above-said committee, scheduled for April 22nd, fail, then the matter would be referred to a tribunal of three arbitrators, one to be named by the UN Secretary General, one to be named by the United States, and the third to be chosen by the two, or, if they should fail to agree upon a third, then by the President of the International Court of Justice.
Legally speaking, US’s stated unhappiness with Mr. Aboutalebi over his alleged role with the Iranian students who took over the US embassy in 1979 does not suffice to warrant his exclusion from the UN. As a veteran Iranian diplomat for the past quarter of century, serving in several Western countries, Aboutalebi, who holds a degree from the prestigious Sorbonne University, is well-suited for the designated position at the UN and his credential simply nullifies any lame US excuse that he poses a “security risk.”
Besides, the US and Iran have signed an agreement known as the Algiers Accord in 1981, which has specific provisions regarding the settlement of disputes arising out of the US embassy ‘crisis’ and which are relevant to Iran’s defense of its choice for the top position at the UN. The US is beholden to the terms of the Algiers Accord, which precludes the US from punishing Iran one way or another for the embassy situation.
Clearly, this is a vexing issue for not only Iran but also many other UN member states, particularly those who may have a past or present dispute with the US, in light of the new US legislation that opens a Pandora’s Box by enhancing US free hand to screen foreign diplomats and impose restrictions on them based on criteria that violate the terms of the Headquarters Agreement, thus jeopardizing the future of “multilateral diplomacy” as correctly stated in Iran’s letter to UN mentioned above; as result, the Non-Aligned Movement, comprising the largest UN grouping at the General Assembly, may intervene on Iran’s behalf.
This may be why US President Obama has not yet acted on this legislation, which is Iranophobic through and through and was initiated by the hawkish members of US Congress who are on record opposing the recent nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers. But, sooner or later, the US has to furnish a detailed and official explanation as to why it refuses a visa for Mr. Aboutalebi. But once it does, it will inevitably make more clear the already glaring fact that the US is in contempt of its international obligations.
The fact that Mr. Aboutalebi has entered the US in the past, as part of Iran’s delegation to the UN General Assembly, represents another strike against the US, which would have to be taken into consideration by the UN officials and the arbitration panel, the argument being that if he did not pose any security risk in the past, why should he be so regarded now?
With respect to any US argument that Aboutalebi has violated international law in the past by acting as a US “hostage-taker,” this is not convincing either due to the following: (a) by his own admission, Aboutalebi was not among the hostage-takers and played a limited role as an interpreter; (b) the embassy take-over was in part a response to a prior US violation of international law by engineering the 1953 coup in Iran and then supporting a ruthless dictatorship for a quarter of century; (c) those events are now remote in time and have been followed by the Algiers Accord that, as stated above, implicitly if not explicitly precludes the US from imposing punishments on Iran over the “hostage crisis.”
Henceforth, the US is likely to lose the legal battle with Iran at the UN, which in turn raises the question of what happens if the US ignores the adverse opinion of the arbitration panel. This case has striking similarities with the (PLO Chairman) Yasser Arafat visa affair, when the US showed callous disrespect for the bounds of its UN host agreement in 1988, which completely backfired and led to the General Assembly’s decision to hold its next annual gathering at the UN headquarter in Geneva.
If the US loses the legal bout, as it logically should given the above-stated reasons, then Iran has the option of seeking a similar move by the General Assembly.
For now, however, Tehran is keen on resolving this matter amicably through in-house negotiation at the UN, and hopefully reason will prevail and Mr. Aboutalebi will be able to assume his position in the near future, irrespective of how certain groups and individuals in the host country feel about it.
The corporate media is focused on the question of how or if Iran could ever break out of its promise under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to eschew nuclear weapons and use reactors only for civilian purposes. So many headlines refer to sanctions imposed against Iran that millions of people mistakenly think Iran has a nuclear arsenal. It doesn’t.
Meanwhile the Congress in January fully funded production of a new B61 thermonuclear gravity bomb, a program dubbed “Life Extension.” This year’s $537 million is the down payment on the new version of the B61 that the millionaires in DC agreed should get $11 billion over the next few years.
