It should be personal to all of us. Yemen, regularly portrayed as the poorest nation in the Arab world, is proving itself to be the richest in courage, resourcefulness and resilience.
Ever since March 2015, some of you may have noticed how oil-rich Saudi Arabia, with the United States at its side, have been waging genocidal war against the Yemeni people.
Yemen are a people under attack by an undeclared super-power coalition comprised of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, US, UK, EU, UAE and Israel. As in Iraq, while the Yemeni people are under attack from super-powers, they are simultaneously being collectively punished by the illegal sanctions imposed by a corrupt United Nations body.
Sanctions imposed by resolution 2216, against 5 named individuals, on the pretext of legitimizing an illegitimate fugitive ex-president, Saudi Arabia and Washington’s hand-picked puppet leader, Mansour Hadi, who demanded that neighbouring Saudi Arabia bomb his own people – even after Hadi had resigned twice from an already over-extended presidential term, before fleeing to his alma mater in Riyadh.
UN sanctions imposed upon 5 named individuals yet being exploited by the US/UK/EU backed Saudi coalition to collectively starve and punish 27 million Yemeni people.
This fact has been consistently omitted and waxed over by western political appeasers and ethically challenged mainstream media apologists – and their ignorant and conceded omission is one of the primary reasons why this conflict has been allowed to go from bad to worse.
To compare Saudi Arabia’s belligerent actions in Yemen to Nazi Germany’s undeclared wars of aggression prior to WWII is no exaggeration. In fact, one could make the argument that this Saudi-US joint venture is much worse, and a far more dangerous precedent. Likewise, the failure of a corrupt UN (who effectively sold Saudi Arabia its seat on at the head of the UN Human Rights Council ), led by an impotent Secretary General in Ban-ki Moon, to censure Saudi Arabia for its flagrant violation of international law, the Nuremberg Principles and the entire Geneva Convention content and implied framework – leaves the UN in the exact same position as the League of Nations in 1938.
This is most certainly the case on paper, and with each passing moment we are nudging ever closer to geopolitical déjà vu.
This is one of the most egregious war crimes we’ve seen so far in Yemen, and considering what Saudi Arabia has already done to date, this is off the scale. On the 9th October 2016, the Saudi ‘coalition’ targeted one of the biggest public halls in Yemen’s capital Sanaa.
Officials said two air strikes hit the grand hall of ceremonies, where a post funeral gathering was held to receive condolences for the late Ali bin Ali al-Ruwaishan, the father of Interior Minister, Jalal al-Ruwaishan.
A total of 4 missiles were launched into crowds of civilians. The first strike, two missiles tore into the hall and surrounding areas leaving dozens dead and dying. Then, as funeral-goers clambered over the smouldering rubble to rescue the injured, Saudi coalition planes returned for the double tap air-strike, targeting the civilian rescuers.
Yesterday, the under secretary of the Public Health Ministry in Yemen told journalist and Middle East commentator, Marwa Osman, the death toll had risen to 458 and hundreds more injured. In an interview with RT, Osman went on to describe, 213 bodies were reported as charred, burned beyond recognition, 67 bodies were completely dismembered and 187 bodies torn apart by shrapnel. The brutality of this attack is evident from the horrific photos that appeared on social media very quickly after the event, as Yemenis were reeling from the scale of the massacre.
Yemen civil defence and army recovering bodies from the Saudi coalition bombed ceremony hall in Sanaa (Photo: Yemen the Forgotten War)
The hundreds more injured have been described as “bleeding to death in the streets“. The following report came in from Sanaa hours after the attack:
“Saudi-American airstrikes targeted the biggest hall in Sanaa. The hall was hit by 4 missiles, 2 air-strikes. When rescuers went to the aid of the dying and injured Saudi jets attacked for the second time in their double tap operation. It’s impossible to count the deaths. Officially they are saying less than 500 but many more are dying because they can’t be treated due to the absence of medical supplies and hospital facilities. This is entirely due to the UN sanctions and effective land, air and sea blockades. The hall is 2km from our home and 150m from my university but luckily, today I was not there.
Yesterday we killed several mercenary leaders in Mareb and Saudi commanders so today they are taking their revenge on the innocent people” ~ information supplied to Vanessa Beeley of 21st Century Wire.
According to Hassan Al Haifi, writer, academic and political commentator, living in Sanaa, the Saudi attack was deliberate:
“The mourners were paying tribute to General Jalal Al-Rouishan, Min of Int, who hails from a leading family of Khowlan Al-Tayyal Tribe, a leading and powerful Yemeni tribe.”
Al Haifi commented that this was a cynical and brutal attack by the Saudi coalition, intending to kill as many Ansarullah and Ali Abdullah Saleh officials and supporters as possible. A number of Saleh’s closest friends and allies were killed by the strikes along with a smaller number of Ansarullah members. Al Haifi, himself should have been at the ceremony but had been delayed and fortunately was not there when the Saudi jets launched their missiles into the throngs of mourners.
Saudi air-strike on Sanaa (Photo supplied to 21st Century Wire from Yemen)
The US State Department immediately swung into damage limitation mode and cranked up their hypocrisy to protect their Saudi coalition military industrial complex clients. John Kirby even deployed the “self-defence” terminology usually reserved for their other regional, arms guzzling ally with close links to Al Qaeda, Israel.
The bloodshed and suffering of the Yemeni people was reduced to an obscene game of semantics by a cold and calculating US State Department, as their multi billion dollar arms industry registered obscene trading levels with the Saudi coalition in 2015. In the first 21 months of Saudi-US illegal war on Yemen, US arms sales worth $33 Billion were closed Saudi and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) entities according to Defense News. In total, America’s Nobel Peace Chief Barack Hussein Obama has offered to sell $115 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia since taking office in 2009 – more than any previous US administration, according to a recent report.
Not to be left out of the party, Britain has also sold more than £3.7 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia since Saudi’s illegal war of aggression began.
In truth, many of these estimates are conservative and do not include many more hundreds of millions in ancillary costs, staffing, support contracting and engineering.
Even though they’ve been completely redacted by the western media, and also by the myriad of Gulf monarchy media outlets, the real heroes of this conflict are the Yemeni people.
In their reductionist way of thinking and categorizing the world outside of their shores, Americans refer to Middle East populations in sectarian terms – because this is they way they would like to see the world, but it couldn’t be any further from reality. To Americans, the Yemeni war is all because of “Iranian-backed Shia Houthi Rebels.” The first US Congressman ever to say that in public probably read it directly off an AIPAC policy briefing sheet. That’s the sad reality still in Washington – information-poor (and lobby cash-rich) elected representatives are only able to see the world through the Israeli lens.
The reality is much more complex than just “the Houthis.” A genuine Arab Spring has taken place in Yemen and the US and Saudi response was simply to try and crush the people. But the people have resisted fiercely, and together. Unlike other neo-colonial ventures like Iraq and Afghanistan – the people of Yemen have united to a large degree and are determined to realize their own vision of self government. This is something that has been written off by everyone in the US establishment – from the President all the way down the political food chain.
The UK/US built, House of Saud, is waging a genocidal war of aggression that has already destroyed entire swathes of Yemeni cultural heritage and decimated entire communities, particularly in the northern, traditionally Ansarullah (Houthi) held areas such as Saada and Hajjah. This was by design. By now, we can see clearly how this was yet another ethnic cleansing programme being endorsed, fuelled and defended by the United States and her allies in the UK, EU, Israel, and of course the neighbouring Gulf States, the majority of whom participated in this dirty war. Oman, a lone, moderate, and independent thinking gulf state, has remained neutral, providing a degree of support to the Yemeni people. […]
The height of US hypocrisy was on full display during a US State Department press briefing where the already discredited US spokesman John Kirby shameless danced around a mass-murder by Saudi Arabia – whose airstrikes are supported logistically by the United States. This is the definition of criminality unchecked. Watch:
Author Vanessa Beeley is a special contributor to 21WIRE, and since 2011, she has spent most of her time in the Middle East reporting on events there – as a independent researcher, writer, photographer and peace activist. She is also a volunteer with the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine. See more of her work at her blog The Wall Will Fall.
For further background on Saudi ‘s war of aggression please read 21WIRE article: UN Whitewashing Saudi Coalition War Crimes and International Human Rights Violations
In 2012, there were nearly 15,000 demonstrations throughout Spain, amounting to around 40 per day. In 2013, there were 4,500 demonstrations in Madrid alone: an increase of 1,000 from the year before. Protest increased on a par with the continual disintegration of full employment and the implementation of severe austerity programmes accompanied with a lack of government transparency and accusations of corruption at the very highest level.
In April last year, Amnesty International (AI) was clearly getting concerned with how the authorities in Spain were dealing with peaceful public protest in Spain by saying:
“With threats of fines or threats of being beaten, the government is trying to stigmatise and criminalise people who are just practising their rights.”
Amnesty International investigated and discovered that although the vast majority of protesters were indeed peaceful, police treated the protests as riots and the people in them in the same manner as those who incited violence. In many cases, the police had used excessive force to confront protesters. AI’s report entitled Spain: Protests and the suffocating embrace of the law makes for sobering reading.
By June, Spain officially went police state with a series of “gag laws” that effectively criminalised peaceful public protest. Among the many new repressive stipulations was the implementation of €30,000-€600,000 fines for “unauthorised protests,” which can be combined for maximum effect with a €600-€300,000 fine for “disrupting public events.”
This awful set of authoritarian statutes arose from Spain’s position as a flashpoint for anti-austerity protests. The European Union did not want to see a precursor to the Occupy Wall Street movement gaining significant ground in its territorial fiefdom and has allowed breaches of internationally recognised human rights laws to be perpetrated right under its nose. Fines and mistreatment await anyone who refuses to recognise authority with the respect it’s forcibly requiring citizens to demonstrate.
The law also extended its anti-protest punishments to social media, where users can face similar fines for doing nothing more than encouraging or organizing a protest. Failing to present ID when commanded is another fine. And then there’s this:
Showing a “lack of respect” to those in uniform or failing to assist security forces in the prevention of public disturbances could result in an individual fine of between €600 and €30,000.
What could go wrong? The Spanish news outlet eldiario.es filed a request for information which revealed an alarming number of penalties and sanctions issued since the Gag Law, otherwise known as the Public Safety Act, was passed on July 1, 2015.
In the space between July 1st 2015, the date the new laws were enforced and January 28, 2016 police have grabbed the opportunity with both hands and sanctioned or fined 40,000 people for “disrespecting” law enforcement. Some of the numbers include; 6,217 for ‘disrespecting the police”, 3,700 for disobedience to authority and 2,027 for causing public disorder.
“Now the government is judge and jury on a number of violations that were previously in the hands of independent judges,” says Joaquin Bosch, spokesperson for Jueces por la Democracia (Judges for Democracy). Bosch’s critisisms continue – “Article 52 of the law states that the complaint of a police officer constitutes “sufficient evidentiary basis” to take legal action. “In the judicial field, the cop’s word is not enough, it has to be proven.”
Spain is one of the least violent countries in the world but other controversial articles of the law are extended to areas similar to that of totalitarian states. There are penalties just for refusing to provide identification, taking photos of police or other objects that could identify a member of the security forces or for obstructing authority in compliance with administrative or judicial decisions, including people who try to prevent an eviction, for example.
Amnesty International also stated that;
“The excessive use of force by Spanish police and plans to strengthen repressive legislation are a damning indictment of the Spanish government’s determination to crush peaceful protest. The police have repeatedly used batons and rubber bullets against demonstrators, injuring and maiming protestors and by-standers alike. The police act with complete impunity, while peaceful demonstrators and leaders of social movements are continually harassed, stigmatized, beaten, sometimes arrested to face criminal charges, imprisonment and fines.”
And as one peaceful protestor, Ester Quitana said after being hit in the face with a rubber bullet fired by the police – “Due to the impact of the rubber bullet, I have a deformed nasal septum, injuries in my mouth and my ear, and have lost sensation on the left side of my face. I am still under psychological treatment, my daily routine has been affected, as well as the way I am connected with people, how I am seen by them. I’ve been denied any kind of social benefits I have applied for.”
Maria, for protesting against budget cuts was ¢1,000 told AI “They want to destroy the leadership of the movements, and so are seeking out the spokespeople”.
Amnesty International also reports that those unfortunate to become detainees have been ill-treated when taken into police custody and that journalists and photographers covering demonstrations have also reported being the target of police violence. Cameras and equipment have been damaged by police to prevent the documenting of police violence.
Revenue from the sanctions since the new laws were enforced last July has now reached 18.3 million euros.
As the government itself has since recognised, demonstrators committed violence in less than one per cent of the rallies and protests.
In the meantime, the unelected bureaucrats of the European Union, of which Spain is a member state, have looked the other way as has the United Nations, both of whom promote as central to their existence the protection of human rights.
So, superstar Yanis Varoufakis is inaugurating his new outfit, DiEM25, the other day in Berlin, at the Volksbühne theatre, calling for the democratization of the European Union. What?, you say. Isn’t the EU already democratic?
It is if you think the United States is a democracy. The US was one of the prime movers behind the creation of the EU. And if you don’t believe me, read Circus Politicus (Deloire and Dubois, Albin Michel, 2012).
Post WW II, the US didn’t like the idea of all those foreigners experimenting with communism and socialism, getting the idea that unbridled capitalism maybe wasn’t in their best interests. Best to gather all those idiosyncratic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural, difficult-to-control tendencies under one big homogenized tent in Brussels, far from the prying eyes of the “people ,” and under the control of obedient, willing proxies taking their orders from thousands of Anglo-American lobbyists. This is one time that the mission was pretty much accomplished.
If you don’t believe me, just look at Greece. Or the EU’s support of the illegal interventions in the Middle East or Africa.
If you go to DiEM25’s web site and read the Manifesto, you’ll probably say to yourself that what they’re saying seems reasonable and just. And I would tend to agree if it were not for the idea that reforming the EU is like trying to reform capitalism. And trying to do it within the confines of the labyrinthine hazards of the system in place in Brussels by creating yet another layer of commissions and representatives will only hinder the process of liberation.
What happened to the idea that independent, sovereign countries can get along? Given our present means of communications, do we still need a separate, distant overlord to settle disputes of whatever nature? A distant collective of officials subject to the same pressures that exist in Brussels today? Whatever happened to the saying, “Think globally, act locally”?
I rather doubt that, without the propaganda of the globalized media, or their captive NGOs, we would have had all the conflicts that are tearing so many countries apart. How many Greeks really want to go around the world bombing other countries into democracy?
Plus, take a look at the outfits that are promoting the Varoufakis initiative. The European University Institute, sponsor of ROAR magazine. Or another outfit, European Alternatives, and take a look at their funders. Seems to be a lot of corporate, lords and ladies types there, and I doubt Jeremy Corbyn is their favorite politician. Reminds me of USAID or NED (or NPR, for that matter), or any of the other so-called democracy advocacy groups that go around funding and provoking “liberation” movements like what happened in the Ukraine.
Does that sound like fun?
Steve Church is a former teacher, skipper, and sheep herder living in France. Email him at: email@example.com.
Scotland says it will ban genetically modified crops on its soil. According to officials, the move will protect the environment. They are also taking advantage of new EU laws, allowing member states to decide whether they want to grow the crops or not.
Although the EU imports large quantities of GM crops from abroad, it is less sure about growing them on their own soil. Some environmental groups are worried about the impact they could have on the countryside, while there are also concerns over health issues for humans, despite producers of the crops insisting they are safe.
Only Monsanto’s maize MON810, which is cultivated in Spain and Portugal, is currently on sale for human consumption within the EU.
“Scotland is known around the world for our beautiful natural environment – and banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status,” Richard Lochhead, the Scottish government’s minister for the environment, food and rural affairs, said in a statement.
The politician also added there was no public demand for introducing GM crops.
“There is no evidence of significant demand for GM products by Scottish consumers and I am concerned that allowing GM crops to be grown in Scotland would damage our clean and green brand, thereby gambling with the future of our £14 billion ($22 billion) food and drink sector,” Lochhead added.
‘GM not the answer to food security’
The decision was taken by Scotland’s devolved parliament, with the UK’s legislative body in London having no say in the matter.
The move was welcomed by the Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone. In a statement on the party’s website, she said, “Opting out of growing genetically modified crops is the right move for Scotland. Cultivation of GM crops would harm our environment and our reputation for high quality food and drink.”
“GM is not the answer to food security, and would represent further capture of our food by big business. Scotland has huge potential with a diverse mix of smaller-scale producers and community food initiatives, and we need to see those grow further.”
However, the decision has not proved to be universally popular, with farmers saying they will lose out to competitors due to the ban being introduced.
“There is going to be one side of the border in England where they may adopt biotechnology, but just across the River Tweed farmers are not going to be allowed to. How are these farmers going to be capable of competing in the same market?” the National Farmers Union of Scotland vice-president Andrew McCornick told the Scotsman newspaper.
In April, the European Union gave the green light to start importing 10 new types of genetically modified crops for the first time since 2013. The crops, which include maize, soybeans, cotton and oilseed rape will be authorized for human food and animal feed for the next 10 years, the European Commission announced.
That Syriza has made mistakes isn’t in dispute: they themselves have admitted to two main ones.
1) They failed to recognize, despite early warnings from party members such as Costas Lapavistas, that the EU was negotiating in bad faith. The EU’s intention was never to reach an agreement but to destroy Syriza and with it the hope that the victims of the endless bleeding of austerity had any democratic recourse. Furthermore, the negotiations were themselves a tactic in that, as former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis now admits, they prevented him from focussing on the one thing which Syriza could have used in its negotiations: a viable plan to exit the Eurozone in a way which minimized disruption to the economy and maximize the chances that it would return to health in the shortest possible time.
2) We now know from Varoufakis that Syriza had “a small group . . . within the ministry, of about five people” that were planning in secret for a Grexit. This was, as he concedes, not even close to what was required to effect a viable transition to a new currency. Of course, no serious person should have any illusions that a Grexit would be “easy”, even with a massive investment in staff and infrastructure, any more than recovering from a major earthquake, hurricane or bombing of a nation’s major cities by a foreign power. Rather, just as a government is expected to prepare for disasters whether these are acts of god or attacks from hostile foreign powers, Syriza was derelict in failing to plan for what Varoufakis now accepts was “a coup” albeit executed not by “tanks” but by “banks”.
1) The Bankruptcy of “Speaking Truth to Power” Liberalism
Despite Syriza’s self-definition as “the party of the radical left”, much of its leadership and many of its advisers would reject the designation, more accurately being categorized within our political lexicon as liberals. Among these is Varoufakis’s close friend and UT Austin colleague Jamie Galbraith who described himself as “a reasonable and hopeful observer” of Syriza’s initial negotiations with the E.U. Rather than dismiss German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a right wing ideologue Galbraith praised her for “having made some of the mildest comments of any German politician,” and for having “chosen with care” her words on the subject of debt relief which, according to him, she had not rejected.
Galbraith’s report of the negotiations gave further grounds for hope that “the German government, having taken a very tough line through the process, took a step back from that tough line in order to secure a basic framework agreement for going forward.”
As we now know, the softening on the German’s hard line was a liberal chimera. Galbraith now recognizes that “the negotiations were a bit of a farce all along” and has admitted that he should have recognized that Chancellor Merkel was always “completely unreceptive.”
Varoufakis, while famously defining his political orientation as “Marxist” (albeit “erratic”) evidently shared Galbraith’s liberal confidence in the good will of the Eurocrat negotiators. This is apparent in his surprise when his attempts to reason with them were unsatisfactory-to put it mildly. According to his recent interview in the New Statesmen,
“It’s not that (they) didn’t go down well – it’s that there was point blank refusal to engage in economic arguments. Point blank. … You put forward an argument that you’ve really worked on – to make sure it’s logically coherent – and you’re just faced with blank stares. It is as if you haven’t spoken. What you say is independent of what they say. You might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem – you’d have got the same reply. And that’s startling, for somebody who’s used to academic debate. … The other side always engages. Well there was no engagement at all. It was not even annoyance, it was as if one had not spoken.”
What is on display is the disenchantment of liberals who operated on a presumption of good intentions and underlying rationality of elite technocrats. Radicals such as Lapavistas do not. For them, providing “arguments” to the institutional representatives of capital makes no more sense than addressing a hyena with its fangs clamped on one’s jugular. The hyena is acting not according to reason but according to its fundamental nature and so are the capitalist hyenas who were Syriza’s negotiating partners.
It was foolish to negotiate with any other expectation, as both Varoufakis and Galbraith now have effectively conceded.
2) Goldman Sachs DOES care (if you raise chickens)
A second explanation for one of Syriza’s crucial mistakes involves assumptions made by segments of their left, as opposed to (neo-) liberal wing, which includes Varoufakis and others who he refers to as “committed Europeanists.” By that he means that they are committed to the longstanding principle of left internationalism and cosmopolitanism. They also tend to view favorably the comparative advantage accruing to globalized trading networks which provide the economies of scale making possible large efficiencies in production of basic goods and also in making available raw materials at low cost. While their position is reasonable, it also has a negative side in that internationalists tend to denigrate the potential of local, small scale experiments in alternative economic systems of the sort which have been championed by Richard Wolff and Gar Alperowitz among others under the heading of worker self directed enterprises and workplace democracy.
Why this matters is that it is apparent that some form of what Wolff and Alperowitz are proposing will be crucial in the event of a Grexit. Prior to a national currency being re-established, local networks of production and exchange of the sort which globalization has long since eradicated will need to be revived and again made viable. That includes, incidentally, various forms of local food production of the sort denigrated by the verticalist left under the widely circulated meme “Goldman Sachs doesn’t care if you raise chickens.”
In fact, whether Greece will collapse into chaos and starvation will have to do with whether they are able to reduce their reliance on imported goods ramping up local production in all spheres including most crucially in food production-not as a neo-Calvinist moral imperative but to maintain a minimal caloric intake. It is likely that many small scale initiatives will need to be launched and developed to accomplish that, some along the lines the WW II Victory Gardens whose production equalled that of all commercial sources of vegetables during the war years. Of course, Goldman Sachs would like nothing better than for Greek efforts at self-reliance to fail which is to say they hope the Greeks don’t raise chickens-and starve for not having done so: the exact opposite of facile, leftish conventional wisdom.
Conclusion: No War but the Class War
While small, the Victory Gardens were not an insignificant contribution to a nation in a state of war. And, to reiterate the point, the comparison of a state of war to what will be required under a Grexit is entirely appropriate.
For while some of us want to avert our eyes, the left always recognized that the war by the rich against the poor is a war just as much as any other. An economic war does not involve missiles, antipersonnel weapons and M-16s. Its weapons are state enforced privatization schemes, debt swaps and interest rate manipulation. Rather than puncture wounds, severed limbs and the casualties take the form of thousands of unnecessary deaths due to inadequately staffed and supplied hospitals, bacterial infections due to inadequately maintained sewage treatment facilities and collapsing buildings, food poisoning epidemics due to the mass layoffs of inspectors in regulatory agencies. An almost endless list can be compiled itemizing the social collapse resulting from economic warfare carried about by fountain pens rather than guns. Varoufakis has now woken up to the reality that his country has been attacked by an axis of foreign powers, that they are bent on its destruction and have one goal in mind: claiming the spoils of victory, disbursing to their owners in the investor class. It is time the rest of the left joined him there and here-on our feet and ready to fight them, in whatever way we can.
European creditors should either write down a massive amount of Athens’ debt or give Greece a 30-year grace period if they want it to recover and repay, according to a Reuters’ report citing International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials and a secret study.
Taking into account Greece’s growing financial needs, its debt situation is “unsustainable,” according to the latest IMF projections contained in a confidential report obtained by Reuters. The new data, sent by the IMF to EU governments late on Monday after a new Greek bailout plan was agreed upon in principle, states that the 86-billion-euro program will not save Greece from financial collapse.
The updated debt sustainability analysis, which is said to have been released by the fund now that several media outlets have leaked the data, calls for a considerable portion of the Greek debt to be written off.
“The dramatic deterioration in debt sustainability points to the need for debt relief on a scale that would need to go well beyond what has been under consideration to date – and what has been proposed by the ESM [European Stability Mechanism bailout fund],” the IMF paper says.
According to the leaked study, Greece’s debt will peak at nearly 200 percent of economic output in the next two years, standing at 170 percent of GDP even by 2022. Previously published estimates had put the figures at 177 percent and 142 percent respectively.
The IMF now estimates that Athens’ gross financing needs will rise above the “safe” 15 percent of GDP threshold and continue rising in the long term. Moreover, even those projections “remain subject to considerable downside risk,” the study said
A 30-year grace period on servicing the Greek European debt, including new loans, would have to be provided by the European creditors, as well as a significant maturity extension, the IMF believes. Otherwise, the creditors would have to make annual fiscal transfers to the Greek budget or accept “deep upfront haircuts” on their loans, the report says.
Greece is in need of much greater debt relief than European governments are willing to acknowledge, and this measure is needed to let the Greek economy recover, a senior IMF official told Reuters late on Tuesday.
“I don’t think this is a gimmick or kicking the can down the road… This is a dramatic measure to take the entire European stock [of debt] and reprofile it,” for Greece to have a chance of “getting some growth back,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
For the IMF to remain involved in financial aid for Greece, its debt must be deemed “sustainable” by the fund – something which the latest study does not believe possible.
“Borrowing at anything but AAA rates in the near term will bring about an unsustainable debt dynamic for the next several decades,” the paper says, challenging the assumption voiced by some European officials that in 2018 Greece will already be able to meet some of its financing needs by going to the markets.
The publication of the IMF report comes on the heels of other disclosures, such as German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble revealing that some members of the government in Berlin would have preferred that Greece take a “time-out” from the eurozone rather than give it another bailout.
Meanwhile, the new debt sustainability figures for Greece had reportedly been given to European finance ministers on Saturday – well before the Monday deal was concluded.
The timing of the leak coincides with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s attempt to convince his parliament that accepting the deal is the only option if Greece is to remain in the euro and avoid economic collapse.
Tsipras gave a live TV interview defending the deal ahead of Wednesday’s parliamentary session that is to decide the issue. The outcome of the vote is far from certain, with many of the Syriza leader’s fellow party members unhappy with the new bailout plan.
While revealing he “does not believe in” the bailout plan, Tsipras argued that the deal was the only way for Greece to stay in the EU – something that he said was a “one way street” option imposed on the Greeks. However, he claimed that he had still managed to win certain concessions such as avoiding wage and pension cuts and securing ‘fresh money’ from European states.
About 60 percent of Greeks have voted “No” in Sunday’s referendum on the bailout deal and austerity measures, reported the Interior Ministry after almost 30 percent of the vote had been counted.
About 9.9 million Greeks were eligible to take part in the vote, which was labeled #Greferendum on social media.
The “No” victory has been predicted by several opinion polls, including GPO, Metron Analysis and MRB, whose polls were released after the end of the voting.
Before the results were announced, the parliamentary spokesman for the ruling Syriza party, Nikos Filis, told Greek television that “No’”s prevalence in these polls indicated that Greek government can now make a deal with the Troika of international creditors.
“I think this is guidance for the government… to move forward quickly to seek a deal and normalise the banking system,” he said.
In the meantime, Greek government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis told state TV that Athens is planning to resume the talks with the Troika.
“The negotiations which will start must be concluded very soon, even after 48 hours,” Sakellaridis said, “We will undertake every effort to seal it soon.”
Proponents of the “Yes” vote argued that a “No” vote may lead to Greece’s exit from the Eurozone, and potentially the EU.
The talks between Greece and the Troika of international creditors – the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – have stalled since June, after the Eurogroup declined to prolong a financial aid program for Greece or delay payments on earlier debts.
Greece, which has been in crisis since 2009, was supposed to make an IMF loan payment of €1.6 billion by June 30 but failed to do so. It is required to make another major payment of €3.5 billion to the ECB on July 20.
Sergey Naryshkin says the refusal to participate in the forthcoming OSCE session was meant as a protest against arbitrariness and violations of main principles of democracy and parliamentary politics.
The State Duma chairman announced the decision to skip the Helsinki session of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe soon after the Finnish Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday that it had turned down a request to temporarily waive the travel ban and allow Naryshkin and five more State Duma MPs to enter their country. In order to participate in the event that begins on Sunday.
Earlier, Naryshkin submitted a draft resolution to the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE denouncing the very practice of sanctions against parliamentarians. In this document he also stated that obstructing contacts between lawmakers from different nations was against the basic principles of democracy.
On Wednesday Naryshkin said that the whole of the Russian delegation would not participate in the OSCE session “in protest against arbitrariness, against violation of the principles of democracy.” He added that Russia still planned to take part in the next session of the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly that will take place in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.
Earlier in the day Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov called Finland’s decision to deny entry to the Duma speaker “outrageous and unacceptable,” especially considering the fact that the visit was within the framework of an international event. Peskov added that he expected the Russian Foreign Ministry to give a qualified appraisal of this step.
In March 2014, the USA and the EU introduced personal sanctions, such as visa bans and asset freezes, on a number of senior Russian officials and leading politicians whom they accused of being “key ideologists and architects” of the policy towards Ukraine. As the relations between the West and Russia continued to deteriorate, more names were added to the blacklists.
Russia replied with its own blacklist of about 200 people known for their anti-Russian positions and actions. The Russian Foreign Ministry did not initially disclose their names, but they were published by Finnish press earlier this year after Russia presented the list to European nations for the convenience of foreign officials who did not want to apply for visas if they were to be refused anyway.
The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed disappointment in this disclosure, calling it a threat to mutual trust.
The prime minister of Norway, Erna Solberg has described NATO’s defense spending plans as “nonsense.” The alliance wants members to spend two percent of their GDP on defense, but Oslo, one of the world’s richest countries, says it won’t meet the target.
“If I am allowed to speak, I think the percentage goal is nonsense,” she said in an interview with the Norwegian Armed Forces’ Forum Magazine, as cited by the Local. “The aim of the NATO countries must be the greatest possible defense capability, not a percentage goal in itself,” she added.
Solberg added that while meeting the two percent target may be easier for countries enjoying strong economic growth, it would be harder for those within the alliance whose economies are shrinking.
Norway’s Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said in April that for Oslo to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense would be “very challenging” in the short term. The Scandinavian country has already said it will increase its spending this year, but this will only bring it to around 1.6 percent and short of the target that was set at the NATO summit in Cardiff, the United Kingdom, last year.
NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, who was also Solberg’s predecessor as Norway’s PM, said that the country could easily meet the target.
“If there is a political will, there is economic space. But it must be given priority,” he said in a visit to Norway in June. “Compared with other major initiatives we have implemented in Norway, reaching two percent is quite possible.”
Aside from the United States, traditional NATO allies have found meeting the target a taxing affair. Germany allocates 1.2 percent of its GDP, the Netherlands 1.3 percent and Spain less than 1 percent. France is the only Western European country that is boosting defense spending. However, some Eastern European nations are increasing their military expenses citing what they call Russian aggression. Lithuania, for instance, wants to allocate twice as much on defense as it did last year.
READ MORE: NATO defense spending a ‘red line’ – US Air Force Secretary
The EU has drafted a plan to counter what it sees as “Russian disinformation activities” calling for the promotion of EU policies in the post-Soviet space and the implementation of measures against Russian media, including RT.
The nine-page paper drafted by the EU Foreign Service and obtained by EUobserver was prepared ahead of the June 25-26 summit and is set to be voted on by EU leaders on Thursday.
The plan is aimed at tackling Russia’s “use and misuse of communication tools” and the “promotion of EU policies” in former Soviet states as well as support for “independent media” and “increased public awareness of disinformation activities by external actors,” the report says.
It specifically mentions RT, which according to the report broadcasts “fabrications and hate speech from their bureaus in EU cities.”
“The EU … will work to improve co-operation between national regulators, including through meetings of the European Regulators Group”, it adds.
The European Commission also plans to “table a new legislative proposal to improve the regulatory environment and take account of current challenges,” according to the draft.
The plan says that the EU Foreign Service will create a special cell to spearhead the activities called East StratComTeam by September. It will distribute information in Russian and in local languages in the EU’s eastern neighborhood, in countries such as Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry lashed out at the EU over the report, saying that the proposed plan is violating the right to freedom of expression and creating conditions of total discrimination against Russian media.
The draft plan presented on Tuesday is “clearly aimed at pushing out Russia’s presence in the international media field,” the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. “Following the introduction of restrictive measures against Russian journalists the EU is trying to create conditions for the total discrimination of Russian media.”
While the Western media is speaking in one voice, the EU is trying to push out one of the few alternative sources of information, said RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan.
“The EU is actively trying to shut out RT, to stifle a rare alternative voice in international news media,” she said.
“It’s not enough that there are hundreds of Western newspapers, TV channels, websites and radio stations, all beaming the same take on what is going on in the world. The UK has created a 1,500-strong army unit to, among other things, fight Russia in the social media space. NATO has a special taskforce dedicated to countering Russia’s influence. Deutsche Welle just launched a 24-hour English-language news channel that’s supposed to compete directly with RT – despite the global presence of Euronews, BBC World News and CNN International.”
“If despite all these efforts the EU is still concerned with “losing the information war” to Russia, perhaps the time has come for it to realize that people around the world simply no longer believe their same tired, one-sided narratives of current events,” said Simonyan.
The EU project was previously discussed in March, however no details were revealed at the time. The EU announced its plans following US Secretary of State John Kerry’s plea to lawmakers for more money to tackle the so-called Russian propaganda in February.
Speaking before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on February 26, he urged for the setting up of “democracy promotion” programs around the world.
“Russia Today (sic) can be heard in English, do we have an equivalent that can be heard in Russian? It’s a pretty expensive proposition. They are spending huge amounts of money,” Kerry said apparently forgetting that Voice of America has been broadcasting in Russian since 1947.
Though the US government media receives $721 million a year, in the budget proposal submitted by Kerry, the Department of State asked for “$639 million to help our friends in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova as they seek to strengthen their democracies, withstand pressure from Russia, and to integrate more closely into Europe.”
By contrast RT’s budget for 2015 is about $225 million. The BBC World Service, which complained about RT “winning the information war” in January, is funded to the tune of $375 million a year.
Russian oil major Rosneft and BP are close to signing a $700 million deal for BP to acquire a 20 percent stake in the Taas-Yuriakh Siberian oilfield, reports the FT. The deal could be announced this week at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
The introduction of EU sanctions against Russia hasn’t scared off the largest European companies, working in the fuel and energy sector, according to the Financial Times.
Besides BP, Italy’s Eni and Norway’s Statoil have already received governmental approval to continue working on joint projects with Rosneft. Shell continues to work with Gazprom Neft over the Salym project in the Siberian Khanty-Mansiysk area and is seeking Dutch government approval for other joint ventures.
The news comes as the G7 claimed they are ready to extend sanctions last week. The announcement was also made just days prior to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, dubbed the ‘Russian Davos’.
The heads of BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total will visit the event which starts on Thursday. America’s Boston Consulting and Ernst & Young are also expected to attend, which could be a sign Washington and Brussels want dialogue with Moscow.
As EU sanctions are not so diehard as American, European companies with pre-existing contracts have a possibility to even expand their activities in Russia and don’t want to miss the opportunity, says James Henderson, senior fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.
“European companies are finding ways and are certainly freer to do business than their US counterparts… US companies are going to be hugely disadvantaged as we go forward because EU sanctions are not retroactive and US ones are,” Henderson told the FT.
“We stay out of the politics… We have a lot of experience in Russia … our commitment is to remain,” BP CEO Bob Dudley told CNBC this month.
Statoil is planning to drill two wells with Rosneft at the onshore Siberian North Komsomolskoye field this summer, and two wells in the Okhotsk Sea on the edge of the Pacific in summer 2016.
Eni has not disclosed any plans, but the FT, referring to sources familiar with the situation, assume the Italians may continue work on a Black Sea license with Rosneft.
Vladimir Putin said this weekend that “Russia would attack NATO only in a mad person’s dream.” Unfortunately, there are a lot of mad people working in western politics and media.
If the G7 were based on GDP, adjusted for purchasing power, it would be comprised of the USA, China, India, Japan, Russia, Germany and Brazil. Such a lineup would have remarkable clout. Members would boast 53% of the globe’s entire GDP and the planet’s 3 genuine military superpowers would be represented.
The problem for Washington is that this putative G7 might actually be a forum for a real debate about the world order.
Instead of a real G7, we have a farce. An American dominated talking shop where the US President allows ‘friendly’ foreign leaders to tickle his belly for a couple of days. There is no dissent. Washington’s dominance goes unquestioned and everyone has a jolly time. Especially since they kicked out Russia last year – Vladimir Putin was the only guest who challenged the consensus.
However, the problem is that this ‘convenient’ G7 is way past its sell-by-date. The days when its members could claim to rule the world economically are as distant as the era of Grunge and Britpop. Today, the G7 can claim a mere 32% of the global GDP pie. Instead of heavyweights like China and India, we have middling nations such as Canada and Italy, the latter an economic basket case. Canada’s GDP is barely more than that of crisis-ridden Spain and below that of Mexico and Indonesia.
Yet, the Prime Minister of this relative non-entity, Stephen Harper, was strutting around Bavaria all weekend with the confidence of a man who believed his opinion mattered a great deal. Of course, Harper won’t pressure Obama. Rather, he prefers to – metaphorically – kiss the ring and croon from the same hymn sheet as his southern master.
NATO and the G7 – 2 sides of 1 coin?
There was lots of talk of “Russian aggression” at the G7. This was hardly a surprise given that 6 of the 7 are also members of NATO, another body at which they can tug Washington’s forelock with gay abandon. Obama was at it, David Cameron parroted his guru’s feelings and Harper was effectively calling for regime change in Russia. It apparently never occurred to the trio that resolving their issues with Russia might be easier if Putin had been in Bavaria? The knee-jerk reaction to remove Russia from the club was hardly conducive to dialogue.
Meanwhile, Matteo Renzi stayed fairly quiet. It has been widely reported that the Italian Prime Minister privately opposes the EU’s anti-Russia sanctions due to the effects on Italy’s struggling economy. Also, Renzi’s next task after the G7 summit is to welcome Putin to Rome.
With that visit in mind, Putin gave an interview to Italy’s Il Corriere della Sera where he essentially answered the questions that Obama, Cameron and Harper could have asked him if they hadn’t thrown their toys out of the pram and excluded Russia from the old G8. Putin stressed that one should not take the ongoing “Russian aggression” scaremongering in the West seriously, as a global military conflict is unimaginable in the modern world. The Russian President also, fairly bluntly, stated that “we have better things to be doing” (than starting World War 3).
Putin also touched on a point many rational commentators have continuously made. “Certain countries could be deliberately nurturing such fears,” he added, saying that hypothetically the US could need an external threat to maintain its leadership in the Atlantic community. “Iran is clearly not very scary or big enough” for this, Putin noted with irony.
A world of ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’
For Washington to maintain its huge military spending, it has to keep its citizens in a state of high alarm. Otherwise, they might insist that some of the armed forces’ cash is diverted to more productive things like hospitals and schools. These services, of course, are not very profitable for weapons manufacturers or useful for newspaper and TV editors looking for an intimidating narrative.
Following the collapse of the USSR, Russia was too weak and troubled to be a plausible enemy. Aside from its nuclear arsenal – the deployment of which would only mean mutual destruction – the bear’s humbled military was not a credible threat. Instead, the focus of warmonger’s venom shifted to the Middle East and the Balkans, where Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Slobodan Milosevic and Osama Bin Laden kept the general public’s attention occupied for roughly a decade and a half. However, they are now all dead and pro-war propaganda needs a new bad guy to play the Joker to America’s Batman.
Kim Jong-un looked promising for a while. Nevertheless, the problem here is that North Korea is too unpredictable and could very feasibly retaliate to provocations. Such a reaction could lead to a nuclear attack on Seoul, for instance, or draw Washington into a conflict with China. Even for neocons, this is too risky. Another candidate was Syria’s Basher Al-Assad. Unfortunately, for the sabre rattlers, just as they imagined they had Damascus in their sights, Putin kyboshed their plan. This made Putin the devil as far as neocons are concerned and they duly trained their guns in his direction.
Russia – a Middle East/North Africa battleground?
In the media, it is noticeable how many neocon hacks have suddenly metamorphosed from Syria ‘experts’ into Russia analysts in the past 2 years. Panda’s Mark Ames (formerly of Moscow’s eXILE ) highlighted this strange phenomenon in an excellent recent piece. Ames focused on the strange case of Michael Weiss, a New York activist who edits the anti-Russia Interpreter magazine (which is actually a blog). The Interpreter is allegedly controlled by Mikhail Khodorkovsky and a shadowy foundation called Herzen (not the original Amsterdam-based Herzen) of which no information is publicly available.
Weiss was a long-time Middle East analyst, who promoted US intervention to oust Assad. Suddenly, shortly before the initial Maidan disturbances in Kiev, he re-invented himself as a Russia and Ukraine ‘expert,’ appearing all over the US media (from CNN to Politico and The Daily Beast ) to deliver his ‘wisdom.’ This is despite the fact that he appears to know very little about Russia and has never lived there. The managing editor of The Interpreter is a gentleman named James Miller, who uses the Twitter handle @millerMENA (MENA means Middle East, North Africa). Having been to both, I can assure you that Russia and North Africa have very little in common.
Weiss and Miller are by no means unusual. Pro-War, neocon activists have made Russia their bete noir since their Syria dreams were strangled in infancy. While most are harmless enough, this pair wields considerable influence in the US media. Naturally, this is dressed up as concern for Ukraine. In reality, they care about Ukraine to about the same extent that a carnivore worries about hurting the feelings of his dinner.
Russia’s military policy is “not global, offensive, or aggressive,” Putin stressed, adding that Russia has “virtually no bases abroad,” and the few that do exist are remnants of its Soviet past. Meanwhile, it would take only 17 minutes for missiles launched from US submarines on permanent alert off Norway’s coast to reach Moscow, Putin said, noting that this fact is somehow not labeled as “aggression” in the media.
Decline of the Balts
Another ongoing problem is the Baltic States. These 3 countries have been unmitigated disasters since independence, shedding people at alarming rates. Estonia’s population has fallen by 16% in the past 25 years, Latvia’s by 25% and Lithuania’s by an astonishing 32%. Political leaders in these nations use the imaginary ‘Russian threat’ as a means to distract from their own economic failings and corruption. They constantly badger America for military support which further antagonizes the Kremlin, which in turn perceives that NATO is increasing its presence on Russia’s western border. This is the same frontier from which both Napoleon and Hitler invaded and Russians are, understandably, paranoid about it.
The simple fact is that Russia has no need for the Baltic States. Also, even if Moscow did harbor dreams of invading them, the cost of subduing them would be too great. As Russia and the US learned in Afghanistan and America in Iraq also, in the 21st century it is more-or-less impossible to occupy a population who don’t want to be occupied. The notion that Russia would sacrifice its hard-won economic and social progress to invade Kaunas is, frankly, absurd.
The reunification of Crimea with Russia is often used as a ‘sign’ that the Kremlin wishes to restore the Soviet/Tsarist Empire. This is nonsense. The vast majority of Crimean people wished to return to Russia and revoke Nikita Khrushchev’s harebrained transfer of the territory to Ukraine. Not even the craziest Russian nationalist believes that most denizens of Riga or Tallinn wish to become Russian citizens.
Putin recalled that it was French President Charles de Gaulle who first voiced the need to establish a “common economic space stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.” As NATO doubles down on its campaign against Moscow, that dream has never looked as far off.
Bryan MacDonald is an Irish writer and commentator focusing on Russia and its hinterlands and international geo-politics. Follow him on Facebook