Once again Western media has rushed to judgment over a “Russian submarine”, this time in an incident off the coast of Ireland. But maybe they should have done their homework on this one. Britain and the US have worse track records in the Irish Sea.
Last week, while out and about in the waters of the Irish Sea a few miles off County Down, a fishing trawler “almost sank” when it was hit, presumably by a submarine.
The vessel, named the Karen, was hit and then “pulled backwards very violently.”
Skipper Paul Murphy told Down News that the boat had been travelling at just a couple of knots and then all of a sudden he was nearly knocked off his feet. “The crew were just in shock after this incident. It really was a close call,” he said.
Shaken from the day, and no doubt influenced by the deluge of Russian-subs-and-jets-are-coming-to-get-you propaganda in British newspapers, Murphy immediately hypothesized to the journalist that it could have been a Russian submarine. No wonder Stockholm couldn’t find it.
After I read the story, I posted the link to Facebook and then promptly forgot about it. It was only by chance, while reading an article in the Guardian about Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent program and the “unpredictable Putin” that I happened upon another mention of it.
It seems the Russian sub theory has spread beyond the Down News to the Guardian, the BBC and beyond. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not a theory entirely without merit. It very well could have been a Russian submarine.
Security analyst Tom Ripley, who writes for Jane’s Defence magazine, agreed. He told BBC Radio Ulster that the Russians “are famous for liking to watch these things [NATO exercises] and it is a strong possibility that they have sent one of their submarines to watch this activity.”
James added that, had it been a British submarine, Royal Navy protocols would have required it to “immediately surface to check on the health and welfare of the people involved,” and this submarine did not do that.
Subsequently, the initial media coverage of the incident seems to have been peppered with the assumption that while the Brits would never be so rude as to not surface and say hello, the horrible Russians wouldn’t feel bound by such niceties. It’s this fact alone — that the sub never surfaced to check the damage — that seems to have immediately convinced the entire British and Irish media that it could not have been a British vessel.
But let’s skip back for a moment, to April 18, 1982.
On that otherwise calm day at sea, a British submarine dragged the Sharelga, an Irish fishing boat for two miles before it eventually sunk and all five crew members were forced to jump overboard. They were, luckily, rescued by crew members of nearby boats.
The British sub did not surface and the British government denied any involvement in or knowledge of what had happened to the Sharelga. Only weeks later did they finally admit that in fact the Irish boat’s fishing net had been caught by the British submarine HMS Porpoise, which itself had been trying to spot Soviet submarines in the Irish Sea.
Four years later, the crew members finally received compensation, although according to the skipper Raymond McEvoy, it “didn’t even match half” of what he paid for the boat.
It took so long, likely in part because the Irish government didn’t want to, shall we say, rock the boat by getting too involved in a diplomatic entanglement with Britain. A document released decades later revealed that the Government was not interested in acting as “a party to the dispute” between the men and the British government.
The sinking of the Sharelga happened during a period of the Cold War that saw the Irish Sea earn the nickname ‘Submarine Highway’, so frequent was sub activity in Irish waters.
Seven years after the Sharelga sank, a Belgian trawler, the Tijl Uilenspiegel, sank approximately 25 miles south-east of the Isle of Man, presumably also by a submarine.
The incident prompted a discussion about submarine activity in the Irish Parliament in March 1989. Hugh Byrne, a member of parliament at the time, used his speaking time to deliver a chronological list of incidents to highlight the dangers to both fishermen and those on recreational vessels.
Here are some of the incidents he listed:
● In 1983, a yacht was struck and sunk by a submarine believed to be the British HMS Opossum, off County Wexford
● In 1984, a fishing vessel, the Algrie, became entangled with the HMS Spartan off the Cornwall coast
● In 1984, a US submarine surfaced in the middle of a fishing fleet near Kilmore Quay, prompting fishermen to flee in fear of their lives
● In 1984, Scottish fishing vessel the Mhari L disappeared with no distress call. A damaged British submarine entered Faslane base 24 hours later, but the Ministry of Defence denied involvement
● In 1987, the Summer Morn was towed for hours by a US submarine
● In 1988, the HMS Oberon collided with a yacht named the Drum
● In 1988, the Dalriada was sunk by the HMS Conqueror off Northern Ireland
● In 1989, a fishing trawler was struck by the USS Will Rogers.
Those are just a handful of incidents involving the damaging, sinking or disappearance of Irish and British boats in the waters surrounding the British Isles. Notably, none of the examples Byrne gave referred specifically to Russian submarines.
Occasionally the tragedies were blamed on “freak” waves, as in the case of the Boy Shaun off County Donegal and the Inspire off the Welsh coast, both of which were sunk while submarines were known to be operating nearby.
Overall, 50 fishermen lost their lives over nine years as a result of war games being played out in the Irish Sea. It’s important to note that the national identities of the subs were not confirmed irrefutably in every case, but a search through Irish government debate archives seems to suggest that Britain was regarded as a major, if not the major culprit. It’s not a particularly unusual assumption either, given that Britain (and its bases) is quite considerably nearer to Ireland than Russia, last time I checked.
During his comments, Byrne said that despite pleading with the British government, they continued to “ignore the loss of life and to respond with a ‘how dare you ask questions?’ attitude”.
“The attitude of the British Government, who contribute most to this devastation, baffles me because of their arrogance towards their people, particularly towards their fishermen,” he said.
Later in the same year, after a sonar buoy towed by a British submarine became entangled in the nets of a fishing vessel in the Irish Sea, the issue was raised in government again.
Member of the government at the time Peter Barry said that “as long as the NATO base [Holy Loch] remains located in Scotland,” and as long as NATO submarines were being shadowed by submarines from other superpowers, the danger would remain.
None of this information is readily available to your average consumer of news today, unless they go searching through old archives, which most people are not wont to do — and so it’s easy for the likes of the BBC, Sky News and the Guardian to bang out article after article about ‘Russian submarines’ with little to no historical context, let alone evidence to back up their assertions.
None of the reports on the latest incident with the Karen off the coast of Down last week made reference to the relevant history of dangerous British sub activity in the Irish Sea. Either the journalists didn’t do their homework or they felt that the frankly questionable British and American track records in the Irish Sea were not worth mentioning. It’s not that they needed to deliver an entire history of events in the interest of balance, but even a line or two would have been enough.
The argument by some against the relevance of this history will be that the 1980s were a different time and that surely if a British submarine inadvertently dragged a fishing boat today, they would immediately surface to check on the crew. It could also be argued however, that unfortunately today isn’t really as different from 1982 as we’d perhaps like to believe when it comes to NATO vs. Russia war games.
Despite a perhaps misplaced presumption of British courteousness, there are still plenty of reasons to assume a British sub would stay hidden after such an incident today, chief among them the fact that it just wouldn’t look good to admit such a mistake — particularly at a time when Russian military irresponsibility and “aggression” is the accepted bogeyman of the day.
Having to admit to almost capsizing a fishing boat in the Irish Sea would not look great given the current British government’s tendency to fear-monger over Russian jets and subs at any given opportunity and to use routine military maneuvers as a NATO rallying cry.
When I asked Dick James of NIFPO about the drop-off in incidents after 1990, he said it was likely due to the protocols being in place and of course the closure of the Holy Loch base after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which reduced submarine activity.
As for the identity of the sub that hit the Karen last week, when I asked if the media had been quick to judge, he accepted that it “could be NATO or not” adding that the British Ministry of Defence was being “reticent”. The Royal Navy later issued a statement claiming it was not one of their own.
But the question is: If Britain refused to acknowledge the mistakes of their submarines during periods of heightened tensions before, why would today be any different?
None of this is to assign blame or to claim that it wasn’t a Russian sub which dragged the Karen and shook her crew members last week. It very well could have been — but that theory is no more or less likely than the theory that says it was a British one.