Dubbed the “solid gold nuke” by critics, the 700 pound H-bomb is running $28 million apiece at the moment. That much gold bullion is only worth $16 million.
The program to replace today’s B61s with a new “mod12,” is being condemned by our allies in NATO, by Congressional budget hawks and of course by the entire arms control community. Even former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright has said the bombs are “practically nil” in military value. (Gen. Cartwright only is partly right: Since it seems the Department of Defense is in the business of producing suicides by the thousands, among veterans and active duty soldiers, the suicidal mission of deploying B61s across Europe — for detonation there — seems a perfect fit.)
“This decision represents the triumph of entrenched nuclear interests over good government. The B-61 is no longer relevant for U.S. national security, but continues to rob billions of dollars from programs that would make America safer,” President Joe Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund told Hans M. Kristensen for the Federation of American Scientists.
Kristensen reported March 12 that the Pentagon has decided that the new B61 will begin its deployment in Europe next year.
This 300-to-500 kiloton “variable yield” thermonuclear device has 24 to 40 times the destructive power of the US bomb that killed 170,000 people at Hiroshima in 1945. Still, this machine’s threat of meaningless, genocidal, radioactive violence is called “tactical.”
Rush to Deploy New H-bomb Before it’s Killed by Public Opposition
The Air Force budget makes it appear that the older B61s will all be replaced — in Turkey, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany — by 2020. This rush job is being hustled through the military-industrial-complex in a very big hurry because the broad international condemnation of the program is gaining depth and breadth.
Even the rightwing Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., along with Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., and Rep Jared Polis, D-Colo., tried to curtail the program last year. Five NATO partners — Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Norway — asked four years ago that all B61s be removed permanently from Europe. In Germany, every major political party has formally resolved to pursue final withdrawal of the 20 remaining B61s at Buchel AFB.
Major US allies in Europe informed Gen. Cartwright’s critical opinion. High-level European politicians have been saying the B61s are “militarily useless” since the end of the Cold War. In a widely published op/ed in 2010, former NATO secretary-general Willy Claes and three senior Belgian politicians said, “The US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe have lost all military importance.”
Still, Kristensen reports, “integration” of the new B61 is supposed to take place on Belgian, Dutch, and Turkish F-16 jets and on German and Italian Tornado fighter-bombers soon.
Another reason for the rush to deploy this perfect candidate for dumb bomb retirement is that Germany is considering replacing its Tornado jets in short order. All the expense of refitting its current Tornadoes to carry the “more accurate” and “more usable” B61-mod 12 would be wasted. New B61 production could also be made expensively moot by progress in arms control.
The “nuclear sharing” arrangement with the five technically non-nuclear NATO partners glaringly contradicts, in Kristensen’s words, “the non-proliferation standards that member countries are trying to promote in the post-Cold War world.” In its 2012 posture review, even NATO’s ministers pledged to work for a world without nuclear weapons.
So as the White House and its Secretary of State wag fingers at Iran, we and our NATO friends openly violate the binding promise made in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty “not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly.”
Maybe Iran can arrange for some sanctions to be imposed on us.
John LaForge works for Nukewatch, edits its Quarterly, and lives at the Plowshares Land Trust out of Luck, Wisconsin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday called on all European states concerned to join efforts to keep the Ukrainian economy afloat.
“We do not want to undermine the Ukrainian economy or to call the reliability of [gas] transits to Europe into question. That’s why we call on all European states, all countries interested in supporting the Ukrainian economy to join the process of helping Ukraine and to flesh out measures to finance the budget,” said Putin.
The Russian President said on Saturday he currently saw no obstacles to bringing relations between Moscow and the West back to normal.
The Russian president, who appeared on the Vesti v Subbotu (Vesti on Saturday) TV show, was asked by its host Sergey Brilev about whether the relations between Russia and the West, which sank to record lows amid the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine, can improve by the end of the year.
“It depends on our partners,” Putin replied.
