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New Cold War clouds are dispersing

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | May 26, 2017

Imagine if former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were to have suddenly arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on September 27, 2014 to deliver a speech at Harvard and had received a welcome like a rock star – and all this to steal the thunder from his successor Prime Minister Modi on the eve of the latter’s famous Madison Square Garden event. Well, that was more or less what Barack Obama did in Berlin on May 25 just as President Donald Trump arrived in Brussels for the NATO summit. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel was alongside Obama. (Deutsche Welle )

Trump’s first trip to Europe as president has witnessed an incredible surge of the fault lines in the western camp since the Obama presidency ended and the alchemy of the US’ trans-Atlantic leadership began changing. But the really stunning thing came when Trump blasted the US’ 23 NATO allies who have not paid up their outstanding dues to the alliance’s budget – Germany included. Germany point blank refuses to pay up. With a Mona Lisa smile, Merkel watched Trump launch the tirade (here).

Where is the western alliance heading? To be sure, Trump is not mellowing on the demand that the US tax payer will not underwrite NATO budget anymore. He made an inter alia reference to the “threat from Russia” but didn’t care to elaborate, leave alone call it “Russian aggression”, which used to be a common refrain in Obamaspeak. Trump made no direct references to Ukraine or Crimea. Nor did he show any interest in the NATO’s forward deployments on Russia’s borders, which has been the alliance’s main agenda since the 2014 summit in Wales, which was a landmark event heralding New Cold War. A hefty portion of the Wales Summit Declaration, stretching over a dozen paragraphs or so, was devoted to condemning Russia. It began as follows:

  • We condemn in the strongest terms Russia’s escalating and illegal military intervention in Ukraine and demand that Russia stop and withdraw its forces from inside Ukraine and along the Ukrainian border. This violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is a serious breach of international law and a major challenge to Euro-Atlantic security. We do not and will not recognise Russia’s illegal and illegitimate ‘annexation’ of Crimea. We demand that Russia comply with international law and its international obligations and responsibilities; end its illegitimate occupation of Crimea; refrain from aggressive actions against Ukraine; withdraw its troops; halt the flow of weapons, equipment, people and money across the border to the separatists; and stop fomenting tension along and across the Ukrainian border.

Trump has not expressed any commitment to Article V of the NATO Charter, which affirms the core principle of collective security. He is insisting that NATO should re-orient its activities and the priority ought to be the fight against terrorism. The NATO has said that it will join the US-led coalition to fight terrorism but will not undertake combat missions.

There is still more to come as Trump proceeded from Brussels to the medieval Sicilian coastal town of Taormina in Italy for the G7 summit stretching a day and a half. Consensus-making at the G7 will be a tough job on issues such as migration, security and climate change where Trump has voiced strong opinions diverging from the mainstream western position. A Guardian commentary notes: “no one knows if Donald Trump, reaching the end of an exhausting week-long tour, will take to world summitry. Multilateral fora would not seem his natural habitat: he is hardly likely to be interested in the dense final communiques these meetings tend to produce… The risk is that – on a range of agenda items – Trump finds himself in the G1. His six colleagues, with varying degrees of emphasis, are likely to want to change his instincts… According to diplomats, the leaders have been exchanging views on how best to engage Trump…”

Moscow and Beijing will be quietly pleased at these happenings. Without doubt, the New Cold War clouds are dispersing. Of course, NATO is not about to disintegrate. But then, it has lost its raison d’etre and will be hard-pressed to regain its old elan as in the Obama era. A senior White House official in Trump’s entourage has said that the US is yet to determine its stance on the sanctions against Russia – “I think the president is looking at it. Right now we don’t have a position.”

The G7 will discuss relations with Russia. Japan and Italy have reservations over the efficacy of the policy of sanctions against Russia. What emerges is that unlike Obama, Trump won’t lift his little finger to arm twist the US’ European allies to keep the sanctions in place and “isolate” Russia. The big question is whether without US pressure, there could be any EU consensus to renew the sanctions against Russia. Moscow seems to sense the shift in the alignments. (Read my blog A Franco-Russian ‘thaw’ is in the offing.)

May 26, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Moscow Considers US Justification of Airstrike Against Syrian Army Unacceptable

Sputnik – 25.05.2017

Moscow considers Washington’s attempts to justify the latter’s coalition airstrike against Syrian troops near the town of al-Tanf over an alleged threat to US and Syrian opposition forces as unacceptable, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.

The US-led coalition conducted the airstrike last week under the claim that pro-government forces were moving inside a de-escalation zone in southern Syria, and posing a threat to forces of the United States and its allies. A spokesperson for the coalition told Sputnik that its forces fired warning shots prior to carrying out the airstrike.

“Once again I would like to focus on the airstrike carried out by the US-led coalition on May 18 against the Syrian pro-government troops near the settlement of al-Tanf in southeastern Syria. We regard the US command’s attempts to justify this airstrike with the alleged threat posed by the Syrian units to the opposition forces collaborating with the coalition, as well as to the US servicemen deployed in this area, as unacceptable,” Zakharova said at a press briefing.

She pointed out that the airstrike was carried out in violation of international law.

