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.
Eastern Europeans and Arabs are all-too-familiar with the political street hooliganism sponsored by global «provocateur» George Soros and his minions. Lately, middle-class Americans have had a taste of the type of violent protest provocations during the current US presidential campaign that have previously been visited upon governments from Macedonia and Moldova to Syria and Libya.
Recently, Donald Trump campaign rallies have seen highly-coordinated and well-planned political demonstrations in Chicago, Cleveland, St. Louis, Dayton, and other cities. The rallies were disrupted by highly-coordinated and well-planned protesters waving freshly-printed protest signs before awaiting television cameras. Such «rent-a-mob» actions are trademark signs of the involvement of George Soros and the «godfather» of political street violence, Gene Sharp, in disrupting the normal political process.
One of the favored methods proposed by Sharp and embraced by Soros-financed groups is the taunting of individuals. Sharp’s advice to taunt speakers is being played out in the US presidential campaign: «instead of predominantly silent and dignified behavior… people may mock and insult officials, either at a certain place or by following them for a period». Sharp suggests that taunting individuals, such as presidential candidates, be combined with a refusal to disperse when either asked or ordered to do so. Sharp claims that these methods are «non-violent». However, when the US Secret Service, charged with protecting presidential candidates from assassination or bodily harm, order protesters to leave a campaign venue and there is a subsequent refusal to do so, violence is a certainty.
Soros and Sharp honed their street revolution tactics on the streets of Belgrade in the Bulldozer Revolution that overthrew Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic on October 5, 2000. Two Soros-financed and Sharp-inspired groups, OPTOR! and the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), as well as their leader Srdja Popovic, a so-called «pro-democracy» agitator, have all been unmasked as US intelligence assets. Popovic has received funding from the CIA-linked US Institute of Peace, a creation of neo-conservatives to advance the type of undemocratic political street disruptions first seen in Serbia and that soon expanded to Ukraine, Georgia, Egypt, Venezuela, Russia, Macedonia, and other countries. Today, Soros-inspired political violence has targeted Trump rallies across the United States.
Popovic first began to infiltrate American politics by ostensibly supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement. As his ties to the CIA and Goldman Sachs later showed, his intent and that of his financiers were to derail the anti-capitalist popular movement.
Several veteran «agents provocateurs» of the Occupy Wall Street movement who are now part of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign have been enlisted by groups like Unbound Philanthropy, an immigrant rights group, to disrupt Trump rallies. Together with the Soros-financed group Black Lives Matter, these professional street hooligans have carefully, and in compliance with the Sharp model, staged their demonstrations to achieve maximum media coverage while achieving the maximum level of disruption to the primary election process.
Unbound Philanthropy is funded by Obama’s deep-pocketed friend and frequent vacation host in Hawaii, William Reeves, a former JP Morgan executive who now heads up BlueCrest Capital. In some cases, the political protesters masquerade as Trump supporters by wearing pro-Trump shirts and hats in order to gain access to Trump campaign venues. This methodology of disruption employs another Sharp tactic, that of using false identities. Coupled with the tactic of «non-violent harassment» of individuals, the use of employing false identities to gain admittance to Trump rallies, followed by coordinated protests in the form of placard-waving «stand-ins», are textbook examples of Sharp tactics being employed with the financial support of Soros and his gang, which includes Reeves and pro-immigration Hispanic groups and Black Lives Matter. Many of the anti-Trump street actions are coordinated by MoveOn.org, another group financed principally by Soros and the Hyatt Hotels’ Pritzker family of Chicago. One member of the Pritzker family, Penny Pritzker, serves as the Secretary of Commerce in the Obama administration.
MoveOn.org, which has endorsed Sanders, is actually using its protests at Trump rallies as a fundraising gimmick. It promises to disrupt future Trump campaign rallies and it will use every weapon in the Sharp/Soros handbook.
Another Sharp/Soros tactic employed against Trump is the «speak-in». During a Trump campaign appearance in Dayton, a pro-Bernie Sanders protester jumped a barrier and rushed the stage in an attempt to grab the microphone from Trump. The Secret Service tackled the protester who was arrested by police. The protester previously took part in a 2015 protest at Wright State University in Dayton where he dragged a US flag on the ground. Destruction of property, including US flags, is another hallmark disruption tactic proposed by Sharp.
The Sharp definition of a «speak-in» is a «special form of nonviolent intervention… when actionists interrupt a meeting… or other gathering for the purpose of expressing viewpoints on issues which may or may not be related directly to the occasion». Soros classifies the action as «social intervention», with «psychological and physical aspects». Regardless of Sharp’s definition of such actions as «nonviolent», the Secret Service does not take lightly anyone lunging at a presidential candidate, especially after the assassination of candidate Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles in 1968 and the shooting and attempted assassination of candidate George Wallace in 1972. Soros’s operatives are dangerously playing with fire by bringing such violence-tinged street protest tactics to the American presidential political scene.
The stench of Popovic and Soros in the street operations against Trump, who has railed against Wall Street’s «free trade agreements» and neo-conservative «wars of choice», can be seen in the links between the street protest groups and corporate giants like Goldman Sachs.
Popovic and his CANVAS non-governmental organization (NGO) has received funding from a former Goldman Sachs executive named Muneer Satter.
Satter happened to work at Goldman Sachs with fellow corporate executive Heidi Cruz, the wife of Trump’s opponent for the Republican presidential nomination, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Although Satter retired from Goldman Sachs in 2012 he continues to serve as vice chairman of the Goldman Sachs Foundation. In 2012, the year that Satter retired from Goldman Sachs, the firm loaned more than $1 million to Cruz’s Texas US Senate campaign.
Satter also happens to be close to both President Barack Obama and anti-Trump GOP operative Karl Rove. Satter has donated to both Obama and Rove’s Crossroads political action committee. Satter was also the national finance co-chair of Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.
This year, Satter joined the Senator Marco Rubio campaign as Illinois Finance Committee co-chairman. Such background players, Heidi Cruz and her Goldman Sachs friend Satter, as well as Rove, Romney, Reeves, Soros, the Pritzkers, and Popovic – a Central Intelligence Agency-linked foreign interloper in the United States political system – are the actual movers and shakers behind America’s presidential election. Their jobs and those of other deep-pocketed political financiers like Paul Singer, Haim Saban, Sheldon Adelson, Michael Bloomberg, Sam Zell, and Norman Braman, are to ensure that no «unfiltered outsiders» ever become the President of the United States. These and other wealthy backroom political maestros owe their undemocratic but massive political influence to insider politicians residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. They will do everything in their power to prevent an «unfiltered» candidate from becoming the next American president.
Russian Foreign Chief Sergey Lavrov has made remarks on the situation in Macedonia stressing the involvement of outside actors. According to him, there was a connection between the events in Macedonia “unfolding against the background of the Macedonian government’s refusal to join sanctions against Russia and an active support from Skopje for the plans to build the Turkish Stream pipeline, to which many in Brussels and across the Atlantic are opposed.”
An extremely nervous reaction followed betraying uneasy conscience. The West says another conflict is incited in the region and Russia is the one to blame. According to it, Moscow wants to partition Macedonia. This plan meets its great power ambitions. The statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that there was talk of dividing up Macedonia and giving parts to Bulgaria and Albania was “highly irresponsible,” Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said adding that his country was not involved. Zoran Zaev, the political leader of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) flatly refused the idea of partition or federalization. But nobody is going to take his opinion into account. Besides, Sergey Lavrov said the same thing. Lavrov’s statement did not contain direct accusations against the United States. For all that, US ambassador to Macedonia, Jess Baily, said the Russian Minister’s remarks were absurd and put the blame for the growing tensions on Moscow.
