Government officials in Norway have been breached by a phishing attack which authorities promptly pinned on ‘Russian hackers,’ claiming the hack was allegedly traced back to the same culprits that compromised the DNC servers in the US last year.
Nine personal civil-servant email accounts have been compromised, the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) announced, just days after the agency coincidentally identified possible Russian spying as the greatest potential threat to the country.
The Labor Party and “a handful of other Norwegian targets” were subjected to email attacks that allegedly took place last autumn, the Dagbladet reported. The defense and foreign ministries as well as security service staff were among those targeted, the BBC reports citing local media.
“The attacks had a signature that indicates those behind the hacking can be identified as APT29,” PST spokesman Martin Berntsen told the Associated Press. “They can be traced back to Russia,” he stated without elaborating further, while conceding that no classified information has been compromised.
CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity company hired by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to investigate the June 2016 data breach, was first to accuse APT29 – which they named “Cozy Bear” and “Fancy Bear” – of being Russian government entities. However, CrowdStrike has never offered any proof for this assertion.
Spear phishing – the forging of trusted communication to access private data – isn’t a Russian know-how but a popular and quite unsophisticated fraud technique that is widely used around the world to hijack electronic accounts.
Labour’s leader, Jonas Gahr Store, also confirmed the breach of his party’s emails, after being notified of the hack by PST on Wednesday.
“I can confirm that we are informed by PST that Labour’s parliamentary group was subjected to an attempted digital attack by a group that PST ties to foreign intelligence,” Store’s press spokeswoman Camilla Ryste, told Nettavisen, The Local reports.
The new revelations follow PST’s latest threat assessment on national security published Wednesday, where Norway said that Russian intelligence poses the greatest challenge for the country.
“It is primarily Russia that has intentions and capacity to do intelligence activities with big damage potential for Norway and Norwegian interests,” the annual report from the Police Security Service (PST) reads.
“Intelligence pressure from foreign states, especially from the Russian side, has been high and stable over the years,” PST Chief Benedicte Bjornland said in the report, according to The Local. “The reason why we increase [the risk] now is that there is a tougher security situation. This means that the intelligence activities of Russia, in particular, have the potential to be more dangerous now than before.”
The Russian embassy in Norway called the Russian threat a “myth” blaming Oslo of staging a “witch hunt” instead of dealing with real threats like terrorism.
“Unfortunately, it seems like some are uninterested in normalization of our relationship and strive persistently to return to the times of the Cold War,” the embassy said on Facebook.
Norway has summoned Russia’s ambassador to explain why two of its legislators were denied entry visas. Though the officials were placed on “counter-sanctions” lists and denied entry long ago, Norway has somehow found the rejections “incomprehensible.”
An official note containing the same objections preceded the ambassador’s summoning.
“The Foreign Ministry today summoned the Russian ambassador to repeat the protests,” the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
Norway’s Foreign Minister Børge Brende condemned Russia’s denial of the visas in strong terms. The rejected legislators are Bård Vegar Solhjell, the leader of Norway’s Socialist Left party, and Trine Skei Grande, the leader of the country’s Liberal Party.
“These are two distinguished, top-level Norwegian officials, excellent representatives of Norway,” Brende told the reporters, saying “it’s incomprehensible that they not be allowed to enter Russia.”
Although the minister acknowledged that Russia has the right to determine who can enter the country, saying that it’s “obviously up to every country to decide who can enter,” he slammed the denial as “biased, unreasonable and inconceivable.”
The Russian embassy in Oslo has confirmed that the visa requests were rejected as a part of a “mirror response” to Norway adopting the same sanctions that the EU has imposed on Russian citizens, as well as policies discriminating against Russian citizens who want to visit Spitsbergen island.
The list of officials from the EU and other countries who have been banned from entering Russia was provided to Brussels well ahead of time, with advice to inform all those affected, a Russian embassy spokesman stressed. Norway’s FM himself has admitted that the denials were something to be “expected” and that Norway’s reaction to the visa rejections thus appears quite surprising.
Coincidently, the outrage over Russia’s “hostile actions” came just hours after the country’s Police Security Service (PST) determined that Russia poses a “major threat” to Norway, along with Islamism.
Norway joined the EU’s sanctions against Russia and Russian citizens back in 2014 in response to what it called “Russia’s violations of human rights in Ukraine.” The situation escalated in April of 2015 when Russia’s Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin visited Norway’s Island of Spitsbergen while on a trip to open the ‘North Pole-2015’ station. Norwegian authorities were riled by the visit, as Rogozin was on Europe’s anti-Russia sanction list.
Norway then adopted a measure authorizing the immediate deportation of sanctioned Russian citizens from the archipelago. Though Russia’s Foreign Ministry has protested the regulation, calling it discriminatory and in violation of an agreement on international cooperation on Spitsbergen, it was made permanent last September.
These two top officials behind major US wars (Iran/Afghanistan and Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos) and regime change (against Allende, Chile) will speak at the first of a new event, The Nobel Peace Prize Forum Oslo, created by the Nobel Institute in Oslo.
The leaders of the two institutions declare that they are proud to have succeeded in getting these two diplomats to Norway – and the media, of course, will be there. The event is sponsored by the California-based company InCircl – a marketing and mobile payment company.
