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NATO is seeking to revive Сold War climate – Lavrov at UNGA

RT | September 21, 2017

NATO is currently seeking to revive the Cold War climate instead of building a dialogue with Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in his speech at the UN General Assembly in New York.

Russia has honestly walked along a long path of getting rid of the legacy of the Cold War but received no support in its efforts from its partners in the West, the minister said, expressing his regret over the fact that “some countries still prefer force to dialogue.”

“The West constructed its policy on the basis of a principle, ‘If you are not with us, you are against us’ and proceeded with hideous expansion of NATO to the east,” the Russian diplomat said, adding that such policy ultimately led only to “instability” in the post-Soviet republics and increased tensions in the region.

At the same time, the minister said that Russia is ready to cooperate with its western partners and work together in a constructive way to find mutually acceptable solutions of the pressing issues, including the Ukrainian crisis in particular.

He also expressed his hope that the Russian initiative that involves sending a UN peacekeeping mission to Eastern Ukraine would ultimately help to resolve the crisis, adding that the relevant draft resolution had been already submitted to the UN Security Council.

‘Unilateral sanctions – illegitimate’

“Centuries of history have shown that a lasting settlement of difference can only be [achieved] through dialog and balancing of the core interests of the conflicting parties,” the minister said, adding that, “unfortunately, the arsenal of many western states does not include diplomacy but only rough pressure.”

“Any unilateral sanctions imposed aside from the sanctions approved by the UN Security Council are illegitimate and undermine the collective nature of the international efforts,” Lavrov said.

He then expressed concern over the new rounds of sanctions imposed by the US against Iran and warned that they threaten the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, which earlier greatly contributed to the restoration of the regional and global stability.

‘War hysteria around North Korea could lead to disaster’

Lavrov denounced the escalation of tensions around the Korean Peninsula by calling it a “very dangerous confrontational spiral.” The minister stressed that Russia condemns the North Korean nuclear tests conducted in violation of the UN resolutions, but added that war hysteria stirred up by the West around Pyongyang’s actions could end up in a “disaster.”

The minister then called on all the parties to the Korean crisis to start a dialogue, and said that there is “no alternative to the political and diplomatic settlement of the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula.”

He also urged the international community to support the joint Russian-Chinese roadmap of resolving the crisis that involves the “double freeze” initiative, envisaging Pyongyang stopping its nuclear and missile program in exchange for the US and South Korea abandoning their joint military exercises near the peninsula.

At the same time, Lavrov praised Tuesday’s statement by US President Donald Trump, in which he stressed the importance of respecting the principle of sovereignty in international relations. “We are pleased to see that the President of the United States, Donald Trump, … unilaterally stated that it is important to abide by the principle of sovereignty in the international affairs, that it is more important to lead by an example than dictate to other peoples,” the minister said.

‘Attempts to topple undesirable regimes only open way to terrorists’

It is unacceptable to incite riots and to threaten to use force to enforce “democratization” or undermine legitimate authorities in any country, Lavrov said. The attempts to ignore the opinions of others and to issue ultimatums without the UN approval “never led to anything good,” he added.

“The upsurge of international terrorism, millions of refugees and waves of illegal immigrants have come to a significant extent as a result of reckless attempts to remove some undesirable regimes, particularly through military intervention,” the minister said, adding that such actions brought only “chaos and destruction” to the Middle East and North Africa as well as “opened a way for terrorists.”

He then urged the international community to make additional efforts aimed at restoring stability in Syria and Iraq, adding that what has been done so far is still not enough, despite the success achieved in fighting Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) in the region.

“A string of bloody terrorist acts in the world shows that it is an illusion to try and create separate islands of security. Extremism and terrorism is something that we need to combat together, without using double standards and hidden agendas,” Lavrov said as he once again drew attention to what he called an “ambiguous” situation in Syria, where the US-led coalition seems to be sparing Al Nusra terrorists in its airstrikes while fighting another terrorist group, Islamic State.

‘No militarization of cyberspace’

Russia rejects the idea of militarization of cyberspace, Lavrov said, adding that this field should not be allowed to become “an area of military confrontation.” He went on to say that cyberspace should be prevented from being used to inflict economic damage or spread extremist propaganda.

He called on the international community to work out rules of “responsible behavior” in cyberspace that would be in the interests of all states. The diplomat also said that Russia drafted a universal convention on prevention of cybercrimes, including hacking attacks, and urged the General Assembly to discuss it during this year’s session.

September 21, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

US Accelerates Afghanistan Bombing Campaign With Questionable Effectiveness

Sputnik – 14.09.2017

The US Air Force dropped an average of 16 bombs per day in August in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s plan to attack “America’s enemies” in the country, according to the most recent Pentagon data on munitions delivered in the country.

US Air Force warplanes including the F-16 “Viper,” the MQ-9 Reaper drone, and the B-52 Stratofortress bomber deployed 1,984 bombs from January to July of this year, according to US Air Force Central Command data published August 31.

Sputnik News therefore calculates that in the first seven months of the year, US jets dropped an average of 227 bombs per month. In August, more than twice as many bombs struck Afghani soil than an average month, at 503 munitions.

Increasing the frequency of bombing raids hasn’t required mobilizing extra aircraft assets to Afghanistan because “we’ve never come back” after arriving so many years ago, US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told, noting he doesn’t envision a “significant plus-up” in the number of US warplanes stationed there.

In a May 20, 2016 Wall Street Journal op-ed, retired US Army general and former CIA director David Petraeus and Brookings Institution senior fellow Michael E. O’Hanlon wrote: “We have a real fight on our hands in Afghanistan, but not a hopeless one … Even a modest US and NATO military contributions have the potential to make a considerable difference … Some might reasonably ask, after 15 years of war in Afghanistan, why do we need to keep at it? The answer is simple – because Afghanistan, effectively the eastern bulwark in our broader Middle East fight against extremist forces, still matters.”

The duo went on to say “air power in particular represents an asymmetric Western advantage, relatively safe to apply, and very effective against massed (or even individual) enemy forces and assets.”

Since O’Hanlon and Petraeus wrote the column, the US has consistently delivered more and more payloads each month to target insurgents in Afghanistan, Pentagon data shows.

The most recent publicly available report on the status of the fight in Afghanistan was released July 30 by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and sheds light as to just how effective the bombs have been. It turns out the situation has given policymakers few reasons for optimism.

“The [US Intelligence Community] assesses that the political and security situation in Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018 even with a modest increase in military assistance by the United States and its partners,” Daniel Coats, Director of National Intelligence, is quoted as saying in the SIGAR report.

September 14, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

The Myth of Canada’s “Benevolent” Foreign Policy

By Yves Engler | Dissident Voice | September 13, 2017

A house built on an imaginary foundation may be a “dream home” but it can never be lived in. The same holds true in politics.

One need not mythologize Canadian foreign policy history to oppose the Trudeau government’s egregious position on nuclear arms. In fact, ‘benevolent Canada’ dogma weakens the critical consciousness needed to reject the policies of our foreign policy establishment.

In “Canada abandons proud history as ‘nuclear nag’ when most needed” prominent leftist author Linda McQuaig writes:

There have been impressive moments in our history when Canada, under previous Liberal governments, asserted itself as a feisty middle power by supporting, even occasionally leading, the push to get nuclear disarmament onto the global agenda.

Nonsense! If one were to rank the world’s 200 countries in order of their contribution to the nuclear arms race Canada would fall just behind the nine nuclear armed states.

Uranium from Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories was used in the only two nuclear bombs ever dropped on a human population. In Northern approaches: Canada and the search for peace James Eayrs notes, “the maiming of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a byproduct of Canadian uranium.”

Canada spent millions of dollars (tens of millions in today’s money) to help research the bombs’ development. Immediately after successfully developing the technology, the US submitted its proposal to drop the bomb on Japan to the tri-state World War II Combined Policy Committee meeting, which included powerful Canadian minister C.D. Howe and a British official. Though there is no record of his comments at the July 4, 1945 meeting, apparently Howe supported the US proposal. Reflecting the racism in Canadian governing circles, in his (uncensored) diary King wrote:

It is fortunate that the use of the bomb should have been upon the Japanese rather than upon the white races of Europe.

Only a few years after the first one was built Ottawa allowed the US to station nuclear weapons in Canada. According to John Clearwater in Canadian Nuclear Weapons: The Untold Story of Canada’s Cold War Arsenal, the first “nuclear weapons came to Canada as early as September 1950, when the USAF [US Air Force] temporarily stationed eleven ‘Fat Man’- style atomic bombs at Goose Bay Newfoundland.”

Canadian territory has also been used to test US nuclear weapons. Beginning in 1952 Ottawa agreed to let the US Strategic Air Command use Canadian air space for training flights of nuclear-armed aircraft. At the same time, reports Ron Finch in Exporting Danger: a history of the Canadian nuclear energy export programme, the US Atomic Energy Commission conducted military tests in Canada to circumvent oversight by American “watchdog committees.” As part of the agreement Ottawa committed to prevent any investigation into the military aspects of nuclear research in Canada.

Canadian Forces also carried nukes on foreign-stationed aircraft. At the height of Canadian nuclear deployments in the late 1960s the government had between 250 and 450 atomic bombs at its disposal in Europe. Based in Germany, the CF-104 Starfighter, for instance, operated without a gun and carried nothing but a thermal nuclear weapon.

During the past 70 years Canada has often been the world’s largest producer of uranium. According to Finch, by 1959 Canada had sold $1.5 billion worth of uranium to the US bomb program (uranium was then Canada’s fourth biggest export). Ottawa has sold at least 29 nuclear reactors to foreign countries, which have often been financed with aid dollars. In the 1950s, for instance, Atomic Energy Canada Limited received large sums of money through the Colombo Aid Plan to help India set up a nuclear reactor.

Canada provided the reactor (called Cyrus) that India used to develop the bomb. Canada proceeded with its nuclear commitment to India despite signals from New Delhi that it was going to detonate a nuclear device. In The Politics of CANDU Exports Duane Bratt writes, “the Indians chose to use Cyrus for their supply of plutonium and not one of their other reactors, because Cyrus was not governed by any nuclear safeguards.”

On the diplomatic front, Ottawa has long supported its allies’ nuclear weapons. In August 1948 Canada voted against a UN call to ban nuclear weapons and in December 1954 voted to allow NATO forces to accept tactical nuclear weapons through the alliance’s policy called MC 48, The Most Effective Pattern of NATO Military Strength for the Next Few Years. According to Canada and UN Peacekeeping: Cold War by Other Means, 1945-1970, external minister Lester Pearson “was integral to the process by which MC 48 was accepted by NATO.”

In his 2006 book Just Dummies“: Cruise Missile Testing in Canada Clearwater writes, “the record clearly shows that Canada refuses to support any resolution that specifies immediate action on a comprehensive approach to ridding the world of nuclear weapons.” Since then the Harper/Trudeau regimes’ have not changed direction. The Harper government opposed a variety of initiatives to curtail nuclear weapons and, as McQuaig points out, the Trudeau government recently boycotted a UN effort to sign a treaty, supported by two thirds of 192 member states, to rid the world of nuclear weapons and prohibit the creation of new ones.

But, it’s not only nuclear policy. The Trudeau government’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, attacks on Venezuela’s elected government, support for Rwanda’s brutal dictatorship, empowerment of international investors, indifference to mining companies abuses, military deployment on Russia’s border, support for Israel’s illegal occupation etc. reflect this country’s longstanding corporate-military-Western centric foreign policy. While Harper’s foreign policy was disastrous on many fronts, it was a previous Liberal government that instigated violence in Afghanistan and the most flagrant Canadian crime of this century by planning, executing and consolidating the overthrow of democracy in Haiti.

Leftists need to stop seeking to ingratiate themselves with the liberal end of the foreign policy establishment by exaggerating rare historical moments when Ottawa apparently did right. Power relations — not morality — determine international policy and the ‘benevolent Canada’ myth obscures the corporate and geostrategic interests that overwhelmingly drive policy. Progressive writers should focus on developing the critical consciousness needed to reign in the foreign policy establishment.

Only the truth will set us free to make this country a force for good in the world.

Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.

September 13, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Sweden: Giving Up Neutrality Against People’s Will

By Peter KORZUN | Strategic Culture Foundation | 13.09.2017

Sweden, a non-NATO nation, has launched its largest military exercise in over 20 years. The drills are being conducted at Russia’s doorstep amid rising military activity in the Baltic Sea region. The timing (Sept. 11-29) is outright provocative as Aurora 2017 is taking place at about the same time (Sept. 14-20) as Zapad 2017, a major Russian exercise in Belarus.

The three-week Aurora 17 is held across Sweden, including the strategic Baltic Sea island of Gotland, not far from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, and the areas around Stockholm and Goteborg. It is conducted in the air, on land and at sea. About 20,000 servicemen, and over 40 Swedish civil authorities, will take part in the drills across the country, including around 1435 troops from the US, Denmark, Norway, France, Estonia, Lithuania and non-NATO Finland. It strikes the eye that Finland, a non-NATO state, has significantly larger participation (270 servicemen) than other European NATO members. For instance, France sent 120 soldiers Denmark, Norway, Lithuania and Estonia sent between 40-60 each.

«They haven’t done something like this in 25, 30 years», said Ben Hodges, commanding general, United States Army, Europe. The United States has sent a Patriot missile battery, helicopters and a National Guard tank company. This is the first time ever American armored vehicles and air defenses were deployed on Swedish soil. In June, the Swedish military also announced its intention to replace all of its aging air defense systems and potentially buy US-made Patriot missiles, citing an alleged threat from Russian Iskander-M missile systems stationed in Kaliningrad.

The war games have also raised the possibility of Sweden joining NATO to formally end its traditional neutrality that kept it out of military conflicts since 1814. The issue will be debated in the country’s 2018 election – if the three centre-right allies get their way, the country will join the alliance.

Sweden has been a member of the NATO program «Partnership for Peace» since 1994. It has taken part in NATO missions in Afghanistan, Balkans and Libya.

Since 2009, Sweden has been committed to the defense of EU members – another breach of neutrality. Mainly EU members are also parties to NATO, it’s impossible to separate them in war. In fact, Stockholm has committed itself to comply with Article 5 of the Washington Treaty regarding European members of the North Atlantic Alliance. Swedish troops and equipment have been used in the EU operation in Mali.

In May 2016 the Swedish parliament ratified the Host Nation Support Agreement with NATO, allowing the pact to store equipment in Sweden and be able to use the country for transport and transit of forces if a crisis should occur in the region. The agreement does not mention nuclear weapons. With the document in force, there is no guarantee that nuclear weapons will not be deployed on Swedish soil. Aurora 2017 is the first time the Host Country Agreement has been used.

In June 2016, Sweden signed a treaty with the US that aims to increase military capability and interoperability between the parties. Specifically, the two nations will conduct training and exercises with an eye to the «distinct political signal» that combined operations will send. Armament cooperation and research and development of future technologies will focus on undersea warfare and air defense, the document notes.

In late 2016, Sweden’s civil protection agency organized under the Ministry of Defense issued an official letter to country’s local authorities to prepare for a possible war with Russia. Sweden is increasing defence spending, and plans to reintroduce conscription from January 2018. Four thousand men and women will be drafted into the defense forces.

Though not formally a member, Sweden is also a part of NATO Rapid Reaction Force. It participates in the joint NATO air transport fleet to be used in conflicts anywhere in the world.

Two top defense officials – Micael Bydén, Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, and Chief of Defence Staff Dennis Gyllensporre, have recently supported the idea of changing the military stance to ‘treaty-bound’ defense commitments, in effect meaning full-fledged membership in NATO. They were backed by Allan Widman, Chairman of the Swedish parliament’s defense committee. Visiting Washington in May, Prime Minister Peter Hultqvist said: «We are building a security network of defence cooperation». No doubt that Aurora 2017 is part of this effort.

Seven out of eight Swedish parliamentary parties believe that Aurora 17 will strengthen the country’s capacity to deal with a potential attack and will deepen its military cooperation with other countries, while the Left Party and peace organizations have warned of a spiraling arms race.

Despite media efforts and statements by politicians and officials, the Swedish people oppose the idea of NATO membership. According to a June survey published by Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, public support for the idea of Sweden becoming a NATO member has dropped from 41 to 33 percent in less than a year. Forty-nine percent of Swedes, who took part in the survey published by the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, said they don’t want their country to join the US-led military bloc. Thirty-three percent supported the possible NATO bid, while 18 percent said that they were undecided. In 2015, 41 percent said that they were in favor of Sweden applying for NATO membership, with 39 percent rejecting the move and 20 percent undecided. Social Democrats, the Greens and Left Party voters showed the strongest opposition to NATO accession.

Politicians may say one thing and do another but one cannot change reality. In practice, Sweden has become a full-fledged NATO member and it has been done against the people’s will. With the defense commitment within the framework of EU and the bilateral agreement with the United States mentioned above in the article, Sweden is no different from other states of the alliance. Moreover, it’s one of the most active participants in the bloc’s military activities with a contribution exceeding by far some founding members. It is Sweden, a non-NATO, country who organized Aurora 2017, openly challenging Russia, which will conduct Zapad exercise under surveillance of Western observers according to the provisions of Vienna Document. Despite the obvious facts, Sweden is saying it’s not a NATO event once it was organized by a non-member nation.

It’s easy to predict that the US air defense systems will be stationed in Gotland to be guarded by American personnel. Instructors will also be there. Then reasons will be found to justify the presence of US military in other areas on Swedish soil under the pretext of «rotation» to hold exercises like it is done in Norway where American Marines are stationed permanently in breach of tried-and-true foreign policy principle excluding the stationing of foreign military on Norwegian soil.

No doubt, the policy does not make Sweden safer as Russia will deliberate an appropriate response. In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that «If Sweden joins NATO; it will negatively affect our relations because it will mean that NATO facilities will be set up in Sweden so we will have to think about the best ways to respond to this additional threat».

This neutrality policy was, and still is, hugely popular in Sweden. But to call a spade a spade, Sweden is no longer neutral in practice. It has become a leading NATO nation, whose official non-alignment does not reflect reality. One should believe deeds not words. Aurora 2017 is a good example of the fact that the Swedish neutral status has become a thing of the past.

September 13, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | , , , , | Leave a comment

Steadfast Pinnacle 2017: Dozens of NATO commanders flock to Latvia for war games

RT | September 10, 2017

he Steadfast Pyramid 2017 military exercise kicks off in Latvia on Sunday, with 40 senior commanders from NATO states, as well as Finland and Sweden. They are expected to train how to “plan and conduct operations” amid the bloc’s buildup in the region.

Steadfast Pyramid 2017 and Steadfast Pinnacle 2017, involving more than 40 senior officers from NATO member states, plus Finland and Sweden, will take place at the Riga-based Latvian Defense Academy, the country’s national news agency LETA reported on Sunday.

Steadfast Pyramid, the first part of the exercise, will last until September 15. It is reportedly “to improve the ability of top-level officers and commanders to plan and lead joint operations,” according to LETA.

Steadfast Pinnacle, the next stage of the drill, will last from September 17 until September 22. Steadfast Pyramid and Steadfast Pinnacle were first held in Latvia in 2011.

British General James Everard, the NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, is expected to arrive in Latvia to oversee both stages of the exercise, Latvia’s Defense Ministry said, according to LETA.

Not much is known so far about the war games. A NATO fact sheet says Steadfast Pyramid and Steadfast Pinnacle are focused on “further developing the abilities of commanders and senior staff to plan and conduct operations through the application of operational art in decision making.”

Latvia, a former Soviet republic, has seen a major NATO buildup over the past months. Recently, NATO deployed four multinational battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland as part of Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP). These combat-ready battlegroups, led by the UK, Canada, Germany, and the US respectively, are meant to demonstrate “the strength of the transatlantic bond.”

A 1,100-strong battlegroup led by Canada is stationed in Latvia, comprising a number of mechanized infantry units as well as a tank company and some support elements, according to NATO. 

Poland and the Baltic states are calling for a stronger military presence in their countries, claiming it is necessary to deter “assertive” Russia.

Lithuania, another Baltic state, has suggested developing a “military Schengen project that would facilitate the movement of troops in Europe.”

Earlier this week, Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis said the Benelux countries – Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg – as well as Finland and Estonia, support the plan, which includes “simplifying procedures and investing in infrastructure.”

Moscow has consistently said the ongoing buildup threatens Russian and European security. In mid-July, Russian envoy to NATO Alexander Grushko said the alliance is pushing forward for “an intensive mastering of the potential theater of military operations, accompanied by the development of the necessary infrastructure.”

From July to November, NATO will hold 15 drills complementing each other, “which are held in the same operative field and aimed at providing a vast range of support measures,” Grushko added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier said that Moscow will not remain silent facing emerging threats on its western borders. NATO’s saber-rattling leaves Russia no other choice than to “give a suitable response to all of these actions,” he said, noting that Moscow’s countermeasures will be “much cheaper,” if not quite as technologically advanced, Putin told award-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone.


Russia will respond to NATO expansion to keep strategic balance – Putin

Lithuania proposes ‘military Schengen’ plan for easier movement of troops in Europe

US to boost air & troop presence in Lithuania during Russia-Belarus drills

September 10, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Russia’s UN Peacekeeper Plan Anticipates US-Backed Kiev Offensive

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 10.09.2017

Russia’s proposed deployment of a UN peacekeeping force in eastern Ukraine makes sense in the light of recent reports that the US is stepping up its supply of lethal weaponry to the Kiev regime. The war is set to explode.

It is therefore prudent to deploy international monitors to try to restrain the violence, or at least offset the undoubted propaganda war which will ensue. The move to involve the UN is also a damning reflection of how ineffective the already-in-place monitors from the OSCE have been.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has stationed hundreds of international members in eastern Ukraine since March 2014, yet the OSCE has done little to restrain the offensive actions by the Kiev-controlled Ukrainian Armed Forces against the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. The lack of restraint stems from the OSCE being evidently biased towards the Kiev regime and its reluctance to issue public criticism of Kiev’s daily violations of the Minsk Accord. In other words, despite claims of impartiality, the OSCE serves as a propaganda tool for the US-backed regime.

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that increased American military support to the Kiev regime will result in an escalation of violence. When US defense secretary James Mattis was in Kiev last month, he said Washington was «considering» sending lethal weapons to the regime’s forces. As part of the public relations exercise, Mattis called the weapons «defensive» lethal weapons. Those «defensive» arms include Javelin anti-tank missiles.

Reliable reports say that lethal US weaponry has already begun arriving, including grenade launchers and the high-powered Barrett M-82 sniper rifles with a range of 1.8 kilometers. According to sources in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the American military supplies are being delivered through private US firms, which obscures Washington’s official involvement.

Over the past week, DPR military chief Eduard Basurin has cited as many as 200 violations of the ceasefire supposedly in place under the 2015 Minsk Accord. Those violations were carried with heavy artillery and mortars, hitting 25 locations in the Donetsk province. The DPR also claims that Kiev forces are moving up heavy weapons, including Howitzers, to the Contact Line, in another breach of Minsk.

Meanwhile, a check on the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission’s latest reporting on the ground indicates «fewer ceasefire violations». Typical of the OSCE reporting, those violations that are noted are worded in vague fashion in such a way that it is not clear which party is committing the attacks. The OSCE reports cite explosions and artillery fire, but rarely assign blame or details that might allow readers to ascertain who is firing at who. The lack of details strongly suggests a deliberate effort by the OSCE authorities to obfuscate. Yet, it claims to be a frontline source for journalists to file reports on what is happening in Ukraine. No wonder Western media in particular are so vacant about the conflict, if this is their source.

Given the Pentagon’s move to openly step up lethal weapons to the Kiev regime, the implications for worsening violence in eastern Ukraine are ominous. Kiev’s forces, which include Neo-Nazi battalions, have been waging an «Anti-Terror Operation» (ATO) on the ethnic Russian population of Donetsk and Luhansk since April 2014. Up to 10,000 have died in the conflict. The ATO was originally launched at the same time that then CIA chief John Brennan visited the Kiev regime – two months after the CIA backed the coup that brought the regime to power.

The violence has continued despite the signing by Kiev and the separatists of the two-year-old Minsk Accord – brokered by Russia, France and Germany. The Kiev regime headed up by President Petro Poroshenko claims that the separatists are «terrorists» supported by Russian «aggression». The separatists view the Kiev regime as illegitimate having violently and illegally seized power from an elected government in February 2014.

Washington backs the illogical position of Kiev and its evident repudiation of the Minsk Accord in spite of its signature. Yet, perversely, the US imposes sanctions on Russia for allegedly not implementing the Minsk deal.

This week, Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel gave his support to the proposal announced by Vladimir Putin for a UN peacekeeping force. The Donetsk and Luhansk separatists have also voiced their support for the initiative. Russia is putting the matter before the United Nations Security Council. But it is not clear if the US will scupper the proposal.

The Kiev regime and US government-owned Radio Free Europe quickly poured scorn on Russia’s proposal. Cynically, it is claimed that the deployment of UN peacekeepers on the Contact Line would bolster the separatists’ territorial claims. Instead, Kiev wants UN troops to be deployed all across the breakaway republics and on the border with Russia.

But this is the point. The Kiev regime cannot be trusted to uphold any ceasefire agreement or commitments to recognize autonomy in Donetsk and Luhansk, as it is obligated to do under Minsk. Having UN blue helmets stationed all over the breakaway republics would most likely give Kiev a cover to infiltrate its forces. Just a quick indicator of bad faith was the routine breaching of the so-called «schools truce» called on August 25 by Poroshenko. That truce was called at the same time that Pentagon chief James Mattis was visiting Kiev, suggesting it was a public relations stunt to ease the announced supply of «defensive» lethal weapons by Washington.

Thus, the Russian proposal for UN monitors at the interface between Kiev troops and the separatists is a reasonable move. It may not be effective in stemming the violence especially in light of US stepping up weapons supplies. But, at least, it is worth giving a chance. The other potentially positive effect is that the UN peacekeepers might be able to account more accurately on which side is stoking the violence. This is all the more important since the OSCE has shown itself to be totally ineffectual, or worse, complicit in giving the Kiev regime a cover for its depredations.

The OSCE comprises 57 participating nations, including the US, Russia and European states. But its membership is dominated by 29 countries belonging to the US-led NATO military alliance. Russia has long complained that the OSCE needs reforming to allow for more balanced representation.

In his 2007 landmark speech to the Munich Security Conference, Putin warned, among many global issues, that Washington and its NATO allies were «trying to transform the OSCE into a vulgar instrument to promote Western foreign policy interests».

Like many other multilateral institutions, including the UN, the European Union and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the OSCE has demonstrated a subservience to Washington’s geopolitical dominance.

This is clearly the case in Ukraine. The OSCE has never issued an unequivocal condemnation of Kiev forces, even though the latter have carried out countless violations and are the main obstacle to implementing a peaceful settlement.

In a must-read revealing interview, one former American member of the OSCE said that the organization routinely distorts the nature of the conflict in Ukraine and is «highly biased in favor of the Kiev regime». He said that field reports from rank-and-file OSCE officers were often suppressed by their superiors based in Kiev.

Alexander Hug, the ex-Swiss army chief of the OSCE operation in Ukraine, has in the past written opinion articles for the Kyiv Post, a news outlet that is stridently pro-regime and openly anti-Russian. In one of Hug’s articles, it bore the tagline «Russia’s war against Ukraine». Ironically, the OSCE chief introduced that article with the words: «The first casualty of war is the truth». For the OSCE chief to show such flagrant bias is contemptible and brings the so-called monitor into disrepute.

All the signs indicate that the war in Ukraine is set to escalate – especially given the increased supply of American weaponry to Kiev regime forces. Washington is acting recklessly. It is tacitly declaring war in Ukraine, with grave implications for US-Russia relations.

The deployment of UN peacekeepers to the conflict zone may not be sufficient to prevent the US-backed regime going on the offensive. But at least the presence of more international monitors might allow for more critical information on which side is pushing the violence.

Certainly, the OSCE monitors already in place are totally unreliable despite their claims of impartiality. Indeed, the OSCE as presently formulated and deployed is part of the problem for why a peaceful settlement in Ukraine is continually confounded.

Russia’s proposal for UN peacekeepers is being viewed cynically in the West as a hollow gesture. Such Western views are contorted and laced with their usual Russophobia instead of being objective.

The Russian proposal is simply due to the fact of the OSCE being hopelessly derelict in its duties, and in need of being sidelined by some other more effective monitoring mechanism. The war-footing of the US-backed Kiev regime amid OSCE silence is testament to its dereliction.

September 10, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Russophobia | , , , , | 1 Comment

Constitutional Crisis Brews in Moldova as Government Tests President’s Authority

Sputnik – 4 10.09.2017

Moldovan President Igor Dodon is demanding the resignation of Deputy Defense Minister Gheorghe Galbura for defying a presidential order to block the deployment of Moldovan troops to Ukraine to participate in NATO-led military drills. Speaking to Sputnik, regional expert Boris Rozhin warned that the country is on a path to a constitutional crisis.

The Moldovan government approved sending several dozen troops to Ukraine last week, ignoring Dodon’s decree to block the deployment. Dodon described the move as an ‘usurpation of power’ by the cabinet.

Speaking to Radio Sputnik about what’s likely to happen next, Boris Rozhin, an expert at the Center of Military-Political Journalism, said that the Moldovan government will be likely to try to ignore or challenge the president’s demand for Galbura’s resignation.

“This confrontation over sending the military abroad is an indication that the constitutional crisis in Moldova is deepening,” the expert said. “The parliament and the government are refusing to recognize the president’s authority as commander-in-chief to give orders to the country’s armed forces.”

“This issue will be considered at a meeting of the country’s Security Council, and most likely, by the constitutional court, as Dodon’s decision to dismiss the deputy defense minister will either be ignored or contested,” Rozhin added.

The expert believes that this confrontation between the branches of Moldova’s government is likely to continue until the next parliamentary elections, tentatively set for November 2018.

“The confrontation can be resolved through a decision of the constitutional court, which confirms or rejects Dodon’s right to issue orders to the Armed Forces, or deepen further and continue until the next parliamentary elections,” Rozhin said.

“After that, a reformatting of the legislature may take place. At the moment, the ruling establishment does not reflect the alignment of forces in Moldovan society, which has grown tired of the government’s push for European integration, which did not bring the hoped for economic and social improvements for ordinary people.”

As the constitutionally designated commander-in-chief, Dodon vetoed the government’s decision to send 57 National Guard troops to Ukraine for NATO exercises, reminding them that Moldova is a neutral state. Ignoring the president’s order, the contingent left for Ukraine anyway. The president also signed a decree which said that Moldovan military forces would not be allowed to be sent abroad for military exercises, training or any similar events without approval from the president.

The present crisis is not the first public conflict between Dodon and the cabinet o ministers. Earlier, the government asked the UN General Assembly to consider the removal of Russian peacekeeping troops from the breakaway republic of Transnistria. Dodon called the initiative an “empty PR move.” The president and the cabinet have faced off over Russia repeatedly, the government proposing a series of unfriendly gestures, with the president, in turn, saying that he would like to bring the country closer to Moscow.

Dodon, often described by Western political observers as ‘pro-Russian’, won presidential elections in 2016, defeating his pro-West, pro-EU opponent Maia Sandu. Moldova’s parliament and government are dominated by the pro-EU Democratic Party of Moldova, a social democratic party closely associated with oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, and a collection of independent MPs.

Commenting on the political situation in the country, political observer Viktor Marakhovsky wrote that it would be more correct to call Dodon ‘pro-Moldovan’ than ‘pro-Russian’, because the pro-EU elites he is up against have effectively “privatized political power in exchange for international grants, figuratively speaking.” Not only do they seek to give up sovereignty to EU structures; some have spearheaded a campaign pushing for Romania’s absorption of Moldova, a campaign actively supported by Bucharest.

Marakhovsky thinks that Dodon’s best hope will be to organize a referendum to ask Moldovans to approve the expansion of the president’s powers, fresh elections and returning the subject of the history of Moldova to the country’s schools, replacing ‘the history of Romania’ subject presently being taught.

September 10, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Moscow ‘astonished’ by Germany’s ‘baseless’ remarks on Zapad 2017 – Russian MoD

RT | September 9, 2017

The Russian Ministry of Defense rebuked the German defense minister for saying the upcoming Zapad 2017 exercises are little more than a show of force by Moscow involving vast numbers of troops, calling her comments bewildering.

On Thursday, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen claimed that the upcoming drills would involve over 100,000 troops on the eastern periphery of NATO, showing a “demonstration of capabilities and power of the Russians.”

“Anyone who doubts that only has to look at the high numbers of participating forces in the Zapad exercise: more than one hundred thousand,” von der Leyen said at an EU defense conference in Tallinn.

Her remarks were seized upon by Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov, who said it was strange that the Germans would come up with such a figure, particularly considering that they had been told of the plans for the drills in advance.

“We are astonished by statement made by Ms von der Leyen, the Germany’s Federal Minister of Defence, publicly handling baseless figures that allegedly 100 thousand Russian troops engaged in the Zapad 2017 and threaten Europe,” Konashenkov told reporters on Saturday.

“The German side has timely received and does have comprehensive information of the concept, defensive nature and true figure of the Russian troops engaged in the Zapad 2017 exercise,” the major-general said in the statement.

The Zapad 2017 drills, which will be held along with Belarus, are due to take place September 14-20 and will involve up to 12,700 troops, 70 aircraft, and nearly 700 land vehicles. Although the exercises take place every few years (the most recent drills were held in 2009 and 2013), this year’s maneuvers have come under huge scrutiny by NATO. In July, Lieutenant-General Ben Hodges, commander of US Army forces in Europe, referred to the routine exercises as a “Trojan horse,” noting there were suspicions they could be used to move forces and equipment closer to NATO’s eastern flank.

Moscow and Minsk have repeatedly refuted these speculations, saying that the drills are purely defensive in nature and pose no threat to any other country.

Moscow has said that the number of forces deployed under Zapad 2017 would not exceed the limits for mandatory monitoring under the 2011 Vienna document, the OSCE agreement meant to foster confidence through a number of measures to make military forces deployed in Europe more transparent. In addition, Belarus has invited international monitors from foreign countries to observe the active phase of the drills.

“The hype [over the exercise] was fanned up artificially and is definitely meant to convince the Western public that the cost of deploying additional forward military presence in Poland and the Baltics and increased NATO military activity is justified,” a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry said in August. “Remarkably, it is these actions that lead to increased military tension in Europe, which Western ‘pen and microphone warriors’ lament so much.”

At the same time, NATO has been increasingly building up its own forces and capabilities in eastern Europe. At the 2016 summit in Warsaw, NATO member states agreed to boost their military presence in the region to levels not seen since the Cold War, deploying four rotating multinational battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. In January of this year alone, 4,000 additional US troops were deployed to eastern Europe.

Russia has criticized this build-up as a threat to national, as well as regional, security. In February, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that “NATO’s expansion has led to an unprecedented level of tension over the last 30 years in Europe.”

September 9, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | | 2 Comments

M1 Abrams tanks, heavy armor arrive in Georgian port for Agile Spirit drills

© Minisrty of Defence of Georgia
RT | September 3, 2017

The US military has sent a number of M1 Abrams tanks as well as heavy armored vehicles for a massive multinational exercise, Agile Spirit 2017, which is kicking off in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

Some 500 US troops along with M1 Abrams main battle tanks and LAV armored fighting vehicles have arrived in the former Soviet republic of Georgia for the Agile Spirit 2017 exercise.

Georgia’s Defense Ministry has released a video that showed the unloading of the tanks – painted in desert camouflage – at the port of Poti.

US heavy armor will then be transported by train to Vaziani, where the main stage of the war games will begin.

The war games are expected to take place at the Georgian military’s Vaziani training center, involving US soldiers as well as approximately 1,000 troops from Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania and Ukraine.

“This is the seventh [edition] of the annually scheduled multilateral exercise designed to enhance US, Georgian and regional partner interoperability and strengthen understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques and procedures,” the Pentagon said in a press release.

Georgia, an active contributor to NATO deployments, has long planned to join the bloc, while Russia has long criticized the alliance for coming closer to its borders.

In a June interview with film director Oliver Stone, Russian President Vladimir Putin described NATO as an instrument of American foreign policy, and said the alliance’s members inevitably become US “vassals.”

“Once a country becomes a NATO member, it is hard to resist the pressures of the US. And all of a sudden, any weapons system can be placed in this country. An anti-ballistic missile system, new military bases and if need be, new offensive systems,” Putin said, adding that Russia was forced to take countermeasures over the ever-increasing NATO threat and armed military build-up on Russia’s borders.

September 3, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

McCain’s Transmutation from Cautious Realist to Super-Hawk

By Stephen J. Sniegoski • Unz Review • September 1, 2017

For many years, John McCain has been one of the major war hawks in the Senate, but he was not that way for more than a decade after he was first elected to Congress. When he entered the House of Representatives in 1983, he was a cautious realist, holding the position that U.S. military power should only be used to protect vital national interests. He developed this view as a result of his experience in the Vietnam War and his post-Vietnam studying of the origins of that war at the National War College.[1] That view loomed large among military leaders at this time and was exemplified by General Colin Powell.

In his first year in Congress, McCain, although a strong supporter of then President Reagan, voted against the latter’s decision to continue the deployment of troops in Lebanon during that country’s civil war. The measure would pass in both Houses of Congress, with substantial support from Democrats, and with only a small minority of Republicans daring to oppose Reagan. In his floor speech on this issue, McCain stated:

“The fundamental question is: What is the United States’ interest in Lebanon? It is said we are there to keep the peace. I ask, what peace? It is said we are there to aid the government. I ask, what government? It is said we are there to stabilize the region. I ask, how can the U.S. presence stabilize the region? . . . . The longer we stay in Lebanon, the harder it will be for us to leave. We will be trapped by the case we make for having our troops there in the first place.

“What can we expect if we withdraw from Lebanon? The same as will happen if we stay. I acknowledge that the level of fighting will increase if we leave. I regretfully acknowledge that many innocent civilians will be hurt. But I firmly believe this will happen in any event.”[2]

After a truck filled with explosives rammed into the Marine compound in Beirut, killing 241 service members, Reagan opted to remove the remaining troops a few months later. McCain was vindicated and he gained considerable attention from the mainstream media for his prescience and courage to take such a stand against a popular President from his party. This helped to develop his reputation as a “maverick.”

“The American people and Congress now appreciate that we are neither omniscient nor omnipotent,” McCain would later tell the Los Angeles Times, “and they are not prepared to commit U.S. troops to combat unless there is a clear U.S. national security interest involved. If we do become involved in combat, that involvement must be of relatively short duration and must be readily explained to the man in the street in one or two sentences.”[3]

In 1987, during the Iran-Iraq War, in which the United States was supporting Iraq, McCain, now a Senator, opposed President Reagan’s move to put American flags on Kuwaiti oil tankers and have the U.S. Navy protect them against possible Iranian attacks. In the Arizona Republican, he described Reagan’s action as a “dangerous overreaction in perhaps the most violent and unpredictable region in the world.” He continued: “American citizens are again being asked to place themselves between warring Middle East factions, with no tangible allied support and no real plan on how to respond if the situation escalates.”[4]

McCain did support the Gulf War in 1991, but even here he was something of a moderate. McCain biographer Matt Welch writes: “When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990, McCain oscillated between hawkishness and reluctance, denouncing the Iraqi dictator and then the U.S. government for having cozied up too closely to Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war, but at the same time warning against a protracted land battle.”[5] McCain stated: “If you get involved in a major ground war in the Saudi desert, I think support will erode significantly. Nor should it be supported. We cannot even contemplate, in my view, trading American blood for Iraqi blood.”[6]

Under Republican Presidents Reagan and the elder Bush, it must be acknowledged that McCain was not an actual non-interventionist since he supported the American opposition to the Soviet Union, and what he considered to be pro-Soviet forces in Central America. Moreover, he supported the removal of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega by the U.S. military in 1989. But this was still a far cry from the global interventionist that McCain would become.

Moreover, during Bill Clinton’s presidency, McCain would be even more non-interventionist until his radical change during the last years of Clinton’s term. In a commencement address he made to the Marine Corps Command and Staff College in Quantico, Virginia in June 1994, McCain emphasized that his cautious approach to war resulted from his Vietnam experience. He solemnly orated that he had not forgotten “the friends who did not return with me to the country we loved so dearly. The memory of them, of what they bore for honor and country, causes me to look in every prospective conflict for the shadow of Vietnam.”[7]

In December 1992, after losing the November election to Bill Clinton, the elder George Bush dispatched American troops to Somalia, then embroiled in a many-sided civil war, to facilitate the provision of food to the starving civilian population. This was part of a United Nations effort. By the fall of 1993, this military mission morphed into one of arresting war lords and nation-building. In October 1993, a 15-hour battle took place in Mogadishu that left 18 Americans dead and 73 injured, with many of these casualties the result of two Black Hawk helicopters being shot down.[8]

Because of this loss of American lives, there was a Senate bill supported by President Clinton which planned to remove American troops from Somalia. Demanding a quicker troop exit, McCain stated: “Mr. President, can anyone seriously argue that another six months of United States forces in harm’s way means the difference between peace and prosperity in Somalia and war and starvation there? Is that very dim prospect worth one more American life? No, it is not.”

Drawing an analogy to what happened in Lebanon in 1983, McCain contended: “240 young Marines lost their lives, but we got out. Now is the time for us to get out of Somalia, as rapidly, and as promptly, and as safely as possible.”

“The longer we stay the more difficult it will be to leave,” McCain asserted. “The loss of American lives is not only tragic, it is needless.”[9] His proposed amendment for a quicker departure, however, was voted down.

McCain also opposed Clinton’s intervention in Haiti to bring back President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been elected in 1990 and then overthrown in a coup in 1991. After a UN resolution authorized the use of military force to return Aristide to power, the United States would ultimately do so on October 15, 1994. In late August 1994, McCain declared: “It is the post-invasion circumstances that I fear will bog down U.S. forces in a low-level, open-ended, ill-defined conflict which will require U.S. servicemen and women to serve as a virtual palace guard for President Aristide once he is returned to power.”[10]

The major international concern in the 1990s was the conflict in Yugoslavia—with the focus first on Bosnia and then Kosovo. After the downfall of Communism, Yugoslavia dissolved, with the secession, in 1992, of Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia. Bosnia also declared its independence despite the staunch opposition of Bosnian Serbs, who wanted to remain united with Serbia. Civil war broke out between the Bosnian Serbs, supported by Serbia, and the Muslim-dominated Bosnian government. Thousands of people were killed, raped, and expelled from their homes. The West generally looked upon the atrocities, real and imagined, as being primarily perpetrated by the Serbs. In the United States, this was especially the case among American liberals who would advocate “humanitarian” military intervention to protect the Muslims.

In 1992, the UN peacekeeping forces intervened for humanitarian reasons and set up several so-called safe areas for refugees, which often turned out to be not very safe. The UN forces were composed of non-American troops, while American ships and airplanes enforced an arms embargo.

The wars in Yugoslavia would ultimately lead to a sea change in McCain’s position on American military intervention, but this did not occur all at once. Initially, McCain was, like many Republicans, opposed to American involvement in the conflict. In fact, biographer Matt Welch describes McCain as having been “one of the Senate’s most stubborn opponents to US military intervention against Serbs.”[11] McCain contended that any American military “peace-keeping” effort in Bosnia would likely lead to a quagmire. “I think you can draw a parallel to the military challenge in Bosnia with what the Russians faced in Afghanistan,” McCain opined in May 1993. “Even with ground forces and with overwhelming air superiority, they were unable to defeat a motivated, very capable enemy.”[12]

In December 1994, McCain, whom the Los Angeles Times described as a “a leading opponent of greater American military involvement in the war,” stated: “I think we have a very full plate of a legislative agenda, which are the commitments we made to the American people–and Bosnia wasn’t one of those.”[13] In May 1995, McCain held that U.S. efforts in the Balkans were “doomed to failure from the beginning, when we believed that we could keep peace in a place where there was no peace.”[14] Neocon Robert Kagan bemoaned the fact that on Bosnia, Senator McCain led the Republican attack, warning that any use of military power there would result in “another failure like Vietnam or Lebanon.”[15]

Prospects for peace, however, improved in the summer of 1995 when NATO, led by the United States, launched airstrikes against Bosnian Serb targets, which combined with better-equipped Muslim and Croatian forces pressured the Bosnian Serbs into participating in peace negotiations. This led to the Dayton Accords in November 1995, which ended the war in Bosnia. NATO would provide peace-keeping troops, including 20,000 from the U.S.

After NATO’s success, McCain quickly dropped his staunch anti-interventionist position. McCain later claimed that his position had begun to change as a moral reaction to the Serbs’ massacre of thousands of unarmed Bosnian Muslims in July 1995.[16] While most Republican members of Congress were opposed to sending American troops to Bosnia, McCain joined Senator Robert Dole (Republican—Kansas) in putting forth the nonbinding Dole-McCain resolution which permitted Clinton to send troops, though limiting the deployment to one year–which was Clinton’s stated time period—and requiring the United States to lead an effort to arm and train Bosnian troops. The resolution passed in the Senate but was not taken up in the House.[17]

Showing that he had not completely dropped his previous cautious approach to intervention, McCain emphasized that the Dole-McCain resolution was not seeking support for President Clinton’s decision to deploy the troops. “It asks that you support the deployment after the decision has been made,” he said. “The decision has been made by the only American elected to make such decisions [i.e., the President].” However, McCain also expressed a firm interventionist conviction: “When we arrive at the moment when less is expected from our leadership by the rest of the world, then we will have arrived at the moment of our decline.” And he said, “We cannot withdraw from the world into our prosperity and comfort and hope to keep those blessings.”[18]

While a change from his previous strong opposition to American intervention abroad, supporting this peace effort in Bosnia did not portend McCain’s radical transmutation to the global super-hawk that he would become. That final step would require the involvement of the neoconservatives. This connection began when, in 1997, McCain and his advisers read an article in the Wall Street Journal editorial page by neoconservatives Bill Kristol and David Brooks who were promoting the idea of “national greatness” conservatism, which consisted of a more activist domestic agenda and a more interventionist global role.[19]

While this article may have fit in with the direction that McCain’s thinking was moving, it had political implications as well: McCain had been eyeing the presidency for a number of years. According to John Weaver, a major political adviser to McCain at this time: “I wouldn’t call it a ‘eureka’ moment, but there was a sense that this is where we are headed and this is what we are trying to articulate and they [Kristol and Brooks] have already done a lot of the work. . . . And, quite frankly, from a crass political point of view, we were in the making-friends business. The Weekly Standard represented a part of the primary electorate that we could get.”[20] And it should be emphasized that McCain’s change was not a gradual one but rather one that was quite radical and took place in a very short period of time.

After reading this article, McCain and staff were consulting regularly with leading neocons, including Kristol, Robert Kagan, and Randy Scheunemann[21], to, in the words of journalist David Kirkpatrick, “develop the senator’s foreign policy ideas and instincts into the broad themes of a presidential campaign.”[22] In short, McCain realized that he needed the neocons’ intellectual and political support if he were to achieve higher office. The neocons were already well-known and had played a significant role in the Reagan administration. And during the Clinton years, neocons promoted their views from a strong interlocking network of think tanks which have had a significant influence in shaping American foreign policy.

McCain would begin to support neocon positions. On January 26, 1998, the neocon-dominated Project for a New American Century (PNAC), created in 1997 and headed by Bill Kristol, sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to take unilateral military action against Iraq to overthrow Saddam and offered a plan to achieve that objective. After the Clinton administration failed to take action, another neocon-front group, the resurrected Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf, which had promoted the 1991 Gulf War, sent another letter urging war. And, because of Clinton’s continued inaction, PNAC would send another such letter in May.

While President Clinton failed to take action, McCain pushed for military action against Saddam in 1998. McCain co-sponsored the Iraq Liberation Act, committing the United States to support the overthrow of Saddam and funding opposition groups, most importantly the Iraqi National Congress. Headed by the notorious neocon-favorite Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi National Congress would provide much of the spurious information that generated support for the war on Iraq in 2003. The bill passed in both houses of Congress and on October 31, 1998, President Clinton signed it into law. Clinton, however, did not intend to implement this measure and George Bush made no mention of it during the 2000 campaign.[23] McCain, however, remained in lock-step with the neocons on Iraq and would be made Honorary Co-chair of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq when it was created in 2002.

McCain had been in line with the neocons as a strong supporter of Israel even during the time he adhered to a cautious realist position regarding U.S. military interventionism. He was the 1999 recipient of the Defender of Jerusalem award, given by the National Council of Young Israel. In his acceptance speech, McCain in effect told his pro-Zionist audience that the United States should be prepared to make war for Israel’s sake. “Certainly, no one would argue with the proposition that our armed forces exist first and foremost for the defense of the United States and its vital interests abroad,” McCain intoned. “We choose, as a nation, however, to intervene militarily abroad in defense of the moral values that are at the center of our national conscientiousness even when vital national interests are not necessarily at stake. I raise this point because it lies at the heart of this nation’s approach to Israel. The survival of Israel is one of this country’s most important moral commitments. . . . Like the United States, Israel is more than a nation; it is an ideal.”[24] Note that this was diametrically opposed to his former view that American intervention abroad should only take place to protect vital American interests.

However, it was not Iraq or any of Israel’s enemies that put McCain in the national limelight but rather the U.S.-led NATO war on Serbia over Kosovo in 1999. As Washington Post staff writer Dan Balz wrote in early April 1999, “no politician has been more visible on the issue of Kosovo the past two weeks than the former Vietnam prisoner of war, and a number of political analysts say his performance has given a boost to his presidential aspirations.”[25]

President Clinton orchestrated the NATO war on Serbia, because of the Serbs “ethnic cleansing” of Muslims in their territory of Kosovo. Since Serbia could not possibly threaten the United States, the war was presented as being largely for humanitarian reasons. At this time, there were all types of stories of Serb mass killings of Kosovars, with figures up to 100,000 Kosovar civilians being missing and conceivably murdered.[26] Physical evidence for these extreme claims was not found and former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic was not even charged with crimes of such great magnitude at his trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). And according to German government documents no “ethnic cleansing” of Kosovar Albanians took place until after the NATO bombing.[27]

Unlike many Republicans, McCain supported Clinton’s decision for war. But while Clinton limited American actions to air strikes, McCain maintained that it was essential to win this military confrontation at all costs and called on the Clinton Administration to deploy ground troops if the reliance on air strikes alone appeared to be insufficient to achieve victory.[28]

McCain thus sponsored a resolution that would have given President Clinton congressional authorization to use all means necessary to win the military campaign in Kosovo. The leaders of both parties opposed this resolution and it was tabled. McCain complained: “The president doesn’t want the power he possesses by law because the risks inherent in its exercise have paralyzed him.”[29]

McCain’s hawkish position reflected the views of the neoconservatives. And obviously, his pro-intervention stance represented a sea change from his previous emphasis on caution and support of war only if it involved a vital American interest.

Members of the interventionist Balkan Action Committee, which advocated NATO ground troops for Kosovo, included such prominent neoconservative mainstays as Richard Perle, Max M. Kampelman, Morton Abramowitz, and Paul Wolfowitz. Other neoconservative proponents of a tougher war included Eliot Cohen, Elliott Abrams, John Bolton, Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, and Norman Podhoretz.[30]

Largely because of his bellicose position on Kosovo, McCain was the favorite presidential candidate for many leading neoconservatives in 2000. As Franklin Foer, editor of the liberal New Republic, put it: “Jewish neoconservatives have fallen hard for John McCain. It’s not just unabashed swooner William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard. McCain has also won over such leading neocon lights as David Brooks, the entire Podhoretz family, The Wall Street Journal‘s Dorothy Rabinowitz, and columnist Charles Krauthammer, who declared, in a most un-Semitic flourish, ‘He suffered for our sins.’”[31]

McCain was especially championed by Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, and his associate David Brooks. They held that McCain would promote their idea of “national greatness,” as opposed to what they regarded as the standpatness of the conservative Republicans. The “national greatness” program would entail a greater role for the federal government and more extensive intervention throughout the world to promote American values.

Neoconservatives admired McCain for his support of the American war on Serbia, toward which many mainstream conservatives were decidedly cool. The attack on Serbia, ostensibly for humanitarian reasons, provided the intellectual groundwork for the attack on Iraq, the neocons’ fundamental target, since it set the precedent of violating international law’s prohibition against initiating offensive wars. No longer would the United States have to be attacked, or even threatened, to engage in war. As Kristol and Brooks put it: “For all his conventional political views, McCain embodies a set of virtues that today are unconventional. The issue that gave the McCain campaign its initial boost was Kosovo. He argued that America as a great champion of democracy and decency could not fail to act. And he supported his commander in chief despite grave doubts about the conduct of the war–while George W. Bush sat out the debate and Republicans on the Hill flailed at Clinton.”[32]

But the neocons did not support McCain simply because of his defense of the Kosovars, but rather because of his broader interventionist position of “rogue state rollback,” which pointed directly at the enemies of Israel. While participating in a Republican debate moderated by CNN’s Larry King on February. 15, 2000, the candidates were asked: “What area of American international policy would you change immediately as president?” McCain replied: “I’d institute a policy that I call ‘rogue state rollback.’ I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically-elected governments.” And he added: “As long as Saddam Hussein is in power, I am convinced that he will pose a threat to our security.”[33]

What caused McCain’s radical shift from cautious realist to super hawk? Biographer Matt Welch sees it as essentially a return to his basic world view, largely derived from the family’s military background, after the non-interventionist effect of the Vietnam Syndrome. Welch writes: “But much less understood is the extent to which interventionist hegemony has been literally seared into McCain’s skull and then reignited late in life after the long intellectual detour of Vietnam.”[34]

Justin Raimondo sees it otherwise: “It is impossible to know what is in McCain’s heart. There may be a purely ideological explanation for his changing viewpoint. But what seems to account for his evolution from realism to hopped-up interventionism is nothing more than sheer ambition.” He goes on: “He was positioning himself against his own party, while staking out a distinctive stance independent of the Democrats. It was, in short, an instance of a presidential candidate maneuvering himself to increase his appeal to the electorate—and, most importantly, the media.”[35]

In an article in Rolling Stone, Tim Dickerson expresses a view similar to that of Raimondo, describing McCain as “a man willing to say and do anything to achieve his ultimate ambition: to become commander in chief, ascending to the one position that would finally enable him to outrank his four-star father and grandfather.” Dickerson continues: “Few politicians have so actively, or successfully, crafted their own myth of greatness.”[36]

McCain has flip-flopped on domestic issues, sometimes supporting a conservative position and at other times a more liberal one which wins him the plaudits of the mainstream media—but once he moved into the neocon orbit regarding U.S. foreign policy, he has stayed there. It is obviously beneficial for a politician to have the broad neocon network of organizations on one’s side. And more than a few of these neocons—such as Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, David Brooks, are featured regularly in the mainstream media. Moreover, the mainstream liberal media itself has adopted many neocon interventionist positions in foreign policy in regard to Russia and the Middle East, so McCain’s positions are held in esteem there, too.

So while McCain portrays himself as a “maverick” and “straight-talker” who is above politics– and this image is largely accepted by the mainstream media—it would seem most likely that his political positions have been adopted to advance his own political interests.[37] While this approach did not enable him to become President, it did serve to make him something of a public icon, which is a position few politicians attain. However, the war-oriented policies he has advocated have been disastrous for the United States. It is only fortunate that John McCain has not attained the power to have his positions adopted in their entirety.

September 1, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Inflating the Russian Threat

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | August 28, 2017

Readers of the New York Times have more to sweat about than hot summer weather in the Big Apple. The paper’s chief military correspondent, Michael Gordon — co-author of the infamous 2002 story about Saddam Hussein’s “quest for A-bomb parts” — has all but warned that war in Europe could break out at any minute with the mighty Russian army.

“Russia is preparing to send as many as 100,000 troops to the eastern edge of NATO territory at the end of the summer,” he reported last month with Eric Schmitt. Sounding like speechwriters for Sen. John McCain, they called the long-planned military exercises with Belarus — known as “Zapad” (Russian for “west”) — “one of the biggest steps yet in the military buildup undertaken by President Vladimir V. Putin and an exercise in intimidation that recalls the most ominous days of the Cold War.”

Gordon and Schmitt added that this latest and greatest example of “Mr. Putin’s saber-rattling,” represents “the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union that so much offensive power has been concentrated in a single command.”

Many other Western news organizations have echoed this story, albeit with less alarmist rhetoric. NBC News warned that “another military challenge may be on the horizon” as “thousands of Russian troops and tanks are preparing to take part in what may be the country’s largest military exercise since the Cold War.”

Reciting the same talking points almost verbatim, the London Guardian reported days ago that “Russia is preparing to mount what could be one of its biggest military exercises since the Cold War.” Like the Times, it cited estimates by “Western officials and analysts” that “up to 100,000 military personnel and logistical support could participate” in the war games next month.

Meanwhile, the Defense Minister of Estonia predicted that “Russia may use large-scale military exercises to move thousands of troops permanently into Belarus later this year in a warning to NATO.” Two Polish military officials speculated darkly that “Having created such a military build-up under the pretext of such exercise, Russia could launch a limited or provocative military hybrid operation to see what happens and further test the waters on NATO’s eastern flank, or in Ukraine, where the Russo-Ukrainian conflict remains in full swing.”

The Missing Context

The average reader would never know that U.S. and NATO forces themselves engaged this summer in “their largest military exercises since the end of the Cold War,” to quote NPR. Nor would they know that NATO collectively spends 12 times more than Russia on its military, or that its European members alone field nearly 75 percent more military personnel than Russia.

And only the most attentive reader, reaching the bottom of the long New York Times story, would have learned that “Russian officials have told NATO that the maneuvers will be far smaller than Western officials are anticipating and will involve fewer than 13,000 troops.”

The anti-Putin director of the Centre for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies in Minsk points out that only 3,000 Russian military personnel will take part in the exercises in Belarus from September 14 to September 20. “Based on these figures, the military drills are practically the same as the previous Zapad-2013,” he said.

He also noted that Belarus has invited no fewer than 80 international observers to calm fears:

“In addition to the accredited military attaches of Western embassies, special delegations from the UN, the International Red Cross . . . and NATO will be invited. This, by the way, is the first time when NATO observers are invited to such exercises. Separately, Belarus arranged for the presence of delegations from Sweden, Norway and Estonia.”

NATO has complained — possibly with justification — that Russia and Belarus have not fully complied with their obligations under the Vienna Document of 2011 to provide detailed briefings, progress reports, and opportunities to interview soldiers about the exercise.

NATO and Russia undertook after the Cold War to provide greater transparency about their military exercises to minimize the threat of conflict. In recent years, particularly following the Ukraine crisis, growing political tensions have put a strain on such cooperative measures.

A number of reasonable analysts warn that Russia may sidestep its reporting obligations by dividing its exercises into smaller units, below the threshold of 13,000 personnel that gives members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe the right to observe.

‘Probably Exaggerated’

For example, Russia claimed that its Western exercises four years ago kept just within that threshold. But two experts writing for the conservative Jamestown Foundation in Washington, D.C. argued that “if one takes a broader view of what elements constituted a part of the Zapad 2013 exercise, then the total participants number approximately 22,000 men, of which 13,000 exercised on Belarusian territory and more than 9,500 on Russian territory.”

The Guardian quotes an expert on Russia’s military as saying of Zapad-17, “you can’t trust what the Russians say. One hundred thousand is probably exaggerated but 18,000 is absolutely realistic.”

Even if true, such numbers hardly support viewing the upcoming exercises as an “ominous” threat to the West. A British expert, remarking on the “mythology” that often accompanies such events, noted that “Much of the Western coverage said that the 2009 exercise ended with a simulated nuclear attack on Warsaw, Poland, even though there is no evidence at all from unclassified sources to suggest this was the case.”

Michael Kofman, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, has debunked many of the unfounded estimates of Zapad-17’s size and potential threat to Europe.

“The Russian Ministry of Defense itself likely hopes Western media will report exaggerated figures,” he says. “Such headlines help validate the scale and success of the exercise to national leadership in Moscow. In this respect, the entire affair is an exercise in co-dependency and is self-affirming.”

Russia unquestionably wants to impress NATO with its military capabilities, Kofman acknowledges, but that’s for deterrence.

“Throughout the exercise, Russian armed forces will try to signal that they have the ability to impose substantial costs on a technologically advanced adversary, i.e. the United States,” he writes. “Russian thinking is founded on the belief that its military can raise costs for the West such that they will grossly outweigh the potential gains for sustaining hostilities, particularly if the fight is over Belarus.”

Threat Inflation Nothing New

The steady drumbeat of warnings about Russian military capabilities and intentions recalls the perennial use of “threat inflation” since the earliest days of the Cold War to sell bigger military budgets and a permanent warfare state.

Former NATO Commander Philip M. Breedlove

One of the acknowledged masters of threat inflation was NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove. Hacked emails exposed his undercover campaign to “leverage, cajole, convince or coerce the U.S. to react” to Russia during the Obama years.

Two years ago, the West German news magazine Der Spiegel, ran a lengthy article on Breedlove’s reckless disregard for facts. Following the Minsk ceasefire agreement, at a time of relative quiet in Ukraine between government and pro-Russian forces, Breedlove held an inflammatory press conference to announce that Vladimir Putin had sent Russian armed forces with “well over a thousand combat vehicles, . . . some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery” to Eastern Ukraine. The military situation he warned was “getting worse every day.”

German political leaders and intelligence officials were “stunned,” according to the magazine. Their information didn’t match his claims at all.

The same thing had happened soon after the start of the Ukraine crisis in early 2014, triggered by an anti-Russia coup that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. Breedlove warned of an imminent invasion by 40,000 Russian troops massed on the border — when intelligence officials from other NATO member states had ruled out such an invasion and put the total number of Russian troops at about half that number.

“For months,” the magazine observed, “Breedlove has been commenting on Russian activities in eastern Ukraine, speaking of troop advances on the border, the amassing of munitions and alleged columns of Russian tanks. Over and over again, Breedlove’s numbers have been significantly higher than those in the possession of America’s NATO allies in Europe. As such, he is playing directly into the hands of the hardliners in the US Congress and in NATO.”

Russian troop advances . . . the massing of forces . . . it all sounds familiar. Sure enough, although now retired, Breedlove was one of the first to sound the alarm this year about the Zapad exercise, telling a Senate hearing that it could involve as many as 200,000 troops.

Two years ago, members of the German government condemned Breedlove’s warnings as “dangerous propaganda.” They told Der Spiegel, “The West can’t counter Russian propaganda with its own propaganda, ‘rather it must use arguments that are worthy of a constitutional state.’”

The same stricture should surely apply today, as unsupported rhetoric foments unnecessary and dangerous military tensions between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.

August 28, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

Still Spinning On Libya

By James W. Carden | Consortium News | August 17, 2017

In recent weeks, the Washington Post’s Cairo bureau chief Sudarsan Raghavan has published a series of remarkable dispatches from war-torn Libya, which is still reeling from the aftermath of NATO’s March 2011 intervention and the subsequent overthrow and murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

On July 2, Raghavan reported on what amounts to Libya’s modern-day slave trade. According to his report, Libya is “now home to a thriving trade in humans. Unable to pay exorbitant smuggling fees or swindled by traffickers, some of the world’s most desperate people are being held as slaves, tortured or forced into prostitution.”

The numbers help tell the tale. “The number of migrants departing from Libya is surging,” writes Raghavan, “with more than 70,000 arriving in Italy so far this year, a 28 percent increase over the same period last year.”

On August 1, Raghavan returned to the pages of the Post with a disturbing portrait of life in Tripoli, reporting that: “Six years after the revolution that toppled dictator Moammar Gaddafi, the mood in this volatile capital is a meld of hopelessness and gloom. Diplomatic and military efforts by the United States and its allies have failed to stabilize the nation; the denouement of the crisis remains far from clear. Most Libyans sense that the worst is yet to come.”

Raghavan notes that “Under Gaddafi, the oil-producing country was once one of the world’s wealthiest nations.” Under his rule, “Libyans enjoyed free health care, education and other benefits under the eccentric strongman’s brand of socialism.” It would be difficult not to see, Raghavan writes, “the insecurity that followed Gaddafi’s death has ripped apart the North African country.”

Taken together, Raghavan’s reports should come as a rude shock to stalwart supporters of NATO’s intervention in Libya. Yet the embarrassing fervor with which many embraced the intervention remains largely undiminished – with, as we will see, one notable exception.

An Upside-Down Meritocracy

Anne Marie Slaughter, who served as policy planning chief at the State Department under Hillary Clinton, emailed her former boss after the start of the NATO operation, to say: “I cannot imagine how exhausted you must be after this week, but I have never been prouder of having worked for you.”

Five months after the start of NATO operation against Gaddafi, Slaughter went public with her approval in an op-ed for the Financial Times titled “Why Libya Skeptics Were Proved Badly Wrong.” Proving, if nothing else, that the foreign policy establishment is a reverse meritocracy, Slaughter holds an endowed chair at Princeton and is also the well-compensated president of the influential Washington think tank New America.

President Obama’s decision to intervene received wide bipartisan support in the Congress and from media figures across the political spectrum, including Bill O’Reilly and Cenk Uyghur.

Yet the casus belli used to justify the intervention, as a U.K. parliamentary report made clear last September, was based on a lie: that the people of the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi were in imminent danger of being slaughtered by Gaddafi’s forces.

The report, issued by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, states that “Despite his rhetoric, the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence.”

The report also noted that while “Many Western policymakers genuinely believed that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered his troops to massacre civilians in Benghazi … this did not necessarily translate into a threat to everyone in Benghazi. In short, the scale of the threat to civilians was presented with unjustified certainty. US intelligence officials reportedly described the intervention as ‘an intelligence-light decision.’”

Even as it became clear that the revolution had proved to be a disaster for the country, the arbiters of acceptable opinion in Washington continued to insist that NATO’s intervention was not only a success, but the right thing to do. It is a myth that has gained wide purchase among D.C.’s foreign policy cognoscenti, despite the judgment of former President Barack Obama, who famously described the intervention as “a shit show.”

Still Spinning

A full year after the commencement of NATO’s campaign against Gaddafi, former NATO Ambassador Ivo Daalder and NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stravidis took to the pages of that reliable bellwether of establishment opinion, Foreign Affairs, to declare that “NATO’s operation in Libya has rightly been hailed as a model intervention.”

According to Daalder and Stravidis, “the alliance responded rapidly to a deteriorating situation that threatened hundreds of thousands of civilians rebelling against an oppressive regime.”

In 2016, a Clinton campaign press release justifying the ill-starred intervention, claimed “Qadhafi and his regime made perfectly clear what their plans were for dealing with those who stood up against his reign, using disgusting language in urging his backers to cleanse the country of these rebels. This was a humanitarian crisis.”

Astonishingly, the campaign “Factsheet” goes on to assert that, “there was no doubt that further atrocities were on the way, as Qadhafi’s forces storming towards the county’s second biggest city.” Yet there is, as both the U.K. parliamentary report and a Harvard study by Alan J. Kuperman found, no evidence for this whatsoever.

“Qaddafi did not perpetrate a ‘bloodbath’ in any of the cities that his forces recaptured from rebels prior to NATO intervention — including Ajdabiya, Bani Walid, Brega, Ras Lanuf, Zawiya, and much of Misurata — so there was,” writes Kuperman, “virtually no risk of such an outcome if he had been permitted to recapture the last rebel stronghold of Benghazi.”

Nevertheless, the myth persists. Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Shadi Hamid, the author of Islamic Exceptionalismcontinues to insist, against all evidence, that the intervention was a success.

“The Libya intervention was successful,” says Hamid, “The country is better off today than it would have been had the international community allowed dictator Muammar Qaddafi to continue his rampage across the country.”

In this, Hamid is hardly alone. Left-activists in thrall to a Trotskyite vision of permanent revolution also continue to make the case that NATO’s intervention was a net positive for the country.

In a recent interview with In These Times, Leila Al-Shami claimed that “If Gaddafi had not fallen, Libya now would look very much like Syria. In reality, the situation in Libya is a million times better. Syrian refugees are fleeing to Libya. Far fewer people have been killed in Libya since Gaddafi’s falling than in Syria. Gaddafi being ousted was a success for the Libyan people.” … Full article

August 17, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment