Reading through a recent interview with former NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, it becomes clear that his world is one in which US foreign policy has only ever made us all safer and the biggest risk we now face is diminished US power.
The entire premise of his argument throughout the interview is that if the US steps back from playing global policeman, the “bad guys” will win. Simple as that.
The interview, which focuses on Donald Trump, opens with a question about Trump’s views regarding the NATO alliance and how the candidate sees the US’s role in the world. Rasmussen immediately declares he is “not taking sides” in the US election, but his attempt at neutrality goes swiftly out the window moments later when he complains that Trump is undermining “the credibility of the United States” and putting at stake America’s “role as the global superpower”. If Trump were to be elected, he laments, that could usher in “the end of the American-led world order”.
This would be very bad, he says, because if NATO is undermined by a Trump victory, then Vladimir Putin would “open a bottle of champagne” and be “tempted to test” the alliance. This assumes that Putin has simply been waiting in the wings for the 16 years that he has held positions of power for Donald Trump to come along so that he can invade Estonia for no reason. Because Rasmussen doesn’t give us a reason and we’re not supposed to ask. We’re just supposed to assume invading the Baltics is on Putin’s to-do list.
So, keeping with his policy of “not taking sides” Rasmussen then argues that Hillary Clinton would be “more determined to defend” the country’s NATO allies than Trump would. When asked whether eastern European nations are worried about Trump’s take-it-or-leave-it approach to NATO’s Article 5 (principle of collective defense) Rasmussen says they are indeed very concerned, particularly following “Russian aggression” against Ukraine. So concerned in fact, that only five of the 28 alliance members have reached the 2 percent of GDP benchmark that NATO requires. Now, this is either because they aren’t really as terrified of Russia as they claim, or that they’re simply taking the US for a ride — in which case, Trump might actually have a point about getting them to cough up before putting American lives in harm’s way to defend them.
It’s hybrid warfare, stupid!
Next up, Rasmussen is asked whether the threat environment for NATO has changed and how the alliance is dealing with the changes. Rasmussen here employs one of my favorite terms: “hybrid warfare”. It’s not just conventional warfare (tanks rolling across borders etc.) that eastern European nations need to be aware of, he says. It’s a whole load of other stuff, too. Like what? Well, sophisticated “disinformation campaigns” for one thing.
But the great thing about “hybrid warfare” is that when you use the term, you don’t really need to explain what you mean. Even NATO itself published an article about the fact that it can mean everything and nothing at the same time. Pretty nifty, right?
Moving on to Crimea, another victim of hybrid warfare. Trump isn’t too bothered by the fact that Crimea was annexed by/invaded by/reunited with Russia in 2014. That’s Europe’s business, he has said — and it shouldn’t prevent Washington and Moscow from getting along and working together on common threats like international terrorism. You don’t have to be a Trump fan to see the common sense in this, but it’s another no-no for Rasmussen.
Trump also hasn’t been so gung-ho about sending weapons to Ukraine. This is very scary and “disturbing” Rasmussen says, because if the US doesn’t support the government in Kiev, the West “risks losing a democratic Ukraine”.
Democracy and world peace
So, how is “democratic Ukraine” doing, then? Well, a few months ago The Guardian published an op-ed arguing that Ukraine was at risk of becoming not a democracy, but a “failed state”. Since the country’s democratic “revolution” in 2013, living standards have plummeted, as has the value of the country’s currency — and the government, ideologically driven to sever all ties with Russia, has pursued economic policies that “can only be termed suicidal”. But the solution is obviously to send them some new weapons. Regardless of whether you believe Russia has acted aggressively in Ukraine or not, this kind of thinking is simply delusional.
Next Rasmussen is asked about Trump’s “America first” campaign slogan, which he also doesn’t happen to like (surprise!). Using the term “America first” for an American presidential election is “out of touch” he says. How so? Well, of course it comes back to America’s role in the world again. You can’t use the term “America first” when you’re supposed to be “the world’s leader”. I swear, I’m not making this up.
After World War 2, Rasmussen tells us, the US established a “rules-based world order” and it has “served us very well” because “freedom has flourished” and we’ve seen “world peace”. All of this freedom and world peace (really?!) is now at stake… because of Donald Trump (are you sensing the “not taking sides” thing?). Anyway, I could list all of the occasions on which the US decided to flout its own “rules-based” order, but that would take too long.
If the US “retreats and retrenches” now, it will create a power vacuum that will be filled by “the bad guy,” Rasmussen warns. He doesn’t tell us who the bad guy is this time; he’s just there, malevolently waiting for Trump’s election. Trump needs to understand that the US has “special obligations” to “maintain world order” and “promote peace”. Not only this, but it’s the “only power on earth” with such a “destiny”.
Barack Obama has also been a disappointment to Rasmussen. He has been “too reluctant” to use American force around the world. Obama and Trump are proponents of a “less interventionist” movement in the world and this simply won’t do.
By the end, Rasmussen had lavished so much praise on the United States and its role and “destiny” in the world that I had forgotten he was not an American himself, but a Dane. The real kicker was when he dramatically pleaded with the next president: “We need a global policeman, and that policeman should be the United States. We don’t have any other.”
Could he really be so profoundly in awe of Washington and its power, or is this waxing lyrical about American destiny simply, as one writer put it, “the practiced gambit of a con man, who knows flattery is the surest means to success” ?
Decide for yourself.
In July 2016, while swearing in 105 Polish soldiers being promoted to the rank of podporucznik (roughly equivalent to the rank of second lieutenant and a junior officer rank of the Polish Army), the Minister of National Defence for Poland, Antoni Macierewicz, announced Warsaw’s military plans for the near future:
– to increase the number of Polish troops from 100,000 to 150,000 by 2017;
– to set up 17 brigades, one in each of Poland’s 16 provinces and two in Mazovia Province (where Warsaw is situated);
– to urgently deploy new brigades in the provinces of Podlaskie, Podkarpackie and Lubelskie and four battalions in Białystok (on the border with Belarus), Lublin and Rzeszów (both on the border with Ukraine), and Siedlce (90 kilometres from Warsaw); and
– to set up territorial defence forces consisting of 35,000 volunteers, or 164 units, to assist the army.
The territorial defence forces will be the fifth branch of the Polish Armed Forces (after the Land Forces, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Special Forces).
Antoni Macierewicz said that an army of 150,000 is the minimum required for cooperation between Poland and its allies «in the event of a real threat to our independence». And in order to justify this militaristic itch to the Polish people, the defence minister added: «This threat is real and it is coming from the Russian government».
It is impossible to deny the achievements of the Polish authorities in whipping up war hysteria in the country, of course, but their role is ultimately secondary. The root cause should be sought in the work of leading Western think tanks.
The authors of a report published in July (2016) by the European Council on Foreign Relations entitled «An unpredictable Russia: the impact on Poland» are trying to make the Polish people believe that the risk posed by Russia is comparable with the threat of terrorism to Europe (!), that «Central and eastern Europe represents the testing ground for Vladimir Putin’s project to create a new world order». And this statement is presented as an axiom.
On 11 August, an article was published on the BBC’s website under the headline «The Polish paramilitaries preparing for war» which states that nearly 100,000 people have now joined paramilitary organisations in Poland and others are learning how to survive a possible invasion. US National Guard units will serve as the prototype for the territorial defence forces, which are to be an integral part of the Polish Armed Forces, and US instructors are involved in their training and indoctrination.
On 19 July 2016, the Atlantic Council presented a 25-page report entitled «Arming for deterrence. How Poland and NATO should counter a resurgent Russia», which is a kind of postscript to the alliance’s summit in July. Calling for a large-scale military build-up in NATO’s zone of responsibility, the report suggests that Poland should be regarded as a front-line bastion in a war with Russia.
Half of the report deals with recommendations to the Polish government regarding the militarisation of the country, with the clear aim of creating war hysteria among the population.
Thus, the Atlantic Council recommends that Warsaw should:
– issue a statement declaring that Poland will come to the aid of the Baltic States and Romania should they be attacked by Russia;
– publish a list of potential targets for Polish strikes in Russia, primarily in the Kaliningrad Oblast;
– enable Polish F-16s to be carriers of tactical nuclear ordnance;
– declare that, if attacked, Poland reserves the right to dispatch Special Operations Forces deep into Russian territory to carry out acts of sabotage;
– be prepared to destroy Russian infrastructure facilities using missiles; and
– announce that, if attacked by Russia, Poland reserves the right to deploy offensive cyber operations against such targets as the Moscow metro, the St. Petersburg power network, and the TV news channel RT.
Generally speaking, the list of recommendations in the report can reasonably be considered the ravings of a madman. This feeling is intensified by the name of the report’s author – retired British General Sir Richard Shirreff, who served as NATO’s deputy supreme allied commander in Europe between 2011 and 2014 and who has recently gained renown as a novelist.
In May this year, Sir Shirreff presented his book «2017: War with Russia» in London, in which the author states that war between Russia and the West is inevitable. The book opens with a colourful description of the beginning of the war, and this heart-rending scene was written with the firm belief that it would capture anyone’s imagination: Russian troops attack a school in Donetsk and kill around a hundred innocent children in order to blame it on the Ukrainian military and thus create a pretext for large-scale aggression against Ukraine and Europe, which has dropped its guard. Sir Shirreff himself called his work a «prophesy novel».
The politicians currently in power in Poland can boast about their supposed independence in international affairs as much as they like, but in reality, immersed in an atmosphere of hatred with their Russian neighbour, they can only dance obediently to the tune of gentlemen like the retired British General and aspiring novelist Richard Shirreff. And dances like that will never end well.
Former U.S. ally and current ally of the Houthi rebels, Ali Abdullah Saleh, said his future government would be ready to open naval and air bases for Russia.
A newly-formed governing council in Yemen could work with Russia to “fight terrorism” by allowing Moscow use of the war-torn country’s military bases, Yemen’s former president said on Sunday.
Ali Abdullah Saleh, a former counterterrorism ally of the U.S. who was toppled by mass protests in 2011, told state-owned channel Russia 24 that Yemen was ready to grant Moscow access to air and naval bases.
“In the fight against terrorism we reach out and offer all facilities. Our airports, our ports… We are ready to provide this to the Russian Federation,” Saleh said in an interview in Sanaa.
The ex-strongman may lack the clout to implement such an offer. But officials from the party he heads now run a political council that controls much of the country along with the Houthi movement. For the first time last week Iran let Russian jets take off from its territory to bomb armed groups in Syria.
Russia is the only major country that maintains a diplomatic presence in Yemen where a 16-month war between a Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels has killed over 6,500 people and raised the prospect of famine in the Arab World’s poorest country.
The war has allowed Islamist militants including al-Qaida and the Islamic State group to flourish, even though the United States has for years launched drone strikes against groups in Yemen.
Russia abstained from a United Nations Security Council resolution in 2015 that imposed an arms embargo on the Houthi rebels.
Moscow’s relations with Yemen date back decades and until the break-up of the USSR, thousands of Soviet military advisers and trainers worked in the formerly-independent south.
On Saturday tens of thousands of Yemenis rallied in the capital to show support for the Houthi-led bloc as the head of the group’s new governing council vowed to form a full government in the coming days.
Press TV – August 22, 2016
Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh says the new government in the country is ready to cooperate with Russia against terrorism by allowing Russian access to Yemeni military bases.
“Russia is the closest to us and we extend our hand to Russia to cooperate in the field of combating terrorism,” Saleh said in an interview with state-run Russia 24 TV channel on Sunday.
He said Yemen was ready to open the country’s military bases to Russia.
“We provide all the facilities in our bases, airports and sea ports. We are ready to provide all facilities to the Russian Federation,” he said.
He said, however, that such cooperation would not mean Russia would be fighting alongside Yemeni forces against Saudi forces waging war on Yemen.
‘Iran has no presence in Yemen’
Saleh also rejected claims that Iran is interfering in Yemen’s internal affairs.
He said Saudi Arabia has launched the war on Yemen under the pretext of defending Saudi national security against Iran, emphasizing that the pretext is “baseless.”
“Iran has no presence in Yemen at all,” he said, adding that, “The international intelligence services know that Iran is not present in Yemen.”
“We are not against Iran; Iran is an Islamic brotherly country. We don’t have any agreement or coalition with her currently,” he said, referring to Iran.
Yemen has seen almost daily military attacks by Saudi Arabia since late March 2015, with internal sources putting the toll from the bloody aggression at about 10,000.
In late July, Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement and Saleh’s General People’s Congress party decided to establish the Supreme Political Council to run the country. It was formally launched on August 6, when the Houthis and Saleh’s faction announced that they both had an equal share in the 10-member body.
Is Crimea about to explode? The mainstream media reports that Russia has amassed troops on the border with Ukraine and may be spoiling for a fight. The Russians claim to have stopped a Ukrainian sabotage team that snuck into Crimea to attack key infrastructure. The Russian military is holding exercises in Crimea and Russian President Vladimir Putin made a visit to the peninsula at the end of the week.
The Ukrainians have complained to their western supporters that a full-scale Russian invasion is coming, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he may have to rule by martial law due to the Russian threat.
Though the US media pins the blame exclusively on Russia for these tensions, in reality there is plenty of blame to go around. We do know that the US government has been involved with “regime change” in Ukraine repeatedly since the break up of the Soviet Union. The US was deeply involved with the “Orange Revolution” that overthrew elected president Viktor Yanukovych in 2005. And we know that the US government was heavily involved in another coup that overthrew the same elected Yanukovych again in 2014.
How do we know that the US was behind the 2014 coup? For one, we have the intercepted telephone call between US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. In the recording, the two US officials are plotting to remove the elected government and discussing which US puppet they will put in place.
You would think such undiplomatic behavior could get diplomats fired, but sadly in today’s State Department it can actually get you promoted! Nuland is widely expected to get a big promotion – perhaps to even Secretary of State – in a Hillary Clinton administration, and Geoffrey Pyatt has just moved up to an Ambassadorship in Athens.
Ambassador Pyatt can’t seem to control himself: Just as tensions were peaking between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea this month, he published a series of Tweets urging Ukraine to take back Crimea. Is this how our diplomats overseas should be acting? Should they be promoting actions they know will lead to war?
When the mainstream media discusses Crimea they are all lock-step: that’s the peninsula Putin annexed. Never do they mention that there was a referendum in which the vast majority of the population (who are mostly ethnic Russians) voted to join Russia. The US media never reports on this referendum because it produced results that Washington doesn’t like. How arrogant it must sound to the rest of the world that Washington reserves the right to approve or disapprove elections thousands of miles away – meanwhile we find out from the DNC hacked files that we don’t have a lot of room to criticize elections overseas.
What should we do about Ukraine and Russia? We should stop egging Ukraine on, we should stop subsidizing the government in Kiev, we should stop NATO exercises on the Russian border, we should end sanctions, we should return to diplomacy, we should send the policy of “regime change” to the dustbin of history. The idea that we would be facing the prospect of World War III over which flag flies above a tiny finger of land that most US politicians couldn’t find on a map is utterly ridiculous. When are we going to come to our senses?
With more than 34 trillion cubic meters, Iran owns the world’s largest natural gas reserves but its share of global trade in gas is less than 1%
Iran is pitching its massive gas sector for trade with Asia where it sees a better market for exports than Europe.
“Gas prices are more attractive in East Asia than in Europe,” Deputy Petroleum Minister for trade and international affairs Amir-Hossein Zamaninia has said.
The country hopes to eventually export natural gas to East Asia, including Japan, he told the Kyodo news agency in an interview on Sunday.
Zamaninia held the prospect of Iran and Japan forming a long-term partnership for the supply of Iranian LNG to the Asian country.
“Japan has a great potential of becoming a major partner for Iran in developing its gas industry,” he said.
The two countries have a chequered history of trade relations. They had to ditch a massive petrochemical project in 1991 as the Iraqi war of 1980-1988 under former dictator Saddam Hussein dragged on.
In 2010, Japan’s state-owned Inpex walked out of an agreement to develop Iran’s South Azadegan oilfield under US pressures.
Tokyo, however, was among the first countries to rush through a series of measures to lift sanctions on Iran before a nuclear agreement with Tehran went into effect.
In August, Japan sent its State Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Daishiro Yamagiwa to Tehran with executives from major trading houses such as Mitsubishi Corp., Mitsui & Co. and Itochu, as well as plant-engineering giant JGC and major banks.
Tehran accounted for 10% of Japan’s oil imports before sanctions cut them to five percent. Japan wants to raise the purchases to the previous level.
“Given that Iran’s oil and natural gas reserves are one of the world’s biggest, there is a possibility that Iran will play a part if Japan seeks to diversify its supply sources,” Kyodo quoted a Japanese gas and oil industry source as saying Sunday.
Zamaninia said Japanese companies are interested in being re-engaged in the Iranian energy sector, especially in the gas sector, adding he thinks Japan’s current policy seems to be focusing less on crude oil.
With more than 34 trillion cubic meters under its belt, Iran owns the world’s largest natural gas reserves but its share of the global trade in gas is less than one percent.
According to an Iranian energy official, natural gas will be the main fuel in the next 20 to 30 years. Zamaninia said within two to three years, Iran will be a major supplier of gas to its neighbors.
Currently, Turkey is Iran’s biggest customer with 30 million cubic meters a day of imports under a 25-year deal signed before the West imposed sanctions on Tehran.
Iran seeks to raise gas production to 1.2 billion cubic meters (bcm) a day in five years, from 800 million cubic meters now. Annual output totals 166 bcm, which is mostly used at home.
The country exports 10 bcm of gas per year. To put it in perspective, Russia exports about 150 billion cubic meters of gas a year.
South Pars in southern Iran is the world’s largest gas field which the country is developing in two dozen phases.
It provides feedstock for a number of petrochemical complexes in an area known the Pars Special Economic Energy Zone (PSEEZ) in Assaluyeh on the Persian Gulf coast.
Yoichi Yamamoto, adviser in charge of the Middle East at the Japan External Trade Organization in Tokyo, says petrochemical products, rather than natural gas itself, might be more attractive for Japanese companies for now.
“To transport gas across the sea, it is necessary to convert gas into liquefied natural gas and use special tankers, resulting in relatively large investment,” he told Kyodo.
“If Japanese companies are to form joint ventures or invest funds in the PSEEZ, petrochemical products produced there would be attractive,” he said.
“They cannot sell all the products in Japan. If they could draw up a business model in which they will sell the products also to third-party countries, I think it would be possible for them to invest,” he added.
In exceptionally assertive remarks on Saturday, Iranian Defence Minister Gen. Hossein Dehqan said in Tehran that more numbers of Iranian military bases could be made available to Russia, depending on operational requirements, in addition to the use of the Hamadan air base by Russian bombers currently.
He added that there is no time limit set to the access given to Russian aircraft to operate out of Hamadan military base. Dehqan disclosed:
- Russian jets and bombers are free to undertake repairs and load ordnance in the Iranian base;
- Iran’s military cooperation with Russia in this respect is “strategic” in nature;
- The cooperation stems from a defence pact to upgrade military cooperation “so as to act in more harmony, particularly in the fight against terrorism”;
- The use of Iranian military bases by Russia is a topic that is beyond the purview of the Majlis (implying it is based on decision by the Supreme Leader);
- The Iran-Russia alliance aims to bring an early end to the Syrian conflict.
The big question will be whether an Iran-Russia mutual security alliance could be in the making – something akin to the Indo-Soviet Treaty of 1971.
A Moscow pundit Prof. Dmitry Yevstafyev tiptoed around the explosive theme in the weekend. He made the following key points in an opinion-piece that is presumably intended for the Western audience:
- There is “still no talk of a full-fledged military union” between Russia and Iran;
- However, the use of Hamadan is not a stand-alone event, either;
- Nor is it to be seen as a mere tactical tie-up with the narrow objective of liberating Aleppo;
- On the contrary, it rests on a solid foundation that has been laid carefully in political, military and economic terms in the Russian-Iranian relations through recent period, which in turn is predicated on a cool assessment by Moscow that the US-Iran ‘honeymoon’ has become a thing of the past;
- Russia and Iran have created together a “completely new context” in the region and aspire to be “decisive players”;
- Russia has signalled to Washington that: a) its partnership with Iran is a “strategic priority”; b) Moscow is no longer bound by US’ ‘red lines’ as regards strategic ties with Iran; c) if Hamadan tie-up is successful, “moves that will lead to an unprecedented convergence between Iran and Moscow are also possible in future”; and, d) Washington cannot stop Moscow in its tracks in the priority task of “destroying the Syrian opposition in Aleppo”;
- Russia’s tie-up with Iran has emboldened Beijing to shed its reticence and to move to “expand its assistance” to the Syrian regime with the intention to “participate in future political and economic processes”.
To my mind, the above is an accurate assessment of the trends that have surfaced. This can only mean that the balance of power in the Middle East is phenomenally shifting.
India needs to take serious note even as Minister of State MJ Akbar arrives today in Damascus on a rare visit by an Indian dignitary. (Where China goes, can India be far behind?)
To be sure, Moscow is moving speedily to create new facts on the ground before the next US president takes over the reins of the US’ Middle East policies. Moscow aims to bolster Iran’s defence capability to a point that a military strike on that country becomes a non-option for the US and/or Israel.
Conceivably, we cannot rule out that there would have been some discussions already between Moscow and Tehran regarding a mutual security alliance in the event of a military threat from a new US administration dominated by neoconservative ideologues (which could be the case in a Hillary Clinton presidency.)
Russia is speeding up the delivery of the S-300 missile system to Iran. Reports from Tehran say that the delivery will be completed within a month from now.
The Israeli military intelligence sources have been cited by Debka as claiming that Russia has deployed the formidable S-400 missile system as well in Hamadan. (Despite Iranian denials, this should not cause surprise since pictures show an unspecified number of Tu-22M3 strategic ‘Backfire’ bombers – capable of carrying nuclear missiles – and Su-34 strike fighters parked in the Hamadan air base; and it is inconceivable that a solid Russian air defence system is not deployed alongside.)
The import of the Russian-Iranian strategic congruence is sinking in regionally. Over the weekend, for the first time Syrian jets attacked Kurdish forces in northern Syria (which are protected by the US Special Forces) despite American warnings to stay clear. (Reuters )
Equally, Turkish Foreign Minister Mavlut Cavusoglu had a 5-hour meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Zarif in Tehran on August 18 to follow up on Zarif’s talks with the Turkish leadership in Ankara on August 12. Cavusoglu’s hurried trip to Tehran aimed at Turkish-Iranian coordination in the move against Kurds.
Ankara will be pleased with the prospect of Damascus taking on the Kurds, finally. In remarks Saturday in Ankara, Prime Minister Binaldi Yildirim strongly hinted at Turkey moving on the ground to prevent the emergence of a Kurdistan enclave in northern Syria (with tacit US backing). Turkey has shared interest in this regard with Tehran and Damascus.
If so, Ankara, Tehran and Damascus may find themselves on the same page sooner than one would have expected. Moscow cannot but be pleased with this prospect.(Sputnik )
In every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the People.
— Eugene Victor Debs, 1855-1926.
Oh dear, as the fantasy of Vladimir Putin as “Vlad the Terrible” ratchets up in the US-UK-NATO driven new Cold War, the Independent runs a piece headed “What lies behind the new Russian threat to Ukraine”, the sub-heading is: “Vladimir Putin, his opponents repeatedly point out, has form on this. The war between Russia and Georgia took place in 2008 at the time of the Beijing Olympics”
Trying to find the “Russian threat to the Ukraine” is, as ever, a hard task. It was, of course, the US which organized the February 2014 coup which replaced the legitimate government and reduced yet another country to chaos. Russia, however, also appears the victim in a recent incident which triggered the Independent article which Katehon describes with admirable clarity:
A Ukrainian group of saboteurs was arrested last week (10th August) by Russia’s secret service, the FSB. It was revealed that the Ukrainians had intended to organize terrorist attacks in Russian Crimea. During the arrest, two Russian citizens from the Federal Security Service and military of the Armed Forces were killed. This tragic incident has provoked tensions between Ukraine and Russia. The Ukrainian regime has begun to move its troops towards the border with Russia and the republics of Donbass, preparing for an invasion.
Thus Ukrainian forces are encroaching on Russia, not the other way round. Moreover, according to The Telegraph (August 10th): “Russian security agencies said on Wednesday that two Russians were killed as they thwarted Ukrainian commando raids into Crimea over the weekend.” (Emphasis added.) The paper expands:
The FSB said the agent who died was killed during an overnight operation on Saturday and Sunday, when officers smashed a ‘terrorist’ group and seized an arms cache including twenty homemade explosive devices. The Agency claimed Ukrainian forces tried to ‘break through’ twice more on Sunday night and Monday morning, killing a Russian soldier.
Katehon further comments:
Obviously, this hostile activity is coordinated with the United States and NATO, which want to unleash a new war on the border with Russia. At the same time, the US leadership believes that Russia will not inflict a crushing defeat on Ukraine and thereby objectively lower its status in the geopolitical confrontation by trying to solve an insolvable conflict. At the same time, the United States wants to show ‘Russia’s aggressiveness’ to Europe.
Faithfully toeing the West’s misteaching mantra, the Independent article dropped in:
Crimea has not experienced serious military action since it was annexed from Ukraine by the Kremlin in the chaotic aftermath of the Maidan protests.
Crimea, of course, was not “annexed” by a marauding Russia as is implicated.
Only two years ago the paper wrote of the referendum (March 16th, 2014) held in Crimea – arranged by Crimea, not Russia – in which over 95% of voters made their feelings clear over the US engineered coup:
Fireworks exploded and Russian flags fluttered above jubilant crowds on Sunday after residents in Crimea voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and join Russia … after the polls closed late on Sunday, crowds of ethnic Russians in the regional Crimean capital of Simferopol erupted with jubilant chants in the main square, overjoyed at the prospect of once again becoming part of Russia.
The referendum was monitored by 135 international observers from 23 countries.*
Russia thus had not aggressively “annexed” Crimea, the people had voted to secede. Definition of referendum: “A general vote by the electorate on a single political question which has been referred to them for a direct decision.” (Oxford Dictionary.) At the time of the referendum Russia anyway had a lease on Crimea until 2042 under the Kharkiv Pact.
On the day of the referendum the White House released a statement ending, apparently without irony:
In this century, we are long past the days when the international community will stand quietly by while one country forcibly seizes the territory of another. We call on all members of the international community to continue to condemn such actions, to take concrete steps to impose costs, and to stand together …
This from a country that has, since the end of World War 11, “forcibly seized”, invaded, interfered in or decimated thirty three countries to 2011 – not counting Syria and Ukraine subsequently.
As for “The war between Russia and Georgia took place in 2008 at the time of the Beijing Olympics”, in the Independent’s epic bit of Russia bashing:
Leaked State Department documents provide further evidence that United States authorities knew that the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia, a key ally of Washington in the Caucasus region, initiated the August 2008 war with Russia.
Cables from US diplomats in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, were released through the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. They show that Washington was well aware that the Georgian government was intensifying its military build-up near the breakaway province of South Ossetia in the weeks before the outbreak of full-scale hostilities.
A cable records that US embassy observers witnessed 30 government buses ‘carrying uniformed men heading north’ towards South Ossetia the day of the Georgian attack.
The Georgian assault on South Ossetia, launched August 7, involved the shelling of the main city of Tskhinvali followed by a ground invasion by 1,500 troops. The operation destroyed hundreds of civilian properties and claimed the lives of an estimated 160 South Ossetians and 48 Russian military personnel.
Despite this knowledge of Georgian military preparations, once the war began, US ambassador John Tefft simply relayed the claims of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili that Russia was the aggressor.
The pretext for the attack was US ally Georgia’s allegation of an imminent Russian attack.
The subsequent investigation into the invasion and destruction, held under Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, found that: “None of the explanations given by the Georgian authorities in order to provide some form of legal justification for the attack”, were valid.
“In particular, there was no massive Russian military invasion under way, which had to be stopped by Georgian military forces,” Tagliavini confirmed.
“There is the question of whether the force by Georgia during the night of 7/8 August was justifiable under international law. It was not …”, the investigators found.
It was: “The shelling of Tskhinvali by the Georgian armed forces during the night of 7 to 8 August 2008” which “marked the beginning of the large-scale armed conflict in Georgia”, the Report stated. Thus Georgia’s belligerence triggered Russia’s response in defence of an allied country, Russia’s own military personnel and Russia’s three military bases there.
The parallels between the Georgia and Crimea disinformation are stark, whether orchestrated by political Western Cold Warriors, or media ones.
Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov has said relating to the Crimea insurgents:
We really don’t conceal what is known, we show people who were detained, stores with weapons and munitions, which were detected in the Crimea. Of course we cannot show everything on TV, but we have irrefutable evidence that it was sabotage, which had been masterminded by the main directorate of intelligence of the Ukrainian Defence Ministry and aimed to destabilize the Russian Crimea.
He added: “Russia is open for provision of additional facts … to our Western partners, who are seriously interested in avoidance (of a repeat) of what happened in the future. For that to happen, one should influence Kiev”, he added pointedly.
So why the Independent’s strange interpretation of above events and creating a fantasy of Russia planning an Olympic timed war? Heaven forbid it would be anything to do with their owner, Russian billionaire and former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev, who bought the ailing newspaper for just a £1 in March 2010, pledging major financial backing.
The Independent built a name on foreign policy expertise, but this year has been forced to shut down the main daily print version and the Independent on Sunday. Whilst the Independent is still on line, the only hard copy in its stable is the good, but more limited daily “I.”
Billionaire backers are rare in these straightened times. Mr Lebedev is a Putin critic. The cynic might say there could be a connection given the slant of the Crimea story. However, with titles Alexander Lebedev has backed at home and abroad, he has always vowed never to interfere with editorial policy, so many would surely regard such thoughts as conspiratorial rubbish.
* For minute detail on Ukraine complexities also see here.
© Sputnik/ Sergey Guneev
Russia deems it vital to restore economic relations with Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday after appointing the former education minister to the post of trade envoy with the neighboring country.
Putin accepted the prime minister’s proposal to appoint Olga Vasilyeva as the new Minister of Education and Science. Her predecessor Dmitry Livanov was assigned special envoy for trade and economic relations with Ukraine.
“The development of trade and economic relations [with Ukraine] should be in the permanent field of our attention,” Putin said during a working meeting with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on arrival to Crimea.
Noting Livanov’s “purely civilian” credentials with extensive public sector experience, Putin noted that his “personal business acumen will help in building and reviving economic relations with our neighboring country, which is important to us.”
Russian prosecutors have recognized the International Republican Institute NGO headed by US Senator John McCain as an undesirable organization, banning the group’s operations in the country and forbidding Russian organizations and citizens from cooperating with it.
“After studying the received files [describing the activities of the International Republican Institute], the Prosecutor General’s Office has made the decision to recognize it as an undesirable group on the territory of the Russian Federation,” reads an official statement from prosecutors, released on Thursday.
Another US organization, the Media Development Investment Fund, was also recognized as undesirable.
Prosecutors added that they had established that the work of the two groups posed a threat to the foundations of Russia’s constitutional order and state security, but gave no further details.
The International Republican Institute was founded in 1983 with the declared goal of the promotion of democracy worldwide through helping political parties in foreign countries.
Since 1993 the institute has been headed by John McCain – a Republican senator for Arizona known for his numerous anti-Russian initiatives and statements.
In early 2015 Russia reportedly included McCain in the list of people subject to personal sanctions, including an entry ban and assets freeze, introduced in response to a similar measures imposed by the United States against Russian officials in 2014.
The Russian Law on Undesirable Foreign Organizations came into force in late May 2015. The act requires the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Foreign Ministry to make an official list of undesirable foreign groups and outlaw their activities. Once a group is recognized as undesirable, all its assets in Russia must be frozen, its offices closed and the distribution of its information materials banned. If the ban is violated, both the personnel of the outlawed group and any Russian citizens who cooperate with it face heavy fines or even prison terms in the event of repeated or aggravated offenses.
About a month after the law came into force, Russia’s upper house released a list of foreign organizations it believed should come under the new restrictions. The list consisted of 12 entries, including such groups as the National Democratic Institute, the US National Endowment for Democracy and the Open Society Institute also known as the Soros Foundation.
Several of these groups have already been put on the list of undesirables, including the US National Endowment for Democracy, George Soros’s Open Society Institute and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation, the US-Russia Foundation for Economic Advancement and the Rule of Law (USRF), and the US National Democratic Institute – chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has lashed out at NATO, saying the alliance is not fully cooperating with Ankara. In an interview with Sputnik, he hinted that Turkey would consider military cooperation with Russia.
Cavusoglu says that Ankara has become alarmed at the lack of willingness shown by NATO to cooperate with Turkey, which is a member of the alliance.
“It seems to us that NATO members behave in an evasive fashion on issues such as the exchange of technology and joint investments. Turkey intends to develop its own defense industry and strengthen its defense system,” he said in an interview with Sputnik.
“In this sense, if Russia were to treat this with interest, we are ready to consider the possibility of cooperation in this sector,” Cavusoglu said when asked about the possibility of working with Russia in the defense sphere.
It is Cavusoglu’s strongest rebuke of NATO to date. In an interview with the Anadolu news agency on August 10, he said that Turkey and Russia would look to establish a joint military, intelligence, and diplomatic mechanism, while adding that relations with NATO were not as satisfactory as he would have wished.
“Turkey wanted to cooperate with NATO members up to this point,” he said. “But the results we got did not satisfy us. Therefore, it is natural to look for other options. But we don’t see this as a move against NATO,” he told Anadolu.
Meanwhile, a week ago, the Turkish ambassador to Russia, Umit Yardim, said NATO has no right to dictate foreign policy to Ankara.
“In no way can NATO limit our contacts with other countries… It means NATO has no right to dictate its terms and tell us who we should or should not meet and communicate with,” Yardim said on August 11, as cited by RIA Novosti.
The warming of relations between Turkey and Russia, which were previously at a low after a Turkish warplane shot down a Russian warplane over Syria in November, has led to apprehension in the West.
Cavusoglu also previously pointed out that there is growing resentment in Turkey due to a perception that the EU and US have only been giving mild support to Ankara in the wake of the attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 15.
Turkey has been incensed by the US’ refusal to hand over cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara believes organized the attempted coup.
The Turkish government wants Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, to be extradited to face trial at home, but Washington has repeatedly refused. The US says it needs clear evidence that there was a link between Gulen and the attempted coup before it will consider complying with Turkey’s request.
Speaking to Sputnik, Cavusoglu accused the West of treating Turkey and Russia like “second class countries” simply because they did not see eye-to-eye.
“They consider Russia and Turkey to be second class countries, and they are outraged that these second class countries dare to criticize them… Therefore, faced with the straightforwardness and resilience of Erdogan and [President Vladimir] Putin, they feel very worried and anxious,” Cavusoglu said.
Cavusoglu’s criticism was not restricted to NATO, as he launched a broadside towards the West, saying it was largely responsible for the crisis in Ukraine.
“Look at what has happened in Ukraine,” he told Sputnik. “They were always threatening the country and forcing it to make a choice between them and Russia. They were saying, ‘you will either be with us or with Russia.’ This course of action is futile. What is happening in Ukraine is a reflection of the main problems in the region.”
In contrast, the Turkish diplomat says that Ankara wants peace around the Black Sea region and does not want it to become an epicenter for tension. He called on all parties to try and find a peaceful resolution and said there needed to be greater dialogue between Russia and NATO.
“There should be no threats emerging in the region for anyone, for Turkey, for Russia or for anyone else,” Cavusoglu said.
According to the minister, the need for dialogue with Russia was apparent at the last NATO summit. “In my opinion, all existing issues should be overcome through establishing dialogue,” he added.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is preparing to take a high-profile trip to Tehran next week in a move seen by mainstream Arab media as the official launchpad for kickstarting the Turkey-Iran-Russia coalition on Syria.
Erdogan made a half-a-day trip to Russia after the recent coup in Turkey to meet and hold negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg. Their talks were mainly focused on finding a way to end the war in Syria while both countries have set up a joint commission to implement the results of their talks.
“Given the reports claiming that Erdogan had come to Iran the night of coup and then returned to Turkey after its failure, the Turkish president’s visit to Tehran is highly important in establishing new relations between Tehran and Ankara,” Arabic language al-Hayat newspaper said in a report, according to Fars news agency.
Sources told al-Hayat daily that a trilateral meeting, consisting of the Iranian, Turkish and Russian officials, is due to be held to confer on ways to terminate the Syria war, adding that part of Erdogan’s trip to Tehran will be focused on this issue.
Also, the London-based al-Arab daily referred to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s recent visit to Turkey, and said the trip was made within the framework of the goals pursued by Erdogan during his visit to Moscow.
According to al-Arab, the triangle of Iran-Turkey-Russia is forming an international coalition to confront the West.
The daily underlined that Zarif’s trip showed that rapid and important developments are being formed in the region which will marginalize the Arab states.
Al-Arab quoted analysts as saying that the Arabs’ foreign policy, specially on Syria, has failed deeply.
After the Turkish prime minister said it’s time for his country to improve ties with Damascus, top diplomats in Tehran said that Ankara is likely to initiate a major shift in policy on Syria and move to ally with Iran and Russia.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim suggested a three-pronged road map for a solution to the five-year-old war in Syria, which has not only affected neighboring countries but also many parts of the world with the flight of more than 4 million refugees.
Stating that he was optimistic that a solution was at hand due to the changing nature of Turkish foreign policy, in which Ankara aims to make more friends and decrease its number of enemies, Yildirim said the time had come for Turkey to mend relations with Syria.
He added that Turkey would overcome the Syrian problem together with the regional actors.
After his remarks, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hussein Jaberi Ansari said that Turkey will be invited to join Iran and Russia’s efforts to bring stability to Syria.
Addressing reporters in a press conference with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Bogdanov, Jaberi Ansari said that Turkey was an important country and influential in the Syrian crisis.
“The Iranian and Turkish officials agreed to continue talks in implementation of bilateral agreements in detail; we will soon send an invitation to Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Umit Yalcın and alternatively, I will pay a visit to Ankara to talk about the regional issues in detail,” he added.
Jaberi Ansari expressed the hope that new developments in the region would help the establishment of new grounds for Iran, Russia and Turkey to act in coordination to end the stalemate and humanitarian crisis in Syria, especially in Aleppo.
The Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif had earlier this month visited Turkey.
In remarks made upon his arrival in Ankara, Zarif said, “Iran, Russia, and Turkey are considered important players in the region, and they need to engage in dialogue and cooperation.”
Pointing to the failed coup bid in Turkey, Zarif said, “We believe that the era of bullying and coups is over and such things no longer have a place in our region. People’s choice and will cannot be suppressed by a military group.”
During his one-day visit to Ankara, Zarif also met with President Erdogan.
Also, Zarif and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in a telephone conversation on Thursday discussed bilateral ties and the latest developments in Syria.
In the phone talks, the Iranian and Russian foreign ministers exchanged views on the latest developments in the region, specially Syria.
The two sides called for resolving the regional crises through political means.
The reported remarks Monday by Turkish Prime Minister Binaldi Yildirim regarding a 3-step road map for ending the Syrian conflict would be the latest indication that Ankara is tiptoeing toward restoring Turkish-Syrian relations at the diplomatic and political level.
Yildirim’s road map envisages future Syria to be a unitary state that has an inclusive political system with constitutional safeguards that prevent domination by any sectarian, ethnic or regional groups. Its constructive ambiguity over the core issue of the fate of President Bashar Al-Assad is absolutely delightful. It abandons the pre-condition that President Assad should step down in any transition.
Yildirim instead leaves it to the Syrian electorate’s majority will to decide on Assad’s political future. He thinks Assad may not get a popular mandate, but then, he won’t deny Assad the right to seek one, either. Now, isn’t that a leap of faith? (Hurriyet )
To be sure, with the Turkish-Russian rapprochement in hand and a new-found rapport with Iran in the air, President Recep Erdogan is preparing to address the Syrian question, which is the root cause of the instability in Turkey. (See my recent articles in Asia Times Putin, Erdogan have a deal on Syria and Iran taps into Turkish-Russian reset.)
The road map suggested by Ildirim means that Turkey seeks convergence with the Russian and Iranian stance. Ildirim didn’t say so as many words, but implied that Turkey is abandoning the ‘regime change’ project in Syria. There are signs that Turkey is rolling back its support for the rebel groups fighting the Syrian government forces.
Unsurprisingly, there is a sense of urgency on the part of Turkey against the backdrop of the capture of Manjib from the control of the Islamic State in the weekend by the predominantly Kurdish Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) with the support of US Special Forces and air cover. (Associated Press )
Turkey had sought and obtained an assurance from the US in May that the Syrian Kurds will not be allowed to occupy Manjib and will be asked to leave the town after defeating the IS. However, much water has flown through the Bosphorous since then. US-Turkish relations have come under great stress following the coup of July 15. Suffice it to say, Turkey will be anxiously watching whether Washington will keep its word in the changed circumstances.
Indeed, the reports from Manjib should be highly worrisome for Turkey since the Syrian Kurds are now planning another military campaign to move further westward toward Al Bab, an important city in northern Syria, which will mean a significant expansion of their influence in the regions adjacent to the Turkish border. It would appear that the US is backing the Syrian Kurds in the new offensive on Al Bab. (VOA)
If so, Ankara’s worst fears seem to be coming true. A commentary by Deutsche Welle says that the Syrian Kurds are creating new “facts on the ground”. (German intelligence is active among Kurds.) The following excerpts suggest that the Syrian Kurds with US backing may be creating a fait accompli for Turkey:
- The SDF’s growing political and military clout is likely to further enrage neighboring Turkey, which views the YPG (Syrian Kurds) as a terrorist group because of its close relations with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighting in Turkey. Ankara has repeatedly had its redlines crossed by the Syrian Kurds and the United States. The latest iteration is in Manbij, where first the SDF crossed the Euphrates, thereby crossing one “redline,” then again when the YPG led the recapture of the city. This appears to have broken a reported understanding between Ankara and Washington that Arab forces would take the lead in Manbij.
- The Syrian Kurds’ ultimate goal is to clear IS-controlled ground to the west of Manbij in order to unite their territories in the northeast, the so-called cantons of Kobani and Jazira, with Afrin… Uniting the cantons would give the Kurds an uninterrupted stretch of territory along the Turkish border, a prospect that the Syrian regime and Russia could welcome, as it would also weaken the rebel groups they are fighting. The question remains whether the United States will go along with an SDF offensive to unite the cantons and equally important, Turkey’s response to the prospect of a contiguous Kurdish mini state on its border and what that would mean for any future political solution in the country. (Deutche Welle )
Clearly, Yildirim’s accent on Turkey remaining a unitary state under any settlement needs to be put in the above perspective. Turkey will be dependent on Russia and Iran to prevent the emergence of a Kurdistan straddling its border regions with Syria.
On the other hand, Turkey also cannot antagonize Washington, since it is the US which is active on the ground in northern Syria and is equipping and helping the Syrian Kurds in their military campaign. Turkish Foreign Minister Mavlut Cavusoglu publicly demanded on Monday that the US should keep its word and have the Syrian Kurds vacate the regions to the west of Euphrates (which is Ankara’s ‘red line).
It is possible to see a degree of testiness in Cavusoglu’s words: “The U.S., even President [Barack] Obama, assured Turkey that the PYD (Syrian Kurds) would return to east of the Euphrates River after Manbij’s liberation. We expect them to keep their word.” (Anadolu )
Simply put, yet another fault line is appearing in US-Turkish relations in the run-up to the visit by US Vice-president Joe Biden to Ankara on August 24. Of course, Turkey holds a trump card insofar as the US operations in Syria are largely conducted from the Incirlik air base. But it will play the Incirlik card only if push comes to shove.