Norway has started massive military exercises, involving 5,000 servicemen, in the northern parts of the country near the border with Russia, the largest such drills in nearly 50 years.
The country’s military launched drills dubbed “Joint Viking” on Monday in the northern regions of Lakselv and Alta in the Finnmark County, which border Russia’s Murmansk region.
The exercises will include the Norwegian army, navy, air force and civil defense troops (Heimevernet).
Aleksander Jankov, a spokesman for the Norwegian Armed Forces, said 400 military vehicles and all types of weapons will be used in the drills, which are the largest to take place in the region since 1967.
According to Norwegian media, the massive exercise is to show that Norway has the ability to defend Finnmark.
Prior to the kickoff army spokesman Vegar Gystad said, “If we’re to have a credible defense that can defend the entire country, we also have to train in the entire country.”
The war games come amid tensions between the West and Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.
Norway, a member of the Western military alliance NATO, suspended all military cooperation with Russia after the Black Sea Peninsula Crimea voted to break away from Ukraine and rejoin the Russian Federation in March, 2014.
Meanwhile, NATO plans to expand its military presence in Eastern Europe amid the crisis in Ukraine and has held numerous war games over the past year. In 2014, NATO forces held some 200 military exercises, with the alliance’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg having promised that such drills would continue.
In addition, the defense ministers of NATO’s 28 member states agreed on February 5 to establish six new command and control posts in the Eastern European nations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.
Moscow has repeatedly condemned NATO’s exercises and military buildup toward its borders.
A network of fake base mobile stations that can snoop on leading politicians’ mobile phones, as well as ordinary people, has been discovered in central Oslo, some outside Norway’s parliament and the prime minister’s residence, according to a report.
Investigative journalists from the Aftenposten newspaper have detected a number of places in the capital with suspicious mobile activity. They teamed up with two security companies to help track down fake base stations, which confirmed that spy equipment has been used in downtown Oslo.
According to the newspaper, false base stations, known as IMSI catchers, have been most probably used to monitor the movements of high-ranking officials, specifying who enters parliament, government offices and other buildings in the area. It could also be used to snoop on phone calls of selected people in the area.
An IMSI catcher (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) is a telephony eavesdropping device for monitoring mobile phone traffic and movement of mobile phone users. IMSI catchers are used in a number of countries, including the US, by law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
Under Norwegian law, only the National Security Agency (NSM) and police are authorized to use eavesdropping equipment.
The Security service (PST) has launched an investigation in central Oslo, following the Aftenposten report, to find out who installed the surveillance equipment.
The Local has quoted security operatives as saying that a number of organizations could be responsible for the false base stations.
“It could be private actors or state actors,” the PST’s Arne Christian Haugstøyl said.
“I can’t on the basis of these discoveries say that it is a foreign intelligence agency, but I can say that we know that foreign intelligence agencies have this kind of capacity. And in our preventive work we advise those looking after Norwegian interests not to talk about sensitive issues on mobile phones,” he noted.
A dramatic video clip showing a young boy heroically rescuing a young girl amid a hail of gunfire in Syria has racked up millions of YouTube viewings and has been trending heavily on other social media platforms.
The mainstream media and US government jumped on the video as evidence of the absolute depravity of the Assad regime. What kind of monster purposely targets children?
Wrote the International Business Times :
The incident certainly is not the first time that Pro-Assad gunmen have targeted children in the nearly four years of the bloody civil war in Syria.
Liz Sly, the Washington Post Beirut bureau chief covering Syria, Lebanon, Iraq — and presumably an expert in the area? — promoted the video on her Twitter page, adding “wow” in her comments. Sly’s reporting consistently agitates for more US involvement in Syria on the side of the rebels, her anti-Assad bias is solidly established.
Then the “experts” chimed in. According to the London Daily Telegraph (article since consigned to the memory hole), the experts have “confirmed the authenticity” of the video.
Then the US State Department chimed in to magnify and focus the propaganda, tweeting that a boy “hero” rescued a girl from an Assad regime sniper firing on civilians.
One problem: the whole thing was a fake. The Norweigan Film Institute, funded by the government of NATO-member Norway, chipped in $30,000 for the film to be produced in Malta and released publicly without informing viewers that it was not authentic footage.
The filmmakers made it clear to the Norwegian government in their funding application that they would not reveal that the footage was fake and authorities raised no objection to the operation.
The BBC wrote about how so many people were fooled by the film:
So once the film was made, how did it go viral? “It was posted to our YouTube account a few weeks ago but the algorithm told us it was not going to trend,” Klevberg said. “So we deleted that and re-posted it.” The filmmakers say they added the word “hero” to the new headline and tried to send it out to people on Twitter to start a conversation.
By the time its inauthenticity had been established, millions were outraged at the Assad government. Propaganda depends on framing the issue first. No one reads corrections once a false story is printed.
How convenient this is at a time when so many NATO member countries and the usual interventionist suspects are pushing hard for the US government to retool its Syria anti-ISIS campaign to first target the Assad government for destruction.
This episode should demonstrate how easy it is for governments to hide behind willing accomplices and the social media to produce and disseminate propaganda.
State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf recently drew some ridicule for stating that US evidence “proving” Russian involvement in the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine came from “social media” sources. Perhaps those “social media” sources she urges us to rely upon are similarly supported and funded by governments with an agenda to push.
They are lying to us.
What’s your image of Denmark? Apart from the Little Mermaid, Carlsberg beer and H.C. Andersen perhaps something with decency, welfare, development aid, equality and peace?
Unfortunately, that image is outdated. During the last good 15 years Denmark has participated in wars on/in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, it was an occupying country in Iraq for four years and a main bomber nation of Libya.
The government’s decision earlier today to send 7 F16s to fight with the U.S. increases the risk of terror actions against Denmark.
It must have been known for quite some time since, about a month ago, the Danish government decided to send a Hercules transport plane with humanitarian aid to Iraq. Most likely, it was a set-up because it was immediately changed into a Hercules transport plane + 55 soldiers to assist the U.S. and the Kurds.
Today’s decision is a violation of the UN Charter – the spirit of the Preamble as well as Article 1 which states that peace shall be established by peaceful means – and, later, only when everything has been tried and found in vain can a military action be decided.
Denmark must now calculate with Danish casualties and, even worse, with taking responsibility for scores of innocent civilians’ death – something that can’t be avoided when targeting individuals from the air.
The decision documents that Denmark has learnt nothing from the earlier – failed – wars and that it does not have alternative expertise.
The common sense, solidarity and humanity that characterised Denmark, at least to some extent, about 20 years ago is now eradicated and replaced by thoughtless militarism; its only guideline has been and is: Accept willingly and unconditionally what the US does and follow it when it calls upon you to do its dirty job – His Master’s Voice.
If you think I exaggerate: There is not one major policy or decision the last 30-40 years where Denmark has shown the courage to stand up against Washington.
Millions of dollars are allocated to state-financed research institutes, military analysis centres and mainstream thinking that “explains” and legitimizes the policies. (The only peace research institute, COPRI, which was very well evaluated by international scholars was destroyed by the government of Anders Fogh Rasmussen who also made Denmark an occupying power – only to be rewarded with the position of NATO Secretary-General).
It is my judgement that the decision to participate in the war on Iraq was the largest foreign policy blunder in Denmark since 1945.
I wrote ”Predictable Fiasco” in which the present situation in Iraq was predicted fairly precisely and I presented a 20-point plan on what to do instead of war.
Thus I don’t know how to characterise a decision by a Social Democratic-led government to go to war in Iraq for a second time!
PM Helle Thorning Schmidt presented the decision around lunch time today Friday September 26. Each of her arguments and assumptions were dubious, anti-intellectual and constructed to suit the event
1) She said that this was not a war because ISIS is not a state (!!) – now you know the level of what followed.
But this is war no matter what her spin doctors may have invented. Those who in the thousands will be killed – ISIS people as well as civilians – can’t see it as anything but war. And nothing but military equipment is being used.
2) As mentioned above, the decision violates the UN Charter.
3) Mission creep is already a fact. First, Denmark should send only humanitarian aid, then it changed to military aid and now 7 F16s – the next step is likely to be what is constantly denied and therefore rather safe to predict: Boots on the ground.
4) It will not be a short, limited affair – it could well last for years. ISIS may be relatively small in numbers but could grow fast – there is enough of hatred; it has a lot of funds from Western allies such as Saudi-Arabia, Qatar and Bahrein – who are playing a double game. And they have advanced weapons, a lot of it U.S.-produced, stolen from the Iraqis.
5) ISIS is the result of more than 100 years of Western arrogance in the region – wars, deceit, lies and agreements such as Sykes-Picot (1916) and Balfour – imposing of Western values, occupations (foremost Iraq), base-building, stealing of oil and coup d’etats. The list is long!
