Russia says the United States and its western allies rejected Moscow’s proposal to form an advisory center in Jordan for coordinating actions in Syria.
“Our minister proposed holding a telephone conversation with (US Defense Secretary) Ashton Carter on Jan. 19, but we were given to understand that such a talk was not expedient,” Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov was quoted by Interfax as saying on Friday.
Earlier in the day, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg criticized Russia’s military campaign against terrorists in Syria, saying the air raids were “undermining the efforts to find a political solution to the conflict.”
The UN-brokered peace talks between delegates from the Syrian government and divided opposition were suspended on Wednesday only three days after their shaky start. The talks are not expected to resume until February 25.
The Geneva negotiations were halted after the so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC), a Saudi-backed anti-Damascus opposition group, failed to show up at a meeting.
The Syrian government delegation blamed the opposition for the failure of the peace talks, accusing it of pulling out because it was losing the fight on the ground.
The HNC’s pullout came as Syrian armed forces, backed by Russian air cover, made significant gains against Takfiri militant groups on several fronts. Moscow began pounding terror groups in Syria last September upon a request by Damascus.
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow supports diplomatic measures to end the conflict in Syria while continuing its military assistance to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
“Russia is consistently making efforts within the general international framework of seeking a peaceful and political settlement to the situation in Syria. At the same time, Russia is providing support to the legitimate leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic in its fight against terror,” he said.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter last October said in a little noticed comment that the United States was ready to take “direct action on the ground” in Syria. Vice President Joe Biden said in Istanbul last month that if peace talks in Geneva failed, the United States was prepared for a “military solution” in that country.
The peace talks collapsed on Wednesday even before they began. A day later Saudi Arabia said it is ready to invade Syria while Turkey is building up forces at its Syrian border.
The U.N. aims to restart the talks on Feb. 25 but there is little hope they can begin in earnest as the Saudi-run opposition has set numerous conditions. The most important is that Russia stop its military operation in support of the Syrian government, which has been making serious gains on the ground.
A day after the talks collapsed, it was revealed that Turkey has begun preparations for an invasion of Syria, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. On Thursday, ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said: “We have good reasons to believe that Turkey is actively preparing for a military invasion of a sovereign state – the Syrian Arab Republic. We’re detecting more and more signs of Turkish armed forces being engaged in covert preparations for direct military actions in Syria.” The U.N. and the State Department had no comment. But this intelligence was supported by a sound of alarm from Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Turkey, which has restarted its war against Kurdish PKK guerillas inside Turkey, is determined to crush the emergence of an independent Kurdish state inside Syria as well. Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan stopped the Syrian Kurds from attending the aborted Geneva talks.
A Turkish invasion would appear poised to attack the Syrian Kurdish PYD party, which is allied with the PKK. The Syrian (and Iraqi) Kurds, with the Syrian army, are the main ground forces fighting the Islamic State. Turkey is pretending to fight ISIS, all the while actually supporting its quest to overthrow Assad, also a Turkish goal.
Saudi Arabia then said on Thursday it was prepared to send its ground forces into Syria if asked. Carter welcomed it. Of course Biden, Erdogan, Carter and the Saudis are all saying a ground invasion would fight ISIS. But their war against ISIS has been half-hearted at best and they share ISIS’ same enemy: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. If the U.S. were serious about fighting ISIS it would have at least considered a proposal by Russia to join a coalition as the U.S. did against the Nazis.
The Prize of Aleppo
The excuse of the Geneva collapse is a ruse. There was little optimism the talks would succeed. The real reason for the coming showdown in Syria is the success of Russia’s military intervention in defense of the Syrian government against the Islamic State and other extremist groups. Many of these groups are supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States in pursuit of overthrowing Assad.
These three nations are all apparently poised for a ground invasion of Syria just as, by no coincidence, the Syrian Arab Army with Russian air cover is pushing to liberate perhaps the greatest prize in the Syrian civil war — Aleppo, the country’s commercial capital. The Russians and Syrians have already cut off Turkey’s supply lines to rebels in the city.
The U.S. cannot stand by and watch Russia win in Syria. At the very least it wants to be on the ground to meet them at a modern-day Elbe and influence the outcome.
But things could go wrong in a war in which the U.S. and Russia are not allies, as they were in World War II. Despite this, the U.S. and its allies see Syria as important enough to risk confrontation with Russia, with all that implies. It is not at all clear though what the U.S. interests are in Syria to take such a risk.
From the outset of Russia’s intervention the U.S. and its allies have wanted Moscow out of the Syrian theater. They seem to be only waiting for the right opportunity. That opportunity may be now — forced by events.
Former U.S. national security adviser and current Obama adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said last October in the Financial Times that, “The Russian naval and air presences in Syria are vulnerable, isolated geographically from their homeland. They could be ‘disarmed’ if they persist in provoking the U.S.”
Turkey’s downing in November of a Russian warplane that allegedly veered 17 seconds into Turkish territory appeared to be very much a provocation to draw Russia into a conflict to allow NATO to drive Moscow out of Syrian skies. But Russia was too smart for that and instead imposed sanctions on Turkey, while urging Russian tourists not to visit the country, which has hurt the Turkish economy.
A Battleground of Empires
As a fertile crossroad between Asia and Africa backed by desert, Syrian territory has been fought over for centuries. Pharaoh Ramses II defeated the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh near Lake Homs in 1247 BCE. The Persians conquered Syria in 538 BCE. Alexander the Great took it 200 years later and the Romans grabbed Syria in 64 BCE.
Islam defeated the Byzantine Empire there at the Battle of Yarmuk in 636. In one of the first Shia-Sunni battles, Ali failed to defeat Muawiyah in 657 at Siffin along the Euphrates near the Iraq-Syria border. Damascus became the seat of the Caliphate until a coup in 750 moved it to Baghdad.
Waves of Crusaders next invaded Syria beginning in 1098. Egyptian Mamluks took the country in 1250 and the Ottoman Empire began in 1516 at its victory at Marj Dabik, 44 kilometers north of Aleppo — about where Turkish supplies are now being cut off. France double-crossed the Arabs and gained control of Syria in 1922 after the Ottoman collapse.
We may now be looking at an epic war with similar historical significance. All these previous battles, as momentous as they were, were regional in nature.
What we are potentially facing is a war that goes beyond the Soviet-U.S. proxy wars of the Cold War era, and beyond the proxy war that has so far taken place in the five-year Syrian civil war. Russia is already present in Syria. The entry of the United States and its allies would risk a direct confrontation between the two largest nuclear powers on earth.
Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist based at the U.N. since 1990. He has written for the Boston Globe, the London Daily Telegraph, the Johannesburg Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.
Citizens of the world are being asked to dig deep for humanitarian aid to Syria. After five years of war and millions displaced there is an urgent need for the world to lend a hand, we are told.
At a so-called “donor conference” in London this week, British prime minister David Cameron appealed to the rest of the world to stump up $8 billion to help war-torn Syria.
Among the 60 nations attending the confab were the US, France, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Senior figures from these countries were wringing their hands in anguish over the plight of Syrian refugees.
Washington’s top diplomat John Kerry told delegates: “With people reduced to eating grass and leaves and killing stray animals in order to survive on a day-to-day basis, that is something that should tear at the conscience of all civilized people and we all have a responsibility to respond to it.”
UN chief Ban Ki-Moon adjured nations to “take responsibility to end the crisis in Syria”.
Take responsibility for ending the crisis? How about taking responsibility for beginning it?
Cameron, Kerry and the rest of these charlatans should spare us the emotional blackmail. Most of the governments represented at the London conference are the very instigators and perpetrators of Syria’s destruction.
Why should the rest of the world pay for their crimes?
This is not to suggest that people should simply turn their backs on fellow humans in dire need. But let’s get some straight-thinking here.
Those governments and individual politicians who oversaw regime change in Syria should be paying for their violations, either through massive financial reparations or in jail time. And why not both.
The case is irrefutable. The US-led regime-change plot to subjugate Syria goes back several years, according to numerous sources, such as American diplomatic cables released by the whistleblowing site Wikileaks, former French foreign minister Roland Dumas and ex-NATO supreme commander US General Wesley Clark.
It is only largely due to the dutiful dissembling by the Western news media that such criminality might seem rather outlandish. But it is not outlandish. It is documented and provable. Western governments are culpable in a criminal scheme of regime change in Syria, as they have been in countless other unfortunate countries.
From the outbreak of violence in mid-March 2011, the Arab country has been a charnel house of covert war involving the most vile terrorist mercenaries. Those who take ultimate responsibility for the violence are the authors of the regime-change plot in Syria. Top of the list are Washington, London, Paris, as well as their regional client regimes.
With an estimated 250,000 dead and nearly half of the 23 million population turned into refugees, the total war damage to Syria has been estimated to be at least $100 billion. This is what Washington and its allies owe Syria — and no doubt far, far more — and yet these country-destroying rogue states are trying to wheedle money out of world citizens to pay for their criminal excesses, with the emotional plea of “humanitarian aid”.
Washington and its co-conspirators for covert war in Syria want the rest of the world to pay for their criminal scheming by cajoling the UN, the European Union and anyone else who will listen to fork out “humanitarian aid”. Make no mistake this will eventually translate into ordinary taxpayers, workers and families, paying the bill for their governments’ sanctimonious financial pledges.
In other words, Western powers like the US, Britain and France together with their regional client regimes in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, unleash mass murder and mayhem on a once peaceful, sovereign country — and instead of being held to account under international law for their criminal aggression, these rogue states are getting the rest of the world to subsidize their evil enterprise.
The “donor conference” in London this week was the fifth in a series going back to 2012. Last year, the fundraiser fell well short of its appeals. This year, British leader David Cameron went out of his way to give the appeal added urgency.
Writing in the Guardian newspaper, Cameron said: “Sufficient funding to guarantee the basics of life that these refugees need must be the bare minimum expected of us.”
The British premier emphasized the need for more aid given to refugee centers in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, where nearly five million Syrians have been displaced and are languishing in squalid camps.
Cameron’s apparent concern belies his real worry. He doesn’t want any more refugees streaming into Europe and towards Britain. That’s why the British leader is now calling for more international donations and for the cash to be thrown at Syria’s immediate neighbors in order to keep refugees there.
Going back to UN chief Ban Ki-Moon, he told the London conference:
“The situation in Syria is as close to hell as we are likely to find on this Earth.”
Syria is indeed a hell on Earth. Made by people like Cameron and Kerry with whom Ban Ki-Moon was rubbing shoulders with in London this week.
Turkey was represented by prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu who tried to blame the humanitarian crisis on the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad and Russia’s military intervention. Davutoglu’s lies are particularly nauseating given Ankara’s role in acting as a conduit for terror brigades infiltrating Syria and his country’s ongoing threats of outright military invasion.
NATO member Turkey’s role in fueling Syria’s refugee crisis through its regime-change machinations is acutely reprehensible. And yet Ankara is to receive $3.4 billion from European Union taxpayers, allegedly to help with stemming the flow of refugees into Europe.
This is just one aspect of the general trend that Washington and its allies are establishing with breath-taking audacity. They have all but destroyed Syria with their covert war using terrorist proxies, and yet they are getting the rest of the world to pay for their crimes.
The cost of war and imperialist crimes was always offloaded on to ordinary people by their rulers. In that regard, nothing much has changed. Except that the scam has become even more brazen.
Ankara’s refusal to allow Russia to conduct an observation flight over Turkish territory under the Open Skies Treaty confirms Moscow’s concerns that Ankara is supporting the Daesh, which is prohibited in numerous countries including the United States and Russia, on the Turkish-Syrian border, a high-ranking source in the Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
Russian inspectors planned to conduct the observation flight on board an An-30B plane over Turkish territory on February 1-5, but they were refused permission to do so after they arrived in Turkey and announced the flight route.
“This case is of course outrageous because the Open Skies Treaty today is practically one of many mechanisms that continue to operate in the European space and this treaty is valid and allows for acquiring valid information on steps being taken or not being taken by one or another state,” the source told RIA Novosti.
He reminded that in 2015 the West actively accused Russia of illegal activity on the Ukrainian border and NATO member countries requested observation flights over Russian territory, the results of which fully reversed the rumors.
“This once again confirms those concerns that the Russian side has voiced several times on using the Turkish-Syrian border to support Daesh militants,” the source said.
According to a “sensational” article by the Telegraph, the US director of National Intelligence was recently instructed by Congress to “conduct a major review into Russian clandestine funding of European parties over the last decade.” This disclosure – a classic “controlled leak” – is intended to warn disobedient yet popular political entities across Europe to scale back their ambitions to rebalance the roles and weight of their nation states within the European Union. Hungary’s Jobbik, Greece’s Golden Dawn, Italy’s Lega Nord, and France’s Front National are explicitly included in the US “warning list,” while other unnamed “parties” in Austria, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands are being advised that they are “under a US security probe.” Even the new British Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is suspected of flirting with the Russians. So, according to the sponsor of the Telegraph’s story, any European politician who dares to question NATO’s eastward expansion, the policy of anti-Russian sanctions, or the current European stance on the Ukrainian conflict is essentially a witting or unwitting tool of “Russia’s hybrid warfare.”
Well, that would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous. In fact, any impartial observer would pose some simple questions: Why the hell do US intelligence agencies care about challenges to Europe’s internal security? Aren’t they the same agents who finance, recruit, and control countless political organizations, individuals, and media outlets on the European continent? Why are they so brazenly revealing their dominion over Europe?
A politically correct challenger would argue that the United States saved Europe from the “Communist threat” after the end of WWII, facilitated its speedy economic recovery, and is still safeguarding the continent under its nuclear umbrella. Perhaps. But a review of the historical background should not begin with the Marshall Plan. First of all, that was launched in April 1948. Since the Nazis capitulated in May 1945, a misinformed reader might deduce that the United States had been drafting a massive investment program for Europe for as long as three years, and … he would be wrong. At the Second “Octagon” Quebec Conference in September 1944, President Roosevelt and US Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. submitted to the British PM Winston Churchill their Post-Surrender Program for Germany. That strictly confidential document envisaged the partition and complete deindustrialization of the German state. According to the plan, Germany was to be divided into two independent states. Its epicenters of mining and industry, including the Saar Protectorate, the Ruhr Valley, and Upper Silesia were to be internationalized or annexed by France and Poland. Following are a few excerpts:
- The [US] military forces upon entry into [German] industrial areas shall destroy all plants and equipment which cannot be removed immediately.
- No longer than 6 months after the cessation of hostilities, all industrial plants and equipment not destroyed by military action shall either be completely dismantled and removed from the area or completely destroyed.
- All people within the area should be made to understand that this area will not again be allowed to become an industrial area. Accordingly, all people and their families within the area having special skills or technical training should be encouraged to migrate permanently from the area and should be as widely dispersed as possible.
- All German radio stations and newspapers, magazines, weeklies, etc. shall be discontinued until adequate controls are established and an appropriate program formulated.
That was the original postwar recovery program for Germany, known as the Morgenthau Plan. The notorious Joint Chiefs of Staff Directive 1067 (JCS 1067) addressed to the Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Occupation Forces in Germany, which was officially issued in April 1945, was fully in line with that document.
Partition of Germany according to Morgenthau Plan, 1944
The Morgenthau Plan very quickly proved to be a strategic mistake. The United States underestimated the ideological and cultural impact the Soviets would have on European societies. Left to their own judgment, American strategists failed to understand the attraction that a socialist system held for the majority of the population of the liberated nations. A vast spectrum of pro-socialist and pro-communist politicians began winning democratic elections and gaining political influence not only in Eastern Europe, but also in Greece, Italy, France, and other European states (Palmiro Togliatti and Maurice Thorez are just a few who could be named here). Thus Washington came to understand that its forced de-industrialization of Europe could result in Soviet-style reindustrialization and eventual Russian dominance of the continent… Therefore the US had to promptly replace the Morgenthau Plan with one named after Secretary of State George Marshall… Over the course of four years it provided Europe with $12 billion USD in credits, donations, leases, etc., for the purpose of buying … American machinery and other goods. Although the plan undoubtedly revived the economies of Europe, its biggest positive effect was on … the US economy itself! Simultaneously a wave of political repression was launched throughout Europe, most notably in Germany.
The media has largely forgotten about a Soviet initiative, proposed in 1950, to withdraw from the GDR and to reunify a neutral, non-aligned, demilitarized Germany within one year of the conclusion of a peace treaty. As a matter of fact, the resolution adopted at the Prague meeting of the foreign ministers of the Soviet Bloc on Oct. 21, 1950 proposed the establishment of an all-German Constituent Council, with equal representation from East and West Germany to prepare for the formation of an “all-German, sovereign, democratic, and peace-loving provisional government.” Needless to say, the US government and West German administration in Bohn strongly opposed the initiative. While a plebiscite on the issue “Are you against the remilitarization of Germany and in favor of the conclusion of a Peace Treaty in 1951?” was announced in both halves of the divided state, that referendum was held and officially acknowledged only in East Germany (with 96% voting “yes”). The authorities in US-controlled West Germany failed to respond in a truly democratic manner. They refused to recognize the preliminary results of the referendum that had been held since February 1951 (of the 6.2 million federal citizens who had taken part by June 1951, 94.4% also voted “yes”) and introduced the draconian cautious Criminal Law Amendment Act (the 1951 Blitzgesetz) on July 11. According to that legislation, anyone guilty of importing prohibited literature, criticizing the government, or having unreported contacts with representatives of the GDR, etc. was to be prosecuted for “state treason,” which was punishable by 5 to 15 years in prison. Consequently, between 1951 and 1968, 200,000 charges were brought against 500,000 members of the Communist Party and other left-wing groups in Germany under this law. Ten thousand people were sent to prison, and most of those who were “cleared” of charges never resumed their political activities. Additional legal amendments in 1953 actually abolished the right to freely hold gatherings and demonstrations, and in 1956 the Communist Party of Germany was banned. [More details can be found in Daniel Burkholz’s 2012 documentary Verboten – Verfolgt – Vergessen (Forbidden-Followed-Forgotten. Half a Million Public Enemies), which is surprisingly unavailable on YouTube].
The political repression that occurred in Germany from the 1950s to the 1980s, compared to similar events in other European countries during the same period, is a very taboo topic. Operation Gladio in Italy, the crimes of the regime of the Black Colonels in Greece, and the controversial assassinations of realistic European politicians who openly advocated for historical compromise with the Soviet bloc – such as Italian PM Aldo Moro (1978) and Swedish PM Olof Palme (1986) – all received far more media attention. The revelations made by a former correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Udo Ulfkotte, in his book Gekaufte Journalisten (“Purchased Journalists”) about the mechanism of media control in Germany (remember the Morgenthau Plan?) represent only the tip of the iceberg. The almost complete lack of reaction seen in Berlin after Edward Snowden’s disclosure of the blanket electronic espionage routinely conducted against German leaders by the NSA means that in reality, Germany has acknowledged its loss of sovereignty over its own country and thus has nothing to lose.
So, after taking all these facts into account and rereading the article in the Telegraph, are you still so sure that the United States is truly the guardian of Europe’s sovereignty? Is it not more likely that by using the alleged “Russian threat” to control and harass the political establishment and civil society in Europe, Washington is making headway toward a simple and primitive goal – that of merely keeping its sheep within the fold?
Russian Ambassador to Latvia Alexander Veshnyakov called the World War Three: Inside the War Room (BBC Two) show a ‘dangerous provocation’ that aims to discredit pro-Russian forces in Europe.
The BBC program explores a hypothetical WWIII scenario, where Russia invades Latvia after Russian nationalists boil over their lack of self-determination in Latvia. Russia then launches a nuclear strike on the British military.
“We consider this TV-program a dangerous provocation. I’ve been working in Latvia for 8 years and do not know of any separatist organization here,” Veshnyakov said in an official commentary on the Embassy’s Facebook page.
According to Veshnyakov, the TV program scenario pursues a purely political agenda.
“This scenario is absolutely contrived, going after political goals: first, to engage in an information war to demonize Russia. Second, to justify the needs of the military-political lobby to increase the spending of NATO in Europe more than 4 times. Third, to discredit any political forces in Latvia, in Europe, that treat Russia without bias.”
Relations between Russia and the West worsened in 2014, when the United States, the European Union and some other Western countries accused Moscow of fueling the Ukrainian crisis, and imposed economic sanctions against it.
Russia’s relations with NATO also deteriorated. NATO has been increasing its presence in Eastern Europe since Crimea rejoined Russia in March 2014 following a referendum the West refused to recognize as legitimate, instead blaming Moscow for violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Russia has denied the allegations and has repeatedly stated that the bloc’s increased activities near its borders undermine regional and international stability.
NATO-Russia Council’s work was suspended on April 1, 2014, after the alliance’s foreign ministers issued a statement condemning Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
In January, media reports emerged claiming that the alliance was discussing a possible invitation of Russia to the first formal talks since the deterioration of NATO-Russia relations in 2014. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg had previously brought up the subject of reconvening the NATO-Russia Council to be used as a tool for political dialogue.
Antonov An-30 © Wikipedia
Turkey has set “a dangerous precedent” by denying an observation flight over its territories bordering Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said, vowing a “relevant reaction” to Ankara’s violation of its obligations under the international Open Skies Treaty.
The Treaty on Open Skies which came into force in 2002 allows unarmed aerial observation flights over the territories of its 34 signatories, which includes Turkey. However the Russian An-30B plane was banned from conducting its surveillance flight over Turkish territory which was scheduled for February 1-5, without any prior warning.
“After the arrival of the Russian mission to Turkey and the announcement of the desired itinerary, the Turkish military officials refused to allow the inspection flight citing an order from the Turkish Foreign Ministry,” the head of the ministry’s National Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, Sergey Ryzhkov, said in a statement.
This is the first time that Turkey has refused a Russian observation flight over its territory. Since 2006 under the Treaty on Open Skies, Russia conducted approximately two observation flights a year. Turkey has flown over Russian airspace approximately four times a year.
But as tensions between Turkey and Russia intensified following the downing of the Russian jet in November, Ankara has refused the implementation of the treaty.
“The itinerary included the observation of areas adjacent to the Turkish border with Syria, as well as airfields that host NATO warplanes,” Ryzhkov pointed out. A previous statement, issued on February 1, specified that a Russian oversight flight would be conducted along an agreed route. Furthermore, Turkish monitors on board would have the opportunity to control the use of surveillance equipment.
Tensions deteriorated further last week, when neither Ankara nor its NATO allies offered any proof after accusing Russia’s Su-34 bomber of violating Turkish airspace. Moscow sees the latest development as a violation of the treaty and has warned that “relevant action” will occur in response.
“As a result of violations of the requirements of the Treaty and unconstructive actions on the part of Turkey, a dangerous precedent was created of an uncontrolled military activity of an Open Skies Treaty member state,” Ryzhkov said. “We are not going to leave without proper attention and relevant reaction violations of the Open Skies Treaty on the part of the Turkish Republic.”
Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the upper house’s international affairs committee, said that the Turkish violation of the treaty further complicates Russian-Turkish relations.
“This is unfortunate and does not contribute to the exit from this crisis, in which Russian-Turkish relations are currently in. This is a clear violation of Turkey’s international obligations under the Treaty on Open Skies,” he told TASS.
In a separate development the Russian Ministry of Defense announced Tuesday that another group of Russian inspectors would visit Turkish army ranges and get briefed by the Turkish military command, as part of the framework of the 2011 Vienna document aimed at building confidence and security.
The US Defense Secretary Ash Carter has announced plans to significantly increase military spending in Europe from US$789 million to US$3.4 billion next year and place more troops and equipment in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, according to sources.
It follows reports in late 2015 that the US was planning to boost its presence in Europe. According to a defense source quoted in the New York Times : “This is a longer-term response to a changed security environment in Europe. This reflects a new situation, where Russia has become a more difficult actor.”
The US already has 65,000 troops in Europe and has been stockpiling resources in Eastern Europe and the Baltic region for more than a year. Poland has called for a permanent NATO troop presence in the country with President Andrzej Duda suggesting he will use an upcoming summit to commit to the proposal.
Cater told a morning meeting at the Economic Club of Washington Tuesday: “Another near-term investment in the budget is how we are reinforcing our posture in Europe to support our NATO allies in the face of Russia’s aggression. In Pentagon parlance this is called the ‘European Reassurance Initiative’.
“After requesting about US$800 million last year, this year we are more than quadrupling it to a total of UD$3.4 billion in 2017. That’s to fund a lot of things: more rotational US forces in Europe; more training and exercising with our allies; more pre-positioned warfighting gear; and infrastructure improvements to support all this.
“When combined with US forces already assigned to Europe — which are all substantial — all of this, by the end of 2017, will let us rapidly form a highly capable combined ground force that can respond across that theater if necessary,” Carter said.
12,000 Pieces of Equipment
The US Department of Defense announced in November 2015 that equipment from the European Activity Set (EAS) was scheduled to be delivered to Central and Eastern Europe. Approximately 1,400 pieces of equipment will be delivered to sites in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Romania.
Carter announced during a trip to Estonia earlier last year that the US will “temporarily” stage enough vehicles and associated equipment in Central and Eastern Europe to support an armored brigade combat team.
In a statement, the US Defense Department said that NATO said “the placement allows US rotational forces in the region to move more quickly and easily to participate in training and exercises.”The items are part of the European Activity Set, which includes some 12,000 pieces of equipment, including tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and artillery. The EAS equipment will be moved around the region for training and exercises as needed, he said.
Carter also announced that Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania agreed to host company to battalion-sized elements of EAS equipment. Germany already hosts EAS equipment, according to defense sources.
© Photo: Youtube/ Russian Defence Ministry
Turkish artillery on Monday shelled a small town in Syria’s northern Latakia province inflicting casualties among civilians, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said.
Earlier in the day, Lebanese Al Mayadeen TV channel reported that one Syrian serviceman was killed and five others were wounded in a shelling from the Turkish territory.
“The Turkish authorities are responsible for artillery shelling of the town of Jabal Oteira in northern Latakia, which caused casualties among peaceful civilians,” the ministry said in statement as quoted by official SANA news agency.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said Monday that it obtained video proof of Syrian civilian areas being shelled from Turkish border posts.The Russian Defence Ministry expects an explanation from NATO, Pentagon and Turkish Armed Forces on the incident. The corresponding statement was made on Monday by the Ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov.
According to the spokesman, the Ministry of Defense recently received the video footage from the Syrian General Staff which shows “self-propelled heavy artillery weapons deployed at the Turkish outpost in question.”
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) drives hundreds of soldiers and veterans of today’s Western armies (mainly Americans) to kill themselves, and sometimes their families too. Usually, the suicides come after months of depression and despair; nightmares, fragile nerves and paranoia are common symptoms. Families and old friends watch the victims sink under the burden of bad memories of the atrocities they have seen and done during their overseas deployments.
It may seem a perverse judgment on first reading, but in some degree those suicides represent the hope of mankind. They are our proof that some soldiers retain enough humanity to feel shame and guilt at the things they have been ordered to do, and have done. Of course not all who share those experiences and memories feel driven to suicide. Most suffer in silence, and pretend they don’t suffer. Some aren’t affected at all, because they lack the mental capacity for compassion. They are sociopaths, pretty much by definition, and we should be very afraid of them.
They will be our children’s and grandchildren’s guardians and torturers. They will be the enforcers of any and all oppressive domestic decrees and laws, and will bring to that job the same cold brutality they practised during their military service. They will obey orders without question. They are monsters.
There was a news item recently about a US drone strike on fifteen women and babies in Pakistan on the way to the river to do the family laundry. Now there are strict rules for the ordering of drone strikes; there is nothing casual about them. The targets are carefully identified and certified, and their assassinations justified and specified. Only then are their executions passed into the steady hands of the drone-pilots in military bases inside the USA. There is nothing casual about the exercise.
The slaughter of the women and babies was deliberate, as all such slaughters are. That’s what terrorism is, in occupied territories – taking out innocents in the hope of persuading fathers and spouses to stop resisting the occupation. That’s America’s and NATO’s “war of terror”. It’s the Mafia model, and it works well.
How do those actions rank in the general context of violence against women and children? Is it worse than domestic wife-bashing and child-cruelty, or better, or about the same? My own personal opinion is that it’s worse, but I may be wrong. I am a human-rights advocate, and my loyalty is to the human race, above any particular ingredient of it. I am not a Christian, but I honour the sentiment ascribed to Christ in the King James Version: inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
I interpret brethren to include sistren (sisters), and I regard the sentiment as applicable beyond whatever tribal or national context they may have held. Not everybody does, which is why “human rights” have failed to be accepted as anything more than leftist whimsy.
No women’s organisation or children’s protection society in the West ever publicly deplores drone-strikes against foreign women and children. Simple tribal solidarity beats gender solidarity hands down.
Why else aren’t Western women’s organisations interested in the basic rights of women and children in non-Western countries? Why do they grumble about the enforced wearing of burkas and the like, but stay silent on rapes and murders by Western soldiers? What kind of priority is that?
By their silence, Western women (judging by their representatives) give support to their tribal soldiers’ perception that females and children of different tribes and cultures aren’t worth spit. God help us. As a culture, ours is not nearly as advanced as we like to think it is. We have a long way to evolve, yet.
The British government, whose foreign policy is overtly hostile to their Russian counterpart, declared last week that their investigation into the killing of a former Russian intelligence agent in London nearly a decade ago concluded there is a “strong probability” the Russian FSB security agency was responsible for poisoning Alexander Litivenko with plutonium. They further declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin “probably approved” of the act. The British investigation, which was likely politically motivated, seemingly raised more questions than it answered. But American corporate media were quick to use the accusations against Putin to demonize him, casting him as a pariah brazenly flaunting his disregard for international conventions.
The Washington Post (1/23/16) editorial board wrote that “Robert Owen, a retired British judge, has carefully and comprehensively documented what can only be called an assassination… Mr. Owen found (Andrei) Lugovoi was acting ‘under the direction’ of the FSB in an operation to kill Mr. Litivenko – one that was ‘probably approved’ by the director of the FSB and by Mr. Putin.”
Actually, Owen did not find that former KGB operative Lugovoi was acting under the direction of the FSB to kill Litivenko. He found there was a “strong probability” this was the case. This means that even in Owens’s view, there is not near certainty, which would meet the legal standard of reasonable doubt that would preclude a guilty judgement. There is even more doubt that even if it were the case the FSB ordered the murder, they did so on Putin’s orders.
The New York Times editorial board (1/21/16) finds the investigation’s results “shocking.” For the Times, this confirms a pattern of Putin’s rogue behavior. They claim Putin’s “deserved reputation as an autocrat willing to flirt with lawlessness in his global ventures has taken on a startling new aspect.”
Both of the prestigious and influential American newspapers argue that the British findings impugn Putin’s respectability in international affairs. The Times says:
Mr. Putin has built a sordid record on justice and human rights, which naturally reinforces suspicion that he could easily have been involved in the murder. At the very least, the London inquiry, however much it is denied at the Kremlin, should serve as a caution to the Russian leader to repair his reputation for notorious intrigues abroad.
The more hawkish Post says: “This raises a serious question for President Obama and other world leaders whose governments do not traffic in contract murder. Should they continue to meet with Mr. Putin as if he is just another head of state?”
Putin’s alleged “sordid record on justice and human rights,” which is taken for granted without providing any examples, is seen as bolstering the case for his guilt in the case of the poisoning death of Litivenko. This, in turn, adds to his “notorious” reputation as a violator of human rights.
The Post draws a line between the lawless Putin and the respectable Western heads of state, such as Obama. Though they frame their call to treat Putin as an outcast as a question, it is clearly intended as a rhetorical question.
It is curious that The Post draws a contrast between Putin and Obama, whose government is supposedly above such criminality. The newspaper does not mention the U.S. government’s drone assassination program, which as of last year had killed nearly 2,500 people in at least three countries outside of declared military battlefields. Estimates have shown that at least 90 percent of those killed were not intended targets. None of those killed have been charged with any crimes. And at least two – Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son Abdul Rahman – were Americans.
Obama himself is personally responsible for those killed by missiles launched from unmanned aircraft over the skies of sovereign countries. Several news reports have indicated that Obama is presented in meetings each week by military and national security officials with a list of potential targets for assassination. Obama must personally approve each target, at which point they are added to the state-sanctioned “kill list.”
The British government has also assumed for itself the power to assassinate its own citizens outside a declared battlefield. Last fall, Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the deaths of two British citizens in Syria, who were subsequently disposed of in a lethal drone strike.
The Washington Post editorial board (3/24/12) claimed that Obama was justified in carrying out lethal drone strokes that kill American citizens “to protect the country against attack.” Their lone criticism was that “an extra level of review of some sort is warranted.”
After it was revealed that an American hostage was inadvertently killed in a drone strike in Pakistan, The Post (5/1/15) said that the issue of whether the American government continues to conduct drone strikes should not be up for debate. “(T)here is little question that drones are the least costly means of eliminating militants whose first aim is to kill Americans,” they wrote.
While they tacitly accept the legal rationale for Obama’s assassination program, the New York Times editorial board at least demonstrated some skepticism. In “A Thin Rationale for Drone Killings” (6/23/14), they called the memo “a slapdash pastiche of legal theories – some based on obscure interpretations of British and Israeli law – that was clearly tailored to the desired result.” They say that “the rationale provides little confidence that the lethal action was taken with real care.”
Yet they do not chastise Obama for his “intrigues abroad” nor do they condemn this as an example of his “sordid record on justice and human rights,” language they used for Putin. The idea that relying on what are transparently inadequate legal justifications for killing an American citizen without due process would merit prosecution is clearly beyond the limits of discussion for the Times.
Recently Faheem Qureshi, a victim of the first drone strike ordered by Obama in 2009 (three days after his induction as President), who lost multiple family members and his own eye, told The Guardian that Obama’s actions in his native lands are “an act of tyranny. If there is a list of tyrants in the world, to me, Obama will be put on that list by his drone program.”
Surely both The New York Times and Washington Post disagree with Qureshi, because they believe the U.S. government is inherently benevolent and its motives are beyond reproach. But based on their editorials about the British investigation of the Litivenko poisoning, if Putin was responsible and was described by Qureshi in the same way, they would wholeheartedly agree.
The U.S. government and its allies in NATO, like Great Britain, have a clear agenda in vilifying Russia and its President. The US-NATO alliance supported the government that came to power in Ukraine in 2014 through a coup. After provinces in Eastern Ukraine – the vast majority of whose population is ethnically Russian and Russian-speaking – refused to recognize the NATO-backed coup government in Kiev, the Russian government supported them.
It should be easy to see how, from Russia’s perspective, the Ukranian conflict can be understood as an extension of NATO encroachment towards Russia’s borders that has continued unabated since James Baker told Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991 NATO would move “not an inch east.”
“We’re in a new Cold War,” Stephen Cohen, professor of Russian studies and politics, told Salon. “The epicenter is not in Berlin this time but in Ukraine, on Russia’s borders, within its own civilization: That’s dangerous. Over the 40-year history of the old Cold War, rules of behavior and recognition of red lines, in addition to the red hotline, were worked out. Now there are no rules.”
Additionally, Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2011 throughout that country’s civil war, and more recently its direct military intervention in the conflict that has turned the tide against US-backed rebels, has strongly rankled Washington.
The language used by top government officials to describe Russia has been astoundingly combative. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, the man in charge of the entire US military, claimed Russia is responsible for aggression and is “endangering world order.”
The U.S. government’s hyping of the Russian “threat” has been used to justify massive spending on the U.S. space program and other military expenditures, such as the $1 trillion to upgrade nuclear weapons,
One could even argue that the narrative of an aggressive and belligerent Russia is the principal justification for the continued existence of the NATO itself, two and a half decades after the breakup of the Soviet Union. The alliance allows the US military to be stationed in hundreds of bases throughout Europe under the guise of a purely defensive organization.
The U.S.’s most prominent media organizations should demonstrate the strongest skepticism towards the policies and actions of their own government. At the very least, they should hold their own country’s leaders to the same standards as they do others. But time and again, the media choose to act as a mouthpiece to echo and amplify Washington’s propaganda. They do the government’s bidding, creating an enemy and rallying the public towards a confrontation they would otherwise have no interest in, while allowing the government to avoid accountability for its own misdeeds.
The lead, Western warmaking/regime-change countries intervening in northern Iraq and Syria held a strategy conference of their ministers of war in Paris on January 20. The meeting made waves in Canada because Ottawa was not invited to attend.
The meeting of ministers of the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Australia and the Netherlands discussed ongoing plans for intervention in Syria and Iraq. Canada is fully engaged in that intervention, more so than some of the other countries attending in Paris. For example, neither Italy or Germany have fighter aircraft engaged in bombings. But Canada was not invited to the party because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a promise during the national election campaign of October 19, 2015 that, if elected, his government would withdraw its six fighter-bomber jets from the U.S.-led warmaking alliance and instead focus on ground operations, including training of allied Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
The decision not to invite Canada was likely taken by U.S. Secretary of Defense (sic) Ashton Carter. Never mind that the new Trudeau government is not keeping its electoral promise or that, to the contrary, it has promised to step up its military presence in northern Iraq. No, for the U.S. government, any deviation from its lead in the imperialist war agenda is punishable by shunning.
The U.S. views the Canadian electoral promise as a weak-kneed sop. It cares not a whiff about the war-weary Canadian public, repelled by Canada’s failed military intervention in Afghanistan. That intervention goes back to late 2001. 158 Canadian soldiers died in combat in Afghanistan. At least 59 of those who served have killed themselves upon their return, while, shamefully, the previous Conservative government in Ottawa did all it could to reduce to a minimum disability payments to injured, returned soldiers.
The U.S. snub is intended as a warning to the Trudeau government just in case any of its members are actually considering keeping their election promise. It needn’t worry, there is no evidence that any are doing so. Also, importantly, the snub is serving as a rallying cry for pro-war ideologues in Canada who never liked the election promise in the first place and now want it definitively buried.
The enclosed opinion article in the Globe and Mail is exactly the kind of knee-jerk, pro-war backlash that the U.S. government wanted to foment. The writer, David Bercuson, is a well-known military academic in Canada. He directs his criticisms not at the United States government for snubbing its loyal ally but at the Trudeau government for giving the U.S. a reason to do so.
Bercuson wrote a commentary last month in the Globe saying that Prime Minister Trudeau was asking for trouble with his allies by making flaky election promises over war and intervention in the Middle East.
Columnist Thomas Walkom of the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation newspaper, provides a different view of the snub in a January 18 column. He calls it a “welcome snub”. He says, “Trudeau’s Liberals won power on a pledge to end Canada’s combat mission in Iraq and Syria — in the air and on the ground. If they are serious about this, why should we expect the Americans to include Ottawa in their combat deliberations?
“More to the point, why should we want to be included?”
Ottawa is lucky to have carte blanche, more or less, in working out the subtleties of its desired intervention in Iraq and Syria. The two large opposition parties in Parliament support military intervention in the Middle East, differing only on how that should be done. Meanwhile, antiwar forces are weak and marginalized. Years of confusion over the regime change agenda of the imperialist countries in the in Africa and the Middle East (Mali, Libya, Egypt, Syria) combined now with utter disarray in the face of the anti-Russia drive of NATO have left antiwar forces marginalized.