ANTI-NUCLEAR activists have claimed that a recent incident off the coast of Gibraltar in which a nuclear-powered submarine made a “glancing collision” with a merchant vessel shows the “risks” of the technology.
A statement on the Ministry of Defence website said the collision took place at approximately 1.30pm yesterday, with the submarine suffering “some external damage”, but claimed the nuclear reactor was was left undamaged while none of the submarine’s crew were injured.
The statement says the MoD were in contact with the merchant ship and that “initial indications are that it has not sustained damage”, and that the submarine – HMS Ambush – would be entering Gibraltar for further checks.
“It is yet another example of the risks of nuclear submarines operating out of Faslane.” John Ainslie
HMS Ambush is part of the Royal Navy’s Astute-class, of which there are seven in development. They are distinct from the Vanguard-class of submarines which carry the UK’s Trident nuclear missiles.
John Ainslie, co-ordinator with the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), said: “You can’t have a minor incident on a nuclear submarine, there’s no such thing. It’s a question of what follows on. Clearly from the picture there’s major damage to the conning tower. The shock of that will have upset everything on the submarine.”
Ainslie questioned whether it was genuinely a “glancing” collision, pointing out that similar incidents have taken place in the past: “The MoD describe this as a ‘glancing’ collision but HMS Triumph ran aground in Skye at high speed and the description of the circumstances was pretty scathing.
“One of the main risks on a nuclear submarine is fire. The reactor may have automatically shut down, as a result of the shock, but these submarines carry an over-ride system which can over-ride the shutdown.
“We have consistently campaigned against nuclear-powered submarines as well. The whole thing is linked in. All the nuclear armed submarines are all nuclear-powered. It is yet another example of the risks of nuclear submarines operating out of Faslane.”
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | July 21, 2016
Events in Turkey just become stranger with each passing day.
We now have Middle Eastern and Persian sources, cited by Russian and German papers, that Russia’s security agencies overheard helicopter radio transmissions by the coup participants, and President Putin warned Erdogan about what was happening, likely saving his skin.
If true, this would help explain the apparent ineptness of the coup forces. My first hypothesis explaining this ineptness plus other peculiarities of the coup was that the plotters were unwittingly working in a dark operation run by Turkish security forces, intended to make them fail while flushing them out and giving Erdogan a free hand.
This possibility of Russian advance warning put together with Erdogan’s own belief that the coup originated in America should yield some serious geopolitical shifts in the region.
We could have an even stronger rapprochement between Turkey and Russia than was already underway, a rapprochement, by the way, which could well have helped tip the United States into giving a wink and a nod (and of course, as always, some cash) to Turkish rebel forces.
But that would not be the only reason for America’s supporting a coup. The truth is, from the American point of view, Erdogan’s erratic behavior – shooting down a Russian war plane, firing artillery into Syria at American Kurdish allies, blackmailing Europe over large numbers of refugees resident in Turkish camps, and still other matters – over the last few years has added uncertainty and potential instability to a strategically important region.
Even if the United States were not involved in the coup, although right now Turkey’s government appears to believe firmly that it was, Putin’s warning would add a powerful positive element to Russian-Turkish relations.
Just as America’s failure to warn Erdogan adds a new negative element to Turkish-American relations. After all, no one is better equipped for international communication interception than the NSA. If the United States were not involved, why didn’t it warn Erdogan? Either way, the outcome is negative for Turkish-American relations.
One of the strongest suggestions for American involvement is the fact that Turkish jets, for bombing and fuel supplies, took off from the İncirlik Airbase during the coup. This airbase is Turkish, but has many Americans resident, including some high-level ones since there is not only a sizable air force stationed there but an estimated fifty thermonuclear bombs. The Turkish commander, Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, was in daily contact with the Americans and sought asylum in the United States before he was arrested by Turkey.
If it is true that Putin warned Erdogan, this would also be the second time Putin has blunted the success of a major American-inspired coup, as he very much did in Ukraine.
Seems as though poor old America, for all its grossly swollen and over-paid security services, just cannot run a good coup anymore.
Putin is disliked by Washington’s establishment precisely because he successfully blunted a huge and costly operation in Ukraine, so disliked that NATO has been pushed dangerously into something resembling the terrifying preparations for Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa in Eastern Europe, 1941.
And, of course, Putin also has thwarted the American effort to overthrow President Assad with paid and supplied proxy forces of mercenaries and religious maniacs. Interestingly, Erdogan has been a key player there. French intelligence has just estimated that even now about a hundred thugs cross the border from Turkey into Syria each week.
If Putin has now also stopped a Turkish adventure, the hissing in Washington will likely become much louder.
A new relationship between Turkey and Russia offers a lot of possibilities, none of them favorable from America’s point of view, the restart of the Turkish Stream natural gas project being just one.
And if Europe speaks up or acts too strongly against Erdogan’s counter-coup measures, there’s always the possibility of a new release of refugees from Turkish camps, something which could genuinely destabilize the EU after so many other recent woes. And smooth control of the EU has been one of America’s chief policy objectives for years.
Of course, we should remember that Churchill’s famous quote originally applied to Russia in the days of Stalin. It does not apply to contemporary Russia, and Putin’s deft moves have made some of America’s clumsy efforts at re-ordering the world rather make it resemble Stalin in international affairs.
A senior European Union security official says the body is looking into Israeli technology for online surveillance in Europe.
EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said Tuesday that the bloc was turning to Israeli methods after internet companies proved reluctant to monitor individuals.
The official cited a series of deadly attacks across Europe which had prompted officials to think of using Israeli technologies.
Once focused on “meta data” or information regarding individuals’ communications patterns, Israeli spy agencies now have refocused on social media as a complementary means of snooping on Palestinians.
An Israeli military official who administers these methods said human intervention is required to set parameters such as age, religiosity, socio-economic background for the population being monitored.
Traditionally a source of funds for the Israeli military to maintain its “edge” in the Middle East, the US and Europeans have recently turned to a major customer of Israeli weapons.
Last month, the US military said it had tested an Israeli short-range missile for possible use in its European network of missile systems to deter Russia.
Major General Glenn Bramhall of the US Army’s Air and Missile Defense Command said a variant of the Israeli “Tamir” rocket which is incorporated to Tel Aviv’s so-called Iron Dome missile system had been tested.
Last month, a report said European countries were increasingly purchasing weapons from Israeli arms manufacturers, promoting their products on the grounds that they have been “field-tested” against Palestinians.
The report came as 29 Israeli arms makers displayed their military technologies earlier this week at the Eurosatory conference in Paris, one of the world’s largest land defense exhibitions.
French purchases of weaponry from Israeli firms more than doubled in 2015 compared to a year earlier, amounting to $355 million.
In 2016, Israel is projected to overtake Italy as the world’s seventh-largest weapons exporter, the report said, citing IHS Jane’s.
Many of the Israeli arms technologies being sold to Europe are used in the repression of Palestinians, including in the destructive 2014 war on the besieged and densely-populated Gaza Strip.
The war left over 2,200 dead — mostly civilians — while injuring thousands more and displacing nearly 500,000 people, according to UN figures.
Human Rights Watch has criticized the purchase of field-tested Israeli weapons, saying the group has documented “violations of the rules of war that appear to rise to the level of war crimes in Gaza using some of these weapons.”
European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia David McAllister signaled Thursday that the EU remains committed to enlargement in the Western Balkans. However, Eurocrats regard the Russo-Serbian relationship as a stumbling block in Belgrade’s way to EU accession.
European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia David McAllister warned Belgrade Thursday that Serbia’s intention to maintain close relations with Russia would not be tolerated by Brussels in the long run.
“The European Parliament sent a signal to Serbia through its [January] resolution that a dual approach to Russia could not be tolerated in the long run,” McAllister said at the press conference in Belgrade dubbed “The European Union’s Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy and the Western Balkans,” as quoted by Balkan Insight.
McAllister also urged Belgrade to reduce its “dependency” on Russian oil and gas, claiming that Brussels wants to see Serbia abiding by the EU energy market rules.
Ahead of the conference McAllister clarified his position in an interview with Europe Western Balkans media outlet.
“The Serbia-Russia relations have often been debated. Serbia has traditionally strong economic, social and cultural ties with Russia,” he admitted.
However, he claimed that since Russia “unilaterally changes European borders” and tries to “expand its influence” over its neighbors, Belgrade “needs to make strong efforts in aligning its foreign and security policy to that of the EU, including the policy on Russia,” referring to the EU sanctions regime imposed on Moscow.