6) This action as a whole will only have one result: More terrorists. The entire ‘War on Terror’ is wrongly conceived from October 7, 2001. We can’t rid the world of terrorism by killing terrorists and ignoring the underlying causes any more than we can combat criminality by killing criminals.
Eventually there will be a blowback, a boomerang effect.
7) The Danish government now gives ISIS and others a perfect reason for targeting Denmark. It puts the security of the Danish citizens at risk – something that must be seen in relation also to the Muhammad caricatures as well as Denmark’s participation in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
While it is the first duty of a government to secure the lives and safety of its people, the Danish government does the opposite. To be loyal to Its Master’s Voice.
Add to this that Obama’s speech about how to combat ISIS was a manifest disappointment with neither strategy nor a vision for the future of the region. It boiled down to the bizarre: We kill people who kill people because it is wrong to kill people! (Deliver back that Nobel Peace prize medal, Mr. President!)
Finally, Denmark’s defence, security and foreign policy establishment increasingly looks like a one-party system with very little diversity.
All security research at its Institute for International Studies is financed by – you guessed it! – the Ministry of Defence. Not much research there on peace by peaceful means or alternative defence, peace-making, reconciliation, forgiveness etc.
Since 1975 when Denmark bought F16s a MIMAK has developed – a Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex with a degree of consent that is pathetic for a society that professes to be pluralist, democratic, humanist and open (-minded).
In particular, Denmark has been rewarded with lots of contracts for its booming military industry – and plans to waste at least US$ 5 billion on new fighter planes.
So, next week the Danish Parliament will – probably with one small left-wing party as dissenter – endorse that Denmark goes to war yet again, for a fifth time – only to cash in yet another fiasco (to be denied).
This only goes to show that democracy is forced to give in to militarism – because there is a considerable opinion in Denmark that does not support this and also did not support the four preceding wars.
Like in Norway and Sweden (exception in the latter: the xenophobic Sweden Democrats) those of us believing in international law and who have the idea that peace is better than war have no party anymore that represents our views.
In summary, the Denmark and the Norden you may think you know is changing and we need a debate about this moral and intellectual defeat under MIMAK in our countries.
But certainly people in the rest of the world who used to look up to Scandinavia should know and tell us what they think.
Rogue states, big and small, is a problem to the whole world. And the sooner they change, the better for all.
A US-led military maneuver has begun in western Ukraine, amid continued fighting between government troops and pro-Russian forces in the country’s east.
The military drill, dubbed “Rapid Trident 14,” started early Monday near Ukraine’s border with Poland and involves 1,300 troops from over a dozen countries.
According to the US army, the troops come from 12 NATO members, including Germany, the UK, Poland, Norway and Canada, as well as non-members Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova.
The eleven-day drills will take place near the western city of Yavoriv and will not involve the live firing of weapons.
The US Defense Ministry said the exercise will increase interoperability among Ukraine and the participating nations.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey earlier announced that NATO member states have begun supplying weapons to the country’s forces despite a truce between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russians.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting between government troops and pro-Russian forces continues around the eastern city of Donetsk. According to Donetsk city hall officials, six civilians were killed on Sunday in heavy shelling around the city and its airport.
Kiev accused pro-Russians of threatening the truce by intensifying attacks against government positions. This is while, on September 13, the pro-Russia forces defending a checkpoint near the village of Olenivka, south of Donetsk accused the Ukrainian army of violating the truce.
The ceasefire agreement was reached between Kiev and the pro-Russians on September 5, after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hammered out a compromise deal aimed at ending the heavy fighting.
Germany and Poland will lose the most trade with Russia, and neighboring Finland and Baltic states Lithuania and Latvia will lose a bigger proportion of their GDP. Norway will see fish sales to Russia disappear, and US damages would be very limited.
Russia has banned imports of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy products from the 28 countries of the EU, the US, Canada, Norway, and Australia for one year.
EU trade is heavily dependent on Russian food imports. Last year Russia bought $16 billion worth of food from the bloc, or about 10 percent of total exports, according to Eurostat.
In terms of losses, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands- the top three EU food suppliers to Russia in 2013 – will be hit hardest. Food for Russia makes up around 3.3 percent of total German exports.
French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said his government is already working together with Germany and Poland to reach a coordinated policy on the new Russian sanction regime.
Last year, Ireland exported €4.5 million worth of cheese to Russia, and not being able to do so this year is a big worry, Simon Coveney, the country’s agriculture minister, said.
Farmers across Europe could face big losses if they aren’t able to find alternative markets for their goods, especially fruit and vegetables.
Some are already demanding their governments provide compensation for lost revenue.
“If there isn’t a sufficient market, prices will go down, and we don’t know if we can cover the costs of production, because it is so expensive,” Jose Emilio Bofi, an orange farmer in Spain, told RT.
Norway’s Health Ministry is considering a proposal on regulating the circumcision of boys. Some political parties are calling on a complete ban of the practice on minors, a possibility that would affect Jewish and Muslim communities.
Two years ago, the ministry was tasked with reviewing circumcision and how it should be practiced in Norway. It is yet to finalize its stance, but intends to submit its legislative proposal before Easter next year, Health Minister Bent Hoie told Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper.
The issue was brought to public attention after the recent call by Norway Children’s Ombudswoman Anne Lindboe to ban circumcision of boys before age 16, unless the procedure is warranted by medical needs.
“This is not due to any lack of understanding of minorities or religious traditions, but because the procedure is irreversible, painful and risky,” she argued.
Lindboe’s position is shared by some members of the Labor Party, which currently holds the largest share of 55 seats in Norway’s 169-strong legislative and is in opposition to the ruling Conservative-Progress coalition.
“As a modern society, we should work to eliminate practices that expose children and people to unnecessary suffering,” said Labor’s Ruth Mari Grung, who is a member of the parliamentary Committee on Health and Care Services.
A ban is also supported by the Center Party, which has 10 seats in the parliament.
Other parliamentary parties are yet to formulate their official position on the issue. Hoie, a Conservative member, who used to chair the Health Committee before getting his ministerial appointment, voiced concerns that a ban would force the groups practicing ritual circumcision underground, where the procedure would be performed by non-medics and pose greater health risks to the children.
The Norwegian lawmakers also disagree on whether circumcision should be covered by the budget under the national healthcare system. Some parties insist that ritual circumcision should be paid for by parents.
According to the newspaper, an average of about 2,000 Muslim and seven Jewish newborns are circumcised in Norway each year.
Regulation of ritual circumcision in Europe made the headlines in June, when a German court ruled that the procedure constitutes a minor bodily harm and outlawed performing it on minors. The decision sparked nationwide debate on the conflict between religious freedoms and protection of children.
The issue was further stressed in early October, when the Council of Europe branded the practice “a violation of the physical integrity of children” and called on EU members to protect children. The latter should include a ban on performing circumcision on those who cannot consent to it, the non-binding resolution said.
Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Greenland are among the European countries where public debate on ritual circumcision of boys is hotly debated.
Norway, Russia’s closest rival in the European gas market, seems to overtaking Russia’s Gazprom. Norway boasted record high exports in 2012, while Gazprom suffered the worst numbers in 10 years.
Norway increased its exports 16% in 2012 to reach 107.6bn cubic metres, according to Europe’s key statistics office Eurostat. This is “a record level, close to the Russian gas exports to Europe,” Michael Korchyomkin, head of East European Gas Analysis, told Kommersant daily.
During the same period, Russia’s gas giant Gazprom cut sales to Europe and Turkey by 8%, according to the company’s head Aleksey Miller. That’s the lowest export level for the last decade, Korchyomkin said.
At the moment Norway is breathing down Russia’s neck in its key European market – Germany. In 2011 Gazprom supplied 30bln cubic meters out of the total 80bn cubic meters of gas Germany consumes annually. Norway sold just a bit less – 28bn cubic meters. Norway’s Statoil accounts for about 70% of the country’s exports and in 2012 signed a 10 year contract to supply gas to Germany’s Wintershall.
Norway’s lower gas prices are another tool to win customers. The country’s Petroleum Ministry is suggesting charges for gas transportation in new contracts should be significantly cut, according to Reuters citing Norwegian Petroleum Minister Ola Borten Moe.The exact price cut remains unclear, with Kommersant daily assessing it at 7%.
Competitive pricing has become a crucial issue at a time when crisis – stricken Europe can’t afford huge bills.
On Thursday Gazprom 9M 2012 IFRS results showed things are not that rosy for Russia’s’ gas monopoly. The company’s profit for the period was down 12% year on year to $27.1bn, with the net sales of gas decreasing by 8% year on year, to about $61.4bn.
Net sales exclude the amounts paid by the company in form of value added tax and customs duties.
Earlier in the week Fitch rating agency predicted a further fall of sales for Gazprom in 2013, referring to weak economic conditions and slack demand.
BOGOTA – Colombia’s government will soon begin talks that could lead to formal negotiations for peace with the country’s biggest guerrilla group, known as the FARC, according to a Colombian intelligence source.
As part of the deal to hold talks, the government has agreed that leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia would not be extradited to another country to stand trial, he said.
One aide at President Juan Manuel Santos’ office has flatly denied that any talks are taking place, but a second aide said only that any official word on peace dealings would come from Santos himself.
Details of the accord are still being worked out, but the negotiations could take place in Cuba and in Norway, the source said.
However from Caracas the editor in chief of Telesur, the Venezuelan television news channel, Jorge Botero said that secret talks date back to May in Havana with the attendance of unofficial delegates from Colombia, plus representatives from Venezuela, Cuba and Norway.
“Formal dialogue is anticipated for next October in Oslo”, said Botero. He added that from Norway representatives from the Colombian government and FARC will then travel to Havana where “they will sit to negotiate and won’t leave the table until a peace deal is reached”.
A year ago the head of FARC Alfonso Cano announced that the guerrilla was ready for talks to end the half a century Colombian internal war.
News of the peace talks is likely to anger Santos’ predecessor Alvaro Uribe who has criticised any idea of talks with the rebels and has slammed Santos for wanting “peace at any cost.”
The originally Marxist oriented FARC but now financed by drugs and which calls itself “the people’s army” defending peasant rights, has battled about a dozen administrations since surfacing in 1964, when its founder Manuel Marulanda and 48 rebels took to jungle hide-outs triggering an internal conflict involving Colombian forces and thousands of recruited guerrillas.
The group has faced its toughest defeats in recent years as US-trained special forces use sophisticated technology and spy networks to track the leaders.
The FARC string of defeats began in 2008 with a cross-border military raid into Ecuador that killed Raul Reyes its second in command. Marulanda died of a heart attack weeks later and was replaced by Alfonso Cano, who was later killed too.
- Colombia to meet with rebels in Oslo: ex-VP (thelocal.no)
- Colombian president confirms peace talks with FARC; first round Oslo in October (en.mercopress.com)
By Alan Hart | April 19, 2012
Let’s start with a glance at what they do not have in common. The man now on trial for killing 77 people in bomb and gun attacks in Norway last July has admitted, even boasted about, what he did. Netanyahu denies Zionism’s crimes.
The main thing they have in common stems from the fact that they both live in fantasy worlds of their own creation and talk a lot of extreme rightwing nonsense.
The nonsense Anders Breivik speaks is driven in general by his fears about the consequences for Norway of immigration and multiculturalism and, in particular, by his vision of an Islamic takeover. The nonsense Netanyahu speaks is driven by his perception of Israel in danger of
As he tells and sells it, the current biggest threat to Israel’s existence is, of course, Iran. Arguably the single most ridiculous statement he has made to date on this subject was in 2006 when, as the chairman of Likud, he addressed a gathering of Jewish American organizations. He said then, “It’s 1938 and Iran is Germany.”
So what Breivik and Netanyahu have in common is, it seems to me, the mania of victimhood.
That’s a condition which Yehoshafat Harkabi, Israel’s longest serving Director of Military Intelligence, warned about in his book Israel’s Fateful Hour. After confirming a Zionist offer to do business with Nazi Germany on terms outlined in a proposed agreement which stated that Zionist forces would “take part in the war on Germany’s side,” (the full story is in my book), Harkabi wrote this:
“It is doubtful whether the long history of the Jews, full as it is with oddities and cruel ironies, has ever known such an attempt to make a deal with rabid enemies – of course, ostensibly for reasons of higher political wisdom… Perhaps, for peace of mind, we ought to see this affair as an aberrant episode in Jewish history. Nevertheless, it should alert us to how far extremists may go in times of distress, and where their manias may lead.”
We know where Breivik’s mania led him.
We can only speculate about where Netanyahu’s mania will lead his Israel. On present course its final destination seems to be disaster. The question is, will it be disaster only for the Zionist enterprise or disaster for the region and possibly the whole world?
A generally accepted definition of mania (there are others) is “mental illness marked by periods of great excitement, euphoria, delusions and over activity.”