“I think that currently there is nothing to prevent us from normalizing [the relations] and [returning to] normal cooperation,” he continued.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has earlier condemned as “hypocrisy” attempts by the West to justify violent acts during pro-European rallies in Ukraine earlier this year, at the same time accusing pro-federalization protesters in the east of terrorism.
Tehran has slammed as illegal a US court ruling to confiscate the assets of Alavi Foundation in Manhattan, saying the move runs counter to the principle of religious freedom for American citizens.
“The recent ruling regarding the forfeiture of the assets belonging to the foundation is, to all appearances, in contradiction to realities, void of legal validity and even in breach of US commitments to guarantee religious freedom for its citizens,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said in a Friday statement.
“Contrary to the prosecutors’ baseless allegations and the court’s politically-motivated ruling which was a propaganda fuss, the Alavi Foundation is an independent charity institution in the US which has no links with Iran,” she added.
Afkham noted that Iran has been a victim of terrorism itself, dismissing as ridiculous the US court’s claim that Tehran was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
She argued that the US court verdict brings the credibility of the US judicial system into question.
On Thursday, Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said that federal judge Katherine Forrest approved a deal between the US government and 19 anti-Iran plaintiffs to sell Alavi Foundation’s 36-story Manhattan skyscraper on Fifth Avenue and other properties owned by Iran, following a 2008 lawsuit by the government against the building’s owners.
Under the deal, the US Marshals Service will sell the 36-story building and other so-called Iran-linked property in California, Maryland, Texas, Virginia and the Queens borough of New York. US authorities will also receive the contents of bank accounts of the entities which allegedly served as Iran fronts in the past.
The US government will receive reimbursement for litigation expenses and any costs of the sales and the remainder will be distributed among what the court has called terror-attack victims, including those of the 9/11 attacks and their survivors.
In September 2013, the judge had ruled in favor of the government’s suit, claiming the building’s owners had violated Iran sanctions and money laundering laws.
Prosecutors allege the building’s owners, the Alavi Foundation — a non-profit organization promoting the Islamic culture and Persian language — and Assa Corporation, transferred rental income and other funds to Iran.
The media refers to the document that emerged out of today’s four party talks as an “agreement”. This is not strictly correct. The text of the document is here.
As its text makes clear what this document is in reality is not an an agreement to settle the Ukrainian crisis or even an outline of such an agreement but rather a statement of basic principles around which an agreement should be negotiated. The real agreement (if it comes about) will emerge from negotiations based on the principles set out in this document.
A number of points:
1. Kiev’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding, the statement that “all sides must refrain from all violence, intimidation and provocative actions” clearly rules out the “anti terrorist operation” in the eastern Ukraine that Kiev launched on Sunday;
2. As Lavrov has correctly pointed out the provisions in the third paragraph that require the disarmament and dissolution of armed groups is clearly intended to refer as much to Right Sector and the Maidan Self Defence Force as it does to the protesters in the east. Note specifically that the statement calls for a general amnesty except for those who have committed capital crimes (ie. murder). So far no protesters in the east have murdered anyone. Even Kiev admits that none of its soldiers have so far been killed. The same obviously cannot be said of Right Sector and of the Maidan Self Defence Force even if one disregards their likely responsibility for the sniper killings in Kiev on 20th February 2014;
3. The document clearly refers to Maidan itself, which it says must be cleared. Specifically alongside illegally occupied buildings the document refers to “all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities”. The reference to “squares” clearly is intended to refer to Maidan, which the militants in Kiev have said they will continue to occupy at least until the elections on 25th May 2014 and even beyond;
4. Importantly there is NO time line in the document. There is no demand therefore that buildings be evacuated by any particular date or time. That has to be agreed and coordinated with the OSCE monitors on the ground. The people in the eastern Ukraine are therefore entirely within their rights to stay in the buildings at the moment until a timeline is agreed with the OSCE monitors, one requirement of which will surely be parallel evacuations of occupied squares and buildings in Kiev and the west including Maidan.