These two experts on warfare and interventionism will – Orwellian style – speak about “The United States and World Peace After The Presidential Election”.
This is the country that, since 1980, has intervened violently in Iran, Libya, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Kosova/Serbia, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, i.e. 14 Muslim countries. It has some 630 base facilities in 130+ countries. It has its US Special Forces (SOF) in 133 countries.
It has used nuclear weapons without apology and owns the second largest arsenal of nuclear weapons.
The US stands for about 40% of the world’s military expenditures, is the world’s leading arms exporter and has killed more people than anybody else since 1945. It’s the master of (imprecise) drone strikes. It presently supports Saudi Arabia’s bestial war on Yemen and conducts a military build-up in Asia and the Pacific planning, as it seems, for what looks like a future confrontation with China. And not with terribly positive results in its Middle East policies since 1945.
So with all these credentials, please tell us about world peace!
The U.S. should be seen as quite incapable of peace-making – not the least thanks to Dr. Kissinger (now 93) who is associated with major “war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offences against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture” in places such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Timor, and Chile as stated in the classical book about his peace-making by Christopher Hitchens “The Trial Of Henry Kissinger.”
Here is Carl Estabrook’s trustworthy account with personal references.
Brzezinski (now 88) doesn’t have as much blood on his hands but his hawkish “Realpolitk” contributions to US foreign policy – including its failures – over decades are well described here.
So, undoubtedly these voices from past militarism and imperialism – here understood as theoretical concepts, not as ideological slogans – are supposed to enlighten the participants in Oslo, young university students in particular, in the right teachings, in U.S. international political history and concepts, promote their surreal peace concept and present an interpretation of the – surely – benign US and its exceptionalist role in the future world (dis)order.
Let me be very clear: I am in favour of universities being open, of free academic debate and freedom of expression. These two cast-off ideologues are entitled to that too – in Oslo for sure.
But I do have this to ask:
Who will get the same honour while holding the different, opposite views – as should be the case in normal academic-intellectual settings?
Will the Nobel Institute and Oslo University honour intellectuals with such other values and perspectives? Would they invite victims of the policies of the US under the influence of Kissinger and Brzezinski?
And would somebody be invited to a similar high-profiled event who works with peace concepts that – in stark contrast to these two – are based on conflict analysis, anti-imperialism, anti-militarism, disarmament, nonviolence, reconciliation, forgiveness and the cultures of peace including dialogue and negotiations?
This brings me to a confession of sorts:
While I am in favour of intellectual freedom and open debate, I am not in favour of the Nobel Institute inviting people such as Kissinger and Brzezinski. The Institute as well as the Nobel Committee that decides who shall be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize has a mandate based upon the will of Alfred Nobel.
And he wrote there that he wanted his Prize to go to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
It goes without saying and without further discussion that the two visitors have done nothing – nothing – for that.
To award prizes – and honour by invitations – alleged, non-convicted war criminals should, by simple logics, be unthinkable. Impossible.
The link between the prize committee and the institute is clear; that link is embodied in professor Olav Njölstad, a historian, who both heads the Nobel Institute and is a member (secretary) of the Nobel Committee.
The Kissinger-Brzezinski event is nothing less than a slap in the face of everyone working for peace and of Alfred Nobel’s will.
It’s a crystal clear violation of that will and legal authorities as well as the Swedish Nobel Foundation ought to secure that anything like this can never happen again. I know from experience that none will take action. Peace is war and war is peace – and why should they care about a will and legal issues when they honour people who have systematically broken international law or advocated the breaking of it?
Or, in other words, anybody who feels they need to be enlightened by two of the oldest and worst representatives of the most militant and war-fighting nation on earth about the world’s future and about peace signals only one thing: The intellectual and moral decay of a small Western country totally submissive to the US – which itself is in utterly clear moral, intellectual, political and economic decay – and Empire fast approaching its end thanks to its own policies.
One way to go: Boycott the event and let Kissinger, Brzezinski, Njölstad and Ottersen be the only ones who turn up in that huge hall on December 11th.
Or, go there – students, media and civil society – and raise all the questions any independent, decent academic must. And anyone must who takes the word peace seriously.
Fifteen European countries, headed by Germany, have issued a statement pushing for the reopening of “a new structured dialogue” with Russia aimed at preventing a possible arms race in Europe, according to the German foreign minister.
The countries, all belonging to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), have expressed their deep concern over the current situation in Europe and support the relaunch of a conventional arms treaty with Russia, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Die Welt newspaper in an interview published on Friday.
“Europe’s security is in danger. As difficult as ties to Russia may currently be, we need more dialogue, not less,” Steinmeier said.
The ongoing conflict in the Eastern Ukraine and the fact that Crimea joined Russia in 2014, a move most often dubbed as “annexation” by western officials, have put the question of war in Europe back on the table, Steinmeier continued. Fragile trust between Russia and European countries has suffered a significant setback and a “new armament spiral” is hanging over the continent, the foreign minister warned.
The statement contains strong anti-Russian rhetoric, blaming Moscow for violating arms deals as far back as 1990.
“The Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, which led to the destruction of tens of thousands of heavy weapon systems in Europe in the years following 1990, is no longer being implemented by the Russian Federation,” the statement said.
Russia put its participation in the treaty on hold in 2007 and then fully walked out of it last year.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the suspension of the treaty following a US decision to locate missile defense facilitates in the neighbouring Czech Republic and Poland. On top of that, President Putin noted that some of the NATO members did not join or ratify the treaty and there was no point in Russia abiding by the agreement.
Later Putin signed a decree suspending the treaty due to “extraordinary circumstances … which affect the security of the Russian Federation and require immediate measures,” having notified NATO and its members of the decision.
Since then NATO has taken no steps to upgrade the treaty, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in September, 2016, adding that Moscow is ready for dialogue on the subject. However, it is not planning to be the one to initiate it.
The statement names a number of other documents that need to be overviewed, including the OSCE’s Vienna document, stipulating the exchange of information on military movements, and the Open Skies treaty, enabling the monitoring of other countries’ ground forces. The documents are either neglected or in need of modernization.
The countries that spoke in favor of Steinmeier’s initiative include France, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Sweden, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Portugal.
The group of the European foreign ministers is planning to meet again on the sidelines of a OSCE meeting in Hamburg on December, 8-9.
Western European nations are facing growing pressure to end their financial contributions to the Clinton Foundation and investigate its spending, investment analyst Charles Ortel told Sputnik.
“The penny has dropped: The governments have decided not to fund Clinton Foundation activities anymore,” Ortel said Tuesday. “Canada, Sweden and Ireland are countries that may undertake investigations or end their practice of contributing large sums to the Clinton Foundation.”
He was commenting after Norway and Australia announced last weekend that they were ending their annual contributions to the charity, founded in 1997 by then-US President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton.
According to the New York Post, the incoming presidential administration of Donald Trump will ask foreign governments investigate how the foundation spent hundreds of millions of donor dollars that it said went to provide low-cost medicine to treat AIDS patients in Africa, among other programs.
Ortel explained that government leaders around the world who had approved big yearly donations to the foundation presumed Hillary Clinton would be elected president on November 8. Her unexpected loss to Trump, however, has led to popular pressure in those countries for governments to disclose the fate of their donations.
“Governments now realize to their shock and horror there are numerous questions that regulators should have asked,” Ortel asserted. “Why didn’t regulators in different countries ask these questions about the enormous unmonitored donations to the Clinton Foundation before?” Germany’s Environment Ministry is being investigated about a donation to the Clinton charity of 4.5 million euros.
In an interview with Sputnik in Germany that was published Tuesday, left-wing member of parliament Niema Movassat questioned why information about his government’s connection to the foundation scandal is coming out only now.
In Ortel’s view, the German investigation illustrates the importance of a provision in New York state law requiring charities to specify in detail how they spend donors’ money.
“The Clinton Foundation has not complied with that requirement,” according to Ortel, a former executive at financial firms Chart Group and Dillon, Tead & Co. He predicted that questions about the foundation will fuel a “media frenzy” worldwide, as public demands for investigations into individual governments’ donations grow. “The German people and the American people deserve answers,” Ortel said. “We need an accounting: How many governments around the world have sent money to the Clinton Foundation? For what projects? In what amounts?”
In 2007, the UK government – led by Prime Minister Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown, both close political allies and personal friends of the Clintons – approved a grant of 1 billion pounds over 20 years to the charity, Ortel pointed out.
Imagine if a local business in your town invented a brand new tool that was intended to have an almost magical effect thousands of miles away. However, where the tool was kept and used locally became an area unsafe for children. Children who got near this tool tended to have increased blood pressure and increased stress hormones, lower reading skills, poorer memories, impaired auditory and speech perception, and impaired academic performance.
Most of us would find this situation at least a little concerning, unless the new invention was designed to murder lots of people. Then it’d be just fine.
Now, imagine if this same new tool ruined neighborhoods because people couldn’t safely live near it. Imagine if the government had to not only compensate people but kick them out of living near the location of this tool. Again, I think, we might find that troubling if mass murder were not the mission.
Imagine also that this tool fairly frequently explodes, emitting highly toxic chemicals, particles, and fibers unsafe to breathe into the air for miles around. Normally, that’d be a problem. But if this tool is needed for killing lots of people, we’ll work with its flaws, won’t we?
Now, what if this new gadget was expected to cost at least $1,400,000,000,000 over 50 years? And what if that money had to be taken away from numerous other expenses more beneficial for the economy and the world? What if the $1.4 trillion was drained out of the economy causing a loss of jobs and a radical diminution of resources for education, healthcare, housing, environmental protection, or humanitarian aid? Wouldn’t that be a worry in some cases, I mean in those cases where the ability to kill tons of human beings wasn’t at stake?
What if this product, even when working perfectly, was a leading destroyer of the earth’s natural environment?
What if this high-tech toy wasn’t even designed to do what was expected of it and wasn’t even able to do what it was designed for?
Amazingly, even those shortcomings do not matter as long as the intention is massive murder and destruction. Then, all is forgiven.
The tool I’m describing is called the F-35. At RootsAction.org you can find a new petition launched by locally-minded people acting globally in places where the F-35 is intended to be based. Also at that link you’ll find explanations of how the tool I’ve been describing is the F-35.