Much in the same vein Nathalie Tocci, adviser to EU Foreign Policy and Security Chief Federica Mogherini, described Serbia’s prospects for EU membership in her interview with Tanjug.rs:
“In the accession process, a country is expected to meet all accession criteria and align itself with common European rules through negotiations, which implies both foreign policy and security. In that regard, I see the relationship with Russia as the biggest challenge for Serbia — as it gets closer to EU membership, Serbia will be expected to also get closer to the EU in terms of its position regarding Russia, but that is something that cannot happen overnight,” she said as quoted by the media outlet.Nevertheless, the Serbian government does not want to abandon its ties with Moscow, insisting that it intends to maintain fruitful diplomatic relations with both Russia and the West.
“I… wish to underline that in the process of decision-making Serbia had a continued consistent stance that at this very stage of the accession process it could not uphold all EU decisions. In some cases Serbia did not align with the EU positions, respecting its national interest concerning the issue of preserving its territorial integrity and the need to maintain traditionally good relations with other partners as well, first and foremost with Russia and China,” Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told the press conference on Thursday.
He stressed that Serbia has proven to be a “reliable and true” partner of the EU and bemoaned the fact that despite Belgrade’s strategic foreign policy orientation toward full EU membership, the process “has not had particularly live dynamics so far because in the last two years we opened only two negotiating chapters.”
At the conference Dacic underscored that the time has come to reexamine what was done to Serbia back in 1999, and threw into question Kosovo’s self-proclaimed sovereignty. He recalled that US Assistant Secretary of State told him that the US has been investing in Kosovo’s independence for 20 years.
“Then I think the mistakes must be sought not only in our system,” he stressed, as cited by B92.net.
He emphasized that neither Russia nor China recognize Kosovo’s independence.
Later, commenting on the EU officials’ remarks Dacic told Serbian daily newspaper Novosti, as cited by Balkan Insight: “It could not be expected from Serbia to introduce sanctions on its friends.”
In his interview with Sputnik former Serbian diplomat Zoran Milivojevic noted that Serbia has its own national interests and the right to protect them.
“There are no reasons [for Serbia] to reconsider its relation with other nations, especially with United Nations Security Council permanent members and traditional friends of Serbia, Russia or China,” Milivojevic told Sputnik.
The diplomat stressed that it is inappropriate for Brussels to set such conditions on the very early phases of Serbia-EU negotiations, referring to the fact that Belgrade and the EU are yet to discuss the 31st chapter of EU accession related to Serbia’s foreign policy. Only when the chapter is opened the issue of the Russo-Serbian should be brought into the spotlight, he stressed.
It is surprising that the reaction of the NATO member states to a coup attempt in Turkey was rather modest, Afshin Rattansi, an RT contributor and the host of RT’s Going Underground said, adding that some years ago they would have rushed to aid their ally.
RT:This coup has given Erdogan a perfect chance to tighten his grip on alleged enemies within the army. What could this lead to?
Afshin Rattansi: Yes, very worrying to hear. But possible reintroduction of the death penalty and thousands are being arrested. We have got to remember that the CIA backed the coup in 1980, 36 years ago – half a million people were arrested. We can’t be sure whether it is going to be that number this time round. It’s interesting that the Prime Minister so quickly blamed the Gulen movement. Now, who is this movement? The cleric lives in the US. Well, that is the movement that reportedly funds the Hillary Clinton campaign. Certainly there will be people in Ankara not wishing for a Clinton presidency anytime soon given that so many supporters right now are being arrested. There are ties here that show how complex the events of the past 12 hours are.
RT:How would it impact relations with the EU? Would the union now discuss the membership of a country that is weighing bringing back the death penalty?
AR: As we hear in London during the referendum debate, it was repeatedly told to the British people that there is no chance whatsoever Turkish accession to the EU – that was before the referendum. So Britain does not really have a say in that today. But I think obviously critical to the whole situation in the past few hours is the Incirlik Air Base. Turkey is a NATO country. Astonishing that just a couple of years ago we would have expected NATO nations to have come to the aid of the Erdogan government, which was elected in November. This time? Nothing.
Also astonishing is John Kerry in Moscow looking to evaluate the situation, not [offering] immediate support for this linchpin of NATO supremacy, as they see it in terms of world security – this critical country in terms of their domination of the Middle East. Well, the reason why they are not going to be joining the EU any time soon is the flip-flopping of Erdogan.
He went from being a hero of the Arab world, when he championed the cause of Palestinians, [then] suddenly he switched to being – along with Britain and the US – pro-the overthrow of the secular government of Syria and supporting de facto ISIS/ISIL/DAESH and al-Qaeda linked groups.
RT: As you said, Turkey is an ally of the US in the region. But today it is saying it doesn’t want to be friends with the country that allegedly protects its enemy, Fethullah Gulen, who has actually denied being a part of this plot. The man is in self-imposed exile in America. Can Ankara afford such aggressive rhetoric against Washington?
AR: We know very well in this country [the UK] that one intelligence side doesn’t know what the other is doing – when I’m thinking of MI5 and MI6. So it has to be noted that while Erdogan has been supporting Anglo-American policy in destabilizing Syria, just in the past few days, and I think that is what a lot of analysts and observers have noted, sudden rapprochement with Russia – Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft, there have been very frosty relation between the two countries – just in the past few days sudden rapprochement; rapprochements with China and then revelations of back channels with President Assad himself – the man that Britain and the US have been trying to overthrow now for five or six years. Coincidence that suddenly there is a coup; maybe there are forces within the US that were expecting this.
It is no surprise that there would be great instability in Turkey. It is not just Erdogan’s foreign policies, it is the brutal economic policies he has. But let’s not forget: Ever since this CIA-backed coup of 1980, the economic policies of Turkey have been determined by big multinationals, by big powerful forces to the detriment of millions of working-class Turks.
RT: Is Erdogan capable of getting complete control over all of the military in the country? There is huge discontent in the military, isn’t there?
AR: In NATO nations, militaries just as in Britain, as in Turkey, are not controlled by sovereign governments after all – it is up to NATO command, which is answerable to Washington as to what the military does, which is why in the initial reports of the military coup attempt one wondered immediately by the American connections to these military forces in the US, which is presumably what President Erdogan is alluding to as regards the future relations between Ankara and Washington.
Turkey seeks enhanced Iran ties: PM (July 15th)
The European Union is controlled by an oligarchy, which dictates socio-economic and political decisions according to the interests of bankers and multi-national business. The central organs of power, the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have systematically imposed austerity programs that have degraded working conditions, welfare programs, and wages and salaries.
EU policies demanding the free immigration of non-unionized workers to compete with native workers have undermined wage and workplace protections, union membership and class solidarity. EU financial policies have enhanced the power of finance capital and eroded public ownership of strategic economic sectors.
The European Union has imposed fiscal policies set by non-elected oligarchs over and against the will and interests of the democratic electorate. As a result of EU dictates, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland have suffered double-digit unemployment rates, as well as massive reductions of pensions, health and educational budgets. A huge transfer of wealth and concentration of decision-making has occurred in Europe.
Rule by EU fiat is the epitome of oligarchical rule.
Despite the EU’s reactionary structure and policies, it is supported by Conservatives, Liberals, Social Democrats, Greens and numerous Leftist academics, who back elite interests in exchange for marginal economic rewards.
Arguments for the EU and their Critics
The pro-EU power elite base their arguments on concrete socio-economic interests, thinly disguised by fraudulent ideological claims.
The ideological arguments backing the EU follow several lines of deception.
They claim that ‘countries’ benefit because of large-scale transfers of EU payments. They omit mentioning that the EU elite secures the privatization and denationalization of strategic industries, banks, mass media and other lucrative national assets. They further omit to mention that the EU elite gains control of domestic markets and low wage labor.
The EU argues that it provides ‘free movements’ of capital, technology and labor – omitting the fact that the flows and returns of capital exclusively benefit the powerful imperial centers to the detriment of less advanced countries and that technology is controlled and designed by the dominant elites which also monopolize the profits. Furthermore, the ‘free flow of labor’ prejudices skilled productive sectors in less developed countries while reducing salaries, wages and benefits among skilled workers in the imperial centers.
The EU : A Self-Elected Dictatorship of Empire Builders
‘Integration into the EU’ is not a union of democratic participants; the decision-making structure is tightly controlled by non-elected elites who pursue policies that maximize profits, by relocating enterprises in low tax, low wage, non- unionized regions.
European integration is an integral part of ‘globalization’, which is a euphemism for the unimpeded acquisition of wealth, assets and financial resources by the top 1%, shared, in part, with their supporters among the top 25%.
The EU promotes the concentration of capital through the merger and acquisition of multi-national firms which bankrupt local and national, medium and small scale industries.