“There is an impression that the western partners still do not want to realize the necessity to consolidate the efforts of all actors that fight against terrorists in Syria on the ground and in the sky,” the spokeswoman added.

Last week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennadiy Gatilov said the US coalition’s strike was carried out in violation of Syria’s sovereignty, noting that is was not an operation against either Daesh or Jabhat Fatah al Sham (formerly al-Nusra Front) terror groups.

May 25, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Dr Stephen Cohen: What Is Up With Russian Hysteria

Professor Stephen Cohen is an American scholar and professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton University and New York University . His academic work concentrates on modern Russian history since the Bolshevik Revolution and the country’s relationship with the United States.

May 25, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | Leave a comment

How Can Vladimir Putin Destroy Non-Existent Democracy?

By Phil Butler – New Eastern Outlook – 25.05.2017

TIME Magazine’s Bill Powell is a gifted journalist. Anyone who reads the LinkedIn recommendations for the former Newsweek bureau chief will assuredly be impressed. Dozens and dozens of senior editors and journalistic colleagues are there, as are people like Dorinda Elliott, who is the Editorial and Communications Director at Harvard’s prestigious Paulson Institute. Yes, Bill Powell is an American stereotype and storyteller. And his latest piece for Newsweek hits like a expertly wielded meat clever.

Inside Putin’s Campaign to Destroy U.S. Democracy”, that’s the expertly stylized headline Newsweek’s bosses must have desperately needed this week. Reading the introductory paragraphs on how Vladimir Putin more-or-less rescued a chaotic Russia from the Russian robber barons, and how the America and the world reveled in the former KGB operative’s deft potential, I found myself captivated. “Here is the Newsweek I remember”, I caught myself thinking. But that title? I should have known – Powell interjects:

“We forget now, in the midst of the intensifying hysteria in Washington, D.C., about all things Russia, that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin—now commonly portrayed as a cartoon villain by Western politicians and press—had a honeymoon period. Many people back then chose to disregard Putin’s career in the KGB and focused instead on the fact that he had been an energetic aide to the reform-minded mayor of his native St. Petersburg in the immediate post-Soviet era.”

Then masterfully, like a Houdini magician with a keyboard Powell creates the “set up”, he inserts the fallibility of former US presidents, then draws back on the well used wooden handle of the glistening cleaver… Set to cut the meaty brain tissue that connects reality from fiction and PR, the TIME veteran lowers the boom!

“Now Russia is again public enemy No. 1 in the United States, and Putin is on offense around the world. He is the primary backer of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, thanks to his audacious deployment of Russia’s military to combat the anti-Assad Islamic rebels. He annexed Crimea and sent Russian troops and special operators into eastern Ukraine, where they remain today. In the Far East, he is moving Russia closer to a military alliance with Beijing. And in Europe and the United States, Putin’s cyberwarriors are wreaking havoc.”

In a single paragraph the wordsmith recounts the Obama White House rhetoric, he severs once again the thin tendril of hope that links western nations to an oh-so logical alliance for peace. America’s “thinkers” are forced to think again. Europe is pinned in the middle, as always. And Russia is left with the nagging realization nothing has changed since the Tsar was murdered. Russophobia, the “Great Game”, the globalist quest for all those Russia riches is still on. Newsweek puts familiar Putin quotes under the subtitle “Shining Tsar” – which is strangely appropriate given it’s coming up on the centennial of the October Revolution of 1917.

For his ending, Powell manages to insert Russian mafioso, ousted Yukos billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky once again. And I am snapped back into reality where Newsweek is concerned. The media outlet now owned by IBT Media, which is in turn owned (supposedly) by Etienne Uzac and Johnathan Davis, was the subject of several of my stories in the past. Most pointedly, “Is Newsweek Led by Jesus, or Mikhail Khodorkovsky?” calls to question who really owns IBT, the man some say is the second coming of Jesus himself, the right Korean reverend David J. Jang. Now here I am reverting to familiar themes to combat a perverted mainstream. It’s sad we’re still caught in an inescapable maelstrom of expert paid journalists versus willing narrators of a dissenting view. Some call Russia sympathetic writers like me “Kremlin Trolls”, when the reality of this geo-political situation is a simple matter of choosing the status quo versus the world we were told to dream of. For those who see Russia as the needless victim in all this mess, NATO snatching up one former Soviet boundary after another is the clincher.

Finally, journalists like Bill Powell are brought in as the “go-to” people who either snatch or just maintain credibility for these “owned” media outlets. While the west hammers on state owner RT and others for being Putin’s propaganda bull horns, five thousand times Russia’s media budgets are wagered in the same old crisis game. At the end of Powell’s piece the chips fall into place. Forget the lead and the middle, it’s the title or the ending readers will remember. Here’s his ending:

“Putin may have restored Russian pride, and a semblance of its Great Power status, but the former spymaster may well have overplayed his hand in trying to tilt the 2016 U.S. election to his preferred candidate. He may have gotten the result he wanted—but someday wish he hadn’t.”