The petition is directed to the United States Congress and the governments of Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Israel, Japan and South Korea from the world and from the people of Burlington, Vermont, and Fairbanks, Alaska, where the F-35 is to be based. This effort is being initiated by Vermont Stop the F35 Coalition, Save Our Skies Vermont, Western Maine Matters, Alaska Peace Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks Peace Club, North Star Chapter 146 Veterans For Peace, World Beyond War, RootsAction.org, Code Pink, and Ben Cohen.
The petition reads:
The F-35 is a weapon of offensive war, serving no defensive purpose. It is planned to cost the U.S. $1.4 trillion over 50 years. Because starvation on earth could be ended for $30 billion and the lack of clean drinking water for $11 billion per year, it is first and foremost through the wasting of resources that this airplane will kill. Military spending, contrary to popular misconception, also hurts the U.S. economy (see here) and other economies. The F-35 causes negative health impacts and cognitive impairment in children living near its bases. It renders housing near airports unsuitable for residential use. It has a high crash rate and horrible consequences to those living in the area of its crashes. Its emissions are a major environmental polluter.
Wars are endangering the United States and other participating nations rather than protecting them. Nonviolent tools of law, diplomacy, aid, crisis prevention, and verifiable nuclear disarmament should be substituted for continuing counterproductive wars. Therefore, we, the undersigned, call for the immediate cancellation of the F-35 program as a whole, and the immediate cancellation of plans to base any such dangerous and noisy jets near populated areas. We oppose replacing the F-35 with any other weapon or basing the F-35 in any other locations. We further demand redirection of the money for the F-35 back into taxpayers’ pockets, and into environmental and human needs in the U.S., other F-35 customer nations, and around the world, including to fight climate change, pay off student debt, rebuild crumbling infrastructure, and improve education, healthcare, and housing.
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani (R) and Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende in Tehran on August 17, 2016. ©IRNA
Iran says it has been offered a major export credit line by Norway worth €1 billion in what could be a fresh indication of Oslo’s determination to expand relations with the Islamic Republic in post-sanctions era.
The two countries have signed an agreement to the same effect after a meeting between the visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende and his Iranian host Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran, Iran’s IRNA news agency reported.
The agreement was part of a total of three agreements that the Export Guarantee Fund of Iran and the Norwegian Export Credit Guarantee Agency signed to fund some of Iran’s key development and infrastructure projects.
“After the lifting of sanctions, good opportunities have emerged for cooperation and Norway is ready to utilize the post-deal situation to expand cooperation in various fields,” Brende has been quoted as saying by IRNA in a report that was also carried by AFP.
The report added that Brende and Zarif had also discussed the expansion of economic relations between Iran and Norway in different areas, particularly in monetary and banking sectors.
Brende will leave Tehran for Islamabad later in the day. Apart from Zarif, he is scheduled to meet several other top Iranian officials during his single-day stay in the Islamic Republic. They included President Hassan Rouhani, Petroleum Minister Bijan Zangeneh, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, and Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani.
Norwegian Prime Minister Stoltenberg and Russian President Medvedev at the 2010 meeting cementing the new delimitation of the Barents Sea maritime border in Norway’s favor.
Earlier this month, Norway’s government announced a new defense plan, amounting to the largest military modernization since the Cold War, directed against Russia. Commenting on the initiative, journalist Sviatoslav Knyazev suggested that the country’s government has chosen to forget decades of good-neighborly relations between Oslo and Moscow.
Last weekend, Norwegian media reported on the country’s most ambitious plans to modernize the country’s armed forces since the end of the Cold War.
The government plans include the purchase of at least 52 Lockheed Martin F-35 fifth-generation multirole fighter jets, four submarines (presumably Swedish-built diesel subs), and six coastal patrol aircraft. Plans also include the construction of five new frigates and six corvettes.Overall, the defense budget of the country of five million is expected to increase by 165 billion kroner (about $19.4 billion US) over the next 20 years.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg did not mince words as to who exactly the buildup is directed against, stating that “we have an increasingly unpredictable neighbor to the east which is strengthening its military capacity, and showing willingness to use military force as a political tool.”
Solberg’s comments followed on promises by Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide in February 2015 that her country would be reorganizing its armed forces to counter the so-called ‘Russian threat’. At that time, the official candidly admitted that Russian forces had “not breached our territory,” but added that Oslo was worried over the increase in the range and number of Russian military aircrafts’ flights near the country.
On the border between Norway and Russia, Oslo is deploying a new army unit, consisting of 200 rangers, to be deployed in the Sor-Varanger municipality in Finnmark county, strengthening a several-hundred strong contingent of border guards. These units, equipped with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, will be based in the direct vicinity of the Russian town of Pechenga.Commenting on the buildup in a piece for the online news and analysis portal PolitRussia, independent journalist Sviatoslav Knyazev recalled that “even before the modernization, the Norwegian Armed Forces were relatively powerful.”
“The per capita defense costs of the Kingdom are the highest in Europe. The armed forces are small enough (about 30,000 on active duty and some 45,000 in the reserve) but well prepared and equipped. Taking account of mandatory military service and its high prestige, a large portion of the population has military training. In the event of a hypothetical conflict, Norway can put several hundred thousand people under arms.”
Listing off the inventory of the country’s armed forces, Knyazev recalled that its ground forces have 52 Leopard 2A4 tanks, along with 20 older Leopard 1A5s, along with 315 M113 armored personnel carriers, 104 Swedish-made CV90 infantry fighting vehicles, and 80 SISU XA-185 and XA-203 armored personnel carriers. The army also has about 200 multi-purpose armored vehicles, and a number of self-propelled guns and multiple launch rocket systems.
The Air Force, for its part, has 57 F-16 multirole fighters, while the Navy has five frigates, six corvettes and six submarines.With these figures and the government’s latest plans in mind, the journalist pointed out that Norway is “effectively planning to double the strength of its Navy and Air Force (or completely modernize it). We are talking about billions of dollars of spending, a lot even for a wealthy country like Norway.”
Unfortunately, Knyazev emphasized, “all of this is directed solely against us [Russia].” At the same time, “Norway’s desire to ‘play with toy soldiers’ and to create conditions which could destabilize our northern border seems doubly strange in the context of Moscow’s long record of friendly relations toward Oslo.”
For a start, the journalist pointed out, the Russian Empire was one of the first to recognize Norway’s independence, soon after the country broke off from Sweden in 1905. Later, after the collapse of the Russian Empire and the emergence of the Soviet Union, diplomatic relations were established in short order, with relations established in 1924.
“In 1944,” Knyazev recalled, “its was the Red Army which fought to liberate [northern] Norway from the Nazi invaders. Thousands of Soviet soldiers and officers paid with their lives for the country’s freedom. After that, the Soviet Union, itself ravaged by war, helped to restore its northern neighbor. The USSR provided food rations, and Red Army engineering units helped rebuild ruined buildings. Moreover, the Soviet Union did not even try to create a zone of influence in Norway or to reshape its borders. In September 1945, having assisted its neighbors with aid, Soviet troops voluntarily left the country.”
Later, in the 1970s, a territorial dispute broke out between Moscow and Oslo over the maritime border in the Barents Sea, rich in offshore hydrocarbon reserves and fishing resources. “However, in 2010, Russia voluntarily ceded half of the disputed territory and signed a treaty ‘On Maritime Delimitation and Cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean.'”
In 1949, the journalist bitterly recalled, the Norwegian government “thanked” the USSR for its contribution to the country’s liberation by joining the NATO alliance. “Now, it seems, we are being ‘thanked’ for the  territorial gift, the shelf and the hydrocarbons worth tens of billions of dollars…”
“First, Norway introduced sanctions against us over a war unleashed by Washington in Ukraine [in 2014], then caused a scandal because of our Deputy Prime Minister’s visit to Svalbard [in 2015], and now they are up in arms and creating new military units directed against us.”Meanwhile, Knyazev lamented, “Jens Stoltenberg, the same former Norwegian Prime Minister who earned political capital through the 2010 demarcation agreement, is now directing the NATO bloc’s aggressive anti-Russian activities. Today, he is calling for strengthening NATO’s presence in the Baltic and Black seas, suggesting that the anti-Russian missile defense system in Eastern Europe is nothing out of the ordinary, and calling for ‘deterrence’ against Russia, which in actuality is not planning to attack anyone.”
Ultimately, the journalist suggested, “Norway, unfortunately, is a new example of the fact that befriending Western countries and doing them good is quite a thankless occupation…”
Despite all the threats of lawsuits and physical intimidation which hedge fund executive William Browder brought to bear over the past couple of months to ensure that a remarkable investigative film about the so-called Magnitsky case would not be screened anywhere, it was shown privately in a museum of journalism in Washington, D.C., last week.
The failure of the intimidation may give heart to others. There is talk that the film may be shown publicly in Norway, where its production company is located, but where an attempt several weeks ago to enter it into a local festival for documentaries was rejected by the hosts for fear of lawsuits. Moreover, a Norwegian court has in the past week declined to hear the libel charges which Browder’s attorneys were seeking to bring against the film’s director and producers.
Browder was more successful in intimidating the European Parliament where a screening of the film was cancelled in late April while I was in the audience. But I have now seen the banned documentary privately and “The Magnitsky Act. Behind the Scenes” is truly an amazing film that takes the viewer through the thought processes of well-known independent film maker Andrei Nekrasov as he sorts through the evidence.
At the outset of his project, Nekrasov planned to produce a docu-drama that would be one more public confirmation of the narrative that Browder has sold to the U.S. Congress and to the American and European political elites, that a 36-year-old whistleblower “attorney” (actually an accountant) named Sergei Magnitsky was arrested, tortured and murdered by Russian authorities for exposing a $230 million tax fraud scheme.
This shocking tale of alleged Russian official corruption and brutality drove legislation that was a major landmark in the descent of U.S.-Russian relations under President Barack Obama to a level rivaling the worst days of the Cold War.
But what the film shows is how Nekrasov, as he detected loose ends to the official story, begins to unravel Browder’s fabrication which was designed to conceal his own corporate responsibility for the criminal theft of the money. As Browder’s widely accepted story collapses, Magnitsky is revealed not to be a whistleblower but a likely abettor to the fraud who died in prison not from an official assassination but from banal neglect of his medical condition.
The cinematic qualities of the film are evident. Nekrasov is highly experienced as a maker of documentaries enjoying a Europe-wide reputation. What sets this work apart from the “trade” is the honesty and the integrity of the filmmaker as he discovers midway into his project that key assumptions of his script are faulty and begins an independent investigation to get at the truth.
An Inconvenient Truth
It is an inconvenient truth that he stumbles upon, because it takes him out of his familiar milieu of “creative people” who are instinctively critical of the Putin regime and of its widely assumed violation of human rights and civil liberties.
We see how well-known names in the European Parliament, in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and in NGOs that are reputed to be watchdogs have taken on faith the arguments and documentation (largely in Russian and inaccessible to them) which they received from William Browder and then rubber-stamped his story as validated without making any attempt to weigh the evidence.
Their intellectual laziness and complacency is captured fully on film and requires no commentary by the director. One of those especially skewered by her own words is German Bundestag deputy (Greens) Marieluise Beck. It is understandable to me now that I have viewed the film why she was one of the two individuals whose objections to its showing scuttled the screening in the European Parliament in April.
By the end of the documentary, Nekrasov finds that he has become a dissident in his own subculture within Russia and in European liberal circles.
Another exceptional and striking characteristic of the filmmaker is his energetic pursuit of all imaginable leads in his investigative reporting. Some leads end in “no comment” while others result in exposing whole new areas of lies and deception in the Browder narrative.
Nekrasov’s diligence is exemplary even as he takes us into the more arcane aspects of the case such as the money flow from the alleged tax fraud. These bits and pieces are essential to his methodology and justify the length of the movie, which approaches two hours.
Nekrasov largely allows William Browder to self-destruct under the weight of his own lies and the contradictions in his story-telling at various times. Nekrasov’s camera is always running, even if his subjects are not thinking about the consequences of being taped. The film also shows a videotaped deposition of Browder fumbling during an interrogation in a related civil case that is devastating to those politicians and commentators who fully swallowed Browder’s Magnitsky line.
Browder’s supposed lapses of memory, set in the context of involuntary facial expressions of stress and nervousness, would be compelling to jurors if this matter ever got into an open court of law in an adversarial proceeding.
At the end of the twists and turns in this expose, the viewer is ready to see Browder sink through the floor on a direct transfer to hell like Don Giovanni in the closing scene of Mozart’s opera. Nothing so colorful occurs, but it is hard to see how Browder can survive the onslaught of this film if and when it gets wide public viewing.
But the goal of many powerful people, including members of the U.S. Congress, the European Parliament and the Western news media who gullibly accepted Browder’s tale, will be to ensure that the public never gets to see this devastatingly frank deconstruction of a geopolitically useful anti-Russian propaganda theme.
Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator of The American Committee for East West Accord. His most recent book, Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015.
© Gilbert Doctorow, 2016
Regime change, the term hundreds of millions hear on the nightly news is rendered innocuous by the sheer repetitiveness. But regime change is almost always accompanied by death and destruction, and after effects that affect us all, no matter where in the world it occurs. The overthrow of Libya’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 by an American president and co-conspirators is truly a case for an international tribunal. Here’s a starting lineup for an international war crimes double header.
Every time I think of Barack Obama’s former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, images of her gloating and bragging over Libya flood into my mind’s eye. Then my mind races cognitively, to a culvert in a ditch near the town of Sirte, to a bruised and bloodied figure, staring up and fearful of his captors, just before they kicked and beat him, then riddled his body with bullets, Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al- Gaddafi’s life surely passed before his eyes. In the blink of a US drone electronic eye, the most powerful man in Africa was dethroned, and the Middle East was set on fire. History will inquire, “Who was it that set a whole people adrift in the world?” Well I have history’s answer.
Exhibit A: A US President Misleads His People
On March 28th, 2011 the Obama White House issued this transcript of the American president’s address to the people he swore to lead and protect. Within this insulting and misleading address, there are many lies and reversals of fact, but there are also great truths as well. For instance, the nations complicit in the violent coup d’é·tat in Libya were named by Obama, they were: the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, and Qatar along with the United Arab Emirates. Each of these nation’s geo-political interests in Libya and Gaddafi can be traced directly to big business or US surrogacy, this is irrevocable and irreconcilable. The involvement of US, UK and European agents inside Libya, the levers put in place to unseat the standing Libyan government, are just now coming into the daylight. I’ll shine more light on these further on, but right now characterizing the unmitigated audacity of Barack Obama is important. Not only did the US president mislead the American people on March 28th, 2011, his character would not allow him to pass up the opportunity to brag about how swiftly and decisively he had acted. On the mandate for unseating Gaddafi, the president said:
“It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right. In this particular country -– Libya — at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale.”
This statement is key for understanding the truth of not only Libya, but Syria, Ukraine, and even for policies as far back as the NATO agenda in Bosnia. In a caveat to this, Obama also frames a hidden strategy beneath by discussing what we now know as the larger European tragedy. The president claims “our interests” were served by preventing:
“A massacre (that) would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya’s borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful –- yet fragile -– transitions in Egypt and Tunisia.”
Not only did Barack Obama and his administration sell this lie to the American people, he also committed one of his worst political mistakes ever.
“Of course, there is no question that Libya -– and the world –- would be better off with Qaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.”
This was 2011, take note of this. The Obama team now openly professed a US and coalition plan to take down Gaddafi, they foretold of a larger scheme, the Arab Spring and western expansionism that grips the world today. Violence on a horrific scale, instigated by the Bush and Obama administrations. The refugee crises, which are clearly “ordained” in the quotes above as “warnings”, these were in fact part of a regional plan of destabilization.