Political and Academic Satraps of the EU Elites
The European Union’s oligarchy has organized a small army of highly paid politicians, functionaries, advisers, experts and researchers who support the European Union in a manner not unlike NGO workers in the developing world – answerable only to their ‘foreign’ paymasters.
Numerous Social Democrats draw stipends, travel expenses, lucrative fees and salaries as members of commissions and serve on impotent ‘legislative’ assemblies.
Academics advise, consent —and draw duplicate salaries from membership in the EU bureaucracy. Journalists and academics ‘front’ for the EU oligarchy by playing a leading propaganda role. For example, they have been busy slandering British pro-democracy, anti-EU voters by (1) calling for a new referendum and (2) questioning the right of the working class electorate to vote on issues like the recent EU referendum.
The leading financial press adopts a demagogic pose accusing the pro-democracy voters of being ‘racists’, ‘nativists’, or worse, for ‘opposing Eastern European immigration’.
In fact, the vast majority of workers do not oppose immigrants in general, but especially those who have taken once-unionized jobs at wages far below the going rates for established workers, on terms dictated by employers and with no ties or commitment to the community and society. For decades British workers accepted immigrant labor from Ireland because they joined unions at wage rates negotiated by union leaders, won by long workers struggle and voted with the majority of English workers. Under the EU, Britain was flooded with Eastern European workers who acted as ’scabs’ displacing skilled British workers who were told it was ‘progress’. This acted to destroy the prospects of their own children entering a stable, skilled labor market.
The financial press’s lurid descriptions of the British workers’ anti-EU ‘racism’ against Polish immigrant labor ignores the long history of Warsaw’s virulent hostility to immigrants–namely the refugees from the wars in the Middle East. The Polish government and population exhibit the most furious opposition to sheltering the thousands of Middle East and African war refugees, while claiming that they are not ‘Christians’ or might pose cultural or even terrorist threats against the ethnically pure Polish population.
Some of the British workers’ hostility toward Polish workers has a recognized historical basis. They have not forgotten that Polish strike breakers took the side of ‘Iron Lady’ Thatcher’s militarized assault against unionized UK miners during the great coal strikes and even offered to export coal to aid the Conservative government in breaking the strike. As such, EU-Polish immigrant workers are not likely to integrate into the militant British working class culture.
The Polish regime’s aggressive promotion of the economic sanctions against Russia has further undermined English jobs linked to that large and growing market.
The financial press ignores the fact that Polish immigrants ’scab’ on unionized British workers in the construction industry, undercutting long-established UK plumbers, electrical workers, carpenters and laborers – who have multiple generational ties to their communities and work. The EU elites use the importation of Polish workers to strengthen the reactionary labor policies of the employers
After the fall of Communism, Polish workers backed a succession of right-wing regimes in Warsaw, which privatized and denationalized industries and eroded their welfare system leading to their own impoverishment. Poles, instead of fighting against these neo-liberal regimes at home, headed for England and have been helping the British bosses ever since in their own anti-labor campaigns to reduce wages and decrease worker access to decent, affordable housing, public services, education and medical care.
The Eastern Europeans became the willing recruits of the EU reserve army of labor to raise profits for industrial and finance capital thus further concentrating wealth and power into the hands of the British oligarchs.
To label British workers’ antipathy to these EU policies over the free entry of cheap immigrant labor, as ‘racist’, is a blatant case of blaming workers for opposing naked capitalist profiteering. It is not hard to imagine how the Poles would react if skilled Syrian electricians were taking their jobs!
The pro-EU prostitute press claims that the pro-democracy voters are ‘anti-globalization’ and a threat to England’s living standards and financial stability.
In fact, labor votes in favor of trade but against the relocation of English industry overseas. Labor votes for greater investment in the UK and greater regional diversity of productive, job-creating sectors, as opposed to the concentration of capital and wealth in the parasitic finance, insurance and real estate sectors concentrated in the City of London.
The EU-City of London-financial oligarchy have priced labor out of the housing market by promoting the massive construction of high-end luxury condos for ‘their kind of immigrant’, i.e. the millionaire and billionaire Chinese, Russian, Indian, Eastern European and US plutocrats who flock to London’s famous tax-evasion and money-laundering expertise.
The scribes of the EU-City oligarchy who claim that exit from the EU will lead to a cataclysmic breakdown are blatantly scaremongering. In fact, the stock and bond market, which declined for less than a week, rebounded sharply, as trade, production and demand were scarcely affected by the vote.
The hysteria-peddlers among the financial press resounded . . . in the minds and pockets of the City of London speculators. They rightly feared that their own lucrative financial operations could relocate overseas.
If and when the EU – City end their oligarchical control over the British economy, workers will gain an opportunity to debate and elect freely their own representatives and have a say in their own government. Leaving the EU is just the first step. The next move will be to change the rules for immigrant labor to accord with the standards of wages and conditions set by UK trade union organizations.
The following steps would include subordinating the banks to the needs of industry, investment in public housing for workers and the development of local technology for domestic producers.
The cleavage between productive labor and the EU parasites and their political hangers-on requires a new political leadership with a democratic foreign policy, which precludes overseas wars and imperial alliances.
The break with the EU logically and persuasively argues for a break with NATO and an opening toward free trade with Russia, China and the new dynamic global markets. The end of the EU can help weaken the strategic partnership between the European and City of London oligarchs. No doubt, the latter will not go without a class war of unprecedented ferocity, involving financial lockouts, manufactured fiscal crises, street mobs and parliamentary coups at the top of their agenda.
Only if the democratic electoral majority becomes a cohesive and combative class movement, in and out of Parliament, can they convert the referendum from a temporary electoral win to a stable basis for structural transformation.
Only a democratic majority can implement a fair and equitable immigration policy that strengthens labor and welfare policies and which would be based on the traditional values of British trade unionism and not on some criteria parroted by the ‘house servants’ for the lords of the EU-London ‘Downton Abbey’.
Canadians who hoped the federal election last October 19 would usher in change to the aggressive, foreign policy of the defeated Conservative government are wondering what happened to their wishes. The transition in imperialist foreign policy from the Harper Conservatives to the Justin Trudeau-led Liberals has been utterly seamless, if not predictable.
In the Middle East, Canada’s support to ‘regime change’ in Syria stands. The Liberals stirred controversy during the election when they promised to end Canada’s participation in the U.S.-led military intervention in northern Iraq. But surprise: while the Liberals did carry out a promised withdrawal of the six fighter jets that weren’t doing much anyway in the skies over Syria and Iraq, they ended up tripling the presence of Canadian soldiers on the ground in Iraq, to approximately 200.
And the new government made unpleasant waves when it upheld the export permit approval by the Conservatives for the U.S. arms manufacturer General Dynamics to sell $15 billion worth of the armoured personnel transport vehicles it manufactures in London, Ontario to the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia.
Sabre rattling by the new-same-old government in Ottawa has been expressed most fully during and after the NATO summit meeting held in Warsaw, Poland on July 8 and 9.
Canada and the NATO war summit meeting in Warsaw, Poland
The NATO summit approved a final communiqué which places the military alliance on a collision course with Russia. The communiqué voices NATO’s determination to escalate its threats against Russia, using the pretexts of an alleged “annexation” of Crimea by Russia and military intervention by it in eastern Ukraine.
Clause five of the 138 clauses in the communiqué reads:
Russia’s aggressive actions, including provocative military activities in the periphery of NATO territory and its demonstrated willingness to attain political goals by the threat and use of force, are a source of regional instability, fundamentally challenge the Alliance, have damaged Euro-Atlantic security, and threaten our long-standing goal of a Europe whole, free, and at peace.
Clause ten details the alleged transgressions of Russia:
Russia’s destabilising actions and policies include: the ongoing illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, which we do not and will not recognise and which we call on Russia to reverse; the violation of sovereign borders by force; the deliberate destabilisation of eastern Ukraine; large-scale snap exercises contrary to the spirit of the Vienna Document, and provocative military activities near NATO borders, including in the Baltic and Black Sea regions and the Eastern Mediterranean; its irresponsible and aggressive nuclear rhetoric, military concept and underlying posture; and its repeated violations of NATO Allied airspace. In addition, Russia’s military intervention, significant military presence and support for the regime in Syria, and its use of its military presence in the Black Sea to project power into the Eastern Mediterranean have posed further risks and challenges for the security of Allies and others.
Ottawa announced at the summit it will send hundreds of additional soldiers to eastern Europe to join the latest NATO provocation: it will lead one of the four, new, proto-combat brigades being established by NATO in countries bordering Russia. Canada will land some 450 troops in Latvia.
Ottawa is also re-equipping its entire army, including its soon-to-be Latvia force on the Russian border, with anti-tank missiles.
Canada’s voice has been one of the loudest amidst NATO’s anti-Russia rhetoric as first the Conservatives, now the Liberals pander to the extremist minority among the estimated 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian origin. That pandering was on full display in Ukraine when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid a visit to the country immediately following the NATO summit.
Ongoing intervention in Ukraine
The Latvia intervention adds to Canada’s existing military presence in Ukraine. Since last year, Canadian, British and U.S. soldiers began an intervention into the country consisting, in the first instance, of training the Ukrainian army and extremist paramilitaries at the so-called International Peacekeeping and Security Center in western Ukraine. Canada has 200 troops in the country.
The military training is designed to improve Ukraine’s capacity to wage the civil war it launched against the populations of the Donbass region in the east of the country in April 2014. There, the large majority of the population rejected a violent seizure of power by a right-wing coalition of conservatives, extreme-rightists and neo-Nazis in February 2014. When the new regime in Kyiv sent soldiers and extremist paramilitaries to eastern Ukraine to quash civil resistance against the ‘Maidan coup’, self-defense forces were hastily thrown up and military conflict ensued.
Prime Minister Trudeau visited the military training center on July 11. His media entourage reported a disturbing insight into what the foreign soldiers are up to there. A July 13 article by the Canadian Press‘ Lee Berthiaume wrote:
Trudeau flew into Lviv in western Ukraine before driving to a nearby military base for a first-hand look at the work of 200 Canadian soldiers who have been training the Ukrainian army since last summer.
From a distance, Trudeau, his son Xavier and defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance watched through binoculars as a Soviet-era armoured personnel carrier led a group of Canadian and Ukrainian soldiers toward a wooden building. The air shook as the vehicle’s cannon fired several bursts in quick succession.
The troops then moved away from the vehicle and spread out in a line facing the building. Four Canadians followed close behind as the eight Ukrainians slowly closed on the building while firing their rifles before placing an explosive inside and setting it off.
The exercise was the type of attack those Ukrainian soldiers could soon be conducting on their own in the east of their country, where the army has been fighting Russian-backed separatists for more than two years.
Trudeau’s son Xavier is nine years old. It’s not known what the “building” in the training exercise represents in real life. Ukraine’s ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ in the east heavily targets residential neighbourhoods. In addition to houses and apartment buildings, schools, daycare centers and even medical centers have been struck by Ukrainian tank and other artillery shelling. The ongoing reports of the Donetsk International News Agency document the havoc. (Latest report, dated July 11, is here).
Effective anti-aircraft defense on the rebel side is the only reason why Ukraine has not employed fighter aircraft against its nominal citizens, as NATO-member Turkey is doing in its civil war against the Kurdish population in the east of that country.
Earlier the same day, Trudeau addressed Canadian soldiers about their work in Ukraine. He said, “It has been a long time since Canada had to defend our valour and defend our territory. But we need to continue to work with those who are fighting for democracy and their territorial integrity.”
Trudeau voiced the usual NATO stories about Russia’s actions in the region since the Maidan coup. “Russia has not been a positive partner,” he told his hosts in Ukraine, speaking of the situation in eastern Ukraine. “It has not been moving appropriately on things like ceasefires and international observers.”
While in Ukraine, Trudeau also signed a “free trade” agreement with Ukraine. The agreement is unlikely to change much in the small amount of trade between the two countries. According to the Canadian government, Canada exported some $210 million in goods to Ukraine in 2015, including pharmaceuticals, fish and seafood and coking coal. Ukraine sent to Canada some $67 million the same year, including fertilizers, iron and steel and anthracite coal.
Meanwhile, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion trundled off to Latvia following the Warsaw summit to voice his own harsh language. He told a press conference in Riga, “A neighboring country [Russia] chooses to throw its weight around and cause trouble and international instability. Latvia and Canada, together with our NATO allies, answer the call both for strong deterrence and strong dialogue [sic].
“We will stay strong as long as the relationship has not been changed for something positive – as long as Russia is a troublemaker in the region we need to be strong together and Canada will be part of it.”
Dion said Ukraine, too, has been “confronted directly with aggression from our shared neighbour.”
What about the Minsk-2 ceasefire?
As with its NATO partners, Canada’s government tells lies when it comes to the ongoing violations by Kyiv of the ceasefire agreement for eastern Ukraine that was signed in Belarus on February 12, 2015.
Ukraine has failed to live up to all of the 13 clauses of Minsk-2. This was noted (though understated) in the aforementioned Canadian Press report when it said, “[Trudeau] called Russia’s recent actions in the region “illegitimate” and “illegal”, and voiced strong support for NATO members in Eastern Europe as well as Ukraine, despite rampant corruption in Ukraine and its failure to implement parts [sic] of a peace deal with Russia and the rebels.”
Ukraine continues its military attacks against Donetsk and Lugansk (the two former provinces of Ukraine which make up the historic region called Donbass). It does not recognize the elected authorities of the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, and so no progress has been made on a political settlement, including a regional election. Prisoner exchanges have been very partial. And so on. (Text of Minsk-2 ceasefire here.)
Canada, the U.S. and the rest of NATO have nothing to say about Ukraine’s dereliction of duty with the ceasefire. On the contrary, they accuse Russia of failing to live up to the agreement, even though Russia, with France and Germany, is but a guarantor, not a signatory, of the agreement. As the Russian government has patiently explained for the past 18 months, only the Ukrainian government and the rebel side against which it is fighting can and should decide what happens on Ukrainian soil.
The criticism of Russia by Canada is carefully orchestrated to shield the true state of affairs. In 2014, following the Maidan coup, Russia stood by the people in Crimea and then in Donbass who rose up to oppose the coup. This is what has infuriated the NATO countries. According to their script, Russia is supposed to act like the other countries of the region and meekly accept NATO diktats. In this case, Russia was supposed to stand aside and allow an illegal, right-wing regime in Kyiv to wage a violent campaign against civil dissent opposing the new regime’s pro-Europe, anti-Russia and pro-austerity course to proceed. Oh, and Russia was supposed to meekly give up its historic, centuries old naval base in Crimea and turn the keys over to NATO.
The NATO powers are not used to defiance. They don’t like the “bad” example that Russia’s defiance sets for people or countries in Europe who may wish to battle EU-dictated austerity and violations of national sovereignty, as, for example, the people in Greece and, more recently, in Britain are trying to do.
The other large, longstanding factor at play in eastern Europe is the historic, U.S.-led drive by NATO to weaken and dismantle first the Soviet Union and now the Russia Federation. Events in Ukraine and Crimea have given the U.S., its allies and pliant media new propaganda ammunition to bamboozle world opinion and renew the post-WW2, not-so-cold-anymore war.
Media and Parliamentary opposition in Canada join the pro-war chorus
The obfuscation over Minsk-2 and the dangerous, ‘new cold war’ backdrop rely on a compliant mainstream media to dissuade questioning if not opposition by ordinary citizens. As in the U.S. and Europe, mainstream media in Canada does little or nothing to accurately inform the public of the true state of affairs in Ukraine and Crimea and the broader region. Instead, it is increasingly parroting whatever line emanates from NATO country capitals while adding its own unique stamp to the mix.
The national daily Globe and Mail editorialized on July 13 in favour of the Liberal’s latest moves. It wrote, ” The risk of a new cold war, let alone a third world war in Eastern Europe, is small, but Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, and its thinly disguised subversion of order in eastern Ukraine, shows how willing President Vladimir Putin is to make serious mischief…
“The risk of leaving a whole set of countries [the Baltic region] virtually undefended would be most unacceptable.”
The same compliance goes for Canadian Parliamentarians. A case in point is an op-ed commentary by Thomas Mulcair published on July 12 in the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest-circulation daily newspaper.
Mulcair is the leader of Canada’s social democratic party, the New Democratic Party, the third largest party in Parliament. He writes in the Star, “There can be no doubt Russia poses a significant threat to the people of Eastern Europe. In March, the United Nations estimated that at least 9,160 civilians have died in Ukraine since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.” Note the writer’s named starting date of the tragic deaths of thousands in eastern Ukraine: not the launching of Ukraine’s civil war (‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’) in April-May 2014 but the Crimea referendum in March.
Mulcair writes further, “Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown himself to be a volatile leader, not above searching for any pretext to escalate into violence.”
The op-ed expresses some unease with the decision of Canada to join and head up one of NATO’s projected combat brigades. Parliament has not been consulted, Mulcair complains. And he worries, “If military buildup becomes our only way of communicating with Russians, there is a real risk that falling into a permanent deterrence mode will lead to escalation and the re-emergence of a dangerous Cold War-style deadlock.”