In reality, it’s all different. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made his remarks during Government Hour at the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly, Moscow, May 20, 2015. The recording shows him saying the Macedonian events were influenced from outside. According to him, the outside interference pursues the goal of toppling Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski to punish him for refusing to join the anti-Russian sanctions and the stated intent of Macedonia to become part of the Turkish Stream project with the pipeline going through the territory of the country. The Albanian factor has an important role to play here. There is enough evidence to make many Western media outlets agree that these are the real reasons for deterioration of the situation in the Balkans.
Sergey Lavrov believes that the ideas to “federalize” Macedonia or turn it into a sort of “flexible federation” or “confederation” are fraught with danger. “The idea even has been expressed why not divide up (what is) an artificially-established state – to give part to Bulgaria, and some to Albania”, Lavrov said, going on to say that the Albanian prime minister spoke of “Greater Albania.” The Russian Foreign Minister made his remarks against the background of European policy. For instance, the European Union has already insisted on giving Albanians the rights that Russian minorities in other states are deprived of. According to Lavrov, “…in our discussions with the EU, we raised the issue of rights of Russians and Russian-speaking people in Estonia and Latvia, we asked, “Why did you support the Ohrid Agreement and provide Albanians in Macedonia with a substantial scope of rights but you can’t do the same for Russians in Estonia and Latvia?” There was no answer. However, the conflict in Macedonia was settled at the time. The Russian Minister said that “without reference to Macedonia, the Prime Minister in Tirana is generally declaring slogans of Greater Albania.” Is it not enough to admit the existence of plans to divide Macedonia?
Obviously their implementation would also entail the partition of neighboring Serbia and Montenegro. There was no response from Brussels and Washington on the statement of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama about Greater Albania, no matter it was explosive enough being done at the time of acute crisis in a neighboring country. The European Union and the United States have no objections. The West openly displays its permissive parenting attitude towards Albanian politicians who are forgiven anything they say or do. How can this approach be explained? Is it part of the West’s traditional policy aimed at dividing Slav people?
The Albanian Mafia, especially those who come from Kosovo, have been in control of European drug trafficking for several years. Where has money gone? With the FIFA scandal in full swing, wouldn’t it be expedient to check the activities of Western structures responsible for Balkans policy? I’m sure that a lot of interesting facts would surface.
Families of the terrorists arrested in the Macedonian town of Kumanovo organized protests in front of the government of Kosovo in Pristina asking for their relatives to be released from arrest in Macedonia. They complained about “harsh treatment of prisoners.” It proves the fact that the militants were not Macedonians. They came from Kosovo. Macedonia handed over to Pristina the bodies of nine ethnic-Albanian gunmen killed in clashes with police earlier this month. The procession carrying nine metal coffins was honored in silence by hundreds of Kosovars holding national flags. Many high standing officials attended the funeral, including the members of parliament. No reaction followed from the West. The same way the statement of Edi Rama was not condemned by either the government of Bulgaria, nor the Macedonian opposition led by Zaev. But it’s not Lavrov who actually calls for the partition of Macedonia, but the Albanian Prime Minister. The Russian Minister plainly spoke against the idea to divide the country. How can the West prove it its opposition to such plans?
A lot of sinister things take place behind the scenes in the Macedonian scenario. The West, Bulgaria and the Macedonian opposition join in chorus to affirm that the incumbent Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski was behind the actions of Albanian terrorists invading the territory of Macedonia near Kumanovo. According to them, it was done to take the people’s attention away from internal problems. The Kosovo news agency KOHA is normally cited as the information source, no matter it failed to come up with anything like solid evidence to support the version that sounds rather strange. Nobody cares much about evidence in the conditions of ongoing hybrid war. For all that, experts pay attention to the fact that the terrorist group routed in Kumanovo was formed in the municipality of Vitino (Kosovo) near the US military base Bondstill. There is no way that 80 armed men coul pass by the facility unnoticed with all the detection means used by the US military to provide surveillance in the area.
Misha Jurkovic of Institute for European Studies, Belgrade, says there have been “orange revolutions” style coup attempts staged in 30 countries during the recent 15 years.
It all started with protests organized by the Serbian youth resistance movement Otpor. Its leaders, Slobodan Đinović and Srđa Popović, became professional international revolutionaries. Paid by the US, they move from one country to another organizing protest actions. Srđa Popović was seen in Skopje before the events in question. It should be noted that US Ambassador to Macedonia Jess Baily was Deputy Chief of Mission in Ankara at the time in which the US-supported the Taksim Square protests in an attempt to topple Recep Erdogan. Who else can do a better job opposing the plans to build the Turkish Stream across the Balkans? It’s not a coincidence that Baily came out in support of protesters as soon as they hit the streets of Skopje. He is dry behind the ears in making “popular” protest movements look right in the eyes of the public.
The Macedonian opposition has a powerful sponsor lending a helping hand. Suffice it to remember the 6-months-old wire-tap scandal sparked by revelations that came to light thanks to the efforts undertaken by patriots. An almost surreal scandal involving 700 thousands of secretly recorded conversations caught top government officials discussing everything from rigging votes to covering up killings. Opposition Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev said the tapes were made illegally by the government as part of mass surveillance operation targeting 20,000 allies and opponents alike. They were leaked to him by a whistleblower. With so many recorded conversations everyone is free to make guesses and conclusions to his heart’s content. The government is accused of illegal spying against opposition. But total control over the government is a real tall order. One can hardly imagine anybody in Macedonia being equal to the task. Willy-nilly one gets the impression that the powerful US National Security Agency with the spying capabilities provided by PRISM program (a clandestine surveillance program under which the United States National Security Agency (NSA) collects internet communications of foreign nationals) has a hand in it. Perhaps, the Agency decided that the time is right to forget the damage inflicted by Edward Snowden, an American computer professional who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency, and put to good use the information gathering capabilities acquired by NSA at huge expense. There is solid ground to believe that that the National Security Agency acted together with the Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND (German Federal Intelligence Service directly subordinated to the Chancellor’s Office) to make amends for US spying on German politicians.
Nikola Gruevski knows exactly what Macedonian national intelligence can do. According to him, there is no room for doubt that the recordings were given to the opposition by “a foreign intelligence agency.” Zoran Zaev, the opposition leader, often says that the Prime Minister is not a patriot because he has discussed with his accomplices the possibility ceding to Western pressure and renaming the Republic of Macedonia the “Upper Republic of Macedonia” or the “Northern Republic of Macedonia.” Athens is adamant in its insistence on the name change. Citing historical and territorial concerns resulting from the ambiguity between the Republic of Macedonia, the adjacent Greek region of Macedonia and the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia which falls mostly within Greek Macedonia, Greece opposes the use of the name “Macedonia” by the Republic of Macedonia without a geographical qualifier, supporting a compound name such as “Northern Macedonia” for use by all and for all purposes. Until now Greece has been hindering the process of Macedonia’s membership in international organizations. The recorded text that became public domain testifies to the fact that Gruevski has been informed about ideas initiated from outside, but he never supported them and expressed doubts it would be acceptable to the people of the country. It proves that all accusations against him hold no water.
According to recent news from Skopje, Nikola Gruevski said he would join the Turkish Stream and let it pass across the country’s territory only on the condition the plan is approved by European Commission. As soon as he said that, the criticism against him began to die down. EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn is expected to visit the country on June 1. Together with US Ambassador Jess Baily (his participation gives an idea of who in reality controls the situation) they will try to act as intermediaries in an effort to make peace between the government and the opposition. The whole country was brought to the verge of civil war and dozens of people were sacrificed to serve mercantile interests.
Congressional Hawks have been peddling the idea of a “Russian Aggression Prevention Act” since the beginning of May, but it has only been during the recent media-inspired hysteria that it began to gain traction. If passed into law, it would amount to a sweeping NATO offensive across all of Russia’s former soviet western periphery and would be the first official act of the ‘New Cold War’. Much has been written about the overall thematic consequences for US-Russian relations by Paul Craig Roberts and Patrick Buchanan illustrating how the US plans to use the legislation to subvert the Russian government from within via its support for ‘NGOs’ (and the prioritized ‘refugee’ status for journalists, ‘dissidents’, and various activists that is included in the document). What has not been explored, however, are some of the finer, yet no less important, aspects of the Act’s implementation. Whether it be NATO expansion into the Balkans or the destabilization of the Caucasus, bill S. 2277 more accurately could be described as the American Aggression Enablement Act (AAEA), as it represents a surge of US offensive military capability against Russian interests in its western flank.
Part I: The NATO Tumor Grows
The AAEA represents the cancerous growth of NATO throughout all of its targeted territories. Some of its most important details are that the EU and NATO are working hand-in-hand, NATO aims to swallow the Balkans, and the Missile Defense Shield (MDS) is to proceed at full speed ahead, with all of the resultant consequences thereof.
Good Cop, Bad Cop:
Although not explicitly stated in the AAEA itself, if one steps back and examines the overall context of the document, it is obvious that the EU and NATO have been working in lockstep to advance each other’s goals. In fact, an overall pattern can be ascertained:
(1) The EU makes some form of outreach to the targeted state(s) (e.g. The Eastern Partnership)
(2) Economic links between the EU and the target are nominally institutionalized (e.g. an EU Association Agreement)
(3) Shadow NATO (via major non-NATO ally status) moves in to defend the economic integration process
The EU presents the friendly, ‘humanitarian’ face to disarm the targeted state’s population while Shadow NATO inconspicuously attempts to absorb the country. This is the tried-and-tested technique of ‘good cop, bad cop’.
The Balkans or Bust:
The US is aggressively promoting its Armed Forces and NATO’s expansion into the Balkans as part of the AAEA. It stipulates that Obama must increase military cooperation with Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia, besides Azerbaijan and prescribed major non-NATO allies Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. Although it is unlikely that Serbia will be integrated into the fold (it is a strong Russian ally and vividly remembers the bloody bombings of 1999), the move still represents a major expansion of US military influence in Europe. One must keep in mind that the formerly forgotten-about Balkans are now at the forefront of this ‘New Cold War’, with the US and some European actors trying to sabotage Russia’s South Stream gas project which, ironically, certain EU members had agreed to in the first place. Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Macedonia are all entities abutting Serbia, which is planned to be one of the hubs of South Stream, so their inclusion into the enhanced NATO security framework suggested by the AAEA can be seen as surrounding Serbia prior to destabilizing it once more. In the context of bitter energy geopolitics, the US’ seemingly unexpected push into the Balkans makes absolute sense.
Missile Defense and NATO’s Northern Expansion:
Included in the AAEA is the directive to accelerate the rollout of the Missile Defense Shield (MDS). This was already envisioned to have land, sea, and space components per the phased adaptive approach framework. What makes the AAEA different, however, is that it wants to ‘poke Russia in the eyes’ and go forward with something that Moscow has already stated would certainly be a red line. Russia holds this stance because it believes that a MDS would neutralize its nuclear second-strike capability, thereby giving the US a monopoly on carrying out a nuclear first strike and shattering the mutual assured destruction concept that kept the peace between the two nuclear titans for decades.
Russia’s response thus far has been to deploy Iskander missiles to the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad. One of the dual purposes of the US’ MDS is to goad Russia into taking more such defensive actions that could then be propagandized as ‘offensive’, thereby exaggerating ‘the Russian threat’ and contributing to fear mongering among the Swedish and Finnish citizenry. The end result is to push these countries deeper into the NATO apparatus. Finland has already said that it could hold a referendum on joining as early as April 2015 after the next round of parliamentary elections, with its Defense Minister already actively lobbying for this to happen. Sweden, on the other hand, already engages in such close cooperation with NATO that it’s already a shadow member in its own right, and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt is one of the most prominent Russophobic policy makers on the continent. Because of a joint agreement on military security, Finland can only join NATO together with Sweden, meaning that if any move is made, it would likely be a ‘double whammy’ to get the two states in at once. It goes without saying that if Russia would not allow NATO to be deployed in Georgia or Ukraine, it most definitely would not allow it to be deployed along the Russo-Finnish border, further increasing the chances of yet another crisis in NATO-Russian relations sometime down the line.
To be continued… Part II
NEW YORK – In a historic ruling, the European Court of Human Rights today condemned Macedonia’s illegal transfer of Khaled El-Masri into CIA custody and found that his abusive treatment at Macedonia’s airport by the U.S. rendition team “amounted to torture.” The court also found that his abduction and detention – including the time he was in U.S. custody – constituted “enforced disappearance” under international law.
“Today’s landmark decision is a stark reminder of America’s utter failure to hold its own officials accountable for serious violations of both U.S. and international law. Continued lack of accountability is turning the United States into an outlier among its European allies, which is an appalling outcome for a nation that prides itself as a global leader on the rule of law and human rights,” said Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program. “Today’s ruling makes it harder for the United States to continue burying its head in the sand and ignoring domestic and global calls for full accountability for torture. This remarkable decision will no doubt put greater pressure on European nations to fully account for their complicity in cooperating with the illegal CIA ‘extraordinary rendition’ program, and to hold responsible those who violated the human rights of El-Masri and those like him.”
El-Masri is a German citizen who in 2003 was mistaken for another person and abducted by Macedonian authorities at a border crossing and held incommunicado for 23 days. He was then handed over to CIA operatives who put him on a secret flight to a “black site” in Afghanistan where he was secretly held, tortured and abused for about four months.
The ACLU currently represents El-Masri in a case against the U.S. now being considered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and also represented him in a lawsuit in U.S. federal court, which was dismissed. His case before the ECHR was brought by the Open Society Justice Initiative.
In a unanimous decision awarding El-Masri 60,000 Euros, the European court said that the court “underlines the great importance of the present case not only for the applicant and his family, but also for other victims of similar crimes and the general public, who had the right to know what had happened… The concept of ‘State secrets’ has often been invoked to obstruct the search for the truth. State secret privilege was also asserted by the US government in the applicant’s case before the US courts.”
The court’s ruling is available at:
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- CIA ‘tortured and sodomised’ terror suspect, European court rules (guardian.co.uk)
A German citizen, who says was abducted in Macedonia by the CIA and taken to a prison in Afghanistan and tortured, has demanded justice from Europe’s human rights court.
Khaled El-Masri of Lebanese descent says he was brutally tortured and interrogated at a secret CIA-run prison in Afghanistan for more than four months after being kidnapped from Macedonia in 2003, the Associated Press reported.
On Wednesday, Masri took his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
“Mr. El-Masri has spent the last eight years seeking legal redress for the crimes that were committed against him,” said James Goldston, who is the executive director of the Open Justice Initiative, a rights group that campaigns against the US extraordinary rendition practice.
Extraordinary rendition is a practice enabling the US apprehension and extrajudicial transfer of a person from one state to another.
He noted, “There is abundant evidence, including data on CIA flights to and from [Macedonia’s capital] Skopje.”
Masri was eventually released after the CIA realized it had mistaken him for another suspect.
He is also suing the Macedonian government for its role in the kidnapping, an accusation that the authorities in Skopje deny.
The court will consider whether Macedonian agents actually kidnapped Masri, and, if they did, whether they knew what would happen to him after they handed him over to US authorities.