Follow Danielle Ryan on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ
The joint military drills held by the US paratroopers and the Ukrainian National Guard are taking place in urban environments in eastern regions of Ukraine close to the conflict zone, a Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman said.
Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov pointed out that American military instructors are holding joint military drills with the Ukrainian National Guard units not far from the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, in the regions of Mariupol, Severodonetsk, Artemivsk and Volnovakha.
Last week nearly 300 servicemen from the 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived in western Ukraine to take part in joint military drills dubbed Fearless Guardian together with Ukrainian National Guard battalions. It was announced that the overt combat training would take place in the Yavoriv district of the Lviv region, western Ukraine. Inexplicably though, the military drills have been shifted from the West to the Ukrainian eastern region, Igor Konashenkov stressed.
Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov called the public attention to the fact that the US-Ukrainian military servicemen are currently engaged in intensive assault training in urban environments.
The Russian Defense Ministry has repeatedly expressed its concerns about the fact the US paratroopers are teaching the Ukrainian National Guard to use weaponry manufactured in the West, pointing out that it could serve as a signal of Washington’s preparedness to deliver lethal weapons to Ukraine.
Meanwhile the US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt is beating the war drums, saying that Russia is beefing up its military presence in the eastern regions of Ukraine.
“It is the highest concentration of Russian air defense forces in eastern Ukraine since August,” the Ambassador wrote on his Twitter account.
Strangely as evidence for his assertion, Pyatt decided to show a photo of a Buk Missile System taken almost two years ago at the International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS in Russia.
Regardless, the Russian Defense Ministry is not surprised by the umpteenth “sensational exposure” of Russia’s military build-up in Ukraine made the US State Department.
“We won’t be surprised if [Washington] soon accuses us of deploying carrier battle ships in the Lugansk region or of Russian nuclear submarines illegally entering the First city pond of Donetsk,” noted Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov with unconcealed sarcasm.
It should be also noted Marie Harf, the deputy spokesperson for the US Department of State, has repeatedly claimed that Russia is beefing up its military forces in the eastern Ukraine, while providing no evidence at all to prove the statement.
In mid-April, hundreds of U.S. paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived in western Ukraine to provide training for government troops. The UK had already started its troop-training mission there, sending 75 troops to Kiev in March.  On April 14, the Canadian government announced that Canada will send 200 soldiers to Kiev, contributing to a military build-up on Russia’s doorstep while a fragile truce is in place in eastern Ukraine.
The Russian Embassy in Ottawa called the decision “counterproductive and deplorable,” stating that the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine have “called for enhanced intra-Ukrainian political dialogue,” as agreed upon in the Minsk-2 accords in February, and that it would be “much more reasonable to concentrate on diplomacy…” 
That viewpoint is shared by many, especially in Europe where few are eager for a “hot” war in the region. Nor are most people enamoured of the fact that more billions are being spent on a new arms-race, while “austerity” is preached by the 1 Per Cent.
But in the Anglo-American corridors of power (also called the Atlantic Alliance), such views are seen to be the result of diabolical propaganda spread through the Internet by Russia’s “secret army.” On April 15, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Ed Royce (R-Calif.), held a hearing entitled “Confronting Russia’s Weaponization of Information,” with Royce claiming that Russian propaganda threatens “to destabilize NATO members, impacting our security commitments.” 
The Committee heard from three witnesses: Elizabeth Wahl, former anchor for the news agency Russia Today (RT) who gained her moment of fame by resigning on camera in March 2014; Peter Pomerantsev, Senior Fellow at the Legatum Institute (a right-wing UK think-tank); and Helle C. Dale, Senior Fellow for Public Diplomacy at The Heritage Foundation, a right-wing U.S. think-tank.  The Foreign Affairs Committee website contains video clips of the first two witnesses – well worth watching if you enjoy Orwellian rhetoric passionately delivered.
The day before the hearing, in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Royce wrote, “Vladimir Putin has a secret army. It’s an army of thousands of ‘trolls,’ TV anchors and others who work day and night spreading anti-American propaganda on the Internet, airwaves and newspapers throughout Russia and the world. Mr. Putin uses these misinformation warriors to destabilize his neighbors and control parts of Ukraine. This force may be more dangerous than any military, because no artillery can stop their lies from spreading and undermining U.S. security interests in Europe.” 
In her formal (printed) submission, Ms. Wahl referred to the Internet’s “population of paranoid skeptics” and wrote: “The paranoia extends to believing that Western media is not only complicit, but instrumental in ensuring Western dominance.”
Helle C. Dale warned of “a new kind of propaganda, aimed at sowing doubt about anything having to do with the U.S. and the West, and in a number of countries, unsophisticated audiences are eating it up.”
Peter Pomerantsev claimed that Russia’s goal is “to trash the information space with so much disinformation so that a conversation based on actual facts would become impossible.” He added, “Throughout Europe conspiracy theories are on the rise and in the US trust in the media has declined. The Kremlin may not always have initiated these phenomena, but it is fanning them… Democracies are singularly ill equipped to deal with this type of warfare. For all of its military might, NATO cannot fight an information war. The openness of democracies, the very quality that is meant to make them more competitive than authoritarian models, becomes a vulnerability.”
Chairman Royce called for “clarifying” the mission of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the U.S. federal agency whose networks include Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti). 
The BBG is apparently in disarray. According to Helle Dale’s submission, on March 4, 2015, Andrew Lack, the newly hired CEO of BBG’s International Broadcasting, left the position after only six weeks on the job. On April 7, the Director of Voice of America, David Ensor, announced that he was leaving.
Andrew Lack was formerly the president of NBC News. As Paul Craig Roberts has recently noted, Lack’s first official statement as CEO of the BBG “compared RT, Russia Today, the Russian-based news agency, with the Islamic State and Boko Haram. In other words, Mr. Lack brands RT as a terrorist organization. The purpose of Andrew Lack’s absurd comparison is to strike fear at RT that the news organization will be expelled from US media markets. Andrew Lack’s message to RT is: ‘lie for us or we are going to expel you from our air waves.’ The British already did this to Iran’s Press TV. In the United States the attack on Internet independent media is proceeding on several fronts.” 
Ironically, however, it’s likely that one of the biggest threats (especially in Europe) to Anglo-American media credibility about Ukraine and other issues is coming from a very old-fashioned medium – a book.
Udo Ulfkotte’s bestseller Bought Journalists has been a sensation in Germany since its publication last autumn. The journalist and former editor of one of Germany’s largest newspapers, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, revealed that he was for years secretly on the payroll of the CIA and was spinning the news to favour U.S. interests. Moreover he alleges that some major media are nothing more than propaganda outlets for international think-tanks, intelligence agencies, and corporate high-finance. “We’re talking about puppets on a string,” he says, “journalists who write or say whatever their masters tell them to say or write. If you see how the mainstream media is reporting about the Ukraine conflict and if you know what’s really going on, you get the picture. The masters in the background are pushing for war with Russia and western journalists are putting on their helmets.” 
In another interview, Ulfkotte said: “The German and American media tries to bring war to the people in Europe, to bring war to Russia. This is a point of no return, and I am going to stand up and say… it is not right what I have done in the past, to manipulate people, to make propaganda against Russia, and it is not right what my colleagues do, and have done in the past, because they are bribed to betray the people not only in Germany, all over Europe.” 
With the credibility of the corporate media tanking, Eric Zuesse recently wrote, “Since Germany is central to the Western Alliance – and especially to the American aristocracy’s control over the European Union, over the IMF, over the World Bank, and over NATO – such a turn away from the American Government [narrative] threatens the dominance of America’s aristocrats (who control our Government). A breakup of America’s [Atlantic] ‘Alliance’ might be in the offing, if Germans continue to turn away from being just America’s richest ‘banana republic’.” 