But the headline to the commentary summarizes the essence. It reads, ‘Military-only response to Russia is dangerous’. In other words, a military posture against Russia is needed, yes, and so are additional measures. To wit, Mulcair says Canada should extend its sanctions against Russia’s economy. He urges adoption of a version of the ‘Magnitsky Act’ which was adopted in the United States in 2012 and which extended the freezing of assets and banning of travel by Russian political and business leaders. The law is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian accountant working in the financial industry who died while in prison in Russia in 2009.
Evidently, Mulcair has not viewed the new documentary film exposing the propaganda campaign behind the U.S. law. The film is titled ‘The Magnitsky Act. Behind the Scenes’. The Russian filmmaker began his documentary quest by presenting the accepted story of Magnitsky as a fighter against endemic corruption and favouritism in the Russian government. But along the way, he discovered a very different view of events in which the Russian government happened to be battling, not coddling, corruption, in this case by going after a set of foreign and Russian businessmen who had hired Magnitsky to manage their books.
Mulcair concludes his commentary with a repeat that it is “the Russian threat” which is at fault for escalating tensions in eastern Europe and that more than military means alone are needed to meet the “threat”.
Such is the state of official political opposition in Canada today on the Ukraine file, where ‘opposition member of Parliament’ means ‘compliant member of Parliament’.
Oppose war and militarism
Since last year’s election in Canada, the language coming out of Ottawa with respect to Russia has shifted ever so slightly. Stéphane Dion has been speaking of the need for “dialogue” with Russia. But nothing with respect to policy has changed. Canada is stepping up its military intervention in Ukraine and eastern Europe. It maintains the U.S. and EU-led sanctions targeting Russia’s political leaders and business men and women. It still calls Crimea’s referendum vote in 2014 to rejoin the Russia Federation a Russian “annexation”. It still accuses Russia of conducting a military intervention into eastern Ukraine.
The larger danger in all of NATO’s war posturing is the threat of nuclear war. Three of the countries ganging up against Russia are nuclear powers–the United States, France and Britain. Each of them are busily renewing and improving their nuclear arsenals, led by the estimated trillion dollars which the U.S. is slated to spend on new nuclear arms technologies, which it hopes might provide it with a cherished, first-strike nuclear capacity.
Progressive social and political forces in Canada that should be opposing the war posturing in eastern Europe have been largely silent. That’s because they have dug themselves into a hole during the past two and a half years by ignoring events in and around the Maidan coup in Ukraine or, worse, by buying into the NATO rhetoric of ‘aggressive Russia’ and ‘imperialist Russia’. Ignorance and prejudice about Russia, rather than factual analysis, rules the day.
As Canadians begin to rebuild an antiwar movement out of the ashes of the old, three key demands should come to the fore. One is to end the sanctions, threats and outright attacks by NATO and Ukraine against Russia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Two is to demand that the government in Kyiv implement the terms of the ceasefire agreement it signed in Minsk in February 2015.
Thirdly and fourthly, it is high time to renew two historic demands of the peace and antiwar movements over the decades which, sadly, have a new urgency:
Abolish nuclear weapons!
Canada out of the NATO alliance!
 On March 16, 2014, the people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and rejoin the Russian Federation. The vote was conducted by the elected, autonomous assembly of Crimea. The March 2014 referendum was prompted by the violent overthrow one month earlier of the elected president of Ukraine. Victor Yanukovych had received the large majority of votes in Crimea in Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election.
Crimea was annexed to then-Soviet Ukraine in 1954 by a decision of the government of the USSR in order to facilitate post-WW2 reconstruction. But the Crimean people were given no vote on the matter.
 Clause ten of the NATO communiqué introduces a novel concept into international diplomacy: not only do nation states and countries (or parts thereof) have “borders”; apparently, self-proclaimed military alliances have borders, too. Clause ten of the NATO communiqué refers to “NATO borders [sic], including in the Baltic and Black Sea regions and the Eastern Mediterranean”.
 With one exception–the Toronto Star–the entirety of Canada’s print mainstream media supported the re-election of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in the October 19, 2015 election.
Arms firms like Airbus, which are cashing in on border security deals to hold back refugees, paid for exclusive access to ministers of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), a new report claims.
Airbus, the seventh-largest arms producer in the world, makes jets, helicopters and even drones, which are marketed for border security purposes.
The ‘Border Wars’ report by Dutch group Stop Wapenhandel claims that arms firms, including Airbus, “provide the equipment to border guards, the surveillance technology to monitor frontiers, and the IT infrastructure to track population movements.
“Most perverse of all, it shows that some of the beneficiaries of border security contracts are some of the biggest arms sellers to the Middle East and North African region, fueling the conflicts that are the cause of many of the refugees,” the group said.
The report claims that such businesses are cynically “creating the crisis are then profiting from it.”
“Moreover they have been abetted by European states who have granted the licenses to export arms and have then granted them border security contracts to deal with the consequences.”
Airbus allegedly enjoyed privileged access to MSPs as part of its membership of the Scottish Parliament and Business Exchange (SPBE).
The SPBE does not regard itself as a lobbying group and is a registered charity in Scotland, however firms must pay to sign up. Companies involved in the past include security giant Serco and energy firm Shell.
Speaking to the Ferret investigative news website on Wednesday, Mark Akkerman of Stop Wapenhandel said arms firms are determined to influence “national government and politicians in European countries.”
“Even though the lobbying by Airbus in Scotland is probably not focused on military or border security issues, I think the company’s business of fueling conflicts and profiting from the refugee crisis should be reason enough to be very cautious about maintaining any relationship with it.”
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) spokesman Andrew Smith told the Ferret that Airbus “has sold military equipment to regimes with appalling human rights records. The Eurofighter, which it has worked closely on, has been central to the Saudi-led devastation of Yemen.”
He warned that arms firms enjoy a “totally disproportionate voice in the corridors of power” and that the Scottish Parliament should reject their advances.
Scotland’s Holyrood parliament canceled its own membership of the SPBE in March.
Terrorist attacks, an unprecedented refugee influx and other problems with which Europe is struggling to cope are the result of wrong decisions made by European leaders, Syria’s president Bashar Assad told a European Parliament delegation.
“The situation in Syria and the whole region naturally affects Europe a lot due to its location and social ties. The problems Europe faces today of terrorism, extremism and waves of refugees are caused by some western leaders’ adoption of policies which do not serve their people,” Assad told the delegation headed by Javier Couso, Vice Chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament, who had been visiting Damascus, Syrian state news agency SANA reported.
This is especially true “when those leaders give support and political cover to terrorist groups inside Syria,” the president added.
He stressed the role that the European Parliament should play in fixing the policies of some of European countries which had let terrorism evolve. Economic sanctions imposed against Damascus have impacted the Syrian people, who were forced to leave their homeland, Assad also said.
Couso noted that the delegation is planning to take steps that would help change western countries’ rhetoric and will call for the lifting of sanctions, which he described as “unfair”.
He promised to “inform the Europeans on the real state of affairs in Syria and on how people suffer from terrorism,” the report said.
Syria plunged into chaos in 2011, when public protests escalated into an armed uprising as foreign powers warned the Assad government against cracking down on the protest. As violence expanded, radical groups and criminal gangs hijacked the process, turning Syria into the bloodiest battle zone of the modern world.
Foreign nations opposing Damascus, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United States and the United Kingdom, have been providing various Syrian opposition groups with aid, saying that only by supporting armed groups trying to topple the Syrian government can the conflict be stopped.
The US and other western countries aided so-called ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria with weapons and training, saying this would help them defeat both the Syrian army and terrorist organizations, which capitalized on the turmoil in Syria. The effort led to some embarrassing moments, for instance when the initial training program for the moderates produced only a handful of fighters after months of recruiting.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar are among the key providers of Syrian rebel groups with military and financial assistance, including some powerful Islamist groups seeking to turn Syria into a country governed by the Sharia law.
Turkey, which was hit most among Syria’s neighbors by the refugee crisis, hosting almost two million asylum seekers, is among the vocal opponents of Damascus too. Critics accuse Ankara of turning a blind eye on rebel activities in its territory, including recruiting, arms shipments and getting medical assistance.
Jihadists from terrorist groups like Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front are among those benefiting from such policies. IS staged a number of bloody terrorist attacks in Turkey since its rise to power in Iraq and Syria, killing hundreds of people. The organization also claimed responsibility for several high-profile attacks in Europe and the US.
The European delegation arrived in Damascus on Saturday. The group visited refugee center in the Syrian capital and met soldiers undergoing treatment in the Hamish hospital.
Dr. James Petras who has been alongside three outstanding leaders of the world – Chile’s late Salvador Allende, Venezuela’s late Hugo Chavez and Greece’s late Andreas Papandreou – as an advisor warns that the United States and other imperialist powers should never be trusted.
The following is a transcript of a recorded interview with professor James Petras by Marwa Osman.
Q: How do you assess the influence of Zionism in setting the agenda for Western governments?
A: I think Zionism has become a very important influence on western, European and US diplomacy, particularly to the Middle East and in particular any questions relating to Israel’s foreign policy. In the US I think it is extremely important. Zionism has set the agenda for the US, it has helped elect officials, it has intimidated critics, it has received enormous funds from the US government and in general we can say that Israel dominates the US policy in the Middle East. The Zionists played a very important role in organizing the invasion of Iraq, they were involved with the war in Afghanistan, they are currently involved in the war inside of Syria, and they have deep positions within the state department and within the Pentagon. In the Pentagon, they have been very prominent in encouraging the US to escalate its wars and destroy the Muslim population in that region. In the treasury department, Israeli Zionists have been influential in imposing sanctions against Iran and I think the agreement was made between Iran and the US despite the pressure from the Zionists and they continue to harass any policy which would implement the Iran-US agreement, that is, what would facilitate trade and investment. So in general, England, France and the United States are very much influenced by Zionist policy regarding the Islamic countries and I think this is a major hindrance to any accommodation and understanding that would lessen the prospect of war and focus attention on the role that Israel plays along with Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the Islamic people and of the population as a whole.
Q: How do you think Zionists have managed to keep such an influence away from the public’s eye and basically away from the media?
A: I think that Zionist influence in the media is enormous. If you look at the major television networks bearing common that Zionists are in the leading positions like CBS, NBS, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal are very much controlled and influenced by owners and writers tied to Israeli interests. The Financial Times is also no exception to that and that has played a major role in influencing the public opinion and beyond that we have the fact that many Zionists have penetrated the government and they are simply a lobby pressuring the Congress and that plays a role also. Zionists contribute over 60% of the funding of the Democratic Party and about 35 to 40% of Republican Party funding so they influence the government directly and they influence the media and they influence the congress and the electoral process. All of this is accompanied by ferocious attacks on critics of Israel. We have seen many writers and academics who have lost jobs in medical and other professions who have criticized Israel and have been subject to harassment and some have even suffered violent threats against their lives and certainly against their employment.
Q: What are the highlights of your first hand observations during the years you served as an advisor to Andreas Papandreou? Have things changed for the better now?
A: Things are much worse now. When I was in the government back in 1982 till 1985, we implemented a policy much more balanced, criticizing the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians. We saw the Palestinian President at the time, Yasser Arafat, who visited Papandreou and they exchanged similar ideas on the Liberation of Palestine. Papandreou did not pursue his radical commitments that he made in the campaign but he did implement many reforms dealing with women’s rights, with expanding the health programs and the higher education programs. In other words he was an effective social reformer but he did not pursue the maximum agenda which was to withdraw from NATO and from the European Union although he threatened to but it was mainly a bluff. So one can say that in comparison to the current period, Papandreou was certainly much more of a reformer much more effective developing an independent foreign policy than the current governments of Greece. It’s a shame to say that Greece is going backwards rather than at least standing with the independent programs of the past.
Q: Why did the US decide to overthrow the government of President Salvador Allende? Can you depict the depth of US involvement in toppling Chilean government based on your own observations?
A: A number of things that I think are very crucial. One was when the Allende government was democratically elected it proceeded to nationalize the major industries like the copper industry, banks and some of the major industrial plants or turn them into worker represented institutions. So the first objective for Washington, particularly Henry Kissinger, was to undermine the independent economic policy of Chile. The second thing is that Chile served as a democratic alternative in Latin America, an independent foreign policy with good relationships with all of the progressive governments including Cuba and Washington did not want an example in Latin America of a democratically elected socialist government with an independent foreign policy with a critical stance on imperialist wars overseas including the war against China, the US support for the Shah etc. So I think Allende and the socialist government in Chile was overthrown through Washington’s direct involvement with financial aid, with pressures within the Chilean military to eliminate democratically oriented generals and also to pay for certain strikes particularly in the transport industry with the truck owners who were paid very substantial amounts by US CIA officials to paralyze the economy. I was an advisor to the government of Allende at the foreign ministry and I attempted to inform them on the role that Washington was playing in sabotaging the Chilean autonomy in the military. The problem was that the US had a great influence on the military and the military that was allied with the US was not purged and the democratic military officials eventually were ousted and that allowed the coup to move forward.
Q: Comparing the governance model of Allende with Chavez, you believe the reason for Chavez’ success was his structural renewal of the Venezuelan political system while Allende failed to meet its necessity. Do you think this is the reason behind the failure of the uprisings in some Arab countries, while the same fact served as a main factor for the victory of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution?
A: I think both in the case of Imam Khomeini and Chavez, they moved very directly to eliminate the potential of the coup forces in the military. Imam Khomeini got rid of the generals and conspirators of the Shah within the military and therefore eliminated the possibility of intrigues and a military coup. Chavez did the same thing. When he was elected the first thing he did was to evoke a new constitutional assembly and a new constitution was formed and Chavez was very influential in the recruitment and promotion of democratically constitutionally oriented military officials so when Washington promoted the coup against Chavez it was defeated. They only captured a small minority of the military and unlike Allende who believed that the military was a democratic force not taking account of the long term ties to the United States under the previous right wing government. I think that the changes in the military and in the constitution were crucial to the advancement in Iran and Venezuela by making the military and civilian electoral processes work hand in hand. There are many other reasons for the failure of the uprisings in different Arab governments. They failed to mobilize the masses, they relied on simple maneuvers in parliament and elections. They didn’t attempt to organize an independent military that would be nationalistic anti-imperialist. Many of those so called progressive Arab governments were themselves very corrupt and thought they could make deals with the United Sates and I think ultimately fooled themselves and left their countries vulnerable to military coups, US interventions etc. It is hard to believe that if 1 million Arab fighters were recruited in Iraq, they couldn’t have prevented an invasion but Saddam Hussein was too much manipulated by Washington thinking that he could make deals with Washington against Iran and other adversaries with other Persian Gulf countries and he was wrong.
Q: How did you see the mindset of President Papandreou, President Salvador Allende of Chile, and President Hugo Chavez in their fight against US dictatorship?
A: Well I think Papandreou was committed to winning the vote and the only way to win the public vote was by taking public opinion. Greece had suffered a military dictatorship like the Shah of Iran. In the early 60s and late 70s Greece had been under right wing governments which hindered Greece’s independence in its foreign policy. They prejudiced Greece’s living standards and in that sense Papandreou was able to understand the dynamics of civil society and to win an election. Now the problem with Papandreou was that he thought he could work within the capitalist system, he thought he could modify capitalism to make it more responsive, he thought he could work with the European Union and NATO and bring them in a more progressive direction and so while he pursued reforms he misread the natures of the limitations imposed by the structure. So on the one hand he would take positions but would take right turns. So it was a very paradoxical situation; I know I used to visit Papandreou to advise him on policies and he would take notes on paper of what I would suggest as an independent anti-imperialist policy and I thought I was having a major influence but when I left the office his secretary told me that I was followed by the US ambassador, so he was playing both sides by using a lot of my advice and criticism on the one hand to make speeches in parliament and on the other hand make practical decisions aligned with his conferences with the US embassy. Now with Chavez, it was a much different story. Chavez was much more committed, honest and in tune with the people. I was in many meetings with President Chavez, I spoke with him in the Sorbonne in Paris where we shared a platform. He was very much committed to fighting imperialism and he was the only major president in the west that opposed the war on terrorism. He said it shouldn’t be a war on terrorism, it should be a war on poverty and misery that create violent confrontation. For opposing Washington’s policies in the Middle East he became a target. Now I think President Chavez was a brilliant political and social analyst but I think he made mistakes by depending too much on the oil industry and social programs when he should have diversified the economy by focusing on being less dependent on oil and more on developing Venezuela as a diversified economy and one that was capable of being more self-sufficient. Allende was a contradiction in the sense that he was very democratic, very socialist but had weak understanding of the military basis, of popular basis for sustaining the government. He believed that every government would respect democracy and of course he was very naive. Washington never paid any attention. They used democracy as a tool to destroy the government. They exploited the weaknesses of the electoral process, they destroyed the independent military and carried out the coup which led to about 15 years of dictatorship and a reversal in all the major changes in agriculture reform, national ownership of the media and resources etc. So I think one has to have a more comprehensive look. You cannot trust imperialism to abide by its agreements.
Q: Are there any interesting memories during the years as their advisor to recall?
A: A lot of it depends on the issues. I once went swimming with Papandreou and when we were swimming I saw that there were people in scuba suits and I asked him why these people were swimming around and he said these are my bodyguards because we received intelligence information that the Mossad may try to assassinate the President Papandreou while we were swimming. So I found that amusing that the president of a country engaged in a vacation with me and at the time took the concern and right to defend himself even under water. Now with President Chavez, I was very impressed by his capacity to not only to engage in serious discussions but also had a very bright kind of a touch with the people. When we finished a major meeting he met with different admirers and audiences and some of them were from his region of the country and President Chavez engaged in a song contest with some of them. I was amused by the fact that Chavez knew the popular songs that corresponded to the audience that attended him in the informal session. And finally with president Salvador Allende, I remember my first meeting with him and it was in the middle of the Vietnam war and I was part of the anti-war movement and I had just come from the United States and I asked President Allende if he could give a statement and he immediately sat down and taped a rousing speech in defense of the Vietnamese and against US imperialism. I was very respectful because he was at that time playing a leading role in the government and taking the time to engage in international solidarity with the American people’s struggle against the war. And clearly Allende distinguished between the progressive American people and the imperialist government in Washington.
Can Russian President Vladimir Putin turn the tables on NATO and the European Union in the Balkan states that are not yet members of the Atlanticist project? According to Filip Kovacevic, a political science professor who specializes in Russia and Eastern Europe, Putin has a plan. Some details were provided in an exclusive report in May on the nascent project by Russia to counter NATO expansion into the remaining Balkan countries that have not yet been swept into the Western alliance.
The plan has its origins in the grassroots movement that arose in the aftermath of the first Cold War, which called for non-alignment and cooperation with both East and West. Kovacevic describes the movement as follows:
Their members were generally young people who were enthusiastic, honest and genuinely committed to the public good, but were plagued by the lack of funding and faced with frequent media blackout and open discrimination. Nonetheless, their programs articulated the most promising and humane geopolitical vision for the Balkans. They conceptualized the Balkans as a territorial bridge between the West and the East rather than as the place of persistent confrontation, or the ‘line of fire’ as formulated by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015. They wanted the Balkans to become a force for peace and human dignity in the world. Their vision still remains the best option for the Balkans people.
This desire for non-alignment is understandable as a continuation of the policy of Tito’s Yugoslavia during the Cold War – the nation that several of the modern day Balkan states were a constituent part of. However, according to Kovacevic, these groups were easily overwhelmed, in terms of both financial and propaganda resources, in the 1990s by pro-NATO forces in the West.
In addition to providing resources to build up pro-NATO sentiment in the media and NGO sectors of these countries, financial resources and pressure was used to sway a large number of politicians to favor NATO membership, often in opposition to the general population’s views. Some of the unsavory forms of incentive or pressure include what amounts to blackmail and bribery, Kovacevic told me in an email interview:
This is a long-term process. In the U.S. intelligence community it is called ‘seeding.’ The intelligence scholar Roy Godson defines it as ‘identifying potential agents of influence’ at an early stage and then acting to advance their careers. This is typically done covertly, but there have been the historical examples of overt support. …
In the Balkans, the key role in the process of ‘seeding’ was accomplished by various institutes, conferences, retreats, grants, etc. For instance, I was told by a confidential source who participated in the same U.S.-NATO program, the long-time foreign minister and one-time prime minister of Montenegro, Igor Luksic, was a product of such a process. Luksic was chosen as a very young man to attend various conferences and retreats in Brussels and Washington and, after that, his political career really took off. All the while, he promoted the NATO agenda in Montenegro, even though this went against the will of the majority of the population.
Another example is Ranko Krivokapic who was the speaker of the Montenegrin Parliament for over a decade. He traveled on official business to the U.S. a few times every year and boasted to others that he had a lot of friends in the State Department and other institutions of the U.S. government. There are examples like these in Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, etc. All over the Balkans.
There is also the fact the European Union has dovetailed its security arrangements to such an extent with NATO that new members are now virtually brought into the NATO structures by default. For example, Mahdi D. Nazemroaya, author of The Globalization of NATO, reports that the E.U.’s Security Strategy was absorbed into NATO during its annual summit in 2006. The emphasis of the summit was on securing energy resources with the goal of ‘co-managing the resources of the EU’s periphery from North Africa to the Caucuses.’ Also implied was the goal of redefining the E.U.’s security borders in synch with both Franco-German and Anglo-American economic and geopolitical interests.
Moreover, British Russia scholar Richard Sakwa, has pointed out that the security integration of the E.U. with NATO was further intensified with the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007:
As for the comprehensive character, this is something that has been gaining in intensity in recent years as the foreign and security dimension of the E.U. has effectively merged with the Atlantic security community. The E.U.’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) since the Treaty of Lisbon (the “Reform Treaty”) of 13 December 2007, which came into effect in 2009, is now in substance part of an Atlantic system. Acceding countries are now required to align their defense and security policy with that of NATO, resulting in the effective ‘militarization’ of the E.U.
At this point, the forces seeking a non-aligned bridge role for the Balkan states are still very much around, but have suffered marginalization due to lack of resources to take on the powerful and now entrenched pro-NATO political forces. However, with increasing discontent with the weak economic prospects in certain Balkan states, combined with increasing instability in the E.U., it is believed that there is an opening for growth of the movement.
Economic Conditions in the Balkans
The Balkan states comprise Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Greece.
In 2007, Romania and Bulgaria became E.U. members (three years after joining NATO). Romania’s GDP has barely kept up with its 2008 rate and has a general unemployment rate of 6.4 percent, which sounds reasonable until you look at the youth unemployment rate of 21 percent, which doesn’t bode well.
Bulgaria, on the other hand, is not part of the Eurozone and has not adopted the euro as its currency. Its economic prospects since joining the E.U. have not been impressive either. In the midst of the financial crisis of 2009, its GDP contracted by 5.5 percent, with a current unemployment rate of 7 percent and youth unemployment at 17 percent. Bulgaria is also recognized as one of the union’s most corrupt countries.
Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania are all in the process of E.U. integration, with a supposed approval rate of 80-90 percent among the respective populations of these countries (except for Serbia), despite the virtual rape of Greece and the lackluster performance of Romania and Bulgaria.
It should be noted that all three Balkan nations that are actual E.U. members have higher emigration than immigration rates, another indication that accession to the E.U. doesn’t necessarily translate into a prosperous future for the average person, particularly the young.
There is also the instability highlighted by the British people’s vote to leave the E.U., spurred by disgust with austerity measures imposed by unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels along with an influx of immigrants – one-third from these poorer E.U. nations – which adversely affect lower-wage natives.
Even if the E.U. had a better track record of effectiveness in terms of improving economic conditions for the masses, it would have a very tall order with some of the prospective Balkan states. Macedonia, for example, has an unemployment rate between 24 and 25 percent as of January 2016, although it has improved from the 2005 high of 37 percent. Despite this improvement, Macedonia still has one of the lowest GDPs in Europe and 72 percent of its citizens claimed they manage their household income only with “difficulty” or “great difficulty” in 2012.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is still feeling the effects of the war of 1992 to 1995 that included major physical destruction of infrastructure and the bottoming out of its GDP. It currently suffers an unemployment rate of 42-43 percent.
Kosovo, a state that owes its existence to a NATO intervention, has 33 percent unemployment, a high crime rate and increasing political violence due to ethnic tensions and a growing ultra-nationalist movement. The Council of Europe compared the government of Kosovo to a mafia state in a 2010 report which revealed trafficking in human organs as well as drugs and weapons throughout Eastern Europe, even implicating the then-prime minister in the operation.
Kovacevic states that the Atlanticist project of E.U. austerity economics and the enabling of Washington’s destabilizing wars via NATO is starting to chip away at its popularity among Balkan populations. He also says Putin is prepared to take advantage of this opening and, since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, has turned his attention “to the Balkans with political force and funding not seen since the days of tsar Nicholas II.”
This attention has manifested in the Lovcen Declaration, which was signed on May 6, by members of Russia’s largest political party, United Russia, and the opposition Democratic People’s Party in Montenegro in the village of Njegusi. Kovacevic explains:
One of the most powerful political figures in Montenegro, the metropolitan Amfilohije, the chief bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, was present at the signing and gave his blessing. Though in the past Amfilohije has been known to support the authoritarian and pro-NATO prime minister Milo Djukanovic around the election time, he has always publicly opposed NATO membership and has given fiery speeches on its ‘evil nature’ to the point of accusing NATO for continuing Hitler’s anti-Slavic project.
Even more importantly, Amfilohije’s involvement with the Lovcen Declaration reveals one of the fundamental components of Putin’s overall geopolitical plan – the nurturing and intensification of the religious Christian Orthodox connection between the Russians and the Orthodox peoples of the Balkans. This includes not [only] the Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians, but also the Greeks and Bulgarians whose states are in NATO and whose religious ‘awakening’ can easily subvert NATO from the inside.
Criticism and minimization of the project have set the tone in Western media, to the extent that it has been covered at all, particularly in relation to utilizing an opposition party for significant influence. But Kovacevic argues that such a dismissive attitude is disingenuous:
[T]he very same method has been used by the U.S. and NATO intelligence services to control the governments of East-Central European states since the collapse of communism. Countless small parties with just a handful of parliamentary deputies were formed with the money coming from the various ‘black budgets’ with the task of entering the governing coalition and then steering the entire government in the direction charted by their foreign founders and mentors.
These parties have had minimal public legitimacy, but have made a great political impact with their ‘blackmail’ potential. As they also don’t cost very much, the CIA, the MI6, and the BND regularly create them for every new election cycle.
Now the Russians (primarily, the SVR and the GRU) are using the same rulebook for their own geopolitical interests. In addition, however, Putin’s grand design for the Balkans embodied in the ANS is also likely to prove durable not only because it builds on the traditional cultural and religious ties linking Russia and the Balkans, but also because it rides on the wave of the enormous present popular dissatisfaction with the neoliberal Atlanticist political and economic status quo.
The fact that this declaration was signed in Montenegro is most relevant due to the fact that the country has been officially invited to join NATO, whose subsequent membership is treated in the West as a fait accompli. However, accession requires consensus approval by all current NATO members – one member could veto the move before completion of the process as happened with Macedonia when Greece vetoed their membership aspirations in 2008 when an invitation was to be offered at the Bucharest Summit – as well as approval by the population of Montenegro.
Joining any alliance treaty is arguably something that affects national sovereignty, which requires a referendum as Kovacevic, who is Montenegrin, explains:
The corrupt government of Milo Djukanovic is trying to avoid a national referendum because it knows that it does not have a majority support for NATO. If given a choice, the people of Montenegro would reject the protocol. The Constitution requires a referendum for all matters that affect national sovereignty, but Djukanovic is arguing falsely that NATO membership leaves Montenegrin sovereignty intact.
Kovacevic predicts that a show-down over NATO membership could create instability in the country: “[I]f he [Djukanovic] tries to push this decision through the Parliament (which he no doubt will), wide-scale strikes and demonstrations may take place all over the country. Whoever is pushing Montenegro in NATO is dangerously destabilizing the country in mid-to-long term.
If that happens, Washington may find for the first time in recent memory that forcing instability on a smaller country may ultimately accrue benefits to another great power, helping to facilitate a shift in geopolitics that it didn’t bargain on. As Nazemroaya comments in his book:
The [NATO] alliance is increasingly being viewed as a geopolitical extension of America, an arm of the Pentagon, and a synonym for an evolving American Empire. … Ultimately, NATO is slated to become an institutionalized military force. … Nevertheless, for every action there is a reaction and NATO’s actions have given rise to opposing trends. The Atlantic Alliance is increasingly coming into contact with the zone of Eurasia that is in the process of emerging with its own ideas and alliance. What this will lead to next is the question of the century.
Natylie Baldwin is co-author of Ukraine: Zbig’s Grand Chessboard & How the West Was Checkmated, available from Tayen Lane Publishing. In October of 2015, she traveled to 6 cities in the Russian Federation and has written several articles based on her conversations and interviews with a cross-section of Russians.
German Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s recent criticism of NATO behavior is that of a man watching a tidal wave of destruction gathering force, similar to ones that have engulfed his country twice before in the 20th century.
What we shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation further through saber-rattling and warmongering… Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken… We are well-advised to not create pretexts to renew an old confrontation… [It would be] fatal to search only for military solutions and a policy of deterrence. – German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, commenting on NATO’s recent military exercises in Poland and the Baltics.
His dread is not to be dismissed since it comes from a man who is in a position to know what the US is up to. His words reflect the fears of ever more people across all of Eurasia, from France in the West to Japan in the East.
Under the euphemism of “containment,” the US is relentlessly advancing its new Cold War on Russia and China. Its instrument in the West is NATO, and in the East, Japan, and whatever other worthies can be sharked up.
It is a Cold War that grows increasingly hotter, with proxy wars now raging in Eastern Ukraine and Syria and with confrontations in the South China Sea. There is an ever-growing likelihood that these points of tension will flare up into an all-out military conflict.
In the West, this conflict will begin in Eastern Europe and Russia, but it will not stop there. All the European NATO countries would be on the front lines. In the East, the conflict will take place in the Western Pacific in the region of China’s coast and in the peninsulas and island countries in the region, including Japan, the Philippines, and Indochina.
In each case the US will be an ocean away, “leading from behind,” as Barack Obama would put it, or engaged in “offshore balancing” as some foreign policy “experts” might term it.
No matter the “victors” – all of Eurasia, from France in the West to Japan in the East – would be devastated. No matter the outcome, the US could escape unscathed and “win” in this sense. And all Eurasian nations would lose. It would be World War II redux.
One can get a sense of what this means in the case of economic conflict by looking at the minimal economic warfare now being waged on Russia in the form of sanctions. Those sanctions are hurting both Russia and the rest of Europe. The US is untouched.
The same is also true for military conflict. Want to know what it would look like? Look at Eastern Ukraine. All of Eurasia could come to resemble that sorry nation in the event of a military conflict pitting the US and its allies against Russia and China. Eurasia, be forewarned!
The goal of the US foreign policy elite would clearly be for Russia and China to “lose,” but even if they “won,” they would be brought low, leaving the US as the world’s greatest economic and military power as it was in 1945.
Europe is beginning to awaken to this. We have Steinmeier’s plea above. But it is not only Germany that is worried. The French Senate wants an end to the sanctions imposed on Russia. Business people in many Western European countries, most notably in Germany and Italy, European farmers who export to Russia and tourist entrepreneurs like those in Turkey and Bulgaria, also want an end to sanctions and military exercises. Parties of the Right want an end to domination by NATO and Brussels, both controlled by the US. The Brexit is just one rumbling of such discontent.
All these nations are growing increasingly aware of the fate that awaits them if overt conflict erupts with Russia. The people of Germany want none of it. Likewise, the people of Japan are stirring against the US effort to goad Japan into fighting China. All remember the devastation of WWII.
Let’s recall the casualty figures, i.e., deaths, among the principal combatants of WWII:
Soviet Union – 27,000,000 (14 percent of the population);
China – 17,000,000 (3.5 percent);
Germany –7,000,000 (8.5 percent);
Japan – 2,800,000 (4 percent).
By comparison, for the US, safely far offshore, the number was 419,000 (0.32 percent)!
And for a few other countries that “got in the way” of the major adversaries:
Yugoslavia – 1,500,000 (9 percent)
Poland – 6,000,000 (17 percent)
French Indochina – 1,600,000 (6.11 percent)
Philippines – 527,000 (3.29 percent)
One wonders what the leaders of Poland or the Philippines or some elements in Vietnam are thinking when they take a belligerent attitude to Russia or China in order to please the US.
The problem with this US strategy is that it could easily spill over into a nuclear conflict. Then the US too would be reduced to radioactive rubble. The Western policy elite must be betting that Russia and China would not respond to a conventional war with a nuclear response.
However, Vladimir Putin has made it clear that in any war with the West, the US will feel the impact at once. The neocons and the rest of the US foreign policy elite must be betting that Putin is bluffing and that he would never use nuclear weapons. So, the US is safe and the suffering will be confined to Europe and Asia.
But that assumption is a dangerous one. Russia and China might respond with a conventional weapons attack on US cities. In WWII, Germany was able to wreak considerable devastation using conventional bombs on England delivered by airplanes and V-2 rockets. Similarly, the US was able to do enormous damage to Germany and to Japan with conventional weapons, especially firebombing as in Tokyo and Dresden.
Today, technology has advanced greatly, and US cities have nuclear power plants nearby. What is the likely outcome of a conventional war waged against US cities? Do we wish to find out? And once it begins, where is the firewall against an all-out nuclear exchange? Where are the neocons and the rest of the US foreign policy elite taking us? Certainly, the damage will begin with Eurasia, but Americans would do well to worry that great swarms of chickens might come home to roost in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. This is not the 20th Century.
For some, the scenario above might seem unduly alarmist. They might doubt that the US elite would be capable of consciously unleashing such a vast bloodletting. For those, it is useful to recall the words of President Harry S. Truman, who said in 1941, when he was still a Senator and before the US had entered WWII: “If we see that Germany is winning the war, we ought to help Russia; and if that Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and in that way let them kill as many as possible…”
Is that not what happened?
People of Eurasia, beware.