5. The referral to the OSCE as the enforcement and mediation agency between the regime and its opponents gives Russia a formal role in the process since it is a member of the OSCE. By contrast the negotiations which took place before 21st February 2014 were negotiated and mediated by the EU of which Russia is not a member;
6. The reference to the fact that in the negotiations concerning constitutional changes there should be “outreach to all the Ukraine’s regions and constituencies” (note especially use of the word “constituencies”) gives a role to the protesters in the east in the negotiations and not just to those formal official bodies currently recognised by Kiev.
This document on its face therefore represents a shift towards the Russian/east Ukrainian side. Indeed it basically sets out principles Russia has been arguing for ever since Yanukovitch was deposed on 22nd February 2014.
Unfortunately that does not mean this road map is going to be successfully followed. Already Kiev is trying to argue that the “anti terrorist operation” it has ordered is somehow exempt from it (it isn’t) whilst the US is threatening to impose more sanctions on Russia if following the weekend Russia fails to impose pressure on the eastern Ukrainians to evacuate buildings they occupy without the US undertaking to put any corresponding pressure on its clients in Kiev (shades of Syria here). It is very easy to see how the US and its allies could then blame Russia for the failure of the road map whilst having caused that failure themselves.
However the Russians do have a number of strong cards to play of their own:
1. The growing unrest in the Donbass, which will almost certainly spread to more regions of the eastern Ukraine unless some serious concessions are made. The events of the last few days have exposed Kiev’s difficulties in suppressing this unrest. Significantly no further step in pursuit of the “anti terrorist operation” seems to have been taken today as Kiev reels from the military defections of yesterday;
2. Russia as Putin pointedly reminded everybody in his television marathon today can always refuse to recognise the results of the Presidential elections on 25th May 2014 if the negotiations are failing to make progress and also has authority from the Federation Council to send troops into the eastern Ukraine if the situation there deteriorates further. A refusal to recognise the results of the election will further undermine the legitimacy of whoever is elected. It is now clear that there will be no significant military resistance from forces loyal to Kiev if the Russian army moves into the eastern Ukraine. If that happens the likelihood is that Kiev will lose the eastern Ukraine forever (note Putin’s pointed reference to “Novorossiya” in his television marathon today) – a nightmare scenario for both Kiev and the west though not one Russia is pursuing at the moment;
3. It is now clear that without Russia’s assistance the possibility of stabilising the Ukraine’s economy quite simply does not exist. The last paragraph specifically refers to the importance of the Ukraine “financial and economic stability” to “the participants” and says “the participants…. would be ready to discuss additional support as the above steps are implemented”. The most important of the “participants” in this regard is Russia. It bears repeating (as Putin has recently pointed out) that Russia is the only participant so far providing any economic assistance to the Ukraine at all. The US is only offering $1 billion in loan guarantees and the EU is offering just 1.6 billion euros none of which have so far been provided. What this document in effect therefore says is that whilst Russia is prepared to assist in the stabilisation of the Ukraine’s economy its help is conditional on the fulfilment of the provisions of the road map;
4. It is becoming increasingly clear that there is growing resistance within the EU to further sanctions against Russia. The fact that a process has now been launched to settle this crisis will redouble European reluctance to introduce more sanctions and will increase pressure within the EU for the process to be treated seriously so that it can succeed.
In conclusion, we are not out of the woods or anywhere close. This is not the beginning of the end of the crisis. But we may be a small step closer to that point. A lot will depend on what happens next and the key decisions will be made on the ground in the Ukraine itself.
Russia, the US, the EU and Ukraine have adopted a joint document on the de-escalation of the Ukraine crisis, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, after talks in Geneva. It calls for all illegal armed groups to lay down arms and a wide amnesty.
The document calls for an “immediate start of a nationwide national dialogue within the framework of the constitutional process, which must be inclusive and accountable,” Lavrov said.
The most important agreement reached during the talks, according to Lavrov, states that the Ukrainian crisis “must be resolved by the Ukrainians themselves concerning an end to the conflict” including those related to “detaining protesters, occupying buildings” and, in the long run “the start of true constitutional reform.”
“Among the steps that have to be taken are: the disarmament of all the illegal armed groups, and the return of all the occupied administrative buildings,” Lavrov told journalists at the Thursday briefing.
“An amnesty for all the protesters must take place, except of those who committed grave crimes,” the Foreign Minister added.
The issue of illegal armed groups and seized buildings concerns all the regions of Ukraine, Lavrov stressed.
“It is impossible to solve the problem of illegally seized buildings in one region of Ukraine when the illegally seized buildings are not freed in another,” he said.
“Those who took power in Kiev as a result of a coup – if they consider themselves as representing the interests of all the Ukrainians – must show the initiative, extend a friendly hand to the regions, listen to their concerns, and sit down with them at the negotiation table,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov said the document does not give any guidelines on the future political system of Ukraine.
“We did not use any terms… There are federations where the rights of the regions are limited, and there are unitary states in name only where the regions have broad authority,” he explained.
The goal of the meeting was to send a signal to the Ukrainians that they are responsible for stability in the country and must ensure that “each region can protect its history and language,” Lavrov stressed.
“Only then will Ukraine be a strong state, a proverbial bridge between the East and the West,” Lavrov said.
The Russian side on Thursday provided US and EU representatives with documents passed on from south-eastern Ukrainians, which contain “a thorough vision of how their interests should be reflected in the new [Ukrainian] constitution.”
The OSCE’s (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) monitoring mission must play “the leading role” in assisting the Ukrainian authorities to resolve the crisis, Lavrov stressed, adding that Russia “will support” the mission’s work.
The Geneva meeting has given Russia “hopes” that “the US and the EU are genuinely interested in a trilateral cooperation with Russia aimed at convincing the Ukrainian to sit down at the negotiation table,” Lavrov said.
According to the Russian top diplomat, the Americans now have a “decisive influence” on the Kiev authorities, which should be used for resolving the crisis.
Russia “does not want to send any troops to Ukraine,” Lavrov stressed, answering journalists’ questions. Moscow’s chief concern is that the rights of all the Ukrainian regions, including those with Russian-speaking majorities, must be taken into account in the constitutional reform.
“We have absolutely no wish to send our troops to Ukraine, to the territory of a friendly state, to the land of a brotherly nation. This is against the fundamental interests of the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said.
Calling the recent NATO statements on Ukraine’s neutrality “unacceptable,” Lavrov stressed that pushing for changes in the country’s non-aligned status will “undermine the efforts to resolve the crisis” in Ukraine.
“The fact that Ukraine has chosen non-aligned status and enshrined it in its law must be respected by all and there should not be any attempts to doubt it or to erode its meaning,” the Russian Foreign Minister stressed.
Ahead of the quadrilateral talks, Lavrov met US Secretary of State John Kerry, while EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton saw Ukraine’s acting Foreign Minister Andrey Deshchytsa. Both meetings were held behind closed doors.
As public awareness grows about the truth about 9/11, it serves to point out that many features of the towers’ destruction fit perfectly with standard patterns of demolition. Evidence which at first seems puzzling is in fact consistent with known demolition techniques.
WTC 7 differed from Towers One and Two in that WTC7 was a traditional “bottom-up” implosion. The Twin Towers, on the other hand, exhibited the more unfamiliar pattern of a “banana peel” demolition, which starts at the middle or the top of a building and progresses downward. The below demolition in China shows the pattern of streamers of arcing debris that we see coming from the Twin Towers, as the cutting of supports begins high above ground level and works its way down.
Banana Peel Demolition in China next to Twin Towers
Banana peel demolitions are used for taller, narrower buildings, where there is danger of the building tipping over should the bottom be cut and the rest of the sequence not execute perfectly. … continue at 9/11explained
PA police coordinate with Israeli border police to control Palestinian access to Jerusalem at the Bethlehem checkpoint. (Photo: ActiveStills.org)
Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Ze’ev Elkin, is a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and his predominantly rightwing cabinet. In a recent interview with The Economist, Elkin used the familiar tone of being conceited and oblivious to such notions as international or human rights, and reaffirmed his rejection of a Palestinian state.
Instead, Elkin wants Israel to annex a chunk of the West Bank. There is nothing new here, as such language is now official Israeli discourse. But one statement stood out, one that many Palestinians would find bewildering and exasperating.