No wonder the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on April 15 had such urgent rhetoric, especially from Peter Pomerantsev, Senior Fellow at the Legatum Institute – a London-based international think-tank whose motto is “Prosperity Through Revitalizing Capitalism and Democracy” and whose stated mission is “promoting prosperity through individual liberty, free enterprise and entrepreneurship, character and values.”
At the end of March, Conservative London mayor Boris Johnson (named as a potential successor to David Cameron) helped launch the Legatum Institute’s “Vision of Capitalism” speakers’ series, whose rallying cry is “It’s time for friends of capitalism to fight back.”  The sponsor of the event was the British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (BVCA), whose membership comprises “more than 500 influential firms, including over 230 private equity and venture capital houses, as well as institutional investors, professional advisers, service providers and international associations.” It is not clear whether the BVCA is also sponsoring the Legatum Institute’s “Vision of Capitalism” series.
The Legatum Institute was founded by billionaire Christopher Chandler’s Legatum Ltd. – a private investment firm headquartered in Dubai. According to The Legatum Institute’s website, its executives and fellows write for an impressive number of major media outlets, including the Washington Post, Slate, the New York Review of Books, Foreign Policy, New Republic, the Daily Telegraph, The Times, the London Review of Books, the Atlantic, and the Financial Times.
Nonetheless, the Legatum Institute’s Peter Pomeranzev told the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs that “Russia has launched an information war against the West – and we are losing.”
Chairperson Ed Royce noted during the hearing that if certain things are repeated over and over, a “conspiracy theory” takes on momentum and a life of its own.
Pomeranzev said the Kremlin is “pushing out more conspiracy” and he explained, “What is conspiracy – sort of a linguistic sabotage on the infrastructure of reason. I mean you can’t have a reality-based discussion when everything becomes conspiracy. In Russia, the whole discourse is conspiracy. Everything is conspiracy.” He added, “Our global order is based on reality-based politics. If that reality base is destroyed, then you can’t have international institutions, international dialogue.” Lying, he said, “makes a reality-based politics impossible” and he called it “a very insidious trend.”
Apparently, Pomeranzev has forgotten that important October 2004 article by Ron Suskind published in the New York Times Magazine during the second war in Iraq (which, like the first, was based on a widely disseminated lie). Suskind quoted one of George W. Bush’s aides (probably Karl Rove): “The aide said that guys like me [journalists, writers, historians] were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality… That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do’.” 
It’s a rather succinct description of Orwellian spin and secrecy in a media-saturated Empire, where discerning the truth becomes ever more difficult.
That is why people believe someone like Udo Ulfkotte, who is physically ill, says he has only a few years left to live, and told an interviewer, “I am very fearful of a new war in Europe, and I don’t like to have this situation again, because war is never coming from itself, there are always people who push for war, and this is not only politicians, it is journalists too… We have betrayed our readers, just to push for war… I don’t want this anymore, I’m fed up with this propaganda. We live in a banana republic and not in a democratic country where we have press freedom…” 
Recently, as Mike Whitney has pointed out in CounterPunch (March 10), Germany’s news magazine Der Spiegel dared to challenge the fabrications of NATO’s top commander in Europe, General Philip Breedlove, for spreading “dangerous propaganda” that is misleading the public about Russian “troop advances” and making “flat-out inaccurate statements” about Russian aggression.
Whitney asks, “Why this sudden willingness to share the truth? It’s because they no longer support Washington’s policy, that’s why. No one in Europe wants the US to arm and train the Ukrainian army. No wants them to deploy 600 paratroopers to Kiev and increase U.S. logistical support. No one wants further escalation, because no wants a war with Russia. It’s that simple.”  Whitney argued that “the real purpose of the Spiegel piece is to warn Washington that EU leaders will not support a policy of military confrontation with Moscow.”
So now we know the reason for the timing of the April 15 U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, “Confronting Russia’s Weaponization of Information.” Literally while U.S. paratroopers were en route to Kiev, the hawks in Washington (and London) knew it was time to crank up the rhetoric. The three witnesses were most eager to oblige.
Joyce Nelson is an award-winning Canadian freelance writer/researcher and the author of five books.
 “U.S. Military Instructors Deployed to Ukraine to Train Local Forces,” RT.com, April 17, 2015.
 Steven Chase, “Russian decries Ukraine training,” The Globe & Mail (April 16, 2015).
 Ed Royce, “Countering Putin’s Information Weapons of War,” The Wall Street Journal (April 14, 2015).
 Ron Suskind, “Without a Doubt: Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush,” The New York Times Magazine (Oct. 17, 2004).
Rasmussen’s case for war is built on a stack of lies
In his op-ed in Project Syndicate, ex-NATO chief and former Danish PM Anders “Fog of War” Rasmussen calls for war against Russia in the name of democracy and the ever so elusive “Western values”. “The current conflict between Russia and the West is, at its core, a clash of values,” he announces to start with, but then through a seriously convoluted brain process arrives at the conclusion that “It is about democracy.” In his mind the latter must be the distilled sublime product of the former. And since it is about democracy, Mr. Fog of War reasons, “the West must respond accordingly.”
I cannot fathom why on earth this concept, “democracy”, this linguistic abstraction, stirs such passions in a man who, by all formal counts, should rank among the best that his nation, with its long traditions of progress, has produced. Isn’t this guy in actual fact taking us a thousand years back and calling for a Holy Crusade against Russia? The crusades were military campaigns in the name of a God and true interpretation of the scripture. They were sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages with the ostensible goal to restore Christian access to holy places in Jerusalem. In reality, they were aggressive Western expansion attempts driven by economic and political reasons, fueled by personal ambitions and served to the European sheeple packaged in lofty religious causes.
Rasmussen, the former High Priest of NATO, is driven by all these exactly same considerations. He is supporting the NATO war effort to take a stranglehold of Russia with the actual aim to create a global hegemony led by the Western elite. As in the Middle Ages, so today, the idea of a war for the sake of pure conquest does not sell with the herds — if the pasture is good enough, then why bother — therefore, all you need to do is replace God with Democracy and the Ten Commandments with Western Values. (What easy work for the modern day apostles, the Western stink tanks — they do not actually have to spell out what these “values” are, not even in a list of ten).
I will not here expound on my view of what democracy is; suffice to say that it cannot be defined as a concept but rather as a result of social practices and societal conditions which enable the practices. I have elaborated on this in my book All is Art, where the second part is dedicated to this question under the title “Democratic Competition”. (From page 182 of this file).
Instead I will here treat you to a sample of what kind of “values” Rasmussen stands for as evidenced by the op-ed in question. These values are all firmly rooted in lies, as we will see.
1. Rasmussen writes: “Russian authorities recently threatened to aim nuclear missiles at Danish warships if Denmark joins NATO’s missile-defense system. This was obviously an outrageous threat against a country that has no intention of attacking Russia.”
In fact: Denmark is part of an anti-Russian war coalition which is — through vicious propaganda, economic warfare and military actions — continuously closing in on Russia with the aim to conquer it or force a regime change that would install a pliant Western puppet leader.
2. Rasmussen: “Russia’s leaders know very well that NATO’s missile defense is not directed at their country. … we repeatedly emphasized that the purpose was to defend Alliance members from threats originating outside the Euro-Atlantic area [Iran]”.
In fact: We all know this is total baloney.
3. Rasmussen: “Recall how the Ukrainian conflict began: Tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens from all parts of society demanded, in overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrations, an association agreement with the European Union.“
In fact: We know very well that the protests were not peaceful and amounted to a Western managed, violent coup d’état.
4. Rasmussen: “No one was calling for a pogrom against Ukraine’s Russian-speakers, despite the Kremlin’s claims to the contrary.”
In fact: From the very beginning of Maidan, the protests where fiercely anti-Russia and soon resulted in unheard of physical harm and mass-murder against the population that identified themselves as Russian.
5. Rasmussen: “And NATO membership was not part of the deal.”
In fact: It was very much so.
6. Rasmussen: “Yet Russia reacted swiftly and harshly. Long before violence engulfed the protests, Russian officials began accusing the demonstrators of being neo-Nazis, radicals, and provocateurs.”
In fact: It is proven beyond any doubt that the most active part of the demonstrators were precisely neo-Nazis, radicals and provocateurs. And that the regime that came into power very much adopted their war cries and utilized those forces in their terror campaign all across Ukraine.
7. Rasmussen: “As soon as Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kyiv, Russian President Vladimir Putin began engineering the annexation of Crimea.”
In fact: Here Rasmussen has a point, save for the word “annexation”. Funny, though, as the common Western line was always that Putin had been “scheming” this for years.
8. Rasmussen: “For Russia, the threat posed by the Ukrainian protesters was existential. In demanding change, freedom, and democracy – right on Russia’s doorstep, no less – the protesters challenged Putin’s model of “sovereign democracy,” in which the president eliminates all opposition, restricts media freedom, and then tells citizens that they can choose their leaders. The Kremlin feared that if the Ukrainians got what they wanted, Russians might be inspired to follow their example.”
In fact: So much nonsense that it does not deserve a comment. Shortly, we have seen what kind of “change, freedom, and democracy” they got under the new Western backed oligarch and neo-facsist regime.
9. Rasmussen: “That is why Russia’s leaders have been so keen to label Ukraine’s leaders as Russophobes and fascists.”
In fact: Russia does not need to do any labeling here; the Ukraine leaders and their subservient media speak for themselves.
10. Rasmussen: “It is why they have portrayed the Baltic States for years as dysfunctional oppressors of their Russian citizens.”
In fact: The Baltic states have, ever since their independence, run an oppressive apartheid system denying vast portions of their populations – mainly Russian ethnic nationals – even citizenship. And Fog of War knows that very well, coming from a neighboring country.
11. Rasmussen: “And it is why they are now portraying the EU as decadent, immoral, and corrupt.”
In fact: I have not seen Kremlin engaged in this, although I definitely think they should more actively call out these ignominious characteristics of the EU, which Rasmussen so correctly identified.
12. Rasmussen: ”The Kremlin is trying desperately to convince Russians that liberal democracy is bad, and that life under Putin is good. That requires not only spreading damaging lies at home, but also sowing violence and instability among its neighbors.”
In fact: Russia under Putin is much more a true liberal democracy in the classical sense of the concept. Life under Putin may not be as good as we all would like it to be, but it is for sure better than ever in Russian history and continuously improving, which cannot be said for the EU countries. “Sowing violence and instability in the world” — that is clearly the business of NATO and its member states.
After having enumerated this list of lies, Rasmussen concludes: “Despite whatever pain we incur, we must maintain – and, if necessary, deepen – sanctions against Russia and reinforce NATO’s front line. “
How long will the good Europeans be willing to sacrifice all they have for these warmongering lies?
The US reportedly expects that the ongoing confrontation with Russia would continue until at least 2024 and involve many directions. Washington wants to rally support of its European allies to continue mounting pressure on Moscow.
The expected diplomatic and economic war of attrition is being outlined in a Russia policy review currently prepared by Celeste Wallander, special assistant to President Barack Obama and senior director for Russia and Eurasia on the National Security Council, reports Italian newspaper La Stampa. The publication said it learned details of the upcoming policy change from a preview that Washington sent to the Italian government to coordinate the future effort.
US diplomats say Russia changed the cooperative stance it assumed after the collapse of the Soviet Union and is now using force to defend its national interests, the paper said. The change is attributed to the personality of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, Washington expects, will remain in power until at least 2024.
The change became apparent with the conflict in Ukraine, but was emerging since at least the 2008 conflict in South Ossetia, when Russia used military force after Georgia sent its army to subdue the rebellious region, killing Russian peacekeepers in the process.
Washington’s solution to the new Russia is keeping sanctions pressure on it while luring its neighbors away with economic aid and investment, La Stampa said. The current round of sanctions, it reports, was designed not to have too much impact on the Russian economy so that a threat of harsher sanctions could be applied.
While the tug of war in Europe continues into the next decade, Washington wants to continue cooperation with Russia in other areas like nuclear non-proliferation and space exploration. However until Putin is out of the picture, the US does not expect for things to go back to where they were, the newspaper said.
The strategy was hardly unnoticed in Moscow, as evidenced by the annual report of the Russian Foreign Ministry published on Wednesday. The document said the US is pursuing “a systematic obstruction to Russia, rallying its allies with the goal to damage domestic economy” through blocking credits, technology transfer and an overall destabilization of the business environment.
The ministry said Washington had some success with the policy that resulted in an almost 8 percent drop of Russia’s trade with EU members in 2014. However some European countries like Austria, Hungary or Slovakia are pragmatically keeping bilateral ties with Russia active. In European heavyweight Germany, whose government is among the leading supporters of the anti-Russian sanctions, there is a strong business resistance to keeping them.
Non-EU members in the region like Serbia and Turkey are among priority partners for Russia in the current environment, the ministry added.
The US Army has joined Estonian soldiers in NATO ‘Tornado’ drills just before the largest training in Estonia’s history, the Siil war games. A laser training system will be used for simulating actual battle.
“On Monday, nearly 2,000 soldiers of the First Infantry Brigade of Estonian Defense Forces, as well as divisions of US paratroopers, will begin five-day Tornado drills, which will demonstrate the level of their readiness for larger Siil [Hedgehog] military exercises,” the General Staff of the country’s Defense Forces said in a statement.
The Siil war games involving up to 13,000 soldiers will be held in early May.
The MILES (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System) system will be used during the Tornado exercise for training purposes, with different versions of MILES systems available to US and international militaries. The system uses lasers and blank cartridges to simulate actual battle. Soldiers carry small laser receivers, placed over their outfits, which detect when the soldier has been illuminated by a firearm’s laser. Each laser transmitter meanwhile mimics the effective range of the weapon on which it is used.
The presence of US soldiers in the Baltic region is a part of the military operation Atlantic Resolve, a demonstration of US commitment to NATO members across Eastern Europe through international training and security cooperation.
NATO has been building up its military presence along Russia’s western border in the wake of the conflict in southeastern Ukraine. Moscow has repeatedly warned that NATO’s growing expansion towards Russian borders could only escalate tensions and destabilize regional security.
“The Alliance exerts pressure on the Russian Federation and the deployment of additional military capabilities along our borders is nothing but an attempt to assist military pressure on Russia,” Russia’s permanent representative to NATO, Alexander Grushko, said in February.
The Russian General Staff said on Thursday there was a sharp increase in the intensity of NATO troops training near the borders of Russia last year, with a clear anti-Russian orientation of these activities. According to Lieutenant General Andrey Kartapolov, NATO’s operational and combat training activities grew by 80 percent in 2014.
“During this period, NATO created a grouping of its member states’ forces in the Baltic States, consisting of over 10,000 troops, about 1,500 armored vehicles, 80 planes and helicopters and 50 warships,” Kartapolov stated, adding that strategic bombers from the US Air Force were used to perform strategic tasks during those exercises.
He also said the US plans to supply its Eastern European allies with JASSM-ER long-range aviation cruise missiles, which will enable NATO warplanes to hit targets 1,300 kilometers inside Russian territory.
The head of the Main Operation Directorate of the General Staff has warned that in the case of a military conflict, critical facilities on the territory of “almost the entire European part of Russia will be vulnerable to NATO’s air attack, with the flight time of the missiles reduced by half.”
A Russian government institute has developed a complex program for evaluating the level of corruption, which its authors say is superior to the widely advertised, but very subjective Transparency International index.
The new method will be presented by the Institute of Law and Comparative Jurisprudence at the Eurasian Anti-Corruption Forum this week, the Izvestia daily reported on Monday. It is called the International Corruption Monitoring Program, or MONKOR.
The new index is based on criminal statistics, economic data, opinion polls and analysis of national legislation, one of its authors, Artyom Tsyrin, told reporters. This makes it different from the famous Corruption Perception Index, which is prepared annually by the international NGO Transparency International, he added.
“The Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International only evaluates psychological attitude of responders in polls. As a result, they are making conclusions on desirable institutional changes in the country purely on the basis of sociological studies. We try to find a correlation between actions and effects. It is important to move away from a subjective approach and towards objective research.
Our institute offers a universal tool allowing any willing nation to conduct an evaluation of its anti-corruption efforts and figure out whether the national anti-corruption policy is effective. MONKOR can compare the results in various countries that use its methods,” Tsyrin said.
Despite the fact that MONKOR’s author sees it as an alternative to Transparency International’s index, the latter is used in the Russian method as part of its fundamental data, along with the Word Bank’s country policy and institutional assessment (CPIA) for Corruption. Experts at the International anti-corruption academy and the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) group also participated in the research.
In Russia, the index uses data provided by the Supreme Court, the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s Office. It will also include “corruption market” data provided by the Ministry of Economic Development.
The new index is being tested in Russia and Kyrgyzstan, and talks are being held with Belarus, Kazakhstan and some other nations, Tsyrin told reporters.
Russia’s position in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index has been gradually falling since the mid-1990s. In 2014, the country was placed 136th of 174, a list also including Iran, Lebanon, Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan and Cameroon. The authors of the research emphasized that Russia’s anti-corruption effort was, in their view “chaotic and irresolute.”
Top Russian officials have repeatedly criticized the TI’s approach as biased and politicized. The head of the Presidential Administration, Sergey Ivanov, said that he was “extremely skeptical” about the 2014 index, adding “ratings can be drawn by anyone.” At the same time, Ivanov noted the authorities were closely following serious sociological agencies, including foreign and international organizations.
One such agency is Ernst&Young, which lowered corruption risks in Russia in 2014 and put it below average world levels.
By Anne Williamson | LewRockwell | April 16, 2015
Having now had a year’s time to get better acquainted with their new Ukrainian friends and the neighborhood overall, Europeans are losing their taste for economic sanctions on Russia.
Contrary to American assurances, economic warfare against Russia meant to compel the return of Crimea to Ukraine hasn’t worked. Nor did the Ukrainian military’s campaign against the Donbas tame the Russian “aggression” mainstream media shouts about daily. All Europe has achieved to date is tens of billions in lost trade and Russia’s abandonment of the South Stream pipeline.
The Russians were building South Stream to insure the – politely put – “integrity” of gas flows to Europe while in transit across Ukraine, and put an end to the country’s 24-year racket of holding Russia’s energy commerce with Europe hostage by virtue of having inherited a key segment of the Soviet pipeline network. The loss of jobs and transit revenues their participation in the construction and operation of South Stream promised was keenly felt in Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Austria, France, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and Germany have all taken serious losses thanks to the trade sanctions as well.
Trade and employment losses coupled with some USD 40 billions more in IMF loans to Kiev, whose proceeds are most likely to be spent – at the US’s insistence – on yet more war, and the growing misery of all the Ukrainian people are typical of the now familiar results of US-organized sedition abroad. However, those results are usually observed in militarily weak, third world nations the US chooses to undermine for whatever reasons, and certainly not on the continent their most loyal and most capable allies occupy.
Besides which, the whole cockamamie story the US has been pushing vis a vis Crimea is falling apart. The fact that one year on there are no Crimean protests and no “Back to Kiev!” grass root committees has undermined the entire premise of the sanctions. Even year long multiple polling by western agencies has shown that large majorities of Crimeans have no regrets concerning the 2014 reunification with their motherland of some 300 years.
In truth, the world owes a debt of gratitude to the Russians. While US State Department operatives busied themselves in Kiev with constructing an interim, post-coup government of fascist stooges and native oligarchs, the Russians’ deft and lightening re-absorption of a willing Crimea took the meat right off the table. The American greenhorns in Kiev were left dumbfounded, and hopping mad.
With the Black Sea port of Sevastopol safely in Russian hands, and the country’s immediate strategic interests secure, there was no need for war. Given time, the Russians know Ukraine as presently constituted will defeat Ukraine, and that not even a Himalaya of dollars and the sacrifices of several generations of Ukrainians will put the country back together again. Default will be Ukraine’s only escape route.
But it is the antics of hyperbolic NATO operatives (Dragoon Ride, a Conga line of armored Stryker vehicles and troops rolling across Europe from the Baltics to central Europe in a “show of force,”) the bloviating of chest-beating US generals (the only way “to turn the tide” is “to start killing Russians”) and the dumb bellicosity of the US Congress for having authorized the export of lethal weaponry to Kiev that finally got the EU leadership looking sideways at one another. Just exactly what has the US gotten them into?
But it was the EU itself who bought, by bits and by pieces, into America’s scheme. The events in Ukraine have left the European Union naked before her own members’ populations, exposed as a highly-bureaucratized system of US vassalage so thoroughly in harness individual nations actually agreed to harm their own economies in pursuit of US policies. There’s a reason for the EU’s acquiescence: The EU and its leadership stands to gain should State Department neoconservatives deliver on their promises. The EU will get bigger and its artificial and suffocating institutions more deeply entrenched.
The only direction in which the EU can expand is to the East. Ukraine, Moldova, Transdniestr, Armenia and Georgia were all believed ripe for the taking, and each is or was being pursued with EU “association agreements,” which subvert each country to EU dictates while holding the prize of EU membership in abeyance.
Absorbing such contrarily-organized lands is the work of decades. No matter. Their capture alone will enable the ECB to go on an immediate super-binge of vendor financing, which it is believed will conjure up jobs, export profits, and, the ECB (European Central Bank) hopes, a new round of euro-based credit expansion and piratization that will, in the fullness of time, strip the newly “associated” lands and their citizens of their savings and property. Once the fiat money-engineered boom begins to fade, the expectation is that ongoing economic warfare against Russia, directed and policed by the US, will at last bear fruit. Only a small shove and a slight push will be needed to topple and then shatter Russia into bite-sized pieces for the west’s further consumption.
So set upon this course is the US that the White House’s recent offer of a slippery framework to Iran to conclude the Israeli-manufactured dispute over the country’s nuclear enrichment program has the look of arbitrage, indicating there are limits to just how much havoc Washington can create and oversee abroad. Besides, Iran is currently useful in the conflict with the US-created ISIS. With sanctions lifted, the flood of Iranian oil and gas coming to market would further harm Russia’s economic interests while supporting the building of new pipelines to Europe originating in the Middle East and North Africa (under indirect US control) and sparing any further need for US ally Saudi Arabia to continue pumping low-priced oil for which there is insufficient global demand.
As long as Angela Merkel keeps Germany on board, and Germany continues to fund the stagnant EU, the US’s high-tech version of a medieval siege of the Kremlin can proceed.
With new multilateral treaties agreed under cover of tax and banking transparency (FATCA) now in place, the US is well on its way to being able to track in real time every currency unit on the planet that is emitted, earned, deposited, withdrawn, spent, invested, loaned, and borrowed by means of the banks, long seen as a US-engineered globalism’s most effective police force. European governments’ war on cash is meant to insure all commerce will flow through the banks and therefore be recorded. These new surveillance capabilities will be exploited to the maximum in the case of both Russia and hesitant Europeans for the purposes of blackmail, extortion, and control.