Russia as a “great power” equals a new Soviet Union for Newsweek readers. The “former spymaster” in charge labels Vladimir Putin the KGB assassin of old Hollywood. Then saying Putin “tilted” the election, without any proof to back the claim, simply galvanizes the globalist claims. The rest is fortification, and gloating like a Clinton fanatic. Powell should have been paid well for this one, for Newsweek surely retained thousands of liberal readers and Putin haters. Why the “Jesus” owned magazine even got certified Kremlin agents to read. But I’m not ready to subscribe just yet. My guess is that Putin could care less about destroying something that does not exist – something like American democracy. Let’s hear your thoughts.

Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe.

May 25, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

No proof to back allegations Russia gave weapons to Taliban – US military intel chief

RT | May 23, 2017

The thinly-veiled accusations in the US that Russia supplied arms to Taliban militants were not based on any physical evidence of weapons or money transfers, a senior US military official told lawmakers.

“We have seen indication that they offered some level of support but I have not seen real physical evidence of weapons or money being transferred,” Marine Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, who serves as director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), said at a Senate hearing.

Last month allegations against Russia were voiced by some US officials, including US Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, military commander of alliance forces in Europe, and US Army General John W. Nicholson Jr., who commands US troops in Afghanistan.

The officials claimed that Russia was exerting influence on the Taliban and may be involved in supplying weapons to the militants.

The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the allegations as “fabrications designed to justify the failure of the US military and politicians in the Afghan campaign.”

Stewart was reporting to the Senate Arms Services Committee on the Pentagon’s view on global threats to the US and its allies.

May 23, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Deception, Fake News | , , , | Leave a comment

Militarization of Space: US X-37B Space Plane Lands After Two-Year Mission

By Andrei AKULOV | Strategic Culture Foundation | 20.05.2017

With public attention focused on other things, the United States has been deploying new and more sophisticated weaponry in space. Step by step the Earth’s orbit is becoming primed for war.

On May 7, the X-37B landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a 718 days mission in space. All in all, there have been four missions since 2010, each lasting longer than the previous one. Launched atop Atlas 5 rockets, the vehicles land like airplanes. The twin reusable vehicles, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle program, have amassed 2,086 cumulative days in space. The payloads and activities are largely classified. It is widely believed that the space planes are used for military purposes or are a weapon of some sort.

This X-37B carried at least two payloads on its latest voyage. The military revealed before the ship took off that it was carrying an experimental electric propulsion thruster to be tested in orbit and a pallet to expose sample materials to the space environment.

The unmanned X-37B resembles a miniature space shuttle. The vehicle is 29 feet (9 meters) long and has a wingspan of 15 feet, making it about one quarter of the size of NASA’s now-retired space shuttle. The unmanned robotic reusable vertical takeoff, horizontal landing spacecraft can re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and land autonomously. The robot can even adjust its course in space instead of following the same predictable orbit once it’s aloft. The spacecraft’s orbital endurance is enabled by its solar array, which generates power after deploying from its payload bay.

The altitudes used for military and exploration purposes today range from 0 to 20 km and from 140 km up. There is a void to be filled in between that is considered a potential theater of warfare. The X-37 is clearly a means to fill the void from «above» going down, while the Boeing X-51 (also known as X-51 Wave Rider) does it from «down» or from lower level going up. X-51 is an unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft for hypersonic (Mach 6, approximately 4,000 miles per hour (6,400 km/h) at altitude) flight testing.

The X-37B project’s total cost is unknown because the budget has been classified since it was transferred to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It’s almost certainly a spy plane, or, at least, a testbed for space surveillance gear and a launch platform for miniature spy satellites. The vehicle’s payload is enough to accommodate some spy equipment like cameras and sensors.

The vehicle has no docking hatch, so it cannot be used for small-size deliveries to the ISS or any other orbital station. It was also called a testing model for a future «space bomber» that will be able to destroy targets from the orbit. Some question whether the X-37B itself might be a delivery system for a nuclear bomb – whether the spaceship is intended to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere on autopilot and dive-bomb an enemy target.

Dave Webb, chairman of the Global Network Against Weapons Nuclear Power in Space, said the X-37B «is part of the Pentagon’s effort to develop the capability to strike anywhere in the world with a conventional warhead in less than an hour», known as Prompt Global Strike. Some surmise the X-37B is a satellite-tracker or a satellite-killer. Or both.

It is generally believed that until now arms systems have not been stationed in space. Weapons of mass destruction are banned from space under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. But the Treaty does not prohibit the placement of conventional weapons in orbit. No international agreement on non-nuclear arms in space has been reached due to the objection of some states, including the United States. The US argues that an arms race in outer space does not yet exist, and it is therefore unnecessary to take any actions.

The US ballistic missile defense systems, its X-37B space planes, airborne lasers and GSSAP (Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program) spacecraft could be easily repurposed into weapons of space war. For years, Russia and China have pushed for the ratification of a legally binding United Nations treaty banning space weapons – a treaty that US officials and outside experts have repeatedly rejected as a disingenuous nonstarter. The United States does not come up with any initiatives of its own.