These days, said Elkin with a chuckle, the West Bank is “the most stable part of the Middle East”.
The bewilderment would stem from the fact that the West Bank is an occupied Palestinian territory. Its population is held at gunpoint; they have no freedom, and enjoy no rights. Their land is seized by force to make room for more settlements and illegal Jewish settlers, now numbering well passed the half million mark.
Needless to say, the West Bank should not be stable.
Instead, Palestinians should be leading their own revolution until they achieve their full rights and freedom. This is not a call for violence, but a natural human course. However, Palestinians are not rebelling. Many factors are holding them back, one of which is the very Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Its troops are in constant ‘security coordinations’ with Israel. Its ‘elite forces’ are trained by US generals and Arab armies. The PA mission is not to liberate Palestine, but to ensure the subservience of the Palestinians while Israel carries on with a colonial project that has extended for decades.
Deputy foreign minister Elkin knows this. Netanyahu himself, along with every Israeli official, understands that the PA, despite Mahmoud Abbas’ occasional attempts at appearing defiant and rebellious, is no threat to Israel, nor will it ever be. This will be so even if the US-imposed April 29 deadline for a ‘framework’ agreement between the Israeli government and the PA passes and even if Abbas took the seemingly daring step of signing the applications to join 15 international organizations. Abbas and his men understand that there are red lines which they cannot cross under any circumstances.
Abbas may be weak, but he is clever. He knew that Kerry’s peacemaking efforts would not go anywhere and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would find a way to thwart the process. If Abbas were lucky, Kerry could even blame Israel for derailing the peace process, as he already has. Then, Abbas would do what many would find reasonable; seek further international recognition for the state of Palestine. This might frustrate the Americans a little, anger the Israelis a lot, but it would give his supporters reason to promote the 79-year-old leader as another Yasser Arafat, heroic and defiant to the very end.
The Israelis still need Abbas. He is important in maintaining ‘stability’ in the West Bank. This means the continuing of the security coordination that ensures the safety of the armed settlers, providing an extra layer of protection to Israeli soldiers as they kill at will, seize more land, demolish homes and trees, erect walls, dig trenches, and level mountains. So what if some imaginary state existed on papers in the files of some international body in Geneva or Brussels. For Israel, the law is that of its military, and reality is what is taking place in Area C, not in some European capital.
This is why Elkin is chuckling. He is at ease, in the same way the Israeli political establishment is. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, a deal was struck between Israel and what became a pervasive, controlling and corrupt Palestinian political class. Israel maintained its military occupation, carried on with its colonial project and continued to disfigure the occupied territories in any way that it found consistent with its ‘security’ needs. Palestinian elites were granted economic privileges and access that is denied to the vast majority of the Palestinians.
The PA’s constant challenge is to maintain a level of legitimacy. True, it uses its monopoly on force, which is readily sanctioned by Israel, in order to arrest, torture and kill resisting Palestinians when necessary. It uses the logic of trickle-down economics to hold the bulk of Palestinians hostage to winning their daily bread. But that is not enough. It needs a brand to market itself as the exclusive harbinger of freedom for Palestinians. It uses slogans, flags and kuffiyas to promote that brand through its control of the media. Many PA supporters dance to that tune and playact that Abbas and only Abbas is capable of exacting the coveted liberation of Palestine from the obstinate hands of the Israeli prime minister.
Palestinian officials are proficiently inflating Abbas’ image to ensure that Palestinians don’t question the wisdom of their aging leader, after the latest and predictable failure of the peace process, which was never truly meant to succeed anyway. A Palestinian official spoke of Abbas’s refusal to heed a call by US Secretary of State John Kerry to halt applications to join international treaties. He claimed that Kerry warned Abbas of a ‘strong (Israeli) response to Palestinian action. Abbas replied: “Israel’s threats scare no one. They can do what they like.”
The words were repeated in Palestinian media. The Abbas image is being overstated once more. There is no space for those who question the man’s credibility, legitimacy or failed methods. More posters of the old man are now erected in the occupied Palestinian towns. His latest antics will help perpetuate the myth that the PA is a platform for resistance, not capitulation.