In a digital battlescape staffed by the west’s soldiers of finance, winter will not save the Russians.
Another attack strategy the US is about to deploy, drawn not from history but from nature, is that of the wolf pack. Though NATO troops will bedevil Russia’s borders, no western troops will actually set foot on Russian territory prior to the country’s imminent collapse. That would be dangerous, but the more proxy wars and political upheavals the US can stir up along Russia’s periphery while the motherland suffers and declines under the west’s economic blockade, the better.
Necessary and experienced personnel are being appointed and NGOs beefed up in preparation for brewing new crises and rainbow revolutions along Russia’s “soft, underbelly”: the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, which both Armenia and Azerbaijan claim, in Kyrgyzstan where the south and the north are alienated from one another, in Uzbekistan where control of the Fergana Valley is in dispute with Kyrgyzstan, and in Georgia, which hopes for the return of Ossetia and Abkhazia. Carrots and sticks will miraculously set many a fire.
Keeping those flames under control will seriously tax Russia’s resources.
US objectives include busting up the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), whose members include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), whose members include China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia, and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), whose members – to date – include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia.
However, there are problems with the above scenarios unfolding as planned.
US foreign policy assumes everyone on the planet wants to be an American, or – second best – a recipient of American interest and munificence, a notion which the state has successfully sold only to movie-mad foreign teenagers and naive Americans. Rather than being an advertisement for the benefits of American intervention, the Ukraine America is building might better serve as one for the beneficial avoidance of same through membership in the EAEU.
Russia is hardly new to the protection game. Armenia and Georgia, the first Christian nations on earth, soon found themselves unmoored in a sea of Islam. Each petitioned the Kremlin for inclusion into the empire. They wanted and needed the protection of the “Third Rome,” and they got it. Today Armenia wisely continues to huddle close to Russia, eschewing the opportunity of becoming a battle station in any anti-Azeri US campaign, while a US-enamored Georgia still chafes at the protection the US provides their former proxy, the corrupt Saakashvili regime. Azerbaijan has but to look at Iran to see what misfortune the US is quite willing to hand round. Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have the example of their war torn neighbor, US-occupied Afghanistan, to contemplate.
US foreign policy further assumes that targets will stand still and only stare into the blinding glare of America’s oncoming headlights.
Russia’s abrupt shut down of the South Stream gas pipeline’s construction and the rapid replacement of European entry points and participants with a single exit point in Turkey from which Russian gas will flow to the rest of Europe through Greece along pipes it is now the EU’s responsibility to finance and build has put paid to that assumption. It is not only Russia that has an exploitable “soft underbelly.”
Despite the mainstream media’s shameless dissemination of western governments’ fatuous propaganda, and of what is sure to be an exploding supply of tit for tat, sufficient information is available to anyone who cares to look to determine who is destroying and who is trying to build, who is seeking peaceful co-operation and increasing trade and commerce between nations and who is demanding obedience to its diktat while waving a mailed fist.
To paraphrase Mae West, “Democracy has nothin’ to do with it.”
It is certainly an irony of history, wild and raw, that Vladimir Putin, a man who once described himself as “a pure and utterly successful product of a Soviet patriotic education,” is today seen by an increasing number of alarmed citizens worldwide as liberty’s if not civilization’s best, if inadvertent and imperfect, hope. But those souls should have no illusions. Whatever the Russian president does, he will do for Russia’s sake, not ours.
But if Russia cannot stand, we will all sink together into tyranny or eternity.
Despite voicing its support for the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, the US is actually working to undermine the Minsk peace deal, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said, commenting on the deployment of American military instructors to Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry is “gravely concerned” by the fact that military instructors from the US, UK and Canada will be training the troops from Ukraine’s National Guard, stressed the ministry’s spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich.
“This begs the question: Do they – in Washington, London and Ottawa – understand whom are we talking about? As they are the same Ukrainian ultra-nationalists from volunteer battalions, who wore Nazi emblems and blurred themselves with the blood of women, children and the elderly during reprisal raids in Donbass [south-eastern Ukraine],” he said.
“What will these foreign military experts teach them – how to continue killing those, who speak Russian?” the spokesman wondered.
Moscow views the information that the National Guard training program will include exercises with Western-style weaponry and hardware as a possible “first step towards the supply of modern US arms to Ukraine, which the ‘party of war’ in Kiev is so eager to get its hands on,” he said.
Supporting any revanchist ambitions of warmongers in the Ukrainian government “may lead to the resumption of bloodshed” in the south-east of the country, Lukashevich warned.
The ministry believes that the US actions are in violation of the peace deal, which was signed by Kiev and the representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk during talks in Minsk on February 12, he said.
Lukashevich stated that the Minsk deal provides “the withdrawal of all foreign forces, military equipment, as well as mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under the supervision of the OSCE. Instead, a US Airborne Brigade has landed near Lvov and intends to settle there for long.”
“The Obama administration, which verbally advocates the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, is, in fact, contributing to the disruption of the Minsk agreements,” he stressed.
According to Moscow, Washington is trying to divert the international community’s attention from its military deployment in the Ukraine “by a ‘smokescreen’ of claims of an alleged presence of Russian troops in Donbass,” which hasn’t been backed by any proof.
“It’s obvious, that the US troops on Ukrainian soil won’t bring it peace,” Lukashevich concluded.
On Friday, paratroopers of the US 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vincenza, Italy, have arrived in western Ukraine to provide training for Ukrainian troops. Some 290 US troops are to take part in long-term joint drills with combat units of the National Guard, Arsen Avakov, Ukrainian Interior Minister, wrote on Facebook.
The US paratroopers’ training mission will last for 24 weeks and involve some 900 Ukrainian servicemen, Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko, and US Vice-President, Joe Biden, agreed earlier in spring.
Kiev and rebels signed a ceasefire deal in February, which involved the pullout of heavy weapons and a profound political dialogue and constitutional reform, which would address the grievances of the dissenting regions and reintegrate them into Ukraine.
The deal has more or less held so far, with the level of violence in eastern Ukraine dropping significantly, OSCE monitors on the ground have been reporting.
The Ukrainian conflict began in April 2014 after Kiev sent troops to Donetsk and Lugansk Region as people there refused to recognize the new coup-imposed authorities in the capital. A year of fighting in south-eastern Ukraine has resulted in over 6,000 deaths, including score of civilians, according to conservative UN estimates.
As neocons are working to destroy Iran’s tentative nuclear deal, US President Obama will have to either reinvent America’s policy or give in to Israel’s lobby and Saudi Arabia’s paranoiac fear of Shia Islam.
If months of intense political wrangling were crowned earlier this April by the confirmation that Iran and the P5+1 countries reached a tentative framework agreement over one of the most contentious issue of the past three decades – Iran’s nuclear dossier – it appears such diplomatic respite could prelude to a dangerous political standoff.
If by any account Iran’s nuclear negotiations were going to be trying, especially since Tehran’s nuclear ambitions do not necessarily sit at the center of this internationally staged quarrel, Israel’s neocon war campaign against the Islamic Republic risks pushing the world toward yet another lengthy conflict- a global one at that.
With the fires of war already burning bright in the MENA region – Middle East and North Africa – the fall of another domino could prove one too many for the word to handle. From a purely geostrategic standpoint a war with Iran, however pleasing to Tel Aviv’s avid warmongers, would likely force Western powers and their Arab allies to commit more military power than they can handle. Bearing in mind that the US has already committed troops and resources to Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and of course Ukraine, how much farther can imperial America really stretch?