Exhibit B: Obama – the Little Big Man 2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin is not often wrong, but his statement last week about Barack Obama being “strong” enough to admit the mistake of Libya, it’s dead wrong. Barack Obama is not at all strong. He’s a decent actor, and can read a teleprompter like nobody’s business. Being strong in the Putin sense, it means serving the people, and not the hidden masters of the policy universe. In a now famous interview with Fox News anchor, Chris Wallace, Obama admits not planning for the aftermath of the ousting of Gaddafi was his biggest mistake as president. Obama says (via the transcript) on being asked “Worst mistake?”, by Wallace:
“Probably failing to plan for the day after what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya.”
This is not the statement of a strong president, it is weak and pitiful in so many respects. The man cannot even come to grips with a truth, let alone take responsibility. “Probably”, the “right thing to do”, “think” – the whole snippet hints at lying or misdirect. Wallace never returns to the issue, the “central issue”, as it were, for America’s role in world terror and upheaval. The “facts” of Barack Obama’s regime change agenda contravene any suggestion Libya was simply an error. Most Americans are completely unaware of the battle in the US Congress to forestall this coup.
“Despite its failure to obtain legal approval from Congress, the Obama administration continued to provide the bulk of the military support for the NATO operation until the overthrow of Gadaffi in October. Before the official termination of Operation Unified Protector, US Permanent Representative to NATO Ivo Daalder said that “the United States led in this operation… It led in the planning of the operation, it led in getting the mandate for the operation, and it led in the execution of the operation… the United States conducted more sorties than any other country in this operation, twenty six percent.”
Barack Obama, with the adamant support of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Neocons like Arizona’s Sen. John McCain, and military industrial complex lap dog, Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, ousted Gaddafi circumvented the people of the United States of America. For those wondering at my vehemence here, General Dynamics and the US Navy will name a new destroyer after Levin, just in case any out there are reticent in disbelief of my assertions. The arrogance, the insolence of these people staggers the imagination, but I must frame another constituent’s part in America’s export of revolution. Obama was not owning up to a mistake in Libya, he was sliding past a question by a sellout Fox reporter. The only reason for him even answering the question was to insert a tenant of plausible deniability later on.
Accept Open Society or Else
No one reading this report will be surprised to hear George Soros’ Open Society Foundations is neck deep in this regime change. The man who essentially got Obama elected in the first place, he and his NGO have been implicated in many political machinations. This Arizona Daily Independent opinion piece casts a blistering light on John McCain, the aforementioned Levin, and a neocon system of levers most are aware of, but know not how to confront. I’ve not the space to go into McCain’s shady past here, but his face on crisis has been adequately established. It was the Soros connection to the defense spending champion that caught my eye.
George Soros’ gift of $100 million dollars to Human Rights Watch did not make big news back in 2010. Human Rights Watch was thrilled though. A few months later, Human Rights Watch reported on the International Criminal Court (ICC) charging both Muammar Gaddafi, and his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi with crimes against humanity. Human Rights Watch’s position in this strategy was to validate and provide presidents for a tribunal, at least in my view. This quote from the report by HRW is telling:
“Should the court issue an arrest warrant for Gaddafi, it would not be the first warrant for a sitting head of state by an international court. In 1999, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia issued its first indictment against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo.”
Almost immediately after ICC head prosecutor Moreno Ocampo issued an arrest warrant for the Gaddafis on 7 June 2011, 30 nations recognized the Libyan rebels of the NTC as the legitimate government of the country. A key in understanding how collusion and influence parlay uprisings is in understanding how the Open Society Foundations grants and meetups operate. Central to the legitimacy of Gadaffi’s overthrow, was the notion he was a tyrant and a killer. Legitimacy for the White House agenda comes in many forms.
Legality: The Ultimate Lie
In December of 2005 the Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor was part of a Soros backed roundtable series, which was an initiative of OSI and the Security and Peace Initiative, which is a joint initiative of the Center for American Progress and an interesting think tank, The Century Foundation. The goals of these organizers, was ostensibly described in the title of published essays by these think tank elites, “Restoring American Leadership: 13 Steps to Improve Global Cooperation.” I believe it was the purpose of these meetings to establish Moreno Campo’s legitimacy and position within the greater scheme of things. After these meetings, and the associated United Nations meetups back then, the ICC played an ever-increasing and interesting role. Please remember, the Center for America Progress is funded by not only Soros, but Bill and Melinda Gates, huge corporations, and even the government of the United Arab Emirates. The UAE should ring bells for their part in the coalition to overthrow Gadaffi.
Subsequent Open Society Foundations rhetoric and policy showed us the ICC’s mission. First in Uganda, then in the crucial case of Sudan, the ICC allegedly became the tool of Soros and the people behind him. While I do not always agree with the controversial activist Lyndon LaRouche, there’s no denying his insight and investigations often bear fruit. In this report from 2008, the implications are black and white in this press release:
“The Soros organization also directly funded another agency at the Hague, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which prosecuted and judicially murdered Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.”