As long as the West Bank is ‘stable’, and as long Abbas, and those that follow him continue to sell Palestinians old illusions of revolutions that never took place, and heroes that only exist on colored posters hung around the streets of Ramallah, Elkin will continue to chuckle.
And as long as the West Bank is ‘stable’, Palestinians will never achieve their freedom, for submission achieves no rights; only resistance does.
- Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Exeter, UK. His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).
The Iranian defense minister says the Islamic Republic will by no means negotiate on its defense prowess and missile program in nuclear talks.
Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan made the statement in reaction to comments by top US nuclear negotiator Wendy Sherman who said that Iran’s ballistic capabilities should be addressed as part of a comprehensive agreement in nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 group.
“Iran’s missile might is our concern. We are the ones in charge and we will not brook interference from anyone [in this issue],” Dehqan said Wednesday.
The official stressed that the issue is not up for talks under any circumstances.
He said that the West claims that Iran may acquire nuclear warheads for missiles, thus insisting that the issue of the country’s missile program be part of the talks, but he reiterated that nukes have no place in the country’s defense doctrine.
Dehqan said that Iran by no means seeks nuclear arms, citing a fatwa by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on the prohibition of building and using such weapons.
Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the US, France, Britain, Russia, China – plus Germany wrapped up their latest round of the talks aimed at reaching a comprehensive deal on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy program last week. Iran and the six countries agreed to meet again on May 13.
The two sides had reached an interim deal in the Swiss city of Geneva on November 24, 2013. The deal took effect on January 20
Are whistleblowers—whose anonymity is often their best protection against retribution—made safer by being forced to register as whistleblowers with the U.S. government? Or are they being placed in greater danger?
The Obama administration is demanding they step forward and sign up.
Indeed, exposing government corruption or other wrongdoing often means being discreet, if not anonymous, on the part of the individuals blowing the whistle, unless they want to face retribution from higher-ups involved in the misdeeds. Keeping one’s identity hidden is almost always essential for whistleblowers because of managers’ or executives’ impulse to protect themselves and punish those exposing their mistakes. Thus, any government program that requires whistleblowers to reveal themselves—ostensibly for their own good—might seem disingenuous, if not counterproductive to encouraging workers to expose law breakers.
But the Obama administration is taking this approach by mandating that government employees register as official whistleblowers under the Insider Threat program it established three years ago. This program was adopted, the president said, to protect against internal dangers lurking within federal agencies.
One of the biggest supporters on Capitol Hill of government whistleblowing says the Obama program’s registration requirement is a terrible idea and antithetical to the importance of whistleblowers coming forward.
Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who coauthored the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 (pdf), addressed the U.S. Senate recently to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the landmark bill. During his speech, Grassley criticized Insider Threat’s effort to expose whistleblowers, citing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a prime concern.
The Republican senator said he’s been trying for months to get the FBI to share its Insider Threat training materials. But the bureau has steadfastly refused.
At one point, the FBI’s top Insider Threat official agreed to meet with Grassley and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) to discuss how the bureau was training its people to
“distinguish between true insider threats and legitimate whistleblowers.”
The official, according to Grassley’s speech, told them not to worry about the training materials, which they had failed to bring along to the meeting.
“He said whistleblowers had to register in order to be protected, and the Insider Threat Program would know to just avoid those people,” Grassley said in his speech.
The official then “abruptly walked out” of the meeting after being there only 10 minutes.
“These are clearly not the actions of an agency that is genuinely open to whistleblowers or whistleblower protection,” Grassley stated.
The senator, who has served in Congress since 1975, added that Obama’s registration requirement was an idea that “should be pretty alarming to all Americans. Sometimes confidentiality is the best protection a whistleblower has.”
To Learn More:
Grassley Talks About the Anniversary of the Whistleblower Protection Act (Senator Charles Grassley)
Terrorists, Spies, Whistleblowers Treated the Same by Obama Administration (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Obama Anti-Whistleblower Program Requires Federal Employees to Report Suspicions of other Employees or Risk Punishment (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)