However grand the US might think itself to be, and however solid the US might think its alliances to be, Washington has yet to win a war. Claiming victory as George W. Bush did in Iraq on May 1, 2003 did not exactly make it so. And though America basked in the glorious light of its military supremacy over the “Iraqi enemy,” its joy was short-lived as reality soon came knocking. And though starting a war might seem an easy enough business for neocon America, it is really the art of peace this belligerent nation has failed to master so far.
But back to Iran’s nuclear deal
To the surprise of many skeptics, Iran and the P5+1 did reach a deal – and while there were a few near misses, a deal was nevertheless brokered; proof experts actually insisted that Tehran is more interested in diplomacy than its detractors gives it credit for. Iran’s concessions attest to its officials’ determination to engage with the international community and integrate back into mainstream international politics.
As Gareth Porter wrote in a report for CounterPunch this April, “The framework agreement reached on Thursday night [April 2, 2015] clearly gives the P5+1 a combination of constraints on Iran’s nuclear program that should reassure all but the most bellicose opponents of diplomacy.”
And although Iran gave every assurance its government will not seek to weaponize its nuclear program, no amount of concessions might prove sufficient enough or comprehensive enough to assuage Washington’s fears vis-a-vis its “great Satan” – especially if the Saudis and Israelis have a say in it.
With the ink of the nuclear framework agreement still left to dry, both the powerful Israeli lobby and Al Saud’s petrodollars went on overdrive, telling the world what a catastrophe Iran’s nuclear deal would be.
One trip to US Congress and a few well-chosen words against its mortal enemy later, Israel seems satisfied it forever drove a wrench into the yet to be formulated and signed nuclear agreement.
As Yuval Steinitz, Israel minister for intelligence and strategic affairs so eloquently told the world on April 6, Israel would try to persuade the P5 +1 “not to sign this bad deal or at least to dramatically change or fix it”.
Echoing his minister’s narrative, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu determined that since Iran represents a threat to Israel’s very existence, America should abandon all diplomacy and instead beat the war drums. And we don’t really need to know why, only that it is so – If Netanyahu’s drawing did not convince your idle mind of Iran’s evil in 2012 then nothing will!
Just as Israel’s lobby bullied its way through the Oval office, cornering U.S. President Barak Obama into relenting power to Congress, Saudi Arabia declared war on Yemen, adding a new layer of complication to an already impossible mesh of over-lapping and over-conflicting alliances in the Middle East, thus weaving a dangerous noose around peace’s neck.
Interestingly, if war requires no US Congress oversight you can be sure that peace does!
Caught in between a rock at home and a hard place in the Middle East, US President Obama is faced with one mighty dilemma – one which will determine not his presidency but his very legacy.
If recent tensions between President Obama and the Israeli Premier are anything to go by, it would appear Israel’s lobby suit of armor is not as thick and potent as it’d like it to be, or maybe just maybe, it simply exhausted Americans’ patience. Israel’s greatest ally and supporter, the one power which has quite literally and almost single-handedly carried the Jewish State into being and helped it survive adverse winds since its very inception in 1948: vetoing UNSC resolutions when needed, propping its military and economy when needed, acting a political champion when needed, could be running out of road.
If Israel and Saudi Arabia’s foreign agenda stand now in perfect alignment – their ire directed not at one another but at Iran, changes in the region and fast-moving geostrategic interests have forced the US to re-evaluate its position vis-a-vis Iran and the so-called mythical Shia crescent the world has learnt to be wary of without quite understanding why.
In Netanyahu’s officials’ own words we are to believe that Islamic radicalism, a perverted, acetic and reactionary interpretation of Islam which has mapped itself around Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism movement would be preferable to seeing Iran gain a greater footing in the Arab world. In September 2013, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad and the Shiites. “The greatest danger to Israel is by the [Shiite] strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said in an interview.
“We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Obviously Saudi Arabia would rather eat its own foot than allow the all so devilish Iran from reclaiming its standing in the region, especially since it would essentially mean relenting power to rising calls for democratic reforms in the Gulf monarchies – Bahrain being the flagship of such a desire for change.
Why do that when you can wage senseless wars to assert your dominion?
Iran’s nuclear deal is more than just a nuclear deal. If signed, this deal would become the cornerstone of a broad shift in alliances, the moment when the US would actually choose to put its national interests over that of Tel Aviv and over Riyadh’s billions. Where Israel has bullied the US for decades, Saudi Arabia has bought its policies for decades.
With nothing left to lose but his good name and his legacy, President Obama could be just the man to break this self-destructing cycle and reinvent America’s foreign policy.
And that’s not even wishful thinking it would actually make sense for America to make peace with Iran – economically, politically and in terms of energy security and counter-terrorism Iran could be a more helpful and potent ally than Saudi Arabia. Bearing in mind that Riyadh’s fingerprints are all over al-Qaeda, ISIS and whatever terror offshoots radicals created those days, Washington might want to consider another ally in its fight against radicalism.
Thing is, America wants change! What it needs now is mastering the courage of its desire.
America is a superpower running out of steam, and more importantly running out of standing in the world. America’s exceptionalism is on its last leg. Too many double-standards, too many incoherencies in its alliances, too many double-talks, double-entendres and double-crossings. America needs a deal.
And though the July deadline seems very far away indeed, especially since Yemen’s war came to yank at diplomacy’s already stretched out rope; not signing the nuclear deal would be far worse than ruffling Israel and Saudi Arabia’s feathers.
For the sake of argument, why not ask Israel to pay the world the courtesy of practicing what it preaches in terms of nuclear transparency. That would be the nuclear deal of the century!
Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst and commentator for the Middle East with a special emphasis on Yemen and radical movements. A consultant with Anderson Consulting and leading analyst for the Beirut Center for Middle East Studies, her writings have appeared in MintPress, Foreign Policy Journal, Open-Democracy, the Guardian, the Middle East Monitor, Middle East Eye and many others. In 2015 her research and analysis on Yemen was used by the UN Security Council in a situation report.
The commander of US-NATO forces, the vigorously vocal General Breedlove, stated on April 7 that the military alliance’s planners “have been working tirelessly to enhance NATO’s Response Force and implement the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, and today our progress is manifested in the rapid deployments we see happening in locations across the Alliance.”
Breedlove is the man who declared on March 5 that Russia had sent combat troops and massive quantities of military equipment into Ukraine. He said that President Putin had “upped the ante” in eastern Ukraine by deploying “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery.” His military opinion was that “What is clear is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.”
He spoke absolute drivel, because the ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and separatists in the east of the country was working, albeit shakily, and things were quietening down. The last thing that was needed was provocation. Silence and, or at the most, calm, reasoned comments were essential if both sides were to be encouraged to cool it.
But this man, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the man who has the trust of the American president, the prime nuclear button-shover, told a deliberate lie intended to increase tension.
The manufactured tension built up and on April 7 Breedlove’s HQ announced that the militaries of “11 Allied nations, Germany, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Hungary, Lithuania, Croatia, Portugal, and Slovenia tested their Headquarters’ response to alert procedures,” while “in the afternoon of 7 April, the 11th Air Mobile Brigade in The Netherlands and the 4th Rapid Reaction Brigade in the Czech Republic were given orders to rapidly prepare to deploy their troops and equipment” in a maneuver called “Noble Jump” which conjured up an image of a missile-wielding April bunny leaping into the fray against a coyly unnamed enemy who could be no other than Russia. (Although perhaps Russia need not be too troubled about some of NATO’s war preparations. My sources told me that the practice mobilization of the Dutch brigade was a shambles.)
While the ground-based martial bunny-hops were going on there was an aerial provocation in progress, this time involving a US Combat Sent RC-135U spyplane which was on a mission against Russia and flew along its Baltic Sea coastline. To prevent identification its transponder had been switched off — just like those of the aircraft in the 9/11 hijackings and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 which disappeared mysteriously a year ago.
All aircraft have transponders which report their speed, height, heading and identification to air traffic controllers and other aircraft in order to avoid aerial confusion, so when Russian radar detected a large aircraft without such a signal but obviously using transmission devices to collect their radar and other electronic emissions, including civilian commercial communications, they sent up a fighter plane to have a look. Washington threw up its hands in mock horror and issued statements about how dangerous this was. Then the western media went into overdrive with a cavalier disregard for balanced reporting.
The Daily Mail of Britain is a garbage newspaper which maintains enormous readership because it specializes in glamorizing Britain’s sad, tacky and pathetic Celeb culture while concurrently condemning it, sometimes in the most portentous terms. The paper’s masses of online readers try to rationalize their attraction to vulgarity by glancing at items on international affairs and were told breathlessly that “In a maneuver with ominous echoes of the Cold War, a Russian fighter jet ‘aggressively’ intercepted an American plane over Poland, the Pentagon claims. Filing an official complaint to Russia, the State Department alleges a U.S. RC-135U reconnaissance aircraft was flying near the Baltic Sea in international airspace when a Russian SU-27 Flanker cut into its path.”
The average Daily Mail reader might not be able to question the absurdly conflicting phrases “near the Baltic Sea,” “over Poland,” and “in international airspace,” but that doesn’t matter. The message was being spread around by the US-NATO propaganda apparatus that the dreaded Russkies were menacing the Free World. The media lapped it up.
Little attention was paid in the West to the Russian announcement that “an Su-27 fighter on duty was scrambled, approached the unidentified aircraft, flew around it several times, identified it as an RC-135U reconnaissance aircraft belonging to the U.S. Air Force and read its side number, and reported it to the command. After having been intercepted by the Russian fighter, the U.S. Air Force aircraft changed its course and moved away from the Russian border.”
What the Russians didn’t say was that the aircraft’s “side number” was 4849 and that it had been photographed the previous day in Eastern England at the Royal Air Force base at Mildenhall which houses a USAF tanker squadron, about 200 US special forces soldiers with Osprey aircraft and operatives from such elements as 97 Intelligence Squadron.
No doubt the Russians know that last October it was noticed that US RC-135U spy plane number 4849 carries on its side some eye-catching decals. A photograph taken by Gary Chadwick at Mildenhall shows the “mission markings applied above the crew entry hatch, on the left hand side of the RC-135U Combat Sent 64-14849 ‘OF’ with the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron/55th Wing of the U.S. Air Force : five hammer and sickle symbols.”
These symbols may be stickers or stencils, but whatever they are they cost money and take time and effort to apply on the side of an airplane to which they add neither beauty or distinction. So why are they placed there?
It might be thought strange that a US military aircraft in 2015 should have Soviet-era hammer and sickle decals on its side in order to publicly indicate a military exploit involving achievement of an objective of some sort. And it is interesting that one of the images has been added recently, because when a photograph of 4849 was taken last year there were only four such symbols. What enterprising and gallant mission merited the fifth hammer and sickle? Another addition was a fourth depiction of an aircraft carrier, signifying, no doubt, a successful electronic spying mission involving one of these ships that was not of the United States Navy. What nationality could it have been?
The anti-Russian spy-antics of the US are fully in line with the war-talk of Breedlove and his NATO colleagues who are beavering away in their brand-new billion dollar combat palace in Brussels to justify existence and expansion of their war machine. Russia’s actions have been propagandized accordingly, and the US spy flights are intended to provoke Moscow into taking action which can be used to escalate tension yet further. It would all be childishly funny were it not for the fact that Breedlove and his people are playing with the future of Europe and indeed the world. They are leading us to the nuclear threshold, and must be reined in before they stumble into ultimate confrontation.
Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.
On April 13, 2015 Vladimir Putin lifted Russia’s ban on shipping S-300 antiaircraft defensive missile systems to Iran, self-imposed in 2010. Moscow and Tehran originally signed a contract to supply these systems back in 2007. At the time, the idea was to sell a number of Russia-manufactured S-300 divisions to Iran.
The term “self-imposed ban” is used here deliberately. UN Security Council Resolution 1929 from June 9, 2010 placed no restrictions of any kind on transferring S-300 systems to Iran. Paragraph 8 of the resolution introduced a “weapons” embargo on direct and indirect shipments to Iran of “… any battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems as defined for the purpose of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms …” S-300 antiaircraft systems, whether air-defense or antiballistic, are not mentioned in the resolution in any way. In addition, that UN Register does not stipulate that countries that manufacture air- or missile-defense systems should be banned from shipping them to any other states.
The negative reaction to Moscow’s April 13 decision from the US and many of its NATO allies, as well as Israel, raises a lot of questions. It seems almost as though they inhabit a different universe and know nothing of the real world.
First, as already noted, the existing international legal norms have not and do not prohibit shipments of air- and missile-defense equipment to other states as part of trade in conventional arms. For example, the United States has supplied 12 different countries (both NATO members and non-members) with similar Patriot systems, as well as mobile TMD systems to another three states, and the even more effective and long-range Standard missile-defense systems to four more nations. In 2015 and 2018 Romania and Poland will be added to that list. It is common knowledge that the six states in the Persian Gulf where Iran is located have received various ABM systems from the US and intend to purchase updated versions of them in the future. Several NATO states have supplied Patriot antiaircraft systems to Turkey.
Second, the United States is not only moving its air- and missile-defense systems under its direct control to other countries, but is also positioning its own national, comparable armaments far beyond its borders, in Romania and Poland for example, while preventing those countries’ military experts from controlling the future operational ABM systems in, respectively, Deveselu and Redzikowo. But the S-300 and other comparable systems that may be sent to Iran will be fully and entirely under that country’s direct management and control.
Third, Washington has provided significant military assistance to Israel, helping it to develop and establish its own increasingly powerful air- and missile-defense system. That apparatus is technically superior to the existing Iranian versions.
Fourth, Russian S-300 systems and their subsequent variations, as well as the American systems mentioned above that are functionally similar, are purely defensive, not offensive weapons. In this context it must be kept in mind that offensive weapons can also be loaded into the silos that hold the defensive interceptors for the US missile-defense system in Romania and Poland. This means cruise missiles, and soon will also include exceptionally accurate, long-range hypersonic missiles. The proposed shipments of air- and missile-defense equipment to Iran will not pose a threat to either Israel or any other state in the Middle East.
But nowhere on earth is anyone using legal postulates to suggest banning US shipments of various categories of antiaircraft missiles to nearly two dozen other countries. Demands like that are generally tied to geopolitical considerations. But this is an example of a completely unfair double standard: why is one permitted to supply such weapons systems while another may not?
There is yet another factor to be considered – at the present time Israel has already developed nuclear weapons and possesses its own air defense and resources to intercept ballistic and other missiles, but Iran has not yet developed nuclear weapons of its own and does not yet command effective air- and missile-defense systems. As the United States, its leading NATO allies and Israel are continuously threatening to use military force against Iran, the current Iranian leadership’s pursuit of up-to-date air-defense and antiballistic countermeasures is actually a reasonable, logical, and opportune approach. Iran has every right to defend itself. For this reason, that nation’s leaders hope to receive these Russian air- and missile-defense systems before the end of this year. Their request is welcomed in Moscow and will be satisfied in time.
And one final important point: Russia’s decision to rescind her previous embargo against supplying Iran with S-300 antiaircraft systems (or some newer defensive systems of this class) is final and “not subject to appeal.” Moscow is firmly convinced that no restrictions on this exist any longer, nor can they exist.