Yugoslavia rises from the mist once again. I’ve drummed on the notion of “templates” enacted by western leadership, on think tanks and their roles, and Yugoslavia in the Clinton era was a crucial turning point. The “legality” in all this, the big lie of democracy’s validity as a new quasi-religious crusade, this is where Soros funding, American leadership role playing, and regime-policy change meet globally. Gadaffi was essentially assassinated. His son is now under a death sentence in Libya, and the old school Cold War warriors want to install a king in his place. It’s all illegality made to look legal, Soros the Nazi sympathizer transformed into the philanthropist. It’s Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the biggest killer of innocent civilians since Idi Amin.
In conclusion, the question I began with remains; “Who was it that set a whole people adrift in the world?” Why the very people swearing oaths to protect us, that’s who. The champions of industry, the philanthropist, their paid for brain trusts, the money has bought out the entire democratic system of governance. The world has the true war criminals by the scruff of the neck now. But the wrong men and women will die, just as sure as I am writing this. The mission of Soros, his NGO, and the elites in power in the west is the eradication of the idea of the sovereign state. Killing Gaddafi was central to this goal.
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe.
Russia has no illusion about sanctions being lifted and expects them to be stiffened in future, regardless of developments in Eastern Ukraine. That’s according to a leading Russian diplomat, who says Moscow can live under continuous western pressure.
“We believe that in certain directions, notwithstanding of the developments in Donbass, we should expect toughening of the sanctions pressure,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said at the Russia Arms Expo 2015 in Nizhny Tagil on Wednesday.
According to Ryabkov, the new set of sanctions introduced by Washington last week against Russian companies, including arms exporter Rosoboronexport, “mirrors the policy of complicating operations of the Russian military-industrial complex and all of the mechanism of government.”
Sanctions come in handy as a “true instrument of aggressive foreign policy” aimed at Russia, the diplomat said.
“Russia’s independent and self-sufficient foreign policy, its decisiveness to protect its sovereignty, and the consolidation of the people with the country’s leadership serve as a thorn in the side of our opponents,” Ryabkov said.
“We presume that the sanctions are there for the long haul,” Ryabkov said. “There are no reasons or illusions that sanctions are going to be lifted in the short term, at least not in the Foreign Ministry.”
“When it comes to international financial services, our colleagues from the US and the EU are set to expand their effort to seal off all capabilities. We understand that and we have to learn how to operate in the given situation,” Ryabkov said, insisting that sanctions will fail to gain the desired effect.
“We’re sorry the US has not learned that truth so far.”
Russian Economic Development Minister Aleksey Ulyukaev said Moscow is going to seek a “symmetrical answer” to American sanctions imposed on September 2.
Washington imposed sanctions on a number of Russian, Chinese, Syrian, Turkish, Sudanese and Iranian companies, believed to be involved in activities which, according to Washington, go against its Nonproliferation Act in regard to Iran and Syria.
“These are not sectoral sanctions, they are personalized, therefore we would consider some kind of a symmetrical answer,” Ulyukaev said.
In March 2014, the EU, the US and some other countries imposed individual sanctions against 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials, subjecting them to asset freezes and travel bans. Within a year, the list was extended to 150 people, including Russian Deputy Prime Ministers Dmitry Kozak and Dmitry Rogozin, as well as presidential aide Vladislav Surkov and 37 entities that, according to the EU, are “responsible for actions which undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.”
The restrictions have been prolonged until January 31, 2016.
To reciprocate, in August 2014 Moscow introduced a ban on importing meat, dairy, fruit, and vegetable products from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine conflict. The countries included EU member states and Norway, US, Canada and Australia.
European Union sanctions against Russia include restrictions on lending to major Russian state-owned banks, as well as defense and oil companies. In addition, Brussels imposed restrictions on the supply of weapons and military equipment to Russia as well as military technology, dual-use technologies, high-tech equipment and technologies for oil production. No sanctions were imposed against Russia’s gas industry.
The prime minister of Norway, Erna Solberg has described NATO’s defense spending plans as “nonsense.” The alliance wants members to spend two percent of their GDP on defense, but Oslo, one of the world’s richest countries, says it won’t meet the target.
“If I am allowed to speak, I think the percentage goal is nonsense,” she said in an interview with the Norwegian Armed Forces’ Forum Magazine, as cited by the Local. “The aim of the NATO countries must be the greatest possible defense capability, not a percentage goal in itself,” she added.
Solberg added that while meeting the two percent target may be easier for countries enjoying strong economic growth, it would be harder for those within the alliance whose economies are shrinking.
Norway’s Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said in April that for Oslo to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense would be “very challenging” in the short term. The Scandinavian country has already said it will increase its spending this year, but this will only bring it to around 1.6 percent and short of the target that was set at the NATO summit in Cardiff, the United Kingdom, last year.
NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, who was also Solberg’s predecessor as Norway’s PM, said that the country could easily meet the target.
“If there is a political will, there is economic space. But it must be given priority,” he said in a visit to Norway in June. “Compared with other major initiatives we have implemented in Norway, reaching two percent is quite possible.”
Aside from the United States, traditional NATO allies have found meeting the target a taxing affair. Germany allocates 1.2 percent of its GDP, the Netherlands 1.3 percent and Spain less than 1 percent. France is the only Western European country that is boosting defense spending. However, some Eastern European nations are increasing their military expenses citing what they call Russian aggression. Lithuania, for instance, wants to allocate twice as much on defense as it did last year.