SALT I (1972), the first Soviet-American treaty on limiting strategic arms, included a mutual obligation not to attack spacecraft. In 1983 US President Ronald Reagan turned the tide by promoting the Strategic Defense Initiative that envisaged placing in space strike weapons to hit Soviet strategic missiles in flight. In 2002 President Bush Jr. abandoned the ABM treaty of 1972, which limited missile defense systems. Missile defense allows countries to develop offensive technologies under the pretense of defense. For example, Kinetic Energy Interceptors deployed in California and Alaska are launched into space to smash incoming missiles which presupposes the capability to destroy satellites as well. Obviously, the United States is ready to return to developing potential space strike systems, like, for instance, lasers, kinetic and particle beam systems.

The first ever draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT), was developed by Russia and backed by China to be introduced in 2008. The US opposed the draft treaty due to security concerns over its space assets despite the treaty explicitly affirming a State’s inherent right of self-defense.

In December 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a Russian resolution, ‘No first Placement of Weapons in Outer Space‘. The United States, Georgia and Ukraine were the only countries that refused to back the Russian initiative. Russia said it was prepared to work in the context of other initiatives, and had been an active and constructive participant in European Union-initiated activities on a draft International Code of Conduct for Outer Space. However, progress can only be achieved through fully-fledged negotiations with the participation of all interested States on the basis of a clear mandate under the auspices of the United Nations.

The current administration is bent on achieving space supremacy. Mark Wittington writes in a Blasting News article, «One of the significant changes that the incoming Trump administration is contemplating in defense is the development of space-based weapons». It adds, «One idea that has kicked around for decades is a system that would consist of a tungsten projectile and a navigation system. Upon command, these ‘rods from God’ as they are poetically called would re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and would strike a target».

President Trump’s policy advisers Robert Walker and Peter Navarro call for bringing the «Star Wars» concept back. They want the president to make the US lead the way on emerging technologies that have the potential to revolutionize warfare. According to them, an increased reliance on the private sector will be the cornerstone of Trump’s space policy. Launching and operating military space assets is a multibillion-dollar enterprise employing thousands, spurring innovation, spinning off civilian applications like GPS, and fueling economic growth. Defense Secretary James Mattis calls for bigger investments into space exploration for defense purposes. A provision to encourage the Defense Department to start a research program for space-based anti-missile systems was inserted into the 2017 defense authorization bill.

The weaponization of space will undermine international security, disrupt existing arms control instruments and entail a string of negative effects (things like space debris). It may spark a devastating arms race distracting resources from the real problems faced by humanity today. Strategic stability would be destroyed because space weapons are global in scope and capable of covert and surprise attacks on any point on the planet at any point in time. The deployment of space-based technologies will result in the rejection of new treaties to regulate nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.

This year the world marks the 50th anniversary of the Outer Space Treaty, which entered into force in October 1967 – an arms control deal reached in the heat of the Cold War. It was possible then, it is possible today. The issue of preventing weaponization of space through an international treaty should become part of the Russia-US-China agenda. If these states come to agreement on the issue, the world would become a much better place.

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

New North Korea-Russia Sea Route Throws Washington’s Ambitions Into Doubt

Sputnik – 18.05.2017

Moscow has kicked off its first North Korea-Russian ferry service following Washington’s expansion of its sanctions against Pyongyang. On May 18 the DPRK vessel Man Gyong Bong arrived at the free port of Vladivostok. According to RIA Novosti contributor Alexander Khrolenko, this is how Russia responded to US’ unilateral sanctions.

Following US Congress’ endorsement of new sanctions on North Korea’s ships and employees, Russia has established permanent maritime communication between the DPRK’s Rajin port and Vladivostok; according to RIA Novosti contributor Alexander Khrolenko, this is hardly a coincidence.

On May 18, North Korea’s vessel Man Gyong Bong arrived in the Russian port of Vladivostok. While Russia and the DPRK already have a railway connection, the Rajin-Vladivostok route has become the first service between the countries.

“It took about nine hours [for Man Gyong Bong] to cross the sea,” Khrolenko wrote, “It is planned that the ferry will transport Chinese tourists (from Hunchun) to Russia every week, Russian tourists to Rajin and North Korean workers to Vladivostok and back (from May 25).”

“The Man Gyong Bong has three dry cargo holds with a total capacity of 1,500 tons, which will probably not be empty on voyages,” the Russian journalist elaborated, “The ice-free port of Rajin is located in the North-Korean city of Rason which enjoys the status of a special economic zone with free business allowed. The free port of Vladivostok is also a zone of special customs, tax, investment and related regulation.”

Previously, the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for expanding sanctions against Pyongyang. The bill bars vessels owned by the DPRK or by countries involved in trade with Pyongyang from operating in American waters or docking at US ports.

In accordance with the legislation, those countries which hire North Korean employees would be subjected to sanctions under the International Emergency Economic Power Act.

Khrolenko remarked that Congress even went so far as to maintain special control over Russia’s Far East ports of Vladivostok, Nakhodka and Vanino, as part of the measures.

Meanwhile, on May 16 US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haily urged other countries either to exert more pressure on North Korea or choose between Washington and Pyongyang.

“You either support North Korea or you support us, you are either with North Korea or not,” Haily said as quoted by Bloomberg.

“The free port of Vladivostok has already responded [to the US sanctions],” Khrolenko pointed out, referring to the ferry service linking North Korea and Russia.

The journalist noted that Russia is complying with the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2270 on restrictions against North Korea inked by President Vladimir Putin in December 2016. However, that doesn’t mean that the US has the right to impose its own police control on sovereign states, he added.

“No country and no international organization have authorized the US to monitor the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions by police or ‘cowboy’ methods,” Khrolenko wrote, adding that the bill supported by the US Congress contradicts the principle of sovereignty and calls into question international economic activity.

The journalist reminded his readers that Washington wants to track ships coming to Russia and other countries including China, Syria, Iran, and inspect cargo transported to certain ports of the DPRK.

He added that special US services can obtain the right to inspect ships and aircraft that have visited North Korea during the last 365 days.

Predictably, Washington’s unilateral initiative prompted criticism from Russian politicians.

Commenting on the issue, Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said that de jure the bill’s realization means “forced inspection of all vessels” by US warships. Such a scenario amounts to a declaration of war, Kosachev noted.

However, according to Khrolenko, the US congressmen’s plan to maintain control over the countries’ trade is nothing but wishful thinking.

“It is impossible to control the ports and economic activities of independent states from Washington,” the journalist noted, “As for the Far Eastern ports of Russia, the Americans may only conduct remote monitoring [of the region].”

“The US can also obtain information by using space reconnaissance means, remote hacking of the ports databases or agents in the field. Or they can simply inspect any vessel in neutral waters… Everything is possible, but taking into account the total volume of shipping and the capabilities of the Navy of the aforementioned countries [Russia, China, Iran, Syria], such control appears to be too dangerous,” he elaborated.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

US-led coalition strike against Syrian forces ‘absolutely unacceptable’ – Russian Foreign Ministry

RT | May 19, 2017

The US-led coalition strike on a pro-government convoy in Syria is unacceptable and violates the sovereignty of the country, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said.

“Any military actions leading to the aggravation of the situation in Syria definitely affect the political process. Especially if such actions are committed against the Syrian armed forces… This is totally unacceptable; it is a violation of Syrian sovereignty. Of course, it does not help the political process,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov stated on Friday.

Damascus said on Friday that the Thursday strike hit a Syrian Army position on Al-Tanf road in the Syrian desert “which led to casualties and material damage,” Sana reports.

The US-led coalition airstrike on pro-government forces in Syria was called “aggression” and “government terrorism” by Syria’s ambassador to the UN and the government’s chief negotiator at the Geneva talks, Bashar al-Jaafari. He also said the US actions amounted to a “massacre,” which was discussed during the talks with Staffan de Mistura.

“We discussed the massacre that the US aggressor committed yesterday in our country,” Jaafari stated, as cited by Reuters.

“We want to focus on fighting terrorism represented by armed groups and the state and government terrorism happening against our country. This includes the American aggression, French aggression and British aggression.”

Senior Russian senator Konstantin Kosachev also condemned the strike, questioning whether it was a deliberate attack.

“You cannot consider the US-led coalition airstrike against pro-government forces on Thursday an accident or a mistake anymore. This is a deliberate action and its consequences are yet to be estimated,” Kosachev wrote on his Facebook page.

“This is not only an attack in Syria and against Syria, but also against Geneva [negotiations]. The US is irritated that the Geneva process is not under its control and, what is worse, it can be successful.”

The sixth round of Syrian peace talks in Geneva which started on Tuesday was “short, but productive,” Gatilov said. He also noted that UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura wanted the experts’ meetings to continue beyond the negotiations.

Earlier, the US-led coalition admitted striking a militia group fighting alongside Syrian government forces in southern Syria on Thursday. They said in a statement that the Syrian forces “posed a threat” to US and allied troops at Tanf base near the Syria-Iraq-Jordan border.

The incident took place as pro-government forces reportedly entered one of the recently implemented de-escalation zones in Homs province, where they allegedly clashed with the US-backed Maghawir Al-Thawra militant group (formerly known as ‘New Syrian Army’).

“We notified the coalition that we were being attacked by the Syrian Army and Iranians in this point and the coalition came and destroyed the advancing convoy,” Reuters cited a militant representative as saying.

READ MORE:

US-led coalition confirms airstrike on pro-govt convoy in Syria citing ‘threat to US partner forces’

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

The Existential Risk of Trusting ‘Intel’

By John V. Walsh | Consortium News | May 17, 2017

In Tom Lehrer’s ballad satirizing former Nazi rocket scientist Werhner von Braun’s cavalier attitude toward the deadly consequences of his work, there’s the line, “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun.”

From MAD to Madness: Inside Pentagon Nuclear War Planning is the enlightening memoir by Paul Johnstone, a man who worked in the “department” that decided where “they” would come down. Johnstone labored there during WWII and then from 1949 to 1969, the initial period of the Cold War and the period covered by this book. On Aug. 29, 1949, the Soviet Union caught the world flat-footed when it set off its first nuclear bomb (just over four years after the United States dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

Thus began the years when frightened children scrambled under their desks by day and were tormented with mushroom cloud nightmares by night. The U.S. and the USSR stood on The Brink over the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Berlin Crisis when The Wall went up. Those years were the initial period of nuclear standoff called MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction).

What Johnstone saw as he went about his duties horrified him – and it should also horrify us. For it is the thesis of the Afterword, by the author’s daughter, the prominent political commentator Diana Johnstone, that after the demise of the Soviet Union, the U.S. moved quickly from “MAD to Madness.”

Madness refers to plans for a knockout nuclear first strike on Russia, aided and abetted by the latest missile defense boondoggle. That was a favorite fantasy of the generals in the post-WWII era. Whether we now live in another era of Madness, when a disabling first strike again dances in the heads of the Elite, or once again in an era of MAD is an open question in my mind. But Paul Johnstone’s memoir is a work of great importance in either case.

Paul Johnstone started out in Henry Wallace’s Department of Agriculture during the New Deal, but was moved to the Department of War after Pearl Harbor. His job was to pick targets for conventional bombs in Japan, although not the targets for the first atom bombs.

When the Cold War commenced, he studied how targets for nuclear weapons should be selected and how much damage The Bomb would do when dropped on various corners of the USSR. He also assessed the damage of Russian nukes landing in various corners of the U.S. He worked at the most august levels of U.S. intelligence: Air Force Intelligence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Office of Secretary of Defense.

Some of Johnstone’s studies became part of the Pentagon Papers, leaked by former Pentagon official Daniel Ellsberg. Johnstone gave the manuscript for this memoir to his daughter, Diana Johnstone, when he was on his deathbed in 1981.

Faulty Intelligence

A central message of the book is the inevitable failure of intelligence. This aspect of the memoir is hard to apprehend in all its facets without actually reading it. Why can “intelligence” not be trusted?

Secretary of State Colin Powell on Feb. 5, 2003

First the intelligence agencies lie – and do so quite consciously when it suits those who command them or the desires of those who command their commanders. Anyone who does not recognize this by now has not been paying attention. Intel did this most notoriously in recent years in the case of the non-existent WMD that led the U.S. to a multitrillion dollar war on the innocent people of Iraq – which we fight to this day even though Barack Obama declared the war “officially” over.

But even when the Intel agencies are trying to make honest estimates, they face other obstacles. This is the major lesson that Paul Johnstone delivers. Let us take a few examples. On the topic of trying to assess the damage done by nuclear weapons either on the USSR or on the U.S., he writes:

–“They (the effects of nuking a target) would be researched, and in time – much time – a lot would be learned about them, although not enough ever to provide the basis for predictive measurements. So men do what men always do. They calculated what was calculable as best they could, and generally ignored, or dismissed with mere mention by name, the factors that, however relevant and crucial, were incalculable. Or they would just make a wild guess. One problem was that whatever the uncertainties, those utilizing the information were rarely in a position to understand its degree of reliability.” (p. 39 of From Mad to Madness, hereafter FMTM)

So the “decision makers” for nuclear war could well be acting on intel that is “a wild guess,” and they would not know it! And here is Johnstone writing on the way that the “wild guesses” and other intelligence estimates come to be made, most notably about enemy capabilities – an essential if one plans to start a nuclear war:

–“I believe that, to anyone who has been deeply immersed in it and then has had the privilege of viewing it with some measure of detachment, military intelligence must seem a world of flickering light, dark shadows, mood music and whispered rumors, half heard against trumpeted accompaniment proclaiming dire threats that imperil us from outer darkness. Shapes are partly perceived at best, most commonly merely implied, often not seen at all, and often what you think you see is really not there at all. There are always some things you know you know, but you never know how many things there are that you have no evidence even to suspect. You do not know how much of what you see is deliberately staged to mislead you.

“What is seldom realized is that there is always a dominant mood that determines, more than the sharpest senses or the most acute reasoning, what you decide is out there and what is going on. Like all the world and all experience, it is kaleidoscopic; and the bits and pieces that flit before your eyes are what you thought you’d see before you looked.

“Always of course there are the true believers. The images immediately before their eyes are God’s own truth. It’s a matter of right or wrong, bright sunlight or utter darkness. Then there are those not fully convinced nor deeply caring, who find it least troublesome to see what others say they see. Like herded sheep they may once in a while say ‘baa,’ but though they may distrust the direction they are driven in, they feel reassured following the path forced on them by the pressure of the bodies next to them.” (FMTM, p. 63)

In other words, in the end, the data and analysis do little more than to confirm pre-existing sentiments and prejudices.

Agenda-Driven Intel

Then there were the “experts” who had their own agenda. A striking example is the “Special Studies Group” set up in the early 1950s in the Air Force Directorate of Intelligence.

Johnstone writes: “It was headed by Steve Possony, a Hungarian émigré who professed to be an expert on Communism in general and the Soviet Union in particular. Steve was the first of several Central European émigrés I met in the next few years who passed as experts on Communist Europe. … Others were Stausz-Hupé, Kissinger, Brzezinski and many lesser lights such as Leon Gouré and Helmut Sonnenfeldt. In every case I felt that they were thinking, consciously or otherwise, as representatives of a lost cause in their native land, and I always believed that they were used by the military because their ‘obsessions’ were so useful.” (FTFM, p.80)

Of course it is not clear who was using whom here. But we can think of a latter day equivalent in Bush 2 time when neoconservatives like Paul Wolfowitz dominated the Pentagon. As they ginned up the War on Iraq, it was all too clear that their loyalty to Israel came into play. For while the wars in the Middle East and North Africa did little to advance the interests of the U.S., costing it blood, treasure and new enemies like ISIS, those wars left in ruins potential adversaries of Israel in its neighborhood. There can be little doubt that the interests of Israel were served by these American “strategic thinkers.”

Johnstone goes on: “The one product of Possony’s group that I most distinctly remember was an annual appraisal of the strategic situation. And the reason I remember it, perhaps, is that every year that appraisal forecast a massive Russian land attack on Western Europe the following year. Several of us began to laugh about it after a while, but the forecast was always intoned awesomely and with superficial plausibility. I do not know whether many people who heard the briefings really believed the forecasts. I suspect many doubted it would really be next year, and thought it more likely the year after or even later. But even doubters approved the forecast because, they reasoned, it was better to err in this direction than to minimize the danger. Above all, it was good to say things that emphasized the need for strong defenses.” (FTFM, p. 80)

Alarmist warnings about impending Soviet invasions of Europe also were helpful in expanding U.S. military budgets.

The issues that Johnstone raises are relevant not only for scholars, but for each and every one of us since our very existence hangs by a thread increasingly frayed by the incessant anti-Russia drumbeat in our media. That drumbeat has reached a neo-McCarthyite crescendo in these days of Russia-gate where politicians crazed by hatred of Vladimir Putin like John McCain or hatred of Donald Trump like nearly every last Democrat hold sway.

A New Era of MAD

The relevance of the memoir is inescapable, and this is laid out with considerable insight in a preface and a postscript by Johnstone’s daughter, Diana, a journalist residing in Paris and a frequent commenter on French and U.S. politics. She is also the author of The Politics of Euromissiles (1984), Greens in the European Parliament – A New Sense of Purpose for Europe (1994), Fool’s Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions (2003), and Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton (2015).

She is careful of the conclusions she draws. In addition, Paul Craig Roberts’s Foreword adds a further dimension to the book since he worked with some of Paul Johnstone’s colleagues and also inside the Reagan cabinet when the first Cold War finally came to an end. (Regrettably here we are again – in Cold War 2.0.)

I remain unconvinced only by one conclusion of the book and that lies in Diana Johnstone’s Afterword. One thesis of the Afterword is that we went from the era of MAD back to the era of Madness, that is an attempt at a nuclear first strike, after the demise of the USSR. That may well have been true in the first decade of the Century when Russia was still on its back and China was relatively weak. (Diana Johnstone cites literature from this period to make her case. See also “The End of Mad”.)

George W. Bush was in power then, and the neocons were in the driver’s seat. Bush withdrew from the ABM treaty in June 2002, which opened the door to developing the ever elusive anti-missile system that would make possible a first-strike on Russia and/or China. (At times first strike capability is called “nuclear primacy”.) Those ABM plans persisted and have been implemented right up to the present with their deployment in Eastern Europe nominally against Iran and in South Korea nominally against the DPRK. They are in fact aimed at Russia and China, and no one is fooled by other claims, least of all Russia and China.

But we are now 15 years out from 2002 and Russia’s economy and military are much stronger under Putin. Moreover, China’s GDP was only about 18 percent of the U.S. GDP in Purchasing Power Parity terms in 2002; it is now in 2017 about 120 percent that of the U.S., and the gap grows daily. And of course military power grows out of economic power.

Things have changed. Certainly, the U.S. maintains a vast edge in its military capability, but is it enough for the neocons and neoliberalcons to realistically dream any longer of a nuclear first strike? I doubt it, but the grave danger is that they are living in the past and that their “intel” is telling them that nuclear primacy is still theirs. Why? Because the intel agencies might feel that is what their bosses want to hear.

After all, who wants to abandon past glory. Empires do not have a great track record when it comes to accepting decline. Living in the past is one of the things that might concern us after reading Paul Johnstone’s work. So it is a book of considerable importance for the moment. It warns us of the perilous age in which we live, and it tells us that the need to create a structure of peace in a multipolar world is urgent.

John V. Walsh is a founding member of “Come Home America” and formerly a Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He can be reached at john.endwar@gmail.com .

May 18, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

NATO is making up Russian threat to justify its own existence – former French intel chief

RT | May 16, 2017

NATO became obsolete after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the bloc is purposefully representing Russia as a security threat to justify its own existence, Yves Bonnet, former head of French counter-intelligence, told RT.

The Russians “are no longer ‘villains,’ the Soviet threat has vanished – primarily because the USSR doesn’t exist anymore,” Bonnet said.

The claims of Moscow’s aggressive behavior coming from the US-led military bloc’s officials are “exaggerated,” the former head of Directorate of Territorial Surveillance, or DST as its French abbreviation goes, which was dissolved in 2008, added.

“I believe that NATO intentionally fuels the perception of Russia as a threat… Like any organization, the North Atlantic Alliance wants to continue existing and the only reason for prolonging its existence is you… the Russians,” he said.

Picturing Russia as in international menace “doesn’t work anymore. I can assure you that the French people, fortunately, no longer believe it,” Bonnet added.

The former intelligence chief told French-language media outlet RT en Français that he was “very sad that France has again joined NATO.”

Paris withdrew from NATO in 1966 due to questioning its ability to resist the Soviet Union and developing its own nuclear deterrent, and only returned to the bloc 30 years later.

In the current historic moment, NATO “isn’t a useful organization, but a dangerous one,” Bonnet said, adding that “the North Atlantic Alliance should be disbanded altogether.”

“I saw what NATO did in Yugoslavia [in 1999], waging a war there without an international warrant… Now NATO is invading Afghanistan, although this country isn’t in the North Atlantic,” he said.

The intelligence veteran slammed the bloc’s policies towards Russia, saying that “it makes no sense to make the Russians worry. It’s completely pointless to make [the Russians] nervous. Don’t tease the ‘Russian bear.’”

He also dismissed claims that Russia tried to meddle with the French presidential elections, voiced shortly before the April 23 vote by the candidate of successful candidate Emmanuel Macron.

“I think that it’s exactly the opposite. The Russians didn’t interfere in the French election. But there was an open influence on the presidential campaign from numerous financial interests, both French and international, in particular Israeli, who supported the presidential campaign of Emmanuel Macron,” Bonnet said.

He expressed regret that “for political reasons” Paris is neglecting cooperation with intelligence services of Russia, Syria and other countries that are “directly fighting against terrorism.”

Such international cooperation would be more effective in tackling extremism in France than the emergencies law and other measures currently imposed by the country’s’ authorities, the former intelligence chief said.

May 16, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

NATO returning to ‘historic role as war fighting command’ to counter Russia – top US general

RT | May 4, 2017

The commander of NATO and US forces in Europe has called for yet more armored vehicles and troops to be deployed on the continent to counter what he calls “a resurgent Russia.”

Testifying before a Senate appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday, General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, head of United States European Command (EUCOM) – in charge of all US forces in Europe, as well as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander – accused Russia of threatening regional and global security.

“Today we face the most dynamic European strategic environment in recent history,” he said in his testimony. “In the east, a resurgent Russia had turned from partner to antagonist as it seeks to undermine the Western-led international order and reassert itself as a global power.”

“Accordingly, we are adjusting our plans, our posture, our readiness to remain relevant to combat the threats we face,” he added. “In short, we are returning to our historic role as a war fighting command.”

Two American combat brigades are permanently stationed in Europe: the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Germany and the 173rd Airborne in Italy, which make up around 10,000 of the 60,000-strong American troop presence in Europe. Scaparrotti says more troops are needed – specifically more armored and infantry divisions to counter Russia’s western flank, as well “enablers” like engineers, aviation and fire support staff for the European Reassurance Initiative.

“Russia’s posture is not a light force, it’s a heavy force,” he continued.

“In order to have the posture that is both credible and of the right composition, we need more armored forces… to make sure that we do have a force of enough size that enables us to deter Russia.”

“Five or six years ago, we weren’t concerned about being ready [to fight] today,” Scaparrotti added. “That has changed.”

During the Senate hearing, Scaparrotti also called for more funding to improve local capabilities for infrastructure capable of moving and housing troops.

The European Reassurance Initiative was launched in 2014 in the wake of the political crisis in Ukraine and the perceived Russian intervention there, leading to the most vocal members of NATO – Poland and the Baltic states – claiming that they would be Moscow’s next target. This prompted leading members of the alliance to agree on troop deployments. In March, 800 British soldiers began arriving in Estonia, while Germany sent troops and tanks to Lithuania. Earlier in April, 1,350 NATO soldiers arrived in northeastern Poland in line with the planned buildup.

Russia has consistently criticized the NATO buildup on its doorstep, describing it as a threat to regional security.

“We deplore that deployment, for it raises tensions in Europe along the border between NATO and Russia. Russia doesn’t pose any threat to Estonia nor any other NATO member state,” Russian Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko recently told the Daily Mail.

May 4, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Russia Never Interferes in Political Processes of Other Countries – Putin

Sputnik – 02.05.2017

SOCHI – Russia does not interfere in the domestic political processes in other countries, but is experiencing such attempts on its own, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a joint press conference between two rounds of meetings in Sochi on Tuesday, May 2.

“We never interfere in political life and in the political processes in other countries, and we would very much like to see no one interfering in our political life and domestic political life,” Putin said at the news conference.

“Unfortunately, we are witnessing exactly the opposite things, for many years we have seen attempts to influence domestic political processes in Russia, both direct and through the so-called non-governmental organizations,” Putin said.

“As we are seeing all the harm that such efforts bring, as well as the futility of these efforts, it never occurred to us to interfere in the political processes of other countries,” the Russian leader stressed.

May 2, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment