Peace through superior firepower

Peace through superior firepower

A few days ago I was engaged in conversation with a non-conspiratorially minded chum who works in UK property sales

Times are definitely a changing as, for the first time, he acknowledge to me that, yes, the UK possibly was headed towards a period of severe economic hardship for the massses. He was, however, confident that the UK government ‘has got clever people working behind the scenes who can see what’s coming and the government probably has already started spending money on starting up some industries that will help pay us out of the mess the country’s in’

My response was that there is absolutely no sign of that whatsoever and that whatever industry we could think of getting into, the Asian economies can think of getting into with a much lower cost base.

Even if they consented to enduring the same standard of living as the Chinese or Indians, the wages of British workers cannot be slashed to be competitive with Chinese or Indian labour because UK property costs are so much higher. Property costs that the British have to meet directly in rent or mortgages and indirectly through the rentier element concealed within the price of essential goods and services

However, as I explained to my chum, I have seen copious evidence that the British, and other Western, establishments are preparing for the possiblity of some kind of economic collapse. They haven’t invested much in the way of productive manufacturing industry but they have spent shed loads on tooling-up their police forces

But that, my chum argued, was necessary because of the threat of terrorism…

Evidently, he’s still in need of a little more conspirasizing

I’ve been pulled up a couple of times in this blog for suggesting that British police have become more like para-militaries in recent years. The people who’ve pulled me up have have referred to the pitched battles, complete with cavalry, during the miners strike and the treatment meted out to people like Blair Peach and Stephen Waldorf as being evidence that the police have always been a bit ‘tasty’ when it comes to dealing with people who get in their way

And, yes, these commentators have a point but, with all respect, have you taken a look at the British police recently…


Even former senior coppers and yes, though I still can’t quite believe it, Max ‘Have you read my book about how great the SS were‘ Hastings have recently written articles suggesting that having machine-gun toting police who can execute people with impunity is probably not the way for supposedly civilised societies to go…


Sir Max Hastings – sole liberator of the Falkland Islands and born-again bleeding heart pinko fag subversive

But even these (presumably) principled voices against the militarisation of our police compromise their argument by agreeing that, because of the threat of terrorism, there is a place for some British policemen to be kitted out with the kind of weaponry and mentality that wouldn’t be out of place in a 1970s junta, but only sometimes

Now, to me, it’s plain as day that the Terror threat is being at least bigged-up, and possibly at least partially instigated, by the numerous interest groups that benefit from a society collectively crapping its pants

But that’s actually a moot point

Even if I believed that the Terror threat was 100% genuine and as really, really scary as our Overlords keep telling us it is, we should still reject the surveillence state and militarised police on the time-honoured bases that those who surrender liberty for a little temporary safety really do deserve neither, that freedom has a price and that if we change our society in response to terrorism the terrorists have achieved their objectives

You will hear none of these arguments being promoted by British politicians, journalists or officially sanctioned (low) pressure groups like Liberty

The gun fashionably displayed by the group of licenced potential killers in this photo is a variant of the iconic Heckler & Koch MP5

The MP5 can chuck out bullets at rates of up to 500-600 rounds a minute. It’s black, it’s scary looking and it can kill a lot of people very quickly. It’s the kind of high-quality weapon that gives serious gun nuts a roaring chubby just thinking about it.

MP5s, and a smattering of the higher velocity H&K G36, are now a common sight in London in the hands of Metropolitan police officers. If you’re ever at one of London’s airports take a look up sometime and you’ll see police officers at the mezzanine levels strutting around with their MP5s, presumably ready to cut loose from elevated positions of fire at the drop of a hat.

If you think about it for a moment that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Even if the quality of domestic terrorist was to take a quantum leap up from the kind of sad losers who make bombs out of flour and set fire to their underpants to the kind of terrorists who actually have access to guns, are the police really going to open fire with machine guns in crowded airport terminals? And, even if so, why do those armed police have to be there right in front of our fucking faces all the time?

The answer, I fear, is the same reason why the government sent light tanks to Heathrow before the invasion of Iraq. That weaponry is not there to scare potential (and, remember, allegedly suicidal) terrorists. It’s there to scare us

The reason why I mention all of this now is because of this recent snippet from the State Broadcasting Company…

Police in training for ‘Mumbai-style’ gun attack in UK

…suspects were planning to copy the 2008 attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai*, where 10 gunmen went on a three-day rampage, killing 166 people and injuring more than 300, the sources said.

In response police armed response units are being given more powerful weapons.

Our correspondent said the UK authorities had been planning for such an attack ever since Mumbai* happened.

“David Cameron has taken a personal interest in the problem ever since his first threat assessment given to him when he took office in May.

“Now police armed response units are getting their firepower and their stocks of ammunition increased to deal with multiple terrorists armed with automatic weapons,” he said.

More powerful than MP5s and G36s?!

What the fuck are they planning to start dishing out?

Bring me the head of Silvino Herrera

[The beheading story is eerily similar to this quote I received from a troubled Marine vet, about beheading a Panamanian officer to send the head back to Noriega before the invasion:

“One of the ops I remember, “we” (me and the Army guys), took the head of a (what I now believe) high ranking military officer.  I carried “it” back to the C-141 we rode on, in a black cloth bag, and put it in a cooler with ice.  I vaguely remember the CIA guy talking about sending it to Noriega.” ]

Bring me the head of Silvino Herrera


“Us versus them” and other “modern” myths of war and civilization

By Daniel Patrick Welch
Against the background of the leaking of the USA’s  secret Iraq war crimes files by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, Daniel Patrick Welch peers beneath the West’s self-proclaimed cultural and moral superiority in the face of atrocities against innocent people all over the world.

“When we peel away all the layers of burning flesh, all the carefully constructed fiction of human progress and benefits of science and technology, we must face a reality perhaps even more grim. There simply is no ‘us versus them’. The side claiming to represent progress has done more and done worse, using as low-tech and brutal methods as any on either side of the technological and cultural divide.” (Daniel Patrick Welch)

They behead – we do it with smart bombs. There is, of course, an ugly truth to this recently minted axiom: the horror of state terrorism is that the overwhelming machinery of death in the hands of all-powerful governments far outweighs individual atrocities by madmen, small groups and non-state entities. While, with their beheadings and murders of innocents, the heathen thugs and killers may indeed be barbarians, it is almost impossible to accomplish with their amateur methods the slaughter of half a million children, as did the Anglo-American/UN sanctions in Iraq.

“… the brutal repression of movements that strive for greater human freedom, workers’ rights and a life worth living is ignored, while the “atrocities” of those trying to resist are seen as backward and evidence of cultural and moral inferiority.”

This is the same reasoning that puts the lie to the sanitized concept of war and destruction which makes the self-satisfied “West” so smug and confident of its moral superiority. There is an underlying, and often overt, racism which allows so-called “modern” warmakers and their electorates to tolerate the huge disparities in casualties that have come to define modern conflict. In virtually every case, the brutal repression of movements that strive for greater human freedom, workers’ rights and a life worth living is ignored, while the “atrocities” of those trying to resist are seen as backward and evidence of cultural and moral inferiority.

However, one problem is not just that the disparity in terror torpedoes the moral superiority argument. It is true that the 20th century was indeed a most horrific one, unbeknownst to most lay observers: at its dawn, 90 per cent of war dead were combatants and 10 per cent non-combatants. By its end, the ratio was reversed, making it the most deadly and, arguably, least “advanced” century in human history. True also, the machinery of war, with its amoral measurements in “kilomorts”, its chemistry of napalm designed to stick to human skin and burn, its phosphorous and gas, its cluster munitions – not to mention the almost surreal evil of neutron bomb technology, which are meant to kill people while leaving buildings intact – shows that the actual brutality of burning flesh and exploding body parts is in no way less barbaric than other methods. The United States gets no props from the rest of the “civilized” world for instituting the pain-free technology of lethal injection to a practice most governments consider a barbarous anachronism.

When we peel away all the layers of burning flesh, all the carefully-constructed fiction of human progress and benefits of science and technology, we must face a reality perhaps even more grim. It is not merely us standing cynically by, wringing our hands while they hack each other to death with machetes, as when almost a million Tutsis died in Rwanda. There simply is no “us versus them”. The side claiming to represent progress, the “march of history” and the fulfilment of the human desire for freedom and self-rule, has done more and done worse, using as low-tech and brutal methods as any on either side of the technological and cultural divide. There is a famous photo, not of Nick Berg, not of John the Baptist, but of Silvino, one of the lieutenants in Augusto Sandino’s resistance army. Rather, it is a photo of Sr Herrera’s head held triumphantly aloft by a US Marine, a conquering hero of the few and the proud. It turns out we behead, too.

US Marine Lt Remmington holding Silvino Herrera's head, 1930

US Marine Lt Remmington holding Silvino Herrera’s head, 1930

When I was in Nicaragua, I heard testimony of the victims of Somoza’s National Guard, women with their breasts cut off, left alive and maimed on purpose to terrorize their families. Resistance fighters and their supporters and trade unionists killed with their genitals cut off and stuffed in their mouths. Victims forced at gunpoint to swallow a button on a string while laughing guardsmen kept trying to pull it up. Like all the henchmen throughout Latin America, these murderers, nun-rapists, “deplaners” (who simply pushed terror victims out of a moving plane to their unacknowledged deaths), clown-killers and assorted scum received training and backing from the CIA, the Pentagon and the dreaded School of the Americas. As Franklin D. Roosevelt, hero of the US mainstream left, once bragged: “Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a-bitch.” It turns out we do all that other stuff, too.

Likewise, I had mostly considered the shot of triumphant soldiers standing atop a pile of bones of the conquered dead to be mainly a cartoon representation. Wrong again – the only such true photo I have ever seen was of US soldiers in the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century, when over a half million Filipinos were slaughtered in the successful attempt to secure the islands for the American empire. The scene is repeated ad nauseum in US history, in murderous rampages across our own continent from sea to shining sea, through Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Despite George Bush’s audacity and isolation, there is absolutely nothing new about Iraq. Conquest, pacification, occupation and the transfer of “sovereignty” to a puppet government is the textbook modus operandi. The only phase yet to be completed is the few decades in which the world is supposed to forget the origins of the dictatorship, after which US forces return to suppress rebellion or resistance movements and install democracy, as if the cycle had no beginning.

In this context, it is almost unbearable to hear the shallow, mind-deadening “debate” between Democrats and Republicans about “how to handle” Iraq, not to mention the infrastructure of organized theft that transfers trillions of dollars from South to North, from workers to capital, from poor to rich, from brown to white. To my mind, there are three crises – allowing for some consolidation and overlap – which surpass all else in their urgency today. They can be summarized as empire (by which we include Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Venezuela, Colombia and the rest), WalMart and the crushing of labour, with its attendant rape of the national treasury and the healthcare system, and the prison state, whereby incarceration is abetting and supplanting vote suppression, the Klan and slavery as the new racist ideology.

“Self-delusional, feel-good bromides about the ‘greatness of America’ and a wilful suppression and misrepresentation of our history will seal the deal, and we will plummet headlong into the looming environmental catastrophe that is waiting to engulf us all.”

These are, of course, big problems. They are, however, exploding problems, and ones which threaten the very existence of humankind (combined with the rapacious consumerism which holds the lot together). Just the kind of all-encompassing issues one might foolishly expect a national election campaign to address. This huge history, soaked with blood and death for the benefit of profit and oligarchy, is completely unconcerned with the party hacks nibbling at its corners, unthreatened by the sorry excuse for “ideology” and “values” espoused by the political and economic system it nurtured and generated. Self-delusional, feel-good bromides about the “greatness of America” and a wilful suppression and misrepresentation of our history will seal the deal, and we will plummet headlong into the looming environmental catastrophe that is waiting to engulf us all.

As a young pupil celebrating America’s bicentennial, I remember being paraded in a choral production called “Our Country ’tis of thee”. One lyric still sticks in my mind and in my craw, sung by our chorus of mind-controlled, ignorant, chirpy sixth graders:

There’s a peaceful sky in my backyard
Far away from fear and doubt
But the whole wide world is my hometown
And I’ve gotta help my neighbour out
There’s a peaceful sky in my backyard
Far away from a far off land
But the whole wide world is my hometown
When freedom needs a helping hand

Thinking about it today still makes my skin crawl with embarrassment and self-loathing, even though I was only 11 years old. Sort of like a post-traumatic lapse for a former cult member. Lack of self-doubt combined with ignorance of one’s history is perhaps the most dangerous combination known to humankind. Torture at Abu Ghraib is not the tip of the iceberg; it is simply the latest link in the chain. Facing that history head on, with the disillusionment, fear and doubt that rationality and honesty implies, is the sobering task of those who would resist the current onslaught. It is the first step in a long, long road to sanity, and it is not a comfortable one. As Rosa Luxembourg famously remarked, “it will always be the most revolutionary act to say the truth out loud”.


Translations of this article are available in GermanPortugueseSpanish, and Turkish.

© Daniel Patrick Welch. Reprint permission granted with credit and link to danielpwelch.com.

Crimes of the dictatorships in Eastern Europe

Unterzeichnung des "Hitler-Stalin-Pakt" im Jahr 1939 (Bild: AP) Signing of the Hitler-Stalin pact in 1939 (photo: AP)

Nazi torturers simply changed to the Stalinists

“Crimes of the dictatorships in Eastern Europe” conference of the Literature House in Berlin

Frank Hessenland

At a conference in Berlin, researchers discussed the cooperation between fishing Nazi crimes and those of the Stalinist dictatorship in the Soviet Union. But many projects have stalled.

In addition to the 40 speakers were more than a handful of listeners come, it would have probably been a hot debate in the rotunda of the Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Because the focus of the three-day international conference on “crimes of the dictatorships in Eastern Europe” was the internationally controversial documentary “The Soviet Story”. It tries the Baltic director Edvins Snore show that between Stalin and Hitler, between SS and NKVD between Reichswehr and Red Army until 1941, such a close and friendly ‘working relationship’ was that one can speak of the equivalence of the two terrorist regimes, such example, the British historian Norman Davies in the movie.

“The whole Western world has lived for over 60 years with the assumption that the crimes were in the 20th century essentially Nazi crimes. And this assumption is very difficult to change. But mass murders are still mass murder.”

The film recalls the long-forgotten fact that Stalin had already starved seven million Ukrainians in 1932 on purpose, just as Hitler did 1942/43 with three million Poles. It displays documents to which experts on torture and forced labor camps of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union exchanged words. Even with respect to the totalitarian claim of creating a ‘new man’, the design of propaganda similar to the regimes in the 30er/40er-Jahren. Only the terrorist walked into the Soviet-occupied countries after the war just continues, as reported at the conference “crimes of the dictatorship” from Eastern Europe who had come historians, archivists, and journalists. From Hungary, half a million went to the Siberian labor camp, from the Baltic States or from Romania even more, says historian Marius Oprea and civil rights activist from Bucharest.

“Deported came during the communist period are over 600,000 people for political reasons in labor camps and many have been. 200 000 died during this time and we are still hidden mass graves of people who were shot without trial, in the mountains and forests.”

Not infrequently, confirmed the deputy director of the museum “House of Terror” in Budapest, Hungary, the tormentors of the Nazis changed after the lost war, just the sides and continued for the Stalinists. Accordingly, today, many civil rights activists demand in Central and Eastern Europe of the legal equality of the two great crimes of dictatorships, for example, Hubertus Knabe, director of the memorial Hohenschönhausen:

“The same cars, same situation in the home loss and large population displacements. This is basically extremely inhumane totalitarian approach that is quite so universal that you discuss this topic is not always against each other, but can rather talk about how these regimes each have produced millions of victims. ”

Have achieved the former civil rights activist last year at the European level, the declaration of a Memorial Day for the Victims of Communism 23 August, the date of the signing of the Hitler-Stalin pact. But other projects are stalled, such as uniform European rules in dealing with the perpetrators, research initiatives consistent or uniform educational standards in dealing with the communist dictatorship. Considerable resistance experienced such efforts not only by the socialist parties in many European countries. Jewish organizations also fear the relativization of the Nazi past for obvious reasons. And then there’s the research from the perspective of perhaps the most important point is that the Russian archives for historians remain extremely difficult to access.

Crime turf war fear in Winter Olympics city of Sochi

THE huge cash influx for the 2014 Winter Olympics has raised fears of rampant corruption and a bloody turf war between crime clans.

The Sochi Games are the pet project of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who, like Stalin before him, has his summer residence on the outskirts of the Black Sea resort.

The Games are estimated to cost a record $14 billion. All the sporting facilities and stadiums, new railways, new motorways and a new airport have to be built from scratch.

The Kremlin was embarrassed last week after the murder of a crime boss known as “the Carp” was linked to crime gangs seeking a cut of the Olympic investment cake.

Eduard Kakosyan was drinking coffee at his regular table in a cafe in Sochi when a black-clad hitman on the back of a motorbike opened fire with an AK-47 assault rifle.

Kakosyan is said by police to have represented the criminal interests in Sochi of Aslan Usoyan, 73, known as Grandpa Hassan and widely described as the former Soviet Union’s most powerful criminal godfather.

Hassan narrowly survived an assassination attempt last month when a sniper shot him near the Kremlin. The botched attack is thought by Russian police to be linked to a row between Hassan and another powerful figure in organised crime, who is in jail partly because of his involvement in lucrative racketeering and construction scams in Sochi.

“Hassan controls a lot of business interests in Sochi, especially hotels and restaurants,” said a Russian crime expert. “The cash flowing into the city since it was awarded the Winter Games has been phenomenal. It has attracted the interest of organised crime, big time.”

Police are now bracing themselves for revenge attacks and a full-scale turf war.

The Sunday Times

“Al-CIAda” In Belfast?

[First official reaction was that this was not linked to “global terror” incitement, but just wait….]

Police find two bombs in Northern Ireland

October 31, 2010 – 11:29PM

AFP

Northern Ireland police said on Sunday they had found and disarmed two bombs, one near Belfast airport, blaming groups intent on taking the once conflict-torn province “back to mayhem and misery”.

Staff at Belfast International Airport raised the alert on Saturday afternoon after spotting a vehicle in the long stay car park, which contained “a viable device along with suspected flammable liquid”, police said.

It was made safe by explosives officers and the alert ended about 2.00am (1300 AEDT) on Sunday.

Air traffic was not affected and police said there was no link to the global alert provoked by the discovery of bombs on two US-bound planes on Friday.

Meanwhile in Lurgan, a town southwest of Belfast, about 40 kilogrammes of home-made explosive materials were found in a beer keg on Friday, prompting police to carry out a number of controlled explosions.

A number of nearby homes were evacuated overnight and, because the device was found under a railway bridge, the main rail service between Belfast and Dublin was suspended for 24 hours, police said.

“Both devices had the potential to cause injury and damage. They were left in places used by the public and with no regard for the public,” said Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland.

He added: “In recent days police have stepped up their measures to counter the threat posed by misguided individuals and groups who seek to drag the country back to mayhem and misery.

“Our efforts will continue and we would ask everyone in the community to be vigilant about their surroundings as they go about their daily business.”

There has been a resurgence in attacks and attempted attacks in recent months, most blamed on dissident republican groups seeking to undermine peace.

For three decades up until the 1998 peace accords, Northern Ireland was scoured by violence pitching Catholic nationalists against pro-British Protestant unionists. The conflict left about 3500 people dead.

Last month, the British government raised the threat level from Northern Ireland-related “terrorism” to suggest an attack was now a “strong possibility”.

© 2010 AFP

Diplomacy turbocharged

Diplomacy turbocharged

By Neena Gopal
Diplomacy turbocharged

It’s only natural, that it would be here in the gleaming glass-fronted National Convention Centre in Hanoi, celebrating its 1,000th year and festooned with Vietnam’s national flags, that India and China’s intricate minuet should come to some kind of part denouement.

The bonhomie in Hanoi — from the elaborate courtesy shown by the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao to the host nation, the praise showered by Mr Jiabao on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over his “sagacity and wisdom”, and again, over the clinking of glasses at the high table during the gala dinner when Dr Singh was seated, interestingly, between Mr Jiabao and Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan — begs the question: In the face of India’s fledgling steps to strings its own pearls across a region long seen as China’s stomping ground, and some say egged on by the United States and Russia, has Beijing, tuned in to “understand the voices of others around the globe,” reverted from its newfound ‘frown’ diplomacy to the ‘smile’ diplomacy that won them entry into a slew of economies in the first place?

No asnwers as yet. But India has deftly played along. Dr Singh, borrowing a leaf from the Chinese perhaps, in mouthing platitudes in the public domain has finally moved at a surprising pace on his moribund Look East policy, tying up civil nuclear ties with Japan and South Korea, military ties with Vietnam and Malaysia, and trade and economic bonds with Singapore, South Korea and soon with Thailand and Indonesia. All, uniformly wary of the demonstrably muscular face of the new China.

Vietnam, chair of Asean, could be the starting point when the scales finally fall from Asian eyes. Vietnam stands as a bulwark at the mouth of the South China Sea, a beneficiary of Chinese largesse and investment as are other countries in the South East and East Asian region where Beijing seeks to bolster its own economy and tie the investment hungry countries into a much tighter embrace.

Vietnam is the only nation to have defeated every invader — the Mongols several centuries ago, the French, the Americans and the Chinese more recently. While it wants to be the next Asian tiger, not chary of accepting once sworn enemy

China’s help to pull itself up by the boot-straps, it is its invitation to India, the United States and Russia to the East Asian summit, that has to be seen for what it is — summoning the cavalry against the economic and sabre-rattling militaristic power of Beijing, which has in recent months, steadily upped the ante.

China has laid claim to the Spratlys, also known as the Paracel islands, held Japan to ransom by halting a supply of rare earths vital to the development of advanced technologies, and made a dramatic shift in its India policy by not only reiterating its claim to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh but weighing in on the side of Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir by offering ‘stapled’ visas to people from that state. The meeting of the Asean 10 and the six from the immediate neighbourhood — which includes India and China, and now Australia, New Zealand, Russia and the United States — is therefore, no accident.

Vietnam’s concerns, that in return for trade and development investment from China to speed up

economic recovery after years of wars, it could face an economic implosion as China manipulates its currency to create an artificial imbalance in trade, are echoed across the region.

Chinese officials have baldly told the US that the South China Sea is a “core interest” of Beijing. At the ASEAN Regional Forum Hanoi meet in July this year, nearly half the heads of the 27 delegations raised the issue. Only for the Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi to castigate and remind the Southeast Asian leaders of their economic ties with Beijing, and angrily threaten that they could be broken at any point. Sitting in the room was US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

This Asean-East Asia Summit is therefore all the more an eye-opener, coming as it does just days ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to India on November 6, as significant a signal as Dr Manmohan Singh’s state visit to Washington in 2009, of the place that India holds in the American calculus. Ditto, the nations from this region.

India’s reaction to the Chinese bogeyman has been a carefully calibrated attempt to build its own security and trade architecture by seeking free trade agreements with all Asean states. It bears the comprehensive imprint of the Indian prime minister, who seems to publicly give the Chinese the benefit of the doubt, as do many Asian nations even in India’s South Asian backyard where there is a willingness to turn a blind eye to Beijing’s backing of Myanmar and even its moves to further nuclearise Pakistan. But not so in private.

Obama’s scepticism over China’s motives, too, have not been vocalized but they are shared by many in government who, however, are still deeply divided over whether India should tie itself further into a larger security wheel that already has Japan and Australia as the spokes. US plans to build India up as a counterweight to China, much denied all around, is no secret. Whether India has the moxy to take its newly rejigged Look East policy to its logical conclusion and be able to emulate and counter China’s smart power — even with the Americans holding our hands — is, however, the real question.

Rare earths & pouring rain

While in Japan, India moved quickly to offer to supply Japan rare earths, a group of 17 minerals that are vital for the manufacture of a wide range of sophisticated electronic items, industrial and military equipment. One such rare earth, Neodymium, is the reason why audio company Bose is able its tiny jewel-cube speakers. India’s offer came in the wake of attempts by China, which currently mines 97 per cent of the world’s supply of rare earths, to deny those minerals to Japan, the US and other big consumers — a move that was immediately described as the new “Great Game”. Until 1948, India and Brazil were the world’s main contributors of rare earths. By offering rare earths to Japan, India not only sought to revive that position, it also managed to soften Japan on a civil nuclear deal.

After the slaughter, gold will stand tall

After the slaughter, gold will stand tall

John Hathaway

The days of the US dollar as the dominant reserve currency are numbered and its breakdown will be will be chaotic, writes John Hathaway.

The world’s monetary system is in the process of melting down. We have entered the endgame for the US dollar as the dominant reserve currency, but most investors and policymakers are unaware of the implications.

The only questions are how long the denouement will last, and how much more damage will be inflicted by new rounds of quantitative easing or more radical monetary measures to prop up the system.

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Whether prolonged or sudden, the transition to a stable monetary system will become possible only when the shortcomings of the status quo become unbearable. Such a transition is non-linear. So central bank soothsaying based on the extrapolation of historical data and the repetition of conventional wisdom offers no guidance on what lies ahead.

Telltale signs of future trouble are not hard to spot. Only a few months ago, the US Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, and other high-ranking Fed officials were talking about exit strategies from the US central bank’s bloated balance sheet and the financial system’s unprecedented excess liquidity.

Now those same officials are talking about pumping more money into the system to stimulate growth.

They are not alone: six months ago, the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, Olivier Blanchard, suggested that raising inflation targets to 4 per cent from 2 per cent would not be too risky.

This sort of talk must grate on the nerves of China, India, Russia and others, who have accumulated pyramids of non-yielding US Treasury debt. And bickering among central bankers over currency manipulation and rising trade tensions does not reinforce one’s confidence.

The prospects for an orderly unwinding of the extreme posture of global monetary policy are zero. Bernanke, Jean-Claude Trichet and Mervyn King, his counterparts in Europe and Britain respectively, are huddling together upon the most precarious perch in the history of monetary affairs. These alleged guardians of monetary stability have simply created the incinerator for paper money. We are past the point of no return. Quantitative easing may well become a way of life.

The consensus investment view seems to be that the credit crisis of 2008 was a freak occurrence. That is wishful thinking. Monetary policy has painted itself into a corner. Based on our present course, there will be more bubbles and more meltdowns.

Financial markets and institutions sense trouble, as reflected in the flight to supposedly safe assets such as treasuries and corporate-debt instruments with paltry yields, as well as the reluctance to lend by commercial banks. We are stuck in an epic liquidity trap. The irony is, if global central banks succeed in creating inflation, the value of these safe assets will be destroyed. It is a slaughter waiting to happen.

In the pedantic mentality of central bankers, their playbook creates just the right amount of inflation. As inflation accelerates, consumers will spend to get rid of their dollars of diminishing value and spur the economy. Once consumers start spending, it will be time to raise interest rates because a solid foundation for prosperity will have been established, they say.

But whatever the playbook promises, the capacity of financial markets to overshoot cannot be overestimated. The belief among policymakers and financial markets in the possibility of this sort of fine-tuning is preposterous.

The breakdown of the monetary system will be chaotic. When inflation starts, it will be highly disruptive. The damage to fixed-income assets will seem immediate. Foreign exchange markets will become dysfunctional. The economy will become even more fragile and unpredictable.

Gold is an imperfect, but comparatively reliable, market gauge for the extent of monetary destruction.

The anti-gold pundits provide a great service to those who grasp this historical moment: they facilitate the advantageous positioning of the one asset most likely to be left standing when the dust settles.

Bloomberg

John Hathaway is a managing director of Tocqueville Asset Management in New York.

America Refuses to Understand

America Refuses to Understand

Tariq Alhomayed
After Afghan President Hamid Karzai acknowledged that his administration was receiving “bags of money” from Iran, US sources commented on this by saying that this behavior was a “mystery” that needs to be investigated. However the true mystery is not the Afghan or Iranian behavior, but the US being surprised at this, for Washington and its elite seems to be unable to comprehend the nature of the conflict that it taking place in Afghanistan, Iraq, or even Lebanon. Washington is also unable to understand the nature of this geographic region, and how the foreign element is one of the most important factors fueling the conflict in this region.

The problem that Washington and its elite are having [in understanding this] is that they are looking at the world from the perspective of the American experience, which is very simple: there is a civil war going on in every country – like America – and these countries will overcome this by maturing, on the basis that countries, like individuals, learn from their experience, becoming more rational. In other words, a country’s history of war and bloodshed guarantees that it will develop towards rationality. However this is something that is untrue with regards to the majority of our Arab and Islamic world. We are not neighbors with Europe or Japan, or even South Korea.

America is separated from the influence of the outside world by an ocean, which also protected America from constant foreign interference [in its affairs] for a long period of time, until the famous Pearl Harbor attacks In fact America remained far-removed from direct and constant foreign influence until the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which affected America in a divisive manner. However with regards to the Iraqi, or Afghan, or Lebanese situation, external influence has been constant and unceasing, whether historically or in the modern period. Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq are united by the large number of wars that have taken place in their territories throughout modern history, as well as by the frequency of foreign involvement in their affairs.

Mexican President Porfiro Diaz once said “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States” however what would he say about Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon, who are close to Iran but far away from peace and stability? We have seen some major parties in Iraq receiving financial and military support from Iran, as well as Hezbollah publicly boasting of “pure” Iranian money, in addition to Karzai acknowledging that he receives “bags of money” from Tehran. Everybody is doing this openly! Despite all of this, Washington and its elite continue to deal with these regions and this conflict with a democratic and transparent mentality. However these are two things that are far away [from this], for these countries do not know stability, but rather are being plagued by tribal and sectarian problems, and there are [also] those who are working in the interests of Iran with regards to money and arms. As for Lebanon, the situation is getting worse whether this is due to the existence of Israel and its crimes, or the absence of a peaceful solution to defuse the situation there.

Therefore the Americans do not want to understand that these countries, and particularly Iraq and Afghanistan, are in need of a strong and rational central government to put an end to foreign intervention and domestic incitement, supporting natural progress, even if this is slow. This is better than the ongoing bitter conflict [that is taking place], and it is enough for Washington to contemplate the Turkish army’s experience and role in protecting Turkey as we see it today, economically, politically, and otherwise, particularly if the Americans recall the disaster of disbanding the Iraqi army, and the consequences of this.

What I mean to say is that the world is not America, and that in politics there is more than one solution to every problem. ….UNN

Georgia in the Crosshairs

[The crashing of Sakaashvili’s delusions and the triumph of Vladimir Putin marked the turning point in history and  the current era of the “Russian reset.”  This also confirmed for me that the great pipelineistan plan was also crashing down.  It also confirmed for me the fact that Israel does not really control American foreign policy, just most of it.  The failure of the mad Georgian leader to boot Russia out of the southern Caucasus was also the failure of Israel’s plans to launch a sneak attack against Iran.  August the 7, 2008  marked the end of a two-week series of failures in the Evil Empire’s secret plans.  Israel was no longer safe behind American lines in Georgia, where it could lash-out at the Mullahs.  Had there been American support at the last minute, things might have continued on their insane course, but, just like in the previous Israeli attacks upon Lebanon, no American air support was forthcoming.

The Georgian attack upon S. Ossetia was about a week late, coming on the heels of the total ruin of the Welch Club scheme in Gaza, which saw the forces of Hamas completely rout the forces of the Palestinian Authority/Fatah, in Gaza.  Bush and Cheney, as well as Condoleeza Rice and her Zionazi buddies, must have been in tears at the failure of their plan to let Israel do all the heavy lifting for the Empire in the Middle East.

It is a week that I have thanked God for.  The changes of that week meant that the locomotive has been slowed-down, if not derailed.  Thank God for bumblers like Sakaashvili and Mohammed Dahlen! (SEE: Can an Ex KGB General Save America From Itself?).]

Georgia in the Crosshairs

Walter Russell Mead

Part of any trip to Georgia getting the most out of local color: the food, the scenery, theStalin Museum.

But there’s another dimension to Georgia: geopolitics.  Divided, occupied in part by Russian troops, Georgia is one of the world’s most at-risk countries and the shadow of new crises with Russia hangs over everything in the country.

Some of Georgia’s problems are, frankly, the fault of bad decisions by its government.  The reckless and aggressive Georgian policies toward Russia in the summer of 2008 — policies it undertook in defiance of warnings from the Bush administration and the rest of the West — gave Putin an opportunity to occupy South Ossetia, create a new wave of Georgian refugees, and make trouble for both Georgia and the United States.  Even today, there is a certain trust deficit.  Many in western Europe for example simply do not trust Georgia’s president and I do not believe that Georgia will be admitted to NATO until either he or his successor convinces skeptics in Europe that things have changed.  Most of the Georgians I spoke with, including political allies of President Mikheil Saakashvili understand this.  But it is not clear that Georgia’s president or its political process can or will summon up the necessary “strategic patience”.

President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, speaking at the United Nations in 2009 (Credit: UN).

In fact, while I was visiting the country Georgia announced a new policy of ‘visa-free’ travel for residents of the Northern Caucasus — including places like Chechnya.  The move angered Russia (which wants to keep the lid on tightly in the North Caucasus and already blames Georgia for allowing arms and people smuggling in and out of the troubled region); it also seriously annoyed the United States, which does not does not want Georgia poking at the Russian bear; the US also objects, strenuously, to the idea of Islamic militants crossing the Georgia border and then roaming freely around a country with many US Peace Corps volunteers, diplomats and other personnel.  Georgia is trying to attract many more native English speakers to beef up the country’s fluency; good luck with that if militants are crossing over from the North Caucasus.

The visa move also struck a blow at Georgia’s relations with the EU; Georgia’s hopes for easing the restrictions on Georgians working in or traveling to the EU were not furthered by demonstrating a careless attitude toward a serious security issue on its frontiers.  One suspects that the foreign investors Georgia seeks desperately to lure are also put off by a decision that, to say the least, does not enhance the security of foreign personnel and installations.

As far as I could determine, the Georgians did not consult with the Europeans, the Americans or anyone else before taking this step, reinforcing the belief that Georgia’s hotheaded leadership is unpredictable and impulsive.  The hard and even brutal lesson that Georgia needs to learn is this:  NATO’s European members will not accept a rash and headstrong Georgia into the alliance.  Ever.

Georgia’s worst enemy could scarcely have harmed the country more.

The behavior of the Georgian president, rightly or wrongly perceived as reckless and rash by both Europeans and Americans, has so spooked the NATO alliance that Georgia will not be joining it anytime soon.  The US has no power to change this; European members of NATO are free to make up their own minds and new members must be admitted by a unanimous vote.  (A military alliance could hardly run its affairs in any other way; free peoples cannot be bound to go to war in defense of someone else without at some point giving their consent.)  The US supports Georgia and Georgia’s aspirations to NATO, but we are not going to make a bilateral security treaty with Georgia like the one we have with Japan.

That leaves Georgia in a pickle.  It is embroiled in a series of disputes with Russia, with Russian troops currently occupying Abkhazia in the northwest and South Ossetia in the north-center.  Almost 300,000 Georgian refugees were driven from or fled their homes in these regions.  With Russia’s blessing, Abkhazia and South Ossetia have declared their independence.  Georgian public opinion can be rabidly nationalistic, and the 4.4 million residents (about 85% of whom are ethnically Georgian) are divided by geographical, cultural and clan lines into many quarreling factions.  Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, Georgia has known two revolutions and, depending on how you count them, three civil wars and two significant international ones.  New wars could flare up unpredictably, though it seems to me that with the Winter Olympics scheduled in nearby Sochi in 2012, Russia is unlikely to seek new conflicts that could spoil its Olympic celebration.

A Georgian magazine laments NATO’s perceived tardiness (photo by Walter Mead).

Hotheaded Georgian policy has made matters worse, but Georgians have a point when they complain that many of the country’s problems are not its fault.  As a transit route for oil and gas from the Caucasian Sea and Central Asia to the west (the only such route not controlled by Russia), Georgia engages the attention of many powerful countries; Russia wants to control the pipeline, and the US and the Europeans don’t want that to happen.

Georgia’s situation is to some degree a hostage to developments in Ukraine.  While Ukraine’s government was pushing the country toward NATO membership, Georgia’s aspirations seemed reasonable.  Now, with NATO pretty much off the table for Ukraine, Georgia (despite its border the fellow NATO member Turkey) seems a long way from NATO’s headquarters in Brussels.

The cooling of expansionist fervor in the EU also leaves Georgia exposed.  There was a time, not all that long ago, when many observers thought that Turkey and Ukraine would both be joining the EU.  It now seems likely (though in my view very unfortunate) that neither country will get an invitation.  There is simply no way that Georgia can get in if both of these larger countries stay out.  That leaves Georgia out in the cold as far as powerful international organizations and alliances are concerned.

Again, none of this is Georgia’s fault.  The incompetence, corruption and political infighting that doomed the hopes of Ukraine’s Orange Revolutionaries also changed the character of the ex-Soviet space.  The serial political and economic crises and failures of the EU have dramatically weakened the ability of EU elites to impose large, unpopular changes like eastward expansion on their sullen and resentful publics.  Geography and politics make it profoundly unlikely that Georgia can enter the EU before Turkey does; with Turkish membership looking increasingly as if it is scheduled for the 12th of Never (or the Greek kalends as the ancients used to say), it looks as if Georgia’s accession date will be on the 13th.  The growing distance between the new foreign policy of the AK Turkish government and the US threatens over time to make it more difficult for Georgia to please both its Western patrons and its Turkish partners.  The confrontation between Iran and the United States continues to cast shadows over the prospects for peace and stability throughout the region.

An American visiting Georgia is in an interesting situation.  On the one hand, Georgians are grateful to the United States for our support; more than one person told me that without US help, Georgia would have long since been eaten by the hungry bear.  On the other hand, there’s some bitterness that we don’t do more.  Where is Georgia’s membership in NATO?  Where are missiles Georgia needs to protect itself?  Why is the US trying to ‘reset’ its relationship with Russia, and isn’t this a cynical sacrifice of Georgia’s vital interests?

Georgians in the opposition want to know why the US supports the current president.  Georgians aligned with the president want to know why we criticize him so much and support him so little.  Refugees from Abkhazia and South Ossetia want to know why we are doing so little to help them get back to their homes.  Members of Georgia’s ethnic minorities want to know why we aren’t doing more to protect their cultural rights.

Many Georgians believe that the Republicans are their true and loyal friends, while Democrats are a bunch of spineless wimps and appeasers.  The road in from the airport is named for George W. Bush; if there are plans to name anything big after President Obama, I didn’t hear about them during my trip.  Some Georgians were clearly hoping that GOP majorities in Congress after the midterms would bring more support from the US.

These hopes, I think, are misplaced, and only partly because Congress doesn’t have all that much power over American policy towards Georgia.  More fundamentally, Georgians seem to have forgotten what happened in the summer of 2008.  Various western diplomats I spoke to in Georgia told me that according to their information the Bush administration categorically warned the Georgians in 2008 to avoid responding to Russian provocations.  Georgia ignored those warnings, perhaps hoping that the US would have no choice but to back it in a conflict with Russia.  The Bush administration felt there was no alternative but to let Georgia face the consequences of its folly.  The Bush administration, not President Obama, pulled the plug on Georgia.

Yet Georgians are easily led by their hopes rather than their reason.  ”Georgia has some very good friends in America,” one Georgian said by way of rebutting my comments that Georgia cannot afford provocative or hotheaded behavior.  And there are people in the US whose natural sympathy for a small, threatened nation in a strategic hotspot moves them to say things that Georgians like to hear.

Americans and Georgians would both do well to remember the Hungarian tragedy of 1956.  American politicians were talking about ‘rolling back’ Communism, but they were indulging in political rhetoric rather than making serious plans to send tanks across the Iron Curtain.  Unfortunately the Hungarians failed to understand that these were just vain and empty words; in part because they were deceived by rhetoric on Voice of America, the Hungarians rose against the Soviets — and were left alone to face the Soviet tanks.

This is not a pleasant message to carry, and I did not enjoy delivering it to a country under the shadow of a partial Russian occupation, but to do anything else would be irresponsible, dangerous and cruel.

There is approximately zero prospect that Georgia will join NATO anytime soon.  There is even less chance that the Russian occupation of large chunks of Georgia will end in the near future.  Georgian anger and fear given these facts is natural and understandable.  But rash Georgian action will only make a bad situation worse — perhaps catastrophically worse.

To improve their situation, the Georgians are going to have to the kind of dull and boring things that many Georgians don’t like.  They are going to have to follow a discreet and modest foreign policy, avoiding all unnecessary provocations of Russia and being guided by the advice of their friends.  They are going to have to take a very long-term view about Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  They need to work on developing the territory they still have, at building a prosperous economy and a stable democracy.

If Georgia can do these things, over time its prospects will improve.  As the west (slowly) regains confidence in Georgia’s political leadership, and perhaps also as NATO-Russia relations improve, NATO membership could once again be a realistic prospect.  Russia itself ultimately needs stability in the Caucasus more than anything else; a prosperous and stable Georgia would be an important regional partner in helping Russia bring security and peace to the restless peoples of its southern fringe.

I hope Georgia succeeds.  This is a beautiful country with a glorious past and an extraordinary culture.  But Georgia’s future today is as cloudy as it was when I first visited twenty years (and several wars) ago.

Building Nuclear Reactors In Spite Of Uranium Supply Deficit

Will ‘Megatons To Megawatts’ Solve The Uranium Supply Pinch ?

By: Andrew_McKillop

Commodities

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleMEGATONS TO MEGAWATTS
World uranium supply deficit, currently running at about 12 500 to 15 000 tons (2010 mine and supply forecasts relative to demand forecasts), or about 20 percent, is covered from sources especially including stocks held by mining companies, power plant operators and builders. This massive deficit is also partly covered, perhaps by 4 000 tons of uranium equivalent per year, with recycled and diluted highly radioactive wastes including plutonium that are converted to so-called MOX fuel (Mixed OXide), almost exclusively in France and the UK.

 

There is one other “supply side solution”, which is given periodic headline treatment, and that is the US-Russian “Megatons to Megawatts” programme, turning Russian arms, and an undisclosed number of US warheads into ploughshares by dismantling surplus atom bombs and recycling their atomic materials as reactor fuel. This programme was first mooted from just before the collapse of the USSR, in 1990-1991. The first physical operations, concerning 500 tons of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) from Russian bomb warheads started in July1993, but the first arrivals in the USA of 24 tons of Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) reactor grade fuel produced from 0.786 tons of Russian HEU only started in January 1995.

For this first year of shipments from Russia, the specially created US public-private entity US Enrichment Corp. (USEC) which administers this trade and partners with a small number of fully private entities on the commercial downstream received atomic materials equivalent to about 244 nuclear warheads (or 6.1 tons of HEU able to replace 186 tons of LEU reactor grade fuel). As of end 2009, the USEC says on its Web site that some 15 294 warheads have been “recycled” this way. According to the US Natural Resources Defense Council, the combined US and Russian atomic weapons stockpiles peaked in the 1985-1987 at about 41 000 warheads, and had already fallen well below 40 000 warheads by the time the Soviet Union collapsed.

Megatons to Megawatts is basically a “diluting” operation, stepping weapons-grade HEU down to the LEU fuels needed for most conventional civil power reactors. Plutonium is also separated, and can be “cut” into utilisable fuel using the MOX route although the amounts treated this way are not published and may be very low. The amount of fresh mined uranium the programme “displaces” , almost exclusively in the USA and not elsewhere, is however controversial. It is claimed by some sources like the WNA (World Nuclear Association) and the OECD’s NEA (Nuclear Energy Agency) to have “displaced” about 13 percent of world reactor fuel requirements, around 8 000 tons of uranium in 2009, covering about 45 percent of the USA’s total reactor fuel that year.

According to the US Council on Foreign Relations in a paper published January 14, 2010 and as of December 2009, a total of about 382 tons of HEU, equal to 15 294 warheads, has been turned into about 11 000 tons of fuel, for which the Russian government received more than US $8 billion, valuing the uranium equivalent fuel at around US $ 72 per kilogram (well below the current uranium price and far behind the 2007 most recent peak price of about US$ 290 per kilogram). The potential value of cut-down and diluted bomb materials, recycled as reactor fuel, can be gauged from analysts forecasts for uranium prices, in 2011, probably attaining US $ 175 per kilogram

END IN SIGHT ?

One major problem for this rather small but heavily mediatized fuel source is the probable near-term end to the “Megatons to Megawatts” programme, which is presently scheduled to stop in 2013. The “political and policy considerations” include just how much more of their weapons stockpiles the USA and Russia want to scrap. They also include the willingness or not of Russian suppliers to sell at below-market prices, into a very opaque market that can quickly add 20% or more to reported prices for the declared transactions that are used to report prices. Other factors weighing against Megatons to Megawatts include technical and technology issues, notably the amount of converted bomb material that can be used in reactors.

When we look at the actual declared amounts that are traded, by commercial private companies, we find quite large “missing amounts” of finished fuel (or upstream scrapped weapons), suggesting that uranium stocks and reactor (but not bomb warhead) materials are increasingly entering the programme.

The major authorized private company operating this market, the world’s largest uranium mining and fuel supply company Cameco, is estimated by industry observers as buying and reselling around 7 million pounds (3182 tonnes) of Russian ex-military source uranium fuel each year, in the past 2 to 3 years. Other suppliers handle much less than this, and Cameco’s agreement with the sole Russian supplier, the state firm Techsnabexport (Tenex) will terminate in 2013 unless president Obama and the Medvedev-Putin duo make a decision to continue scrapping warheads.

For the select group of North American re-seller companies including Cameco, for which this supply represents about one-quarter of its total sales of uranium, termination will represent a major challenge. For the USA’s 100-plus civil reactors in current operation, a claimed 45 percent or more of their present annual fuel generates a need for at least 8000 tons a year, perhaps more, to satisfy the 45 percent claim.

The most important point is that any start of phasing down in operations of the Megatons to Megawatts programme from the most recent rate (since 2006) of an average 1200 warheads scrapped each year, which was already lower than the rate in the preceding 3 years 2002-2005), will automatically increase the quantities of “fresh mined” uranium needed by US reactor operators. This will quickly add another twist to a world supply/demand context already heavily in deficit.

OPAQUE MARKET – TRANSPARENT PRICE OUTLOOK

There is no “open market” for uranium fuel of any kind, either produced or “fabricated” from fresh mined uranium, or MOX fuels derived from nuclear wastes, or fuels from scrapped nuclear weapons. The few entities which provide price data, such as TechTrade and UxC, report prices given on private transactions by the parties concerned, often with several weeks delay, and with no capacity for verifying the actual or real amounts, and prices. The Megatons to Megawatts programme fits well with this secretive hard to verify business, to the extent that real amounts of uranium equivalent fuel supplied may be well below the published amounts. On the Russian side these are likely made up to the declared amounts through mine stocks of uranium, and uranium fuel stocks from so-called “research and military” reactors, for which no data is available.

All of these sources to, and substitutes of the Megatons to Megawatts programme are unlikely to increase their net supplies of uranium equivalent fuel, and the majority may quite rapidly decrease. As already mentioned we have a basic and massive undersupply of world uranium fuel supply, but also have some 56 new reactors under construction and 439 in operation, with perhaps as many as 200 more reactors planned or proposed for the next 9 years (2011-2020). Results of this “outright and announced crisis” will certainly include a radical increase of uranium prices, triggering more mine investment and development, and possibly a Russian decision to cash in on the coming uranium price boom through staying their decision to stop scrapping bomb warheads in 2013.

To be sure, fuel costs for nuclear reactors are a small slice of total costs, but over and above about a uranium price of US $ 80 to 100 per pound, fuel costs start to become very significant for power plant operators and builders, because of stockpiling needs and their costs, with first loading requirements of a typical industry standard 900 MW reactor being about 250 – 350 tons. Probably much more important for the industry, any long-term structural-type fuel shortage will cast a long and deep shadow on the highly mediatized “Nuclear Renaissance”.

By Andrew McKillop

gsoassociates.com

Project Director, GSO Consulting Associates

Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

Contact: xtran9@gmail.com

© 2010 Copyright Andrew McKillop – All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

 

© 2005-2010 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk – The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.

Nord Stream gas pipeline underwater construction starts

[Thanks to hughbris for this article.]

Nord Stream gas pipeline underwater construction starts

A construction worker during a ceremony marking the start of Nord Stream pipeline construction

The construction project is due for completion in 2012

Construction of the controversial Nord Stream pipeline from Russia to western Europe under the Baltic Sea has been officially launched.

Gazprom holds 51% of Nord Stream, which will run from the Russian port of Vyborg to Germany’s Greifswald.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended the ceremony near Vyborg.

The project was given the go-ahead only in February amid fears that the pipeline could damage the Baltic Sea.

President Medvedev said at the ceremony that the pipeline “for the first time – which may be one of its main achievements – will ensure direct supplies of Russian gas to western Europe, bypassing transit territories”.

The existing pipelines run from Russia to EU countries via Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.

‘Binding obligations’

All the gas volumes have either been contracted, or have been formalized in binding obligations
Alexander Medvedev, Gazprom

Russia provides up to 30% of the gas consumed in Europe, and many European countries have been keen to secure alternative energy supplies.

Critics have argued that European countries do not need more gas from Russia and that the project is too expensive.

But Gazprom deputy chief executive Alexander Medvedev said there was plenty of demand for the gas.

“All the gas volumes have either been contracted, or have been formalized in binding obligations,” he told journalists.

Gas supplies from Russia to Europe have been threatened or disrupted in the past due to political and financial disputes between Moscow and its neighbours.

But Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said at the ceremony: “This country [Russia] has been cooperating with European neighbours in the gas sector for over 40 years.

“This cooperation has stood the test of time to the full extent.”

The ceremony was also attended by Nord Stream board chairman and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and European Commissioner for Energy Gunther Oettinger.

First phase

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder

President Medvedev and Gerhard Schroeder were among the guests

Russian gas monopoly Gazprom said on Wednesday that the first pipe had been laid under the sea.

The pipeline will be passing through Russian, Finnish, Swedish and German waters.

Last month, Nord Stream secured a 3.9bn-euro ($5.4bn; £3.5bn) fund to complete the first phase of the pipeline.

“Debt financing will cover 70% of the project costs while the remaining 30% will be provided by the project shareholders,” said Paul Corcoran, financial director of Nord Stream AG.

German companies BASF-Wintershall and E.On Ruhrgas each own 20% of Nord Stream, while Gasunie of the Netherlands holds 9%.

Alexey Bulgakov from Troika Dialog investment bank pointed out that “Gazprom and its partners seem to have managed to raise funds at rather low interest rates.”

The overall cost of the project, due for completion in 2012, is expected to reach 7.4bn euros.

Environmental worries

Nord Stream

The first pipe was laid under the sea on Wednesday

Russia hopes to pump up to 55bn cubic metres of gas a year to EU countries through the pipeline.

Supporters of the project say that it will secure gas supplies from Russia to Europe.

But environmentalists argue that building the pipeline could lead to toxins lying on the sea bed being stirred up, as the Baltic sea is one of the most polluted in the world.

Finland had refused to give the green light to construct the pipeline, but finally agreed to it in February under the condition that ships laying the pipeline do not lay anchor in Finland’s economic zone.

The final hurdle was overcome after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin assured Baltic leaders that the project was safe, as extensive research had been carried out into any environmental impact of the pipeline construction.

Alternative projects

Apart from the Nord Stream, Russia has been planning another pipeline, the South Stream, which will run from southern Russia to Bulgaria under the Black Sea.

Meanwhile, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria last July signed an agreement to construct the long-planned 3,300km Nabucco natural gas pipeline.

It is expected to pump up to 31bn cubic metres of gas annually from the Caspian and the Middle East across Turkey and into Europe.

Projected routes of Nord Stream, Nabucco and South Stream pipelines

Al-CIAda fishes for Turks seeking jihad

[Suddenly, with reports of the car-bomb in Istanbul, we see a wave of Western sources urging us to believe in the reality of a new “Al-CIA-da wave” sweeping across Europe and Turkey.  This is the method of American “public diplomacy,” begun by Reagan and Casey in Nicaragua (SEE: Iran-Contra’s ‘Lost Chapter’)–reports emerge in the foreign press, warning about the terror threat and simultaneously new waves of terror take place.  Especially suspicious is this report from a known “mouthpiece” of the CIA and ISI (SEE:  CIA Agent Sees Dead People).  Since we know that “CIA-da” is CIA, we know that any European attacks are agency actions.  The big question becomes, once again, as it does wherever the “Islamists” raise their ugly heads, whether Turkey’s own intelligence agencies or Ergenekon elements are staging false flag attacks themselves.  Recall the recent reports of Turkey’s enlistment for joint action with the West (SEE: Is Death of Nabucco Bringing “Al CIA da” and Ergenekon Together in Turkey? ).  It is unlikely that this hints at future spook attacks across Europe.  What is more likely is that this is all just psy-op, intended to convince the people of the West that terror central in N. Waziristan (and now, they say, Balochistan) must be wiped-out.  Everything points to an imminent invasion of Pakistan as the only possible solution to Obama’s war problems.]

Al-CIAda fishes for Turks seeking jihad

By Simon Cameron-MooreTurks have been bit part players in Al-Qaeda’s global jihad, but a recent security scare in Europe pointed to a small but growing number in Germany and Turkey who have joined militant ranks in Pakistan. Muslims from many parts of the Islamic World went to Pakistan during the jihad to end the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. There may be nothing new about Turks taking that path, but recent obituaries on jihadi websites and tales of the exploits of Turkish jihadis have been eye-catching.

Turkey serves as a gateway for Al-Qaeda, through which it channels both funds and recruits for operations abroad,” said Tim Williams of Stirling Assynt, a political and terrorist risk consultancy in London. “The growing number of Turks appearing in the Af-Pak theatre…(is) evidence of that.” Turks returning from Afghanistan were involved in the Nov 2003 bombings that killed 57 people in Istanbul and wounded hundreds more in a series of attacks that targeted the British consulate, an HSBC bank and two syn
agogues.

I am concerned about increased radicalisation among Turkish youth – not just in Turkey but also in Europe,” said Zeyno Baran, a scholar at Washington’s Hudson Institute. An more critical focus on Israel and the West by some sections of the media has hardened attitudes in a society that is becoming more conservative, more Islamic, according to Baran. “That propaganda has a powerful impact on the youth, some of whom seem to be joining the militant ranks in Af-Pak region.

Surveys by Washington’s Pew Research Center show Turks share similar levels of antipathy toward the United States as Egyptians, Pakistanis and Palestinians. Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul based security analyst noted a proliferation of jihadi websites with Turkish language pages over the past couple of years. With an overwhelmingly Muslim population of 75 million, and a large diaspora, particularly in Germany, it is natural that Islamist militant groups should try to make inroads.

Turkey, with its democratic foundation and orientation towards the West, is not a natural breeding ground for Islamic militancy. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s brand of religious conservatism, while opening the door to the Islamic Middle East, gives no quarter to the likes of Al-Qaeda. If militancy is growing, it remains at least for now on the fringe. Israel’s Gaza offensive two years ago fuelled sympathy for militant causes among some, analysts say. “The Israeli incursion into Gaza in 2008 had a profoun
d effect, leading to increased recruitment of Turks by Al-Qaeda and allied groups,” Williams said. “We believe that the numbers increased dramatically in the wake of that operation.

It is a touchy issue for NATO’s only Muslim member. Turkish troops serve in non-combat roles in Afghanistan. Officials are guarded about the presence of Turkish militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They say nationalities of the martyrs named on jihadi websites are unconfirmed. But arrests back in Turkey show the authorities are vigilant. In January, police detained more than 120 Al-Qaeda suspects in raids mostly in east and central Anatolia, though barely any details emerged from those arrests. Then last
week, police arrested a maths student from a university in the western city of Izmir who was in contact with a Turkish militant described as the head of Al-Qaeda’s Aegean cell and who is now fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Student Abdulkadir Kucuk’s extra-curricular studies involved bomb-making and devising computer programs to jam flight signals for drone aircraft used by NATO forces in Afghanistan. Four other suspected fundraisers for the cause were detained too. They were later freed pending trial, but in a follow up operation this week police in Istanbul rounded up a dozen more. A senior Turkish security official told Reuters that all the Turks who have joined Al-Qaeda’s ranks in Afghanistan-Pakistan belong to one group.
He went on to name its chief as well as a commander, Zekeriya, whom Kucuk was caught emailing. “Their leader is named Ebuzer, the leader of all Turks in Al-Qaeda. Zekeriya is another high-ranking leader of Turks there,” he said.

The Washington-based Jamestown Foundation identifies Ebuzer as Serdar Erbashi, a veteran of the second Chechen war, who, it says, had headed Al-Qaeda’s cell in Ankara. The Turkish official didn’t name the group, but a Pakistani security officer in Peshawar, the main city in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, identified it as Taifatul Mansura, a Quranic reference meaning “Assembly of the Victorious”.

Based in North Waziristan, a Pakistani tribal region known as a hotbed of Al-Qaeda and Taliban activity, Taifatul Mansura’s profile has risen over the past year on jihadi websites and anti-terrorism blogsites. The Pakistani security official says its ranks have been depleted by clashes and drone missile attacks, and a splinter group broke off a few months ago. The faction appeared to emerge out of the Ittehad-e-Islami, or Islamic Jihad Union (IJU).

The ISU is itself a by-product of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a Central Asian jihadi movement that has forged ties with Al-Qaeda and actively recruits in Europe. Jihadis who do not fit easily into South Asian or Arab militant camps gravitate to groups like Taifatul Mansura which, according to the Pakistani official, is made up of Turkic-language speaking Central Asians, as well as Turks and European Muslims, notably from Germany. “It is a motley crowd out there in the North (Waziristan),” the
Pakistani security official told Reuters. “There are people from virtually everywhere, including the Turks.” – Reuters

Portugal meeting builds anti-NATO protest

Portugal meeting builds anti-NATO protest

Special to Workers World
Oporto, Portugal

A forum at the Literary Club here on Oct. 23 heard two speakers discuss the dangers facing the world’s people coming from the U.S. and NATO’s war machines.

From left, Frederico Carvalho, John Catalinotto..
From left, Frederico Carvalho, John Catalinotto..
WW photo: Ellen Catalinotto

John Catalinotto, representing the U.S. anti-war movement, spoke on the U.S. use of NATO in a strategy of reoccupying and controlling areas of the world that had been liberated during the period of existence of the Soviet Union. Catalinotto is a managing editor of Workers World newspaper.

Frederico Carvalho, a Portuguese environmentalist and expert who studies the impact of weapons, discussed the dangers posed by nuclear weapons and the new U.S. weapons systems such as the drones, where there is a great distance between the operator of the weapon and its targets.

Speakers and the organizers discussed the upcoming NATO summit in Lisbon Nov. 19-21 and the Portuguese anti-war movement’s plans to hold a mass protest on Nov. 20.


Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Istanbul blast injures at least 15, may be suicide bomb

Istanbul blast injures at least 15, may be suicide bomb

Turkish police in Istanbul - 31/10/10Riot police may have been the target

At least 15 people have been injured in what appears to have been a suicide bomb attack in the centre of Istanbul, Turkish media say.

Police have cordoned off the area around Taksim Square where the blast occurred on Sunday morning.

Television pictures from Taksim Square showed body parts lying on the ground.

No group has said it carried out the attack, but a two-month-old ceasefire by Kurdish rebels was due to expire later on Sunday.

Ambulances have been taking some of the injured to hospital, while medical staff are treating others at the scene.

The blast occurred near the independence monument in Taksim Square, says the BBC’s Jonathan Head in Istanbul, near a point where anti-riot police are stationed.

Istanbul police chief Huseyin Capkin said six of the injured were civilians, while nine were policemen.

map

Our correspondent says suspicion is likely to fall on Kurdish separatist factions or groups linked to al-Qaeda.

The Kurdish separatist PKK party has carried out bomb attacks in Istanbul in the past, as have extreme left-wing and Islamist groups.

Taksim Square is on the European side of Istanbul and is a popular destination for tourists.

“THERE ARE NO SUNGLASSES”–LIFE IS NOT A MOVIE, BUT THE SCRIPT IS FOR REAL

[This is a re-post from July 11, 2008, one of my earliest entries on this blog.  Thanks to Kenny over at Kenny’s Sideshow, for running this article on the theme of this site.  It’s about time somebody got it.  I guess I should thank the folks at AMC channel for running “They Live,” yet again.  I thought that everybody had already seen this sci-fi classic; my all-time favorite John Carpenter movie.  By the way, Carpenter is remaking the movie, with an updated formula, which might leave-out the sunglasses angle.  It has not begun production yet, but they released the following trailer:

THERE ARE NO SUNGLASSES

_______________________________________________________________________

LIFE IS NOT A MOVIE

BUT THE SCRIPT IS FOR REAL

THEY LIVE, the movie, is the theme of this blog; some people ask why? What’s the deal with the the “No Sunglasses” thing?

The premise of this resistance blog is based on the small resistance movement in the movie, which formed to resist the secret dictatorship. The movement was based on the idea that resistance scientists had discovered that society was dominated by a parasitic super-class, who were something other than human.

The discovery that the wealthy elite had created a scientific method for hypnotizing the human race into a kind of mental and spiritual blindness, led these scientific resisters to the discovery of a polarized sunglasses lens, which filtered-out the hypnotizing technology, allowing the wearer of the glasses to actually see the secret elitists (who turned-out to be an alien species), hidden amongst the people.

The wearer of the sunglasses was thus freed from the brainwashing subliminal suggestions, which were covertly influencing our lives, every minute of every day. The scientists had discovered that there was a hidden signal buried in the broadcast transmissions of every TV station. The signal was a carrier wave that directly affected the subconscious and unconscious minds. Shutting this signal off, instantly revealed the hideous parasitic vulture race that was feeding upon humanity, for who knows how long.

THERE ARE NO SUNGLASSES is here to shut the signals down! We have found the secret signals hidden within every facet of our daily existence.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “They Live“, posted with vodpod

“Our impulses are being redirected.

We live in an artificially-induced state of consciousness.

The movement began…by a group of scientists…accidentally

discovered these signals being sent.

The under-class is growing.

Human rights are non-existent.

In their repressive society, we are their unwitting accomplices.

Their intention to rule rests with the annihilation of consciousness.

We have been lulled into a trance.

They have made us indifferent.

We are focused only on our own gain.

They are safe as long as they are not discovered.

That is their method of survival.

Keep us asleep.

Keep us selfish.

Keep us sedated.

We are their cattle.

We are being bred for slavery.

We cannot break their signal.

The signal must be shut off at the source.

They want benign indifference.

All we really are is livestock.”

From “They Live” script:

This new website, therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com is dedicated to building the American resistance movement. It will be limited in scope at first, so that it can remain focused on the search for finding more effective ways to resist the empire, as it moves against the American people, freedom’s last defense.

It is pretty amazing, the similarities between the story line of “They Live” (a parasitic elitist class covertly dominates the world for alien commercial interests) and our own situation. Our world has been drained economically by a parasitic capitalist blood-letting that is only intensifying, as the elitist plan escalates the military stalemate to complete their domination of all resources before the sleeping majority awakens to their schemes.

The purpose of this blog is to find ways to give the sleeping sheeple a wake-up call. They will not be able to successfully maneuver the heavily sedated herd into the waiting stockyards if enough of the sheep are awakened, to create the resistance necessary to stop the forward surge of the human lemmings into the pens and over the cliff.

American freedom and democracy stand on the edge of oblivion, prepared for flushing down the memory hole. It is no secret that the insane men and women who lead us are working overtime, driving the American sheeple toward the big round-up. But there is a secret history of our country that has been suppressed by the elitists and their “mainstream media” which explains why our country stands on the edge of that precipice today.

The secret history reveals the patterns created from testimony and circumstantial evidence, which proves that the “war on terror,” the creation of the international Muslim brigades (a.k.a. “al Qaida”), the crashing of the American (and global) economy, the conversion of American democracy into a dictatorship, as well as many other elements are all parts of the plan to destroy this Nation, carried-out by our own government and its collaborators. This blog exists to provide the evidence that our own government has purposely worked in collusion with financial and corporate interests to subordinate American national security to foreign interests.

The small minority of us who really understand what has been happening to our country and what is about to happen have little to show for all our efforts to organize antiwar resistance to the rapidly approaching disaster. If this blog fulfills its purpose, then we will have helped to raise an aroused, enraged American resistance movement. Such a movement would then move forward to erase all the awful things that will be described in this blog. Americans must wake-up to our own interests as a free Nation, in order to free us from those deadly “foreign entanglements” that George Washington tried to warn us about.

As for right now, it seems like there is little, or no hope.

That’s what “THEY” want you to believe. The tiny elite minority that controls most everything in our world is counting on you to give-up hope. Don’t do it! RESIST!!!

Do not give your consent to your own slavery! Find ways to contribute to the resistance. Do not conform to their directives.

peter.chamberlin@hotmail.com

Cold War International History Project–Virtual Archive 2.0

Cold War International History Project


Virtual Archive 2.0

[The Mitrokhin Archive is a collection of notes made secretly by KGB Major Vasili Mitrokhin during his thirty years as a KGB archivist in the foreign intelligence service and the First Chief Directorate. When he defected to the United Kingdom he brought the Archive with him. Two books, Sword and the Shield and The KGB and the Battle for the Third World, based on the Archive and hundreds other sources were published in 1992 and 2005, which gives details about much of the Soviet Union’s clandestine intelligence operations around the world. The books were written by British intelligence historian Christopher Andrew. Their publication provoked parliamentary inquiries in the U.K., India, and Italy.]

The Mitrokhin Archive

The Mitrokin Archive — A Note on Sources
January 01 1990 – A note on sources contextualizing the Mitrokhin Archive. Please read this first in order to understand the nature of the material.

Letter to the [CWIHP] Editor — A Note on Sources
June 01 2000 – Letter to CWIHP from Vasiliy Mitrokhin on the submission of the KGB in Afghanistan Manuscript. This letter places the KGB in Afghanistan entry into further context. Please read this before using the materials.

CWIHP Note on the Mitrokhin Archive — A Note On Sources
June 01 2000 – CWIHP note on the Mitrokhin sources, first published in the introduction of the KGB in Afghanistan Volume.

Biography of Vasiliy Mitrokhin
December 22 2000 – Short biography of Vasiliy Mitrokhin, which provides context for the materials in the Mitrokhin Archive collection.

The KGB in Afghanistan – Geographical Volume 1
February 01 2002 – This text is an edited version of a manuscript outlining the KGB’s operational activities in Afghanistan between 1978 and 1983, authored by Vasiliy Mitrokhin, a former KGB archivist who defected to Britain in 1992. Mitrokhin tells us that the KGB was deeply involved with Soviet Afghan policies from the very beginning. The piece deals with events in and around Afghanistan and the activities of the Bolshevik nomenklatura in the region between 1962 and 1983. It is based exclusively on information from the KGB archives to which Vasily Mitrokhin had access to. Please read the note on sources under the collection listing to understand the limitations of this material.

Please click here for a response to this document.

KGB Active Measures in Southwest Asia in 1980-82
April 01 2004 – Materials provided by former KGB archivist Vasiliy Mitrokhin to the CWIHP, following the publication of the Mitrokhin WP40 “The KGB in Afghanistan.” As with all Mitrokhin’s notes, his compilation on Soviet “active measures” in South and Southwest Asia is based on other smuggled-out notes and was prepared especially for CWIHP. Please read the Notes on Sources for information on the nature and limitations of these documents.

(read HERE)

Chinese Getting Irked Over US Meddling In China Sea

US, Russia join Asian summit as regional spats simmer

By Sarah Stewart (AFP) – 11 hours ago

HANOI — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Saturday join 16 Asia-Pacific leaders at a summit in Vietnam dominated by China’s territorial disputes.

The United States and Russia will be formally invited as members of the East Asia Summit at the group’s annual gathering, in what analysts say is a blow to Chinese attempts to diminish US influence in the region.

Their entry into the EAS, which elevates its diplomatic heft, comes despite Chinese attempts to promote another grouping — which does not include the US — as the region’s premier forum for regional cooperation.

US membership is seen as part of its strategic return to Southeast Asia to balance China’s growing influence in the region, where Beijing’s more aggressive stance on territorial disputes has unnerved its smaller neighbours.

Clinton, in a speech on Asia-Pacific relations made in Honolulu earlier this week, downplayed suggestions the US is duelling with China for influence.

“There are some in both countries who believe that China?s interests and ours are fundamentally at odds. They apply a zero-sum calculation to our relationship. So whenever one of us succeeds, the other must fail,” she said.

“But that is not our view.”

Nevertheless, China has been irritated by Washington wading into the issue of its claim over the resource-rich South China Sea, where several Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries are also claimants.

Clinton said in July that resolving disputes over the strategic area is “pivotal” to regional stability and offered to negotiate a settlement.

On the eve of the Hanoi summit, China hit out at Clinton’s remarks that other disputed islands in the East China Sea, the flashpoint for a serious feud with Japan, fall within the scope of the US-Japan security alliance.

“The Chinese government and people will never accept any word or deed that includes the Diaoyu islands within the scope of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security,” foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

The disputed islands — called Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan — have been at the centre of a deepening row between Beijing and Tokyo which erupted again in Hanoi, evaporating hopes for talks between their leaders.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara met his Chinese counterpart Friday and said they had agreed to improve ties. Japan’s delegation announced direct talks between the leaders, but then retracted the statement.

China’s assistant foreign affairs minister, Hu Zhengyue, then issued a statement using extremely strong terms to condemn Japan.

“Japanese diplomatic authorities have partnered with other nations and stepped up the heat on the Diaoyu island issue,” he said.

He said Japanese comments had “violated China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“The Japanese moves, which is clear for everyone to see, have ruined the needed atmosphere for a meeting between the two leaders. Japan should take full responsibility for the result.”

Japanese Premier Naoto Kan’s spokesman, Noriyuki Shikata, said there was no reason for “heightened tensions… between the two countries” and that Japan stood ready to “engage in dialogue.”

The neighbours have been feuding since the September 8 arrest of a Chinese trawler captain after a collision with Japanese coastguard vessels near the disputed East China Sea island chain.

The United States called on China and ally Japan to ease tensions.

“We want China and Japan to sit down, to have dialogue and work through the issues,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters in Washington.

“We would hope that both countries will take affirmative steps to de-escalate tensions around this issue and that will create the conditions for a meaningful dialogue.”

The East Asia Summit is a forum for dialogue on strategic, political and economic issues involving the 10-member Southeast Asian bloc as well as Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

Mocking the French for getting it right

Mocking the French for getting it right

James Clay Fuller

Everything the American public has been told by the corporate news media about the anti-austerity uprisings in France, England and other European countries is a lie. 

The picture we’ve been given by our big newspapers, magazines and television – as always, especially television – is as phony as a photograph showing Sarah Palin sitting on Barack Obama’s lap and nibbling his ear. It’s a picture so false as to make Fox News domestic political coverage look fair and objective by comparison.

This is important. The real story hidden by the fakery is enormously important to the people of the United States.

If Americans knew what the protests really are about, and what actually is being done by the governments of France and England, and Greece and Spain and other countries, some, at least, would have a different understanding of what is being done here to place total economic power into the hands of the very rich. The protests would take on an aspect 180 degrees from what most Americans now believe of them.

The focus has been on France, because that presents the easiest target in this country for false coverage.

We’ve been told over and over by everybody from Fox to the New York Times that the blockades and shouting and marches in France are all about the “fact” that President Nicolas Sarkozy and his gang want to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.

Snotty coverage implies, or flatly states, that the lazy, sex-loving, low-producing French people simply are not willing to work to age 62, that they want to have their six-week summer vacations and long weekends and retire with full, abundant pensions at 60. Virtually all of our corporate media states, or strongly implies, that those silly French people just can’t or won’t grasp economic realities which require “belt tightening” and major reductions in spending for social programs in order to save their national economy from collapse.

The picture is akin to the stereotype of listless, music-lovin’ “darkies” once common to the American press, and it is no more accurate.

Descriptions of the French economic problems are equally fictional, as false as the stories Americans have been told for the past year and a half or so about our own economic situation.

First: The French are rightfully angry about a hell of a lot more than “raising the retirement age from 60 to 62.” But even just on the retirement question, what we’ve been told is false. Most of the French don’t, as implied, now get to retire with “full benefits” at age 60.

French law allows retirement at that age with some pension benefits, but the actual amount of pension one receives depends on how many payments one has made into the retirement system, which means, in effect, how long one has worked. Sarkozy and crew are raising the number of years one must work to retire with full pension from 40 to 43, and they obviously intend to go on increasing that number.

Most French people already must work to 62 or even 65 or older to get full government retirement benefits. The new level will be higher, with more raises in retirement age to come.

Remember, most people don’t start working full time at 16 or 18 or even 22 any more. To be fully and well employed in France, as here, one has to get an education or some sort of advanced training, and then wiggle into a career or long-time job path, which takes time.

“Full” retirement benefits, not incidentally, amount to about 40 percent of one’s pay at the time of retirement. On its own, that does not provide a life of ease for people in France any more than it does here.

A more complete explanation of the retirement situation, and what the French are really angry about, is in a very good piece on http://www.counterpunch.org by Diana Johnstone. She is the author of many articles and books on European politics and a graduate of my alma mater, the University of Minnesota. She has lived and worked in Europe much of her life.

Very briefly — in my view, not Johnstone’s — Sarkozy is France’s Ronald Reagan, with strong overtones of George W. Bush. He is taking his country down the road to a new Gilded Age. He campaigned on a theme of improving the economy for all the French but, like Reagan and Bush, what he’s really about is giving as much power and as much of the country’s wealth as possible to the already super-rich at the expense of the average French citizen.

Like Bush, especially, his inner circle is full of self-enriching egoists who seem to devote themselves mainly to finding extremely high-paying “positions” for their wives, offspring and cronies. Some of them are known for personal tax dodging on a jaw-dropping scale.

As here, the French people have had their pockets picked in order to replenish and expand the purses of the very wealthy people who contributed most powerfully to that country’s and the world’s economic distress. There, as here, there has been no real attempt to hold any of the financial finaglers and outright frauds responsible for their actions.

The major difference between France and the United States in these circumstances is that many of the French, better educated than average Americans and with a far greater understanding of basic economics, know that they’re getting screwed and, even more importantly, they know who’s doing the screwing.

In America we get Tea Parties and such -– gangs of the terminally ignorant howling after “liberals” and working mightily on behalf of rich right wingers such as the Koch brothers to bring about their own economic and political ruin.

In France, a substantial number of the people know they are the targets in a class war designed to put the wealth and the political power of the nation entirely into the hands of a tiny minority who already have most of the wealth and a great deal of the political power.

That demonstrates, I think, that the dumbing down of the public education system, long a major part of the right wing crusade in this country, is farther along here than in Europe. European oligarchs also are behind in pricing the poor and middle class out of higher education.

(An oligarchy, and corporate moguls, most emphatically do not want an educated public; they want a public trained for jobs, but with little capacity for critical thought beyond solving small on-the-job problems.)

What’s going on in Britain and, to varying degrees, elsewhere in Europe is part of the same movement under way here and in France. The British far right, often less willing to hide itself behind populist fiction than American and continental right wing extremists, is more openly stomping on the general public and grabbing its worldly goods for the very rich. If the British oligarchs were less obvious, they may not have triggered the degree of anger they now face from some of the British public, which seems to be little, if any, brighter than our own.

That’s just a guess on my part, based on what I see in reading the news coverage we don’t get from our own “media.” I’ve spent some time in England, but not for quite awhile, and I make no claim to really knowing the British.

You’ll note that American news and commentary about the situation in Britain is greatly different from news and commentary on France’s upheavals. For reasons I have never fully understood, Americans love to take a superior attitude to the French, to belittle them and to pretend they are considerably less than they are. For example, the fact that French workers are more productive than American workers on an hour by hour, week by week basis, as shown by various productivity studies, would horrify most Americans — if they could bring themselves to accept the demonstrable truth.

Anyway, that attitude makes it easy for our media, politicians and corporate leaders to sell this country on the idea that the French are just being their usual silly selves in protesting government moves designed to weaken their economic standing and shift more power to the money elite.

My local birdcage liner, the Minneapolis Star Tribune (known in recent years to many of my news-savvy friends and older journalists as the Star Trivia) has carried not only the inaccurate “news” coverage but a couple of commentaries specifically created to trivialize the fight of French against big buck elitists.

One was an editorial from the Wall Street Journal, which always can be counted on to scorn the interests of the general public anywhere. That piece of trash took the standard corporate line that the French economy –- and, indeed, all economies -– soon will crash if working people don’t give up their “entitlements” (such as pensions, health care and other trivial luxuries) and allow the rich to determine what they can “afford.” It’s attitude was belittling in the extreme.

The other was a piece by one of the paper’s fluff columnists, a sort of surrogate shopping wife who specializes in stroking the egos of those whose lives are devoted to trivial pursuits. She said she lived in France for a while when she was in her 20s. Demonstrating a complete absence of knowledge of what the fight really is about, her take was that the French are quaint in their insistence on fighting pension cuts because “a way of life is at stake here, including long vacations and even longer lives of retirement freed from having to work at all.”

This popsy also declared her love of “scrumptious” France and went on for some time describing fictional French attitudes that essentially created a picture of a country populated by good natured, charming but self-centered children. Just like those darkies.

(To be fair, her male counterpart is equally trivial.)

She may have lived in France, but she was a suburban American tourist the whole time, apparently. Her fictional, cute France is nothing like the reality as I’ve seen it.

But her take is common in this country. Millions of Americans seem unaware of the fact the French people are normal human beings who study, work, love, live, sometimes fight and die just like real human beings. As I said, the fiction helps the economic elite trivialize the very real struggle of at least some of the French people to save their economic and political system.

This is not just a French fight, of course. Nor an English fight. Nor a problem faced just by the people of Greece and/or Spain.

The corporate elite is international to a degree it has never been before. The banks, other financial institutions and most major industries are fully international. A board chairman of one company may be French, another Italian and another American by birth. Those national designations mean nothing any more, other than a current place of principal residence. The CEOs anchor their $30 million yachts in the same harbors at the same seasons, and they sleep in each other’s beds.

Sadly, we won’t see Americans taking to the streets to protect their way of life. Those we do see in the street are marching on behalf of the very people who are pushing us back to a life of economic servitude.

Russia’s Message to Turkmenistan: Export Your Gas Anywhere Except Europe

Russia’s Message to Turkmenistan: Export Your Gas Anywhere Except Europe

OCTOBER 29, 2010
Vladimir Socor

On October 28, Turkmenistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement strongly contradicting the Russian government’s views on the bilateral gas trade and on Turkmen gas export policy in general. The statement follows six days after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and a governmental delegation held talks with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov in Ashgabat.

The Turkmen MFA’s statement rejects the “unsubstantiated,” “completely groundless,” and “counterproductive” assertions by unnamed “Russian officials” in connection with Medvedev’s October 22 visit. Those assertions are being “assessed in Turkmenistan [i.e., by the President] as an attempt to hinder our country’s normal course of international cooperation in the sphere of energy” (Turkmenistan.ru, October 28).

This tenor is reminiscent of the April 2009 polemics triggered by Moscow’s sudden halt in gas imports from Turkmenistan, without advanced notification, and the resultant blowup of the transmission pipeline in Turkmen territory. For Turkmenistan, it was the ultimate proof that it could not rely on Russia for security of demand, spurring Turkmen efforts to diversify gas export routes away from Russia.

The October 28 statement takes issue with Russian assertions that Turkmen gas is not in demand in Europe; that Moscow is holding talks with Ashgabat about Gazprom’s participation in the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline; and that Turkmenistan has abandoned the Caspian Littoral Pipeline project, designed to run from Turkmenistan via Kazakhstan to Russia.

In what reads like a stinging rebuke to Gazprom, the document says that Turkmenistan values European companies for “proving themselves to be reliable, predictable, acting in good faith and on economic-commercial logic. Accordingly, Turkmenistan will continue to develop the European direction for its gas exports.” The MFA statement dismisses the possibility of an agreement with Gazprom on the proposed TAPI pipeline. And it says almost explicitly that Moscow criticizes Ashgabat over the Caspian Littoral Pipeline project only as a pretext for Moscow’s own decision to drastically reduce gas imports from Turkmenistan since 2009.

Most of the incriminating assertions in Russian media can be traced to Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin (Interfax, RIA Novosti, October 22; Kommersant, Vedomosti, October 25). Sechin was extraordinarily loquacious with the media during Medvedev’s visit to Ashgabat. The Russian president, by contrast, sounded serenely disengaged, worked his I-pod, and extolled the virtues of energy conservation; as if dress-rehearsing in Ashgabat for the benign post-modern reformer’s role, imminently due for an on-stage performance in Brussels.

Sechin, however, went out of his way to discourage Turkmen gas exports to Europe. He insisted that European gas markets could hardly absorb Turkmen gas in the years ahead, due to depressed demand and diversification of supply from sources other than Turkmenistan. He stated, repetitively, that the EU-backed Nabucco project had “no future” due to insufficient gas supplies (an outcome that he promoted by trying to discourage Ashgabat from participating). Moreover, Sechin claimed, Russia’s South Stream project will advance faster than Nabucco, preempting gas resources and making Nabucco redundant. He implied that Ashgabat shared his views; an insinuation rebuked six days afterward in Ashgabat’s statement.

Conversely, Sechin encouraged Turkmenistan to increase gas exports to China, an “almost infinite market” that could absorb both Turkmen and Russian gas. He also offered every possible assistance in directing Turkmen gas exports, via Afghanistan, to Pakistan and India through the proposed TAPI pipeline. Apparently on Gazprom’s behalf, Sechin proposed four possible versions of the Russian state monopoly’s participation in TAPI, listing them in crescendo order. First, Gazprom would design the pipeline; second, Gazprom would be the designer of the project and subcontractor of the construction work; third, Gazprom would be an investor and stakeholder in the project consortium; and fourth, Gazprom would participate in gas extraction onshore in Turkmenistan, as well as in the marketing of gas in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Three days later, Russia’s Deputy Energy Minister, Anatoly Yanovsky, announced that the Russian government had forwarded this set of proposals officially to the Turkmen government (Interfax, October 25).

Turkmenistan is rapidly increasing its export pipeline capacities to the east (China), south (Iran), and west (toward the Caspian shore, awaiting a transportation solution to Europe). However, the new pipeline capacities can not yet accommodate Turkmenistan’s current export potential for gas. The old pipelines northward to Russia (via Kazakhstan and via Uzbekistan-Kazakhastan, respectively) are being utilized far below capacity since the spring of 2009, due to depressed demand in Russia and Europe, and pending a post-crisis recovery. Russia has contracted to buy only 10.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Turkmen gas for 2010, down from the pre-crisis level of 40 to 45 bcm per year (which almost fully occupied the existing pipeline capacities running toward Russia). The Caspian Littoral Pipeline project was designed in 2007 for a substantial increase in Turkmen gas exports to Russia, probably intended to supply the South Stream project, which Moscow launched that same year. Construction work seems never to have started on the littoral pipeline, however.

Meanwhile, Turkmenistan has been compelled to reduce its gas production at the fields dedicated for export to Russia, and is losing export revenue as a result. President Berdimuhammedov had hoped to reach at least a preliminary agreement with Medvedev and his delegation for an increase of export volumes to Russia in 2011. Such an agreement did not materialize on this occasion, but may yet be reached by December. Meanwhile, Russia’s message to Ashgabat gas can not be made more explicit: Export your gas anywhere except Europe, and Gazprom will help you in this regard.

URL: http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/

New Poland-Russia gas deal suits long-term EU plan to leave Russia out in the cold

(Source: Datamonitor)trackingIn 2009, a deal was negotiated to bring more of Russia’s gas to Poland and give Gazprom and PGNiG exclusive control over the Polish section of the Yamal pipeline. However, the EU raised concerns that the agreement contravened laws over pipeline ownership. The deal has now been renegotiated to bring it in line with EU legislation, weakening Moscow’s long-term prospects in the European gas market.

The EU recently stole a march on Russia in the race for supremacy in the continent’s naturalgas market. Last year, Russia was able to negotiate a deal that would have extended Poland’s gas delivery deal with Moscow through to 2045. Under the agreement, Poland would have increased its gas imports from Russia by over two billion cubic meters (bcm) a year until 2037, and extended its current gas transit agreement until 2045. In addition, Russian oil and gas giant Gazprom and Polish state-owned utility Polskie Gornictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo (PGNiG) demanded that they be given exclusive rights to the section of the Yamal pipeline that runs through Poland on its way to Germany. However, under the new deal supplies will only increase until 2022, and the gas transit agreement will be valid until 2019, not until 2045.

The Polish part of the Yamal pipeline is owned and operated by the Gazprom/PGNiG-run Europol Gaz. The original deal allowed for Europol Gaz to preserve the ownership, commercial and operating rights of the Yamal pipeline in Poland. Under EU legislation, oil and gas pipelines must not be monopolized, which would have been the case here, with Gazprom and PGNiG taking exclusive control.

It is in the EU’s interests to prevent Poland from being locked into long-term gas contracts with Russia, as this undermines the union’s plans to diversify its energy sources and to develop a liberalized, universal EU energy market. The proposed Nabucco gas pipeline project was devised as a response to Russia’s growing authority in the region’s gas market and the political instability that is a symptom of this dominance. This latest move by the EU – stepping in and forcing renegotiations between Moscow and Warsaw – comes as further evidence of its political objective of trying to circumvent Russia in the gas supply chain.

Poland imports about 65-70% of the 14bcm of gas it consumes each year from Russia, a situation that has worried politicians and citizens alike for some time. Russia has a history of using its authority in the gas market to flex its political muscles; for example, it cut off supplies to Ukraine in 2007 and again in 2009. This did a great deal of damage to Gazprom’s already ailing reputation as a reliable energy partner, so the thought of the state-owned Russian company tightening its energy grip on an important new EU member country carried with it too much risk.

With gas demand in Europe rising more slowly than anticipated, the price of liquefied natural gas from Asia falling sharply thanks to America’s booming shale gas industry, and the increasing excitement over shale deposits in Eastern and Northern Europe, including Poland, fears over energy security no longer carry the weight they once did in the continent. However, with the future of the Nabucco project still uncertain (as is the outlook of its Russian rival pipeline, South Stream) it is vital for the EU not to relinquish control of large chunks of its members’ gas markets to Russia if it is serious about developing a common EU energy policy and reducing its dependence on Russian gas supplies.

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.

Russia-Poland energy deal prompts threat of legal action

Russia-Poland energy deal prompts threat of legal action

 

The European Commission on Oct. 29 threatened to take Poland to the European Court of Justice over an energy deal that calls for Poland to import more natural gas from Russia. The commission believes the deal violates an EU unbundling regulation, though Russia and Poland have said the agreement complies with the requirement. Russia is Poland’s only option in the short to medium term for natural gas supplies, and while the European Union wants to prevent a Russian energy monopoly, its efforts could be backfiring in Poland.

 

Analysis

Russia and Poland signed a new natural gas agreement Oct. 29 in Warsaw after months of negotiations and delays. The agreement calls for Poland’s imports of Russian natural gas to increase from 7.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year to more than 9 bcm and will be in effect from 2011-2022. In response, the European energy commissioner’s office has threatened to take Poland to the European Court of Justice if the agreement does not conform to the EU unbundling regulation, which requires that energy companies separate their production from transportation assets. With the Polish-Russian natural gas deal, the European Commission wants the Yamal-Europe pipeline, which carries Russian natural gas via Belarus to Poland and Germany, to be operated by an independent regulator.

The commission’s insistence that the deal between Poland and Russia conform to the EU unbundling regulation could sour Poland’s relationship with the commission. Until now, the Central European states have considered the commission a potential protector against a Russian energy monopoly. However, Warsaw has already expressed its displeasure at the commission for taking issue with the Russia deal, which brought Poland closer — at least in terms of a working relationship — to Russia.

The agreement between Russia and Poland primarily is a result of economics, rather than politics. Poland’s economy has continued growing, and so has its energy consumption. Furthermore, Warsaw expects to become more reliant on natural gas as it attempts to conform to EU environmental standards that likely will force it to stop using coal for electricity generation. Poland therefore needs more natural gas, and it has turned to Russia, which is a major natural gas provider to Poland and many other Central European countries, to increase its supplies. While Poland has reasons to be wary of becoming even more dependent on Moscow for energy and has touted diversifying away from Russian energy, finding a comparable energy source simply cannot be done immediately. Until Poland’s shale gas development (still in its infancy) and plans to build a liquefied natural gas plant (expected in 2014) come online, Poland will continue to rely on natural gas — which means it will continue to rely on Russia.

But the European Union has been extremely hesitant to accept this deal on the terms it was made. The union wants energy producers — both Russian and European — to allow independent producers access to energy infrastructure in order to spur competition and lower prices. A geopolitical purpose behind the legislation is to break Gazprom’s monopoly by encouraging competitors not only in Europe but also in Russia by forcing Gazprom to give up its exclusive right to pump natural gas through Europe’s main pipelines. The Yamal-Europe pipeline is jointly operated within Poland by Gazprom via a subsidiary, EuRoPol Gaz, and the Polish Oil and Gas Company (PGNiG). Gazprom and PGNiG each own a 48 percent stake in EuRoPol Gaz, and 4 percent ownership is in the hands of a Polish investor. The EU unbundling regulation therefore requires EuRoPol Gaz to give control of Yamal-Europe to Gaz-System, a Polish independent operator in charge of overseeing access to the Polish natural gas pipeline network owned by the Polish Treasury.

Both Russian and Polish officials announced Oct. 29 that the new deal conforms to EU demands. However, the European Commission has said it cannot verify this until it sees the contract and if it does not see the contract, along with details of how Gaz-System would regulate the Yamal-Europe pipeline, it will pursue legal action against Warsaw. The commission’s reaction might have been prompted not by the lack of details on the agreement, but by comments EuRoPol Gaz CEO Miroslaw Dobrut made Oct. 27 indicating that Gaz-System would only regulate whatever capacity is left in Yamal-Europe that is not already used up by Gazprom’s shipments. When asked how much excess capacity there is now, Dobrut said there was none. This is certainly very different from what the EU believes Gaz-System should be doing, which is allowing third-party producers access to the pipeline. From Gazprom’s perspective, however, giving up control of a pipeline that it invested $15.6 billion in during the 1990s not only makes little business sense, it is tantamount to private property appropriation. And for Warsaw, the commission’s demands are detrimental if compliance means that Poland will get no natural gas.

Poland and Russia have therefore chosen to work around the EU demand. The question is now how far the European Commission wants to take its fight with Russia’s Gazprom and a sizeable EU member state. Warsaw is already irked by EU involvement in the deal. On more than one occasion, Polish officials have pointed out that Germany’s deal with Gazprom over NordStream has not received the same level of scrutiny from the European Union. Essentially, Poland is beginning to see the union not as an ally in its efforts to become energy independent but as a nuisance. Meanwhile, Russia has been accommodating during the negotiations, even choosing to extend natural gas shipments past an Oct. 20 deadline as another sign of the “charm offensive” aimed at Warsaw. Also, Russian oil company Rosneft expressed interest on Oct. 29 of investing in the privatization of Polish energy companies.

In the short to medium term, Poland has no alternative to Russian natural gas. This puts Warsaw in a vulnerable position, and Poland does not need the European Union making it any more vulnerable. Ironically, Brussels’ efforts to break Gazprom’s monopoly could be turning Poland into an appreciative Russian energy customer.

“Russia-Poland Energy Deal Prompts Threat of Legal Action” is republished with permission of STRATFOR

Russian Forces In Transnistria Roadblock to Russification of European Union

Kiev supported the position of Brussels

Russian forces create tension at the Ukrainian borders

Transdniestria conflict, Ukraine, Russia / Konstantin Gryshchenko discussed with the Europeans the problem of Transnistria. Photo PhotoXPress.ru
Konstantin Gryshchenko discussed with the Europeans the problem of Transnistria.
Photo PhotoXPress.ru

To solve the Transnistrian conflict is necessary to find such an option, which would include the withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria. On this Wednesday in Brussels, said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Konstantin Gryshchenko. This provoked a mixed reaction in Kiev and Chisinau, suggesting that Ukraine in the Transnistrian settlement takes no side in Moscow and the EU.

EU’s position is known: Russia must fulfill the Istanbul agreement and withdraw its troops from Moldova. Brussels is in this for 15 years and recently has been particularly active advocates with relevant statements. Known and the condition of Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel transferred to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev: Berlin will support the initiative of President of the Russian Federation concerning European security, if Moscow withdraws its troops from Transnistria.

At a recent meeting in Deauville, the Transnistrian issue has been discussed already in expanded format: to Merkel and Medvedev joined French President Nicolas Sarkozy. After the summit, Dmitry Medvedev, said that conflict can be resolved and conditions for this, but we must wait for a regime change in Moldova and then sit at the negotiating table leaders in Chisinau and Tiraspol. Medvedev described in this party, from which will depend on the final decision: This is in addition to the conflict Russia, EU, and Romania.Ukraine from the formula of the Moldovan-Transnistrian reconciliation fell. It is recalled after a speech by Konstantin Gryshchenko in Brussels.

“We believe that you need a comprehensive solution that eliminates the presence of troops there (in Transnistria. -” NG “)” – quoted the head of the Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine news agency Interlic.

It should be noted that in Transnistria deployed Operational Group of Russian Forces (OGRF), securing ammunition dumps left over from the 14 th Army, and the formation of the peacekeeping battalions of the Russian Federation.

Verkhovna Rada deputy of the faction “Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defense Kaskiv told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the presence of Russian troops in Transnistria, is working to escalate tensions in the region and it can not but worry Kiev.The more so because everything is in close proximity to the Ukrainian border. In his opinion, the Russian military must leave the Transnistrian region.

Verkhovna Rada deputy of the Party of Regions Inna Theological commented on the situation, “Nezavisimaya Gazeta:” We are interested in the withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria, but only after the Transnistrian conflict will be resolved and Transnistria is endowed with the appropriate status. Before the withdrawal can be no question. ” In her opinion, the statement Gryshchenko is consistent with the Medvedev-Yanukovych memorandum, in which “it was about changing the format of MS under the auspices of the OSCE after the Transnistrian issue.”

“The military presence of Russia in Transnistria – is not just a peacekeeping operation under the mandate of the CIS in the zone of conflict on the Dniester, but an instrument of deterrence of the Euro-Atlantic sentiment in Ukraine, the penetration into the region of Romania and NATO control of the situation in the region as a whole”, – noted in an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta Director of the Center for Civil Society Problems Vitaly Kulik.

The expert noted that “Kiev is not interested in maintaining the peace operation of hard-security, based on a Russian military contingent in Transnistria. The Ukrainian side has always pointed to the need to change the mandate and the expansion of operations due to its internationalization (holding the EU). But the pedal this issue, set any conditions of the Ukrainian side will not. ” Although, according to Kulik, Ukraine has a “golden share in the Transnistrian settlement process, and solve the Transnistrian problem without it will not.”

Kulik said that the Deauville was the beginning of the settlement process. He did not rule out the possibility that Moscow could agree (in exchange for some preference in the field of European security) to change the format of the peacekeeping operation: a “hard” (hard – the military) to “soft” (soft – police), even under the mandate of the OSCE ” .

In Chisinau, also rely on the effectiveness of Deauville. “It said that the expectations associated with the new power in our country. We have 28 November – Parliamentary elections. The main thing – to find a compromise formula of reconciliation, which would suit all parties concerned and the withdrawal of troops, “- said the” NG “honorary chairman of the Democratic Party of Moldova Dumitru Diacov.

Humanist Party leader, former Defense Minister of Moldova Valeriu Pasat believes that the main thing – not the withdrawal of troops and ammunition dumps that are stored on the left bank of the Dniester. There are more than 20 tons. “Withdraw troops – meant to take the banner to load the military and get in the echelons. And what to do with weapons – to equip them Transdniestrians? “- Asked the politician. He said the Nezavisimaya Gazeta that withdrawal can not be separated from the settlement process is interrelated.

Director of the European Institute for Political Studies, Viorel Cibotaru attention Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the four major parties, which is over all forecasts will be included in the Parliament – The Communist Party (leader – former President Vladimir Voronin), Liberal (Acting President Ghimpu ), Liberal Democratic (Prime Minister Vladimir Filatov) and Democratic (former Speaker of the Parliament Marian Lupu) – “would come from the law on Transnistria, adopted in 2005, which reads: Russian troops must withdraw from the territory of the republic.” At one time, the Communists, said the expert, once in office, offered not only to withdraw Russian forces, but also to disarm both banks of the Dniester, that is to demilitarize the region. Nevertheless, said Cibotaru, will these political forces that would seek a compromise between this law and the settlement plan, known as the “Kozak Memorandum” – he assumes the federalization of the Republic of Moldova. And it will be a compromise between the proposals of Moscow and Chisinau.

Afghan President calls for Russia and the U.S. to explain for anti-drug operation

Afghan President calls for Russia and the U.S. to explain for anti-drug operation

The head of state did not understand why he had not asked permission

Hamid Karzai has demanded clarification
Hamid Karzai has demanded clarification
Photo: AP
Yegor Arefiev – 30/10/2010 14:56
The head of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai has demanded an explanation from NATO command in conjunction with the United States and Russia counter-narcotics operations in Afghanistan.
President’s Office sent out a statement by Karzai in Kotormo shown an bewilderment at the fact that the operation went “without his permission.”
Operation narkopolitseyskih U.S., Russia and Afghanistan was held Thursday in the village Zerasari Achin district of Nangarhar province. There have been eliminated four clandestine drug laboratories, confiscated 932 kilograms of heroin, 156 kilograms of opium, transmits ITAR-TASS.

Pakistan, US at odds over definition

Pakistan, US at odds over definition

Islamabad identifies certain groups for negotiations, including the Haqqani network but the US does not agree.

ISLAMABAD: Behind-the-scene efforts to seek peace with insurgents fighting Nato troops in neighbouring Afghanistan have made little or no progress because of differences between Pakistan and the US over the definition of‘reconcilable’ Taliban.

The Express Tribune has learnt that Islamabad, as part of the reconciliation efforts to find an end to the years of bloodshed in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas, has identified certain groups for negotiations. One such group is North Waziristan-based al Qaeda-inspired Haqqani network.

But the US does not agree. “This is the real contentious point. Pakistan believes the Haqqani network is reconcilable but the US certainly does not think that is the case,” a senior American diplomat told The Express Tribune.

Requesting not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, the diplomat questioned the wisdom of Pakistan over considering a group reconcilable, which has strong links with al Qaeda.

Led by aging Jalauddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin Haqqani, the group has strongholds in Afghanistan’s Paktia, Paktika and Khost provinces. But, it has also foot soldiers in several parts of the war-ravaged country to fight the US-led Nato forces. And that is the reason the Obama administration has been pressing Pakistan to eliminate ‘safe heavens’ of the group from the tribal areas.

But, Pakistan’s policymakers think differently.

“The US policy is really confusing at this stage. They want reconciliation yet they ask Pakistan to target groups who can be helpful for a political settlement,” remarked a military official. “We have been telling the Americans that don’t alienate all elements of the Afghan Taliban by using force against them,” said the official, who requested not to be identified.

He said Pakistan does not believe that launching an offensive against the Haqqani network at this stage will be in the ‘national interest.’

“The Haqqani network has to play a major role in any future political settlement of Afghanistan,” he added. And this is why, Pakistan is very careful about going after them, he maintained.

A senior foreign ministry official talks more candidly. “We do not consider the Afghan Taliban as Pakistan’s enemies. They never threaten us, they are our assets,” was the blunt response of the official when asked to share Islamabad’s perspective on the Afghan Taliban.

US officials say this confirms their fear that Pakistan has a ‘hands-off’ approach towards certain groups. “Pakistan has nurtured groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba as their assets and now the same militant organisations are haunting you,” said a senior US diplomat. “Gen Patreaus and Gen Kayani have been discussing these issues regularly,” he said.

He said the Obama administration is in favour of reconciliation but not with groups identified by Pakistan.

“It is a known fact that the Haqqani network is closely-linked with al Qaeda and this is a disqualification,” he said.

Former ambassador to Afghanistan Rustam Shah Mohmand said Pakistan would have to pay “a heavy price” if it goes after the Haqqani network.

“If Pakistan, for the sake of $2 billion in US aid, goes after the Haqqani network, it will have to face (serious) consequences over the next 50 years,” warned Mohmand, who is part of the Pakistan-Afghanistan jirga and considered to be linked with the military establishment.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2010

China assures US on key ‘rare earth’ minerals

China assures US on key ‘rare earth’ minerals

Oxides of rare earth metals Rare earth metals come from China – they are vital for production of a range of electronic items

China has told the US it will continue to be a “reliable supplier” of so-called “rare earth” minerals, key to the global high-tech industry.

China recently suspended export of the metals to Japan following a diplomatic spat.

But the US has pressed China, which has pledged not to use the minerals as a diplomatic weapon, to defuse the row.

Representatives from China and Japan also held informal talks on the fringes of an Asean conference in Vietnam.

“We have made very clear to both sides that we want the temperature to go down,” a US official said, following a meeting between Hillary Clinton and her Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, in Hanoi.

China produces some 97% of these valuable commodities, which are used to produce electronic items such as mobile phones.

The stoppage followed a spat between China and Japan last month over islands whose ownership is disputed.

Earlier, in Hawaii, Mrs Clinton said Chinese export restrictions were a “wake-up call” for the world to seek additional sources of rare earths.

Should Pakistan Shoot Down a Drone?

Should Pakistan Shoot Down a Drone?

By Dr. Haider Mehdi for Opinion Maker

On that side there is much mistrust, on this side such weakness!

Neither can she ask, nor am I able to speak. Let me pull myself together, O despair! What calamity is this?                                                       I am beginning to lose even the thread of thought about my love.                                                                              (Narrate/translate here “love” as the “love” of my country – this thought added.)

Multiple Drone Attacks

Today, Pakistan is at the crossroads of its destiny: Either the deprived masses of this country, through a strongly demonstrated expression of their political will, will transform it into a sovereign, independent and dignified nation – or the incumbent ruling regime in Islamabad will turn this country into a permanent US-Nato subservient state fighting a war against its own people to infinity and auctioning out its armed forces to fight proxy wars for their “masters” in Washington, London, Bonn, Paris and elsewhere. It is a desperate situation, a calamity, the beginning of losing even “the thread” of one’s “love,” as Ghalib would have described it.

Zalmay Khalilzad, true to the literal meaning of the phonetic sound of his name (in the Urdu language the word “Zulam,” sounding like Zalmay, means the embodiment of cruelty), was one of the most vocal and staunch advocates of the war and a formidable and influential political actor in the invasion and destruction of his native land, Afghanistan. Now, in a New York Timesarticle entitled “Get Tough on Pakistan,” Zalmay Khalilzad is advocating a similar US foreign policy/military approach towards Pakistan: namely the unilateral invasion of Northern Waziristan by American troops and to carry the war into Pakistan’s territory using massive air-power and the incursion of troops by land routes.

The Zalmay approach is a recipe for the destruction of Pakistan.  In addition, he also calls for a larger presence of CIA

An Afghan Zionist

operatives in the country and, in a nutshell, advocates a blue-print of turning Pakistan into a paid military-political satellite for serving the global financial interests of the US neo-conservative elite and multi-national corporations. Obviously, Zalmay is the front-line salesman of future American expansionist global policies. It is quite evident in the aforementioned article that Zalmay Khalilzad is projecting the mainstream American thinking on Pakistan and Afghanistan in terms of the future directions of US foreign policy in the South Asian region and in the Central Asian Islamic states.

Expounding on future American resolve in regards to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, Zalmay states, “More fundamentally, the United States needs to demonstrate that, even after our troops depart Afghanistan, we are resolved to stay engaged in the region.” This is the crux of thinking in the elitist military-corporate oligarchies within the American political establishment. Pakistan is to be transformed into a precise American political-military tool, an instrument of US policy affirmation; in this context Zalmay states that “… among the options being discussed by American and Pakistani officials this week is a security pact that would mean billions of dollars more. But such efforts have led to only the most incremental shifts in Pakistan’s policy… to induce quicker and more significant changes, Washington must offer Islamabad a stark choice between positive incentives and negative consequences.”

In the context of Pakistan’s on-going contemporary political-military engagement with the US, it is vitally important to fully understand the mindset and political conduct of important American political actors, such as Zalmay Khalilzad, as they reflect the mainstream ideological and strategic thinking of the inner-most ruling elite in Washington. Zalmay, like the majority of the powerful inner circle of foreign policy decision-makers in the US, suffers from a historically macho but pathological psychosis related to insecurity. In psychological terms, it is called the “megalomania” syndrome: the desire to feel superior and the deeply imbedded compulsion to have “power” over others – with a self-induced perception of grandeur and majestic command. The psychological impetus in this kind of behavior, though not genetic, comes from deep-seated feelings of inferiority, reasserted as brutal, unscrupulous pursuit of power, prestige and domination. These are the driving forces in the American psychic.

It is true that America has been an innovative leader in science, technology, medical science, information technology and above all in weapons engineering, but advancement in science and technology, in itself, does not produce a

An Afghan Child wounded in a Drone Attack

humanitarian ideology of compassion for human life. It is precisely this element which has been the missing link in the sociological paradigm of American political conduct when it comes to dealing with non-white, non-Judeo-Christian people and nations with diverse economic-political ideologies different from the US belief system. America has carried out massive killing and destruction all over the world on account of these factors. And now, American political heavyweight neo-conservatives, among them Zalmay Khalilzad, are advocating more destruction and killings in Pakistan, Iran and possibly in the entire region in the near future. This is 21st century and the US-Nato are still wholly devoted to the 19th and 20th century colonial mindset. However, they cannot fool the world any longer.

Pakistan’s national tragedy in its deadlock of alliance with the US-Nato is that the incumbent political clan in Islamabad is not very different in its “megalomaniac” affliction than its counterparts in Washington and West European capitals. The incumbent regime in Pakistan is power hungry – it will do anything to stay in power – even marginalize the nation to an onerous, oppressive and burdensome existence of a total subservient state serving US-Nato global interests and hegemonic objectives at the expense of its people. It will surrender Pakistan’s sovereignty, its dignity, its territorial integrity and even push the nation into an endless war  – to please its “masters” in Washington and the Nato capitals. Megalomaniac leaderships have no limits and no boundaries in their irrational political conduct. But the question is: how long will the Zardari-Gilani clan defy growing public discontent with the intrusive American-Nato political behavior in this country?

What Pakistan needs is a surgical strike at the US-Nato military adventurism inside Pakistan’s territory. Should it shoot down the next drone that violates Pakistan’s air space and kills Pakistani citizens?

Indeed, the choice rests with Washington and Nato headquarters. If Zalmay and neo-cons can advocate the extension of a full-scale American war inside Pakistan, then why can’t Pakistan respond in kind to defend itself against a blatant “act of war”?

Zalmay, in his article “Get Tough on Pakistan,” wrote, “… The United States should…carry out operations… with or without Pakistani consent. Arguments that such pressures would cause Pakistan to disintegrate are overstated. Pakistan’s institutions, particularly the country’s security organs, are sufficiently strong to preclude such an outcome.”

Indeed, Zalmay is right in assessing the power of Pakistan’s armed forces. Hence, I advocate the shooting of the next drone that flies Pakistan’s skies – a sufficiently powerful communicative political act for pre-damage control against an evolving US-Nato policy and possible emerging military adventurism inside Pakistan.

Indeed, Obama would not want to put his presidency and re-election at stake by dragging his feet  into yet another war. Would he? He knows better than that.

Oh despair! What calamity is this?

Let me pull myself together…  As Ghalib would have said!

First and foremost, the entire nation should speak out and let the “megalomaniac” ruling elite in the power corridors of Islamabad know that they will not take any more “torments” of their “love”… the destruction of their country.

The Zardari-Gilani regime cannot be a part of the solution to Pakistan’s problematic…!

They are a part of the problem!

Who’s the Conspiracy Theorist Now? Gov’t Scaring the Public with Aliens, Asteroids, and Global Pandemics

Who’s the Conspiracy Theorist Now? Gov’t Scaring the Public with Aliens, Asteroids, and Global Pandemics

“Is everything a conspiracy?  No, just the important stuff.” — Jeff Wells, Rigorous Intuition

Nicholas West
Activist Post

Pandemics, Aliens, and Asteroids — Oh My!  It appears that the corporate-government-media has recently become the number one propagator of conspiracy theories.  That is, of course, as long as the fear campaign pushes the right buttons for the agenda.

The dumbed-down public will always be led by fear until they realize that no major events happen by mistake in the matrix.  All major events, reactions, and proposed solutions are thoroughly orchestrated and performed by the power players.  They hit all the right notes, all of the time, save for some minor tuning as needed.

It’s convenient for establishment leaders to claim that major events are mistakes. For example, we’re told the attacks of September 11th were a massive failure on the part of the intelligence community. Additionally, we’re told that the “idiots” on Wall Street did not see the housing collapse coming, or predict the 2008 financial meltdown, or the recent currency wars, or the recent gold and commodity rush.

It’s the typical story told to the public when catastrophe strikes:  whoops, who could have seen that coming? Even some of the most enlightened minds that predicted these events still call the people in charge “stupid” for not seeing or adapting to it.  Perhaps many of the useful idiots who run the gears of the system don’t know the fundamentals well enough to predict events, but the true controllers know exactly what they’re doing, what reaction they will get, and what calculated solution will ultimately give them more power and wealth.

We all witnessed the incredible consolidation of wealth and power orchestrated by our corrupt state since the 9/11 attacks, all at the expense of the common man’s treasure, blood, and rights — all caused by 19 (U.S. funded) extremists with box cutters who came from caves.  Only scared little sheep could believe that theory, especially given what has transpired to date.
Yesterday’s article in AOL News announced that Obama’s science czar John Holdren is concerned about threats of asteroid impacts on Earth.   While a valid concern, the timely disclosure seems to be yet another attempt to reach out to the alternative media.  This comes after the increasing stories which seem to be leading up to revealing the alien threat to the public, while other new threats of currency wars and new pandemics abound.

However, the 9/11 problem-reaction-solution playbook seems stale, as Al-Qaeda seems less scary by the day.  The matrix is now moving on to the next stage of fear campaigns with aliens, asteroids, more pandemics, and more manufactured economic catastrophes.  This is their all-out attempt to hit us with full spectrum fear. It seems that if the establishment can’t defeat the “conspiracy” crowd, they’ll seek to distract, divert, or co-opt it to the best of their ability.  As a sign of their desperation to control free humanity, their version of the threats facing us read more like a comic book or a science fiction script, rather than news about actual events.

For those who doubt that any of our multi-threats could have been orchestrated, I suggest you look around to see which part of society actually has benefited from terror and the constant threat of more terror.  The conclusion should be clear:  The Mega-Cartels that seek higher levels of control over their slave population.

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Halliburton Accused Of Flawed Job on Rig

Contractor Accused Of Flawed Job on Rig

Halliburton Shares Hit by Panel Report

By BEN CASSELMAN And SIOBHAN HUGHES

Halliburton Co. found repeated problems with the cement it was planning to install in BP PLC’s doomed oil well but used it anyway—perhaps without alerting BP—according to federal investigators studying the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

Halliburton tests showed that cement similar to that used to seal BP’s Macondo well would be unstable, but neither BP nor Halliburton acted on the data before the blowout, according to new documents. Siobhan Hughes joins the News Hub to discuss.

The cement was supposed to seal the well and prevent explosive natural gas from flowing in. Why the seal failed has been a central question in the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which killed 11 workers and set off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The investigators’ findings brought new scrutiny to Halliburton, which until now has escaped most of the blame for the disaster. Halliburton’s stock price tumbled 8% on the news closing at $31.68 on the New York Stock Exchange, despite the company’s assurance that it was indemnified by BP for damages.

BP declined to comment Thursday.

[SPILLCOM1]European Pressphoto AgencyBP will be less likely to be found “grossly negligent” if several different companies share the blame for the April 20 explosion of its Gulf well.

Halliburton late Thursday questioned the investigators’ cement tests, saying discrepancies between those results and the company’s “may be due to differences in the cement materials tested.”

The company said in a statement that the federal commission tested off-the-shelf cement and additives, whereas Halliburton tested the unique blend of cement and additives that existed on the rig at the time its tests were conducted. It added it has been unable to provide the commission with cement, additives and water from the rig because it is subject to a federal court preservation order, although the materials will soon be released to the Marine Board of Investigation.

Halliburton previously blamed BP for failing to heed its advice on the design of the well and failing to do all the necessary tests, while BP has said that Halliburton’s cement mixture itself was to blame.

Investigators cautioned that their findings don’t let BP off the hook, noting that cement failures are relatively common. It is up to the well’s owner—BP, in the case of this well, called Macondo—to test the cement and fix any problems, they noted.

“The story of the blowout does not turn solely on the quality of the Macondo cement job,” investigators wrote in a letter to members of the presidential commission probing the disaster.

Other seals and valves higher up the well also should have stopped the flow of explosive natural gas. Workers from BP and Transocean Ltd., which owned the rig, failed to detect gas entering the well, and misinterpreted a key test that should have revealed problems. Another important test was never done.

By the time the workers realized something had gone wrong, gas had already risen past the blowout preventer, the huge stack of valves meant to shut down a well in an emergency. And the valves didn’t work after the initial explosion, allowing oil to pour into the Gulf.

The investigators’ letter provided new evidence that the cement, which included additives and nitrogen, may have been faulty. Halliburton performed four tests on the cement mixture it planned to use in the months before the blowout. The cement failed the first three tests, and only passed the fourth after engineers changed the testing procedure, commission staff members wrote. Halliburton made minor changes to the cement formula after the second failed test, investigators said. They also said the third test may have been performed incorrectly.

Rig Disaster

Follow key developments from the initial explosion until the well was sealed in September.

The Final Moments

See a 3-D diagram of the Deepwater Horizon rig as the explosion happened, and learn more about the victims.

Gusher in the Gulf

See Journal graphics about the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon rig — from what went wrong to efforts to contain the spill to its impact on wildlife.

It isn’t clear what BP knew about the tests. Halliburton provided the results of an early test, along with other information, in a March 8 email to BP.

But according to the commission, “There is no indication that Halliburton highlighted to BP the significance” of the results. The results of the other three tests were apparently never reported to BP. The commission also asked engineers fromChevron Corp. to try to recreate the cement mixture used on the well. When they did so, they couldn’t get a good seal.

Those results “strongly suggest” that the cement mixture was unstable, the investigators wrote. Halliburton and perhaps BP “should have considered redesigning the [cement mixture] before pumping it at the Macondo well,” investigators wrote.

Robert Mackenzie, an energy analyst with FBR Capital Markets and a former oil industry cementing engineer, noted that Halliburton’s final test apparently showed that the cement would work. He said it isn’t unusual for engineers to tweak a formula several times to find one that satisfies them.

In September, Halliburton’s vice president of cementing, Thomas Roth, told a National Academy of Engineering panel that “all of the design work, all of the testing work that was done by Halliburton in advance of this job indicated that the foam system was stable.”

Halliburton’s contract makes it unlikely that Halliburton will face much liability for the disaster, said Matthew Conlan, an analyst for Wells Fargo Securities. But the latest revelations could hurt Halliburton’s reputation, he added. “The integrity of their product is being questioned and the integrity of their advice is being questioned.”

BP could benefit if investigators determine that Halliburton’s cement design was faulty, experts said.

Under federal pollution laws, BP will face much higher penalties if it is found to have been “grossly negligent” in the spill. Such a finding is less likely if several different companies share the blame.

Halliburton has long denied responsibility, saying BP ignored its warnings that the cement job would likely fail if BP didn’t use more “centralizers,” devices that keep steel pipe centered in the hole to ensure the even distribution of cement. Halliburton also said BP broke with industry best practices by failing to clean out the well fully before pumping cement and by failing to test the cement after the job was completed.

As the investigation has developed, however, Halliburton’s version of events has drawn more scrutiny. In testimony before a different federal panel, Halliburton engineers acknowledged that they never warned the well could blow out if the centralizers weren’t used and that they never explicitly recommended that the cement test be run.

Write to Ben Casselman at ben.casselman@wsj.com and Siobhan Hughes atsiobhan.hughes@dowjones.com

Recalling the Bad Old Days in Russia

[It is time that the world remembers the forgotten history of Communist genocide of peasants, Jews and political opponents within its own borders, which certain American and European political forces would prefer to remain forgotten.]

Vodpod videos no longer available. Vodpod videos no longer available.

http://www.factualtv.com/documentary/gulag-archipelago

Stalin. © Flickr.com/Vicky TGAW/cc-by-nc-sa 3.0

The Memorial international society is holding an event in Moscow to recall all the victims of Stalin’s terror years in the run-up to the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions, which is marked in Russia and other former Soviet republics on October 30th. The Voice of Russia has the details.

It may take one a lot of time recalling the Great Terror period, citing facts and figures. Political reprisals assumed horrific proportions in the Soviet Union in the late 1930s. Dozens of thousands of arrested Soviet citizens were sent from the building of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs, NKVD, in Moscow’s Lubyanka Square, to either forced labour camps in the north of the country, or to places where they were executed by shooting. 30,000 people were shot dead in 1937 and 1938 in Moscow alone.

The event to recall the names of victims of political repression, titled Restoring Names, has been held in the run-up to the Victims’ Remembrance Day in Lubyanka Square for almost 20 years now. The participants meet near the monument to the victims of Stalin’s system, – a huge granite stone that was brought to Moscow from the Solovetsky Islands, a one-time site of a forced labour camp with the toughest penitentiary regime. The names and surnames of those executed by shooting are read out one by one. The age, profession and the date of execution are also read out in what is seen as an appeal to people’s consciousness, a reminder of the errors made by our recent predecessors, says a prominent human rights activist, former political prisoner of the Soviet years, winner of the Andrei Sakharov Prize, as well as of many other international awards, chairman of the Memorial society Sergei Kovalev, and elaborates.

Stalin was actually engaged in selection work on the Soviet people, Sergei Kovalev says. He was moulding the people that he needed, through the use of terror, which is perfectly reflected by the newspapers of that time. The order for selection is clearly expressed in the coverage of related events, with the forced labour camps, the school system and Komsomol, or the Communist Youth League, being used as the selection ground.

It is very important that the people should have a true picture of their past, since it’s on the past that both the present and future depend, the Russian human rights activist believes.  Besides the Restoring Names event, Memorial also holds a number of excursions that are related to political repression history on October 29th. The sites that are known for the most painful associations are the Ivanovo Convent, which was turned into a concentration camp after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, and the ill-famed House on the Embankment where Soviet Government Ministers, prominent Bolsheviks, writers and journalists lived in the 1930s. Repressive action was taken against many residents of the building, and even entire families during the Great Terror years.

The Voice of Russia on the Memorial international society activities on the eve of the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions tomorrow. The date is marked extensively in Russia and other former Soviet republics each October 30th.

Russia plans to spend 19 trillion rubles (613 billion U.S. dollars) to buy new weapons.

Russia plans to spend 19 trillion rubles (613 billion U.S. dollars) to buy new weapons.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates welcomes Russia's Defence Minister Serdyukov to the Pentagon in Washington

U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates welcomes Russia’s Defence Minister Serdyukov to the Pentagon in Washington

Russia plans to spend 19 trillion rubles (613 billion U.S. dollars) to buy a new weapon.

Russia plans to spend 19 trillion rubles (613 billion U.S. dollars) to buy a new weapon in the next decade when the country was trying to modernize its Soviet-era military.

Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, in an interview with Bloomberg news agency that aired Tuesday, said the government was in the process to approve a plan to raise the armament on the 2011-2020 budgets by 46 percent from the previous budget of about 13 trillion rubles, as quoted from the AFP.

Serdyukov, who spoke after talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, also said Russia was interested in U.S. technology. He did not elaborate the statement.

Much Russian military equipment from the Soviet period and the government in recent years has promised extra money to modernize its armaments.

Russia has been negotiating with France for a few months to buy a helicopter carrier Mistral, to purchase military hardware from the first NATO member. The talks, however, has slipped due to disputes about the transfer of technology.

Turkmenistan Warms Up to Caspian Delimitation Deal with Baku

Turkmenistan Warms Up to Caspian Delimitation Deal with Baku

09:39 27-10-2010


Matt Stone
Independent Consultant

The global economic crisis has put Ashgabat in a difficult position. In April 2009, faced with falling European gas demand, Turkmenistan’s top gas customer, Gazprom, halted purchases of Turkmen gas, leading to the unexpected explosion of the Central Asia Center-4 pipeline. For the next nine months—until December 2009—Turkmenistan and Russia haggled over new terms for their bilateral gas trade, robbing Ashgabat of vital export revenues in the meantime. When gas exports to Russia finally resumed in January 2010, they did so at a much lower level—about 10 billion cubic meters per year (bcm/y) rather than 40 or more bcm/y previously exported [1]—and at a lower price—from something approximating 300 USD per thousand cubic meters in the first quarter of 2009 to a price less than 200 USD per thousand cubic meters through 2010. [2]

In response to his country’s weakened position in the Eurasian gas trade, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammadov engaged other external partners, including opening pipelines to China and Iran, and awarding hydrocarbon sector contracts to German, Korean, Emirati, and Chinese firms (as well as a couple Russian firms). The most recent manifestation of this outreach was the government’s indications in August [3] and October [4] that US, French, and Emirati firms may be the next in line to win contracts to develop oil and gas deposits in the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea. In August, President Berdymukhammadov also called for negotiations to secure a 4 billion USD loan from China. With Chinese gas purchases increasing only incrementally and Russian purchases flat-lining until European gas demand rebounds, Turkmenistan’s flurry of activity signals a government with its back to the wall, confused as to whence it will earn the currency necessary to preserve its domestic balance.

However, Ashgabat’s external engagement is stymied by complex regional geopolitics. To the southeast, the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan undermines investor confidence in a putative trans-Afghan gas pipeline, delaying its realization by at least another decade. To the south, Iran, which has been a willing buyer of Turkmen gas, is under the strain of multilateral sanctions, limiting the volumes it can reasonably purchase at the price Turkmenistan demands. And to the west, Ashgabat’s disagreement with Baku over the proper delimitation of the bi-national maritime boundary and sovereignty over the Kapaz oil field (called “Sardar” by the Turkmen), as well as Russian and Iranian opposition to a trans-Caspian gas pipeline, has hampered Turkmenistan’s goal of opening a westward-oriented oil and gas export corridor.

Despite mutual mistrust, the Turkmen government’s actions in 2009-2010 suggest that it is looking to resolve its disagreements with Baku in order to open this export corridor. In July 2009, two weeks after vocalizing his country’s interest in the Nabucco pipeline, President Berdymukhammadov called for international arbitration of the Azeri-Turkmen Caspian delimitation dispute, declaring, “We [Turkmenistan] are ready to accept any decision of an international court.” [5] While initially interpreted by observers as a hostile move, the president’s statement was the first indication that Ashgabat would be open to an internationally mediated resolution. In October 2009, the Turkmen government backed off the call for international arbitration—probably after clarifying the extensive process that arbitration would entail—but left the option on the table should bilateral negotiations fail. [6]

It seems there has been little tangible progress toward a negotiated solution in 2010, but the August announcement that approximately 40,000 barrels of Turkmen crude oil are now transiting the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline daily points to tentatively expanding bilateral cooperation in the energy trade (these volumes were previously shipped to Neka, Iran). [7] The precedent of exporting Turkmen crude oil by tanker to Baku and then through BTC may have demonstrative implications for a seaborne trans-Caspian natural gas export project, with Turkmen gas shipped to Baku and onwards through the South Caucasus Pipeline to Erzurum, Turkey. In this regard, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz announced on September 15 after a meeting with his Azeri and Turkmen counterparts in Istanbul that Turkey is interested in purchasing the 5 bcm/y of gas that Malaysian firm Petronas will produce in the Turkmen offshore, specifically calling for “the long-term supplies of Turkmen gas across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and further abroad.” [8] Turkey itself may be attempting to broker a resolution between Baku and Ashgabat in order to open up access to Turkmen gas reserves for the Turkish domestic market and the Southern Corridor.

The creeping internationalization of the Azeri-Turkmen Caspian delimitation dispute is further complemented—or complicated, depending on one’s point of view—by European Union (EU) efforts to foster a bilateral deal on a trans-Caspian pipeline. In August, Bloomberg reported on an EU-sponsored framework for a trans-Caspian pipeline that, according to the document, should “not be interpreted as affecting Azerbaijan or Turkmenistan’s jurisdiction over sub-soil resources or their sovereign rights under international law to the Caspian Sea.” [9] The EU effort to tie Turkmenistan into the Southern Corridor without dealing with the fundamental issue in Azerbaijani-Turkmen relations hints at desperation: after a number of years of fruitless negotiations Brussels now wants to selectively and conveniently forget about Caspian delimitation. The proposal, however, is unlikely to succeed. Ashgabat understands that if it wants a favorable outcome in the delimitation dispute, it will need to leverage its copious gas resources to bring European (and Turkish) pressure to bear on Baku. To agree to a trans-Caspian pipeline without a final resolution to delimitation would be to sacrifice Turkmenistan’s main trump card.

And yet, when Turkmenistan was exporting over 50 bcm/y Ashgabat had the luxury of holding out for Western pressure on Azerbaijan. (At the same time, Ashgabat also had to worry about a Russian cutoff or Iranian belligerence in the event that the country did throw its support behind a trans-Caspian pipeline.) Now that Turkmenistan is exporting a little more than 20 bcm/y, Ashgabat does not have time to wait and may be more amenable to a speedy bilateral resolution that paves the way for the short-term opening of a trans-Caspian gas export corridor.

In December, the Caspian littoral states will meet in Baku to discuss—again—the legal status of the Caspian Sea. Moscow and Tehran will be vocal and forthright in their opposition to a trans-Caspian gas transportation project. Nevertheless, Turkmenistan is likely to be looking for a sign from Azerbaijan that the bilateral delimitation dispute could be settled once and for all. The nationalist attitudes that have shaped Turkmen behavior during many years of talks may now be overshadowed by economic necessity.

Baku’s window of opportunity may not last long, however. Once China ramps up its purchases of Turkmen gas and gas prices return to their record highs of 2008-2009, Ashgabat will again be able to afford to take a hardline stance in negotiations. In the meantime, Turkmenistan remains in a position of relative weakness.

Notes

[1] Bloomberg, 16 April 2010.

[2] Kommersant, 15 April 2010; Eurasia Daily Monitor, 7 September 2010.

[3] Turkmenistan.gov.tm, 12 August 2010.

[4] Turkmenistan.ru, 9 October 2010.

[5] Reuters, 10 July 2010.

[6] Reuters, 1 October 2010.

[7] Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 12 August 2010.

[8] Reuters, 15 September 2010; Turkmenistan.ru, 16 September 2010.

[9] Bloomberg, 3 August 2010.

http://ada.edu.az/biweekly/issues/vol3no20/20101026023520372.html

Jeff Feltman’s ‘really great plan’ for Lebanon

Jeff  Feltman’s ‘really great plan’

“ Let’s  blame (Imad) Mughniyah for killing Hariri. He’s dead so the investigative trail ends. Just say, ‘We had no idea what he was doing’.  No more tribunal. Everyone is happy.  And as a sweetener we’ll take Hezbollah off our Terrorism list.” US undersecretary of State for Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman to Hezbollah via the Saudi-Syrian, back channel on 10/22/10

“Do you think we’re that stupid?” Hezbollah (smelling a set-up) to Obama via the same channel 10/23/10

Franklin Lamb,

Dahiyeh, South Beirut

Beirut is abuzz this morning over some pretty bizarre events that have been unfolding the past few months concerning Hezbollah and the UN created International Tribunal for Lebanon, created in 2007 to bring to justice those involved in the Valentine Day 2005 assassination of then Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Another one occurred yesterday morning, 10/27/10, at 9:00 am at  Dr. Iman Charara’s  street level private obstetrics and gynecology clinic, here in Dahiyeh, a Hezbollah south Beirut neighborhood which is still recovering from Israel’s 33 days of carpet bombing in 2006 which destroyed pretty much everything including  more than 250 homes, scores of businesses, and much of the infrastructure.

Some, but not all of the facts of this still unfolding episode are agreed upon.  Two English speaking male investigators, two male security persons, and one female interpreter, all from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon arrived in Dahiyeh to speak with Dr. Charara. They asked for phone numbers and addresses of 17 of her patients for as far back as 2003. The STL had called on 10/22/10 to make an appointment, and after checking with the Lebanese Medicinal Association regarding privacy issues, Dr. Charara agreed.  When she led the delegation into an adjoining office to consult with her secretary about researching her office files, according to Dr. Charara, “I was surprised by the large number of women who came shouting and cursing the investigators,” she told this morning Beirut’s Daily Star. Dr. Iman Charara told New TV that she does not know how the clash between the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) investigators and the women at her clinic erupted.

According to one witness who has a business opposite the clinic:

“The women were yelling ‘you are American, Israeli!’ and they were cursing the investigators and demining that they leave.”  At least one briefcase, a laptop computer, cell phones,  notebooks and other material was taken from the STL investigators during the melee.  According to the Office of the STL Prosecutor:  “ Mr Bellemare and the STL takes this incident very seriously and we are currently conducting an investigation,” the media relations unit of the Hague-based  Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) stated by email. “We want everything returned, including the cell phones that were stolen.”

Bellemare’s office also  denounced the “use of violence” against two of its investigators  saying that the event will not deter the office’s investigation. “Several items belonging to Bellemare’s office staff were stolen during the attack,” it added. A security source told The Daily Star the belongings that were confiscated during the attack contained important STL documents.

So far unproven allegations in Beirut this morning claim that some of the Burqa clad “women” were in fact men.  “One woman definitely had a man’s hand and was very strong.  I saw  a man’s hand as  ‘she’  bit mine” one police officer reported.

Visibly upset, an anti-resistance March 14 Member of Parliament, stated,  “Where are the briefcases?  Who cares now? Within two hours Hezbollah surely has copied everything—CD’s, flash memories, the works. Hezbollah may now know as much about the STL prosecution’s  case as Bellemare does. Maybe more!  This is one hell of a mess.”

The March 14 Secretariat General issued a statement saying “the incident represents an attack on the international community’s legitimacy and its resolutions, and particularly, UN resolutions 1701 (UNIFIL and disarming of Hezbollah)  and 1757 ( setting up the Hariri Tribunal).”

Hezbollah has denied any connection between the incident at Dr. Charara’s clinic and the Party.  “It seems it will not be the last in a series of violations of the country and its sovereignty under what is said to be investigation and truth,”  a Al-Manar television news anchor said.  Meanwhile, Hezbollah  Secretarial-General Hassan Nasrallah is expected to hold a news conference on the subject.

Some  knowledgeable sources are starting to ask questions this morning regarding the STL investigators conduct.  “ If the Media Office of the STL had followed the rules and contacted the Media Office of Hezbollah before sending in their team, things would have been different”, Human Rights Ambassador Ali Khalil told this observer.

It is true that the STL knew, or should have known, apart from the common courtesy aspect, that for security reasons the rules regarding such visits include contacting the Hezbollah Office of Media Relations in Dahiyeh.  If its Director, Dr. Ibrahim Mousawi is not in, his competent and gracious assistants  Wafa or Rana will  professionally assist  visitors. Practically  everyone in Lebanon, certainly media representatives, know this.  Why did the STL  apparently attempt an end run around security especially since just this week the Lebanese court sentenced 32 more Israeli spies to jail terms, five from the Mossad’s overseas intelligence service?  In addition, more than 100 people have been arrested on suspicion of espionage just since April 2009, including telecom employees, members of the security forces and even some active duty troops.

People are edgy in Dahiyeh and elsewhere in Lebanon about foreigners seeming to snoop around.

Broad ranging analyses are running the gamut this morning. MP Yassine Jaber of the Shia Amal movement, an ally of Hezbollah, said during  an interview with local television, that the incident was a sign the tribunal was “not welcome” in Lebanon.

Various diplomatic sources, as well as  some political party officials and security contacts think they know what caused yesterday’s incident.

Jeffrey Feltman, the Undersecretary of State for near eastern affairs and a Bush administration holdover is the prime suspect among some.  Feltman was the American Ambassador to Lebanon from 2004-2008.  In reality he never left although Michele Sison and now Maura Connelly, both handpicked by Feltman, succeeded him here in Lebanon.  Connelly was his former personal assistant, and like Sison before here,  functions, according to one Congressional source, as “ a talking potted plant. Both served to occupy the  Ambassadors office at the US Embassy in Beirut but Feltman  still calls the shots, just as David Welch did before his retirement.”

What caused yesterday’s incident according to the above sources approximate the following:

Feltman was beside himself as were many in the State Department and on Capitol hill by the reception Lebanon gave to Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this month.  At the time Feltman was in Saudi Arabia discussing his claimed creation and pet project, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. He spoke to increasingly unsympathetic Saudi ears what he thought was “ a really great plan” how to solve the growing STL problem which he admitted Washington and Tel Aviv had underestimated.

The Saudi’s told Feltman they would discuss the matter with the Syrians who would contact Hezbollah.

Feltman had planned to drop in on Damascus but instead he tore over to Lebanon, on White House short notice orders, he told his friend, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. His mission was  to denounce Ahmadinejad’s  visit as “provocative,  creating instability, and not helpful to the “peace process.”

Lebanon yawned at his airport statements, including the identical one that Hilary Clinton made earlier in Bosnia: “With respect to President Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon, the United States supports the integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon. We reject any efforts to destabilize or inflame tensions within Lebanon. We are very committed to supporting the Lebanese Government as it deals with a number of challenges in its region.” To many Lebanese, it was Mr. Feltman’s  visit that violated Lebanon’s stability and sovereignty. His problems began to increase and he found that  Lebanon was still largely in a state of rapture over the Iranian Presidents visit and the juicy prospects for up to S10 billion in trade ( having already received $ 1 billion in aid)  between Iran and Lebanon.  His meeting with Lebanon’s President Suleiman  and Prime Minister  Saad  Hariri were perfunctory.  Parliamentary Speaker Berri, ally of Hezbollah  even declined to meet with Feltman citing a “conflict of schedule” which one Amal source joked meant Berri wanted to watch the latest Sherlock Holmes movie with his family.  Some did complain in the media about Feltman not observing ‘diplomatic protocol’ by not giving advanced notice and expecting Lebanese officials to clear their weekend relaxation time to be at his beck and call.

But what apparently really caused Feltman to urge to STL to squeeze Hezbollah by sending its investigators to Dahiyeh  to signal that the Tribunal was impossible to stop, was the rejection by all factions but the Lebanese Forces, of the Feltman Plan. Its reported essence, now apparently scrapped, was as follows:

Given that Washington realized that there is no way  that the Tribunal is going to work out, it is best to find a way to trash it. Feltman has a “Dead men don’t talk” plan.  Imad, Mughniyah who many thought was dead these past 26 years was really killed this time on February 12, 2008  in Damascus. Beirut sources reveal that Israel, who killed Mughniyah, aimed for February 14, not the 12th in order to deliver the message that it can carry out an assassination at will and on any date.  Israel wanted to kill Mughniyah on the same day they killed Hariri, i.e. February 14.  But they missed their target date by  less than 48 hours due to “mission correction  contingencies”.

Feltman beleives, but has never been able to prove according to former CIA agent Robert Baer, that Mughniyah might have been involved in anti-American acts in April of 1983, (US Embassy), October of 1984 (US Marine barracks) and other  so-called “terrorist” activities.

Earlier this month, Feltman  sent a message to Hezbollah to the effect than if Hezbollah will go along with blaming Mughniyah for killing Hariri that works for the Americans because it will be circumstantial evidence that he also did acts of terrorism in the 1980’s so all files could be closed once and for all. He told more than one person he met with in Beirut this month  that he thought  his was “a really great plan.”

Apparently Secretary Clinton and President Obama did too.

Hezbollah did not.

One knowledgeable source explained: “ Feltman’s project is unimaginable.  First Hezbollah had nothing to do with Prime Minister Hariri’s assassination.  Secondly, if even a 9 year old Madhi scout or one of our street sweepers committed an offense the Party would accept full responsibility. We our one.  Nasrallah has made this clear.  We would never betray one of our own or allow a false charge to be made against him or her.”

One party member told this observer: “Feltman knows exactly what he is doing and its an infantile attempt to set up the National Lebanese Resistance.  It is well known that he has spent the past more than six years hatching a series of projects with the Israelis to destroy the resistance to Israel’s occupation of Palestine and  advance Israel’s plan for territorial gains in Lebanon. The attempted destruction of Hezbollah’s fiber optic communications network, airport security, an airbase at Kleit, Nahr al Bared’s destruction,  and various Salafist projects to note  just a few, carry his signature.  All aimed at starting another Lebanese civil war or at least a Shia-Sunni conflict.  The Tribunal is just the lasted but not the last of these.”

Another  Dahiyeh source explained; “If Hezbollah were to sacrifice Imad Mughniyah or any of its members, Feltman and the Israelis would shout,  ‘See, the Shia killed the Sunni so let’s go hang them!’  He tried to trick Hezbollah.”

So Feltman may have messaged the STL investigators to “do your job” yesterday.

The “ladies” of Dahiyeh sent a return message.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon and is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com

“With respect to President Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon, the United States supports the integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon. We reject any efforts to destabilize or inflame tensions within Lebanon. We are very committed to supporting the Lebanese Government as it deals with a number of challenges in its region.”

Can Pakistan produce one Arundhati Roy to speak truth?

Can Pakistan produce one Arundhati Roy to speak truth?

Dr Shabir Choudhry 28 October 2010

Arundhati Roy, a famous Indian writer and human rights activist has, once again, made headlines and won minds and hearts of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. She said what she believed – Kashmir is not legally part of India. Kashmir is not part of Pakistaneither, although both countries control State of Jammu and Kashmir and have no desire to relinquish their control over these areas.

There is demand in some parts of India that Arundhati Roy should be charged for ‘sedition’. But there are many rational people who support her. Alok Tiwari, a prominent Indian journalist wrote in her defence that what she said was ‘definitely against the government line on Kashmir. It was also against the popular opinion. Mercifully, there is no law that obligates us to toe the government or popular line. Going against it is dissent, not sedition; and democracies thrive on dissent. They do not shun it.’

India claims to be the biggest democracy on earth, and that democracy is alive and kicking, at least, in India, if not in Jammu and Kashmir. Demand of a genuine democracy is that people must be allowed to express their views without fear or intimidation; and Arundhati Roy is an Indian citizen, and at least, she should be entitled to enjoy fruits of democracy. Alok Tiwari further writes:

‘Freedom in a society is tested by its tolerance of what most of its members consider offensive. Freedom to say goody-goody thing is actually no freedom. If we assert before the world that Kashmiris in India are living in freedom, it means even those Kashmiris who would rather not be part of India. They have as much right to air their opinion as the rest of us have to assert Kashmir is an integral part of India. If we find Geelani’s ideas offensive then let us come up with better ideas to counter them.’

It is best for government of India to resolve the Kashmir dispute rather than charge all those who express their disagreement on Kashmir policy of government of India. The Kashmir dispute is real. It will not go away by closing eyes; or by using force.

In Kashmir there is a strong resentment against what Indian government do there; and that anger and sense of alienation will not go away by continuation of the present policies. The government of India has to come out with a new policy and new approach and satisfy demands of the people, as policy of gun and bullet cannot win minds and hearts of the people.

Arundhati Roy is brave and honest in her assertions on Kashmir. She had courage to say that India’s claim on Kashmir is not correct; and is against popular will of the people of Kashmir. She said all that even though Jammu and Kashmir ‘provisionally’ acceded to India; and India’s claim on Kashmir rests on that ‘accession’.

That ‘provisional accession’ had to be ratified by the people of Jammu and Kashmir; and due to Pakistan’s refusal to withdraw troops from Kashmiri territory, as demanded by the UN Resolutions, conditions for a plebiscite could not be created to hold a referendum to test will of the people, hence the present forced division and suffering of the people on both sides of the LOC.

Despite India’s claim on Kashmir and its claim to democratic ideals, people like Arundhati Roy speak against India’s Kashmir policy. They tell government of India that hearts and minds of people could not be won with use of force. They tell the government that you cannot make people Indian by pulling their finger nails.

On the other hand Pakistan also occupies two parts of State of Jammu and Kashmir, namely Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, from which Pakistan generously gave away around 2200 sq miles to China in 1963 to improve bilateral relations.

Pakistan has military strength to control the Kashmiri territory under its occupation, but has no legal cover to justify this occupation. It has no legal mandate to be in control of the Kashmiri territory, but still has managed to divert attention away from areas under its control and call them ‘azad’ meaning free; and many Kashmiri collaborators happily advance the cause of Pakistan.

Many in Pakistan, especially writers and scholars know shallowness of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir. They also know that people of so called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan are not happy with what Pakistan and its secret agencies do to the people of these areas; and yet they decide to remain quiet. Their conscience does not trouble them, and they follow the government policy on issue of Kashmir. They happily promote government’s version on Kashmir, knowing well that it is based on lies.

They know, as it has been confirmed by many impartial surveys that people of Jammu and Kashmir DONOT want to join Pakistan; and yet they broadcast lies that people of Jammu and Kashmir are desperate to join Pakistan. They are reluctant to speak about plight and exploitation of the people living under Pakistani occupation; and will only focus on events taking place on other side of the LOC.

Can Pakistani society produce one prominent writer, scholar and human rights champion who has guts to challenge Pakistan’s Kashmir policy; and tell the world thatPakistan’s control of Kashmiri territory is not legal? Someone who could tell the world people of Jammu and Kashmir State living on this side of the LOC are also deprived of their fundamental human rights. Or is this too much to ask, and Pakistani writers, intellectuals and scholars will continue to follow the out of date policy ofIslamabad?

Writer is Head Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.Email:drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com
View my blog and web: www.drshabirchoudhry.blogspot.com

The rise of the radical right in Ukraine

The rise of the radical right in Ukraine

Andreas Umland writes: Svoboda is a phenomenon that is not untypical for contemporary Europe.

The year 2010 has seen a number of new, disturbing political developments in Ukraine. If these trends continue, they many undermine Ukraine’s international image as the only solidly pro-democratic oriented country in the former Soviet space.

All major institutions and structures that make up a functioning democracy have suffered from worrying interventions by the new Ukrainian leadership: parliamentary procedures, the rule of law, mass media, civil society and even higher education. They have been widely reported in both the Ukrainian and international press.

Another emerging problem for Ukraine’s future international reputation has, at the same time, remained largely ignored by most observers: the recent rise of the right-wing All-Ukrainian Association “Svoboda” (Freedom) of Oleh Tiahnybok, a physician and lawyer from western Ukraine’s largest city, Lviv. His ultra-nationalist party grew out of the clearly fascist Social-National Party of Ukraine (SNPU) founded in 1991 in Lviv.

It seems likely that Svoboda will have a faction in the next Verkhovna Rada. That will mean additional damage for Kyiv’s already dented international reputation.

– Andreas Umland, leacturer at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

The SNPU’s name deliberately sounds like Hitler’s Nazi-inspired National-Socialist German Workers Party. Its symbol was the so-called Wolfsangel once used by the SS Division “Das Reich,” and today popular among various European neo-Nazi groups.

In 2004, the Social-National Party renamed itself into Svoboda and abandoned the Wolfsangel. While Svoboda remained explicitly nationalistic, it has toned down its revolutionary rhetoric in recent years.

It also embraced, in its front-stage statements, a national-democratic discourse, and proclaims its adherence to the Ukrainian Constitution.

Its leadership includes a number of articulate intellectuals such as Iryna Farion, a senior lecturer in Ukrainian philology at Lviv’s Polytechnical Institute, and Andriy Illyenko, son of the legendary nationalist film director Yuriy Illyenko (1936-2010) and a political science researcher at Kyiv’s Shevchenko University.

They and, above all, Tiahnybok himself have recently become regular guests on Ukrainian TV shows, and sought-after interviewees or authors of many Kyiv periodicals.

As a result, Svoboda’s popularity has, especially in Western Ukraine, been constantly growing during the last year. It has also made inroads into the less nationalistic regions of central Ukraine.

As Ukraine has a proportional electoral system with a relatively low 3 percent barrier for an entry into parliament, it seems likely that Svoboda will have a faction in the next Verkhovna Rada.

That will mean additional damage for Kyiv’s already dented international reputation.

Svoboda is a racist party promoting explicitly ethnocentric and anti-Semitic ideas. Its main programmatic points are Russo- and xenophobia as well as, more recently, a strict anti-immigration stance.

It is an outspoken advocate of an uncritical heroization of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists – an interwar and World War II ultra-nationalist party tainted by its temporary collaboration with the Third Reich, as well as its members’ participation in genocidal actions against Poles and Jews, in western Ukraine, during German occupation.

Although Svoboda emphasizes the European character of the Ukrainian people, it is an anti-Western, anti-liberal, and anti-EU grouping. It belongs to the international so-called Alliance of European National Movements.

This radically right-wing pan-European party association includes, among other groupings, France’s Front national, The Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) and the British National Party – three of Europe’s most prolific and extreme nationalist parties today.

Tiahnybok’s most prominent new political friend on the international scene is, incongruously, the Frenchmen Jean-Marie Le Pen who also used to be friendly with Vladimir Zhirinovskii – an aggressively anti-Ukrainian Russian imperialist politician.

A country as domestically unconsolidated and internationally non-integrated as Ukraine, a prominent ultra-nationalist party in parliament would be a dangerous luxury.

– Andreas Umland, leacturer at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

Svoboda is a phenomenon not untypical for contemporary Europe.

Several EU member countries had or have politically significant parties and, sometimes, parliamentary factions with ideologies comparable to that of Tiahnybok’s association.

However, a country as domestically unconsolidated and internationally non-integrated as Ukraine, a prominent ultra-nationalist party in parliament would be a dangerous luxury.

Svoboda will, as a Verkhovna Rada faction, further estrange many Ukrainians in the country’s east and south as well as a number of international partners from the Ukrainian state.

It will contribute to the already high geographical polarization within the Ukrainian electorate.

Svoboda’s presence in the national legislature would undermine the development of a Ukrainian political nation, and of a trans-regional, pan-ethnic patriotism.

Public opinion in countries like Poland, Israel and Germany would become more skeptical towards the Ukrainians as a European nation. Svoboda’s further rise will help cementing its current under-institutionalization in the European security structure.

The entry of ultra-nationalists into Ukraine’s political establishment will be an alienating factor between Kyiv and Brussels. It will thus, oddly, make Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian attempts to undermine this post-Soviet state’s independence and integrity.

Though many observers think that Ukraine is now already at the lowest point of its post-Soviet development, even more bad news might be in store for the largest country of Europe.

Andreas Umland was formerly a fellow at Stanford, Harvard and Oxford. He currently teaches within the Master in German and European Studies program at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and edits the scholarly book series “Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society” published in Stuttgart, Germany.

“American Perestroika” Makes It To Kiev Post

Online journal: American perestroika The ‘capitalism’ that Gorbachev had in mind was not the ‘democratic-capitalist’ of the United States.

Peter Chamberlin writes:

It would be nice if the world of man were a simple creation, where honest effort was its own reward. In such a world, mistakes would be understood as signals of corrections which needed to be made. It is not our good fortunes to live in such a world, at least not as far as all the governments of the world are concerned. Human governments are in the business of capitalizing upon mistakes, especially turning the mistakes of the opposing party to political advantage.Read the story here.

Two Versions of Attack on UN Investigators at Beirut Gyno Clinic

[I tend to think that the first report below, from Naharnet, is the correct version of the incident.  The second report from Hezbollah press Al Manar, is a whitewash of the incident, which doesn’t even mention the burka-clad women (and possibly men), as well as other disclaimers–about suffering patients having to wait, claiming the presence of the investigators was the attack and the ruckus was because patient reaction to the UN appointment taking so long.]

Men Disguised as Women Likely Involved in Attack on UN Investigators in Dahiyeh
Men disguised as Muslim women clad in burqa (black veil and top to toe gown) were reportedly part of the group of women that attacked U.N. investigators at a Beirut clinic who were on a mission to obtain phone numbers of between 14 to 17 people.
On Wednesday, a group of women stormed into a gynecologist’s clinic in Beirut’s southern suburbs and clashed with investigators from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

They snatched the briefcase of one of the two male investigators who were talking to gynecologist Iman Sharara.

The investigators, who were accompanied by a local female translator, were trying to obtain phone numbers of between 14 to 17 people who visited Sharara’s practice since 2003.

MTV television station quoted a soldier who was in charge of the security of the U.N. investigators said he was grabbed and bitten by an attacker who seemed to have the strength of a man.

The hand which attacked him looked more like a man’s hand than a woman’s, the soldier said.

Saudi newspaper Okaz, for its part, quoted Sharara’s secretary as saying she had never seen the women attackers before.

She said men clad in burqa were likely to have been among the crowd of women.

Pan-Arab daily al-Hayat quoted sources as saying that the stolen briefcase contained a laptop and some documents of special use by members of the team of investigators to jot down responses to questions during their interview with doctor Sharara.

Doctor Sharara, who runs the private obstetrics and gynecology clinic, told reporters a team of two male investigators and their female translator arrived at her practice mid-morning on a scheduled appointment.

“They asked me for the phone numbers of between 14 and 17 patients since 2003 and I told them it would take me some time to review my files,” she said at her clinic in the Hizbullah-controlled southern suburbs of Beirut.

When she opened the door to inform her secretary of the files needed, Sharara said she was surprised to see a crowd of some 30 women had stormed the waiting room although she had cancelled all appointments for the morning.

A security source told AFP the angry women rushed towards the interrogators, shouting insults at them, and managed to snatch a briefcase from the pair who escaped unscathed.

“The Office of the Prosecutor takes this incident very seriously and we are currently looking into it,” the media relations unit of The Hague-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon told AFP by email.

Sharara’s lawyer Mustafa Shoqeir told reporters his client had sought legal advice and conferred with the medical practitioners’ union before agreeing to meet the investigators.

“We are still willing to cooperate with Lebanese authorities and investigators representing the tribunal as per international decree and procedure,” Shoqeir said.

State prosecutor Saeed Mirza has opened an investigation into the incident.

Meanwhile a judicial source speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity said that some women also stole mobile phones from two plainclothes security forces who were escorting the investigators.

The parliamentary majority March 14 coalition, for its part, denounced Wednesday’s incident as an attack on international law.

“We condemn this attack on a team of investigators and the theft of their files by civilian troops loyal to Hizbullah,” March 14 said in a statement at the end of their weekly meeting.

“This… marks an attack on international laws and decrees.”

AMAL movement MP Yassin Jaber said, however, the incident was a sign the tribunal was “not welcome” in Lebanon.

The U.N.-backed court was formed by a 2007 U.N. Security Council resolution to find and try the killers of Hariri, who was assassinated in a massive car bombing on the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005.

Lebanon is facing a full-blown crisis over the tribunal as unconfirmed reports indicate the STL is set to accuse members of Hizbullah.

Hizbullah has confirmed several of its members, both male and female, have been interrogated in connection with the Hariri murder.

The Syrian- and Iranian-backed party has accused the United Nations of interfering in Lebanese affairs and called instead for a local investigation.

But Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the son of the slain ex-premier, has vowed to see the U.N. tribunal through.(Naharnet-AFP)

Flagrant Violation: Is Truth Hidden in File of Female Patient?

Hussein Assi

28/10/2010 Is the so-called “truth” hidden in the file of some patient in a female clinic?
The question is more than logical after Wednesday’s scandalous incident, the incident which proved once against that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is nothing but a tool in the Western hands, a tool that doesn’t hesitate to disrespect people’s privacies and specialties.

On Wednesday, a team of investigators in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafiq Hariri entered a gynecology clinic in Southern Suburb of Beirut, sparking dispute with women there.

Witnesses said a team of two investigators and their translator entered Dr. Iman Charara’s gynecology clinic. Women waiting for their turn in the clinic, including an urgent case, were annoyed because the investigators stayed for long time in a meeting with the doctor, witnesses said, adding the voices were loud as other women from other clinics in the building rushed to Charara’s clinic.

That’s it… Under the transparent banner of “searching for truth” in Hariri’s murder, the politicized tribunal made another scandal in a blatant attack by the international investigation commission on a gynecology clinic.

The incident is alarming. Yet, the “truth defenders” in Lebanon didn’t find themselves embarrassed. Perhaps, they didn’t ask themselves the natural question of the “mission” of the investigators in a women clinic in the southern suburb of Beirut.

Perhaps, they didn’t perceive that the mere demand for the archive of 17 women including their addresses and phone numbers is a flagrant violation. They didn’t know that these women have privacies that should be respected.

Nevertheless, Wednesday’s incident sets a dangerous precedent and apparently it won’t be the last in terms of violating the country under the banner of investigation and truth.

But what’s next? The final verdict is already written and everybody known its content as well as its objective. The tribunal is politicized, its process is politicized, the timing of issuing its verdict is also politicized. It became more than clear that the STL is nothing but a tool aimed at undermining the Resistance. Yet, no one reacts.

So, what’s next? Would Lebanese welcome the plot to sow strife in their country without any resistance?

Questions must be asked, but it’s unlikely to find answers very soon…

Russian Interior Min. Proposes Censoring Internet, Building Patriotism for “Motherland”

В МВД России предлагают законодательно ужесточить контроль за интернетом в качестве мер по усилению противодействия экстремизму и перевести экстремистские преступления в разряд тяжких

In the Russian Interior Ministry proposed legislative tighten controls on the Internet, as measures to strengthen the fight against extremism and to translate extremist crimes in the category of serious

The Interior Ministry is prompted to enter “public censorship” for the Internet

Publication time: 16:42
Last update: 16:42

In the Russian Interior Ministry proposed legislative tighten controls on the Internet, as measures to strengthen the fight against extremism and extremist move into the category of serious crime.

The recommendations of the international scientific-practical conference held in Moscow on Thursday with representatives from law enforcement agencies and the public, to “develop proposals for changes and additions to the legislative acts concerning the legal status of the Internet in order to tighten control of its resources to commit crimes of an extremist, “according to Interfax .

According to the authors of the document, the solution of the question, “possibly by inclusion in the Russian law” On mass media “rules governing the basics of organization and functioning of the Internet, which will impose on the activities of the network relevant government censorship restrictions and prohibitions on the spread of extremist propaganda.”

– Russia has prepared two bills to regulate the Internet: “delusional” and “power”

As an alternative, proposed to amend the Article 282 of the Criminal Code (incitement to hatred or hostility), including the use of the Internet in a number of conditions of the crime. “Develop a proposal to toughen penalties for crimes of an extremist (Articles 280, 282, 282.1 and 282.2 of the Criminal Code) with regard to increasing prison terms for their commitment to translating these kinds of acts in the category of serious”, – stated in the recommendations.

Under the current Criminal Code, these crimes are categorized as moderate – penalties related to them does not exceed 5 years imprisonment. The intention of the document, Innovation “will expand the ability of law enforcement in conducting search operations for members of organized criminal groups and communities of extremist and terrorist orientation.”

In addition to legislative initiatives, the Ministry considers it necessary in order to counter extremism subjects of the activity “initiate a clarification in the media of real plants extremism, often contrary to Islamic principles.” Also, law enforcement agencies are encouraged to participate in the organization of lectures, aimed at building youth patriotic attitude of the Motherland, a tolerant attitude towards people of different nationalities, religions and races. ”

Earlier in the conference the head of Institute of Internal Affairs, General Sergei weights reported that Russia annually growing number of neo-fascist groups, as well as crimes of an extremist. As explained in the press service of the Institute of Internal Affairs, in the near future theses listed recommendations will be formulated and forwarded to the Legal Department of the Ministry, which in turn will prepare a bill.

x

The West and Russia Do Not Trust Each Other

The West and Russia do not trust nor

As long as the Russian commitment to the dubious standards of international behavior remains, should no agreement be signed.

Sarkozy, Merkel und Medwedew in Deauville: ein schwieriges Verhältnis
PHOTO: AP / DPASarkozy, Merkel and Medvedev in Deauville: a difficult relationship
Janusz Onyszkiewicz

Do you remember in the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which aimed at the “shared values” of Russia and the European Community to lay down? Signed in 1994, during the first hopeful days of Russian democracy, the PCA in 1999, reinforced by the creation of the Common Security and Defence Policy of the European Union (ESDP).

Both sides often express a desire to forge a “strategic partnership” to closer ties. But at the meeting of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Deauville, it would be wise to recognize that the Kremlin seems to change the terms of this early relationship.

As a result of the apparent reversal of democratization during the presidency of Vladimir Putin and the war in Chechnya and Georgia, the EU draws on an increasingly cautious language. As regards the prospects for a genuine partnership to sound less optimistic.

In the 2004 verabschiedten European Security Strategy states that: “We must continue to strive for closer relations with Russia, which is an important factor in our security and our prosperity. The pursuit of common values will reinforce progress towards a strategic partnership. ”

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Impact of the conflict in the region

The collapse of the Soviet Union in the North Caucasus to break open many previously suppressed ethnic and religious conflicts. Main focus was long …

The formulation according to the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, sounded resolute: “A strategic partnership is not possible if the values of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law are not fully shared and respected.”

Meanwhile, the Russians are busy bringing their different views on Europe under one roof. Some profess that they “are tired of dealing with bureaucrats in Brussels”. The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the State Duma, Konstantin Kosachev put it this way: “In Germany, Italy or France, we can achieve a lot more.”

And for good reason to believe Kosachev and not others, that the EU is committed to serious talks on the essential for Russia “hard” security issues. How to Russia with regard to these safety issues – especially energy security – to deal, is one of the issues that the EU provides the most divisive. Despite the commitment to speak, to Russia with one voice, various EU countries negotiate as often as possible on a bilateral level with Russia (especially when it comes to lucrative commercial contracts). Under a common EU umbrella includes one made up only if necessary. This gives Russia great leeway when it comes to pit countries against each other.

In Russia, meanwhile, is deeply disappointed by the approach of the West after the collapse of communism. During the Gorbachev era, it was assumed that the West would maintain its policy of containment of the Cold War substantially.Russia expected to be not as legitimate partners and treated as a defeated enemy as soon as the country no longer looked to confrontation and expand. It was assumed that it would retain its status alongside the United States on the international stage, that the territorial integrity would remain unchallenged and that they would deal with its internal affairs without any interference or criticism from outside.

DEADLY ATTACK ON PARLIAMENT IN GROZNY

Growing resentment of the West have the continued preference of Russian leaders to the concepts of “great power” and “spheres of influence” as well reinforced as the belief that international relations are a zero sum game in which Russia lost the gains of other countries would be. The Russians can not therefore accept that stronger multilateral institutions, trust, cooperation and interdependence can ensure international security. On the contrary, the loss of superpower status for Russia is completely unacceptable.

Economic growth during the Putin years and the defeat of Georgia – which was seen in Russia as the beginning of a great political comebacks – awarded to the Russians that self-confidence that was to reshape the transatlantic security architecture is necessary. In Medvedev’s proposal for a trans-Atlantic security treaty, the principle of avoidance of external forces to solve national disputes would be committed. This international interventions in conflicts in the North Caucasus, including Chechnya would be ruled out.

The status quo was also strengthened by the principle that no country should increase its security to the detriment of another. However, it remains unkar who decides what is a disadvantage. Even worse is that the freedom to join military alliances – such as the Helsinki Accords of 1975 and in other major international agreements such as the Charter of Paris for a New Europe or the European Security Charter sets out – was disposed of in ominous ways.The expansion of military alliances such as NATO is presented as a threatening action.

Europe should respond to this Russian proposal first to the recognition of the fact that Russia has to play in the transatlantic security a crucial role and should not be treated with caution but also with respect is. Deal with the issue itself is a series of Instititutionen: OSCE, NATO-Russia Council and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, to name but a few. These existing institutions could revive and strengthen new, but there is no need to create more of these facilities.

Indivisibility of European and American security

Second, the remains upright during the Cold War, so fundamental principle of the indivisibility of European and American security. Security initiatives should be first discussed bilaterally within the NATO-EU framework. Only then should you present to the OSCE, a common position. There is talk of absolutely crucial importance to Russia with one voice.

Third, the idea implicit in Medvedev’s plan – under which Russia would have in connection with all security decisions by NATO or the EU veto power – are rejected. Given the fact that NATO is represented in Russia’s own new military doctrine as a potential threat, as Russian leaders logically claim that any expansion of NATO to undermine Russia’s security.

Russia should be consulted on all major safety issues in

Nevertheless, Russia should be consulted in all important security issues. The consultations between Russia and NATO during the drafting of the latest Strategic Concept of NATO is a good example – from Russia rejected this approach, however, before we even adopted a new military doctrine. In the consultations on the Medvedev plan should include other former Eastern bloc countries like Ukraine are included.

The best way to deal with the Medvedev plan would be an OSCE statement, similar to Istanbul in 1999 – that a political resolution and not a legally binding contract. To win the efforts of the EU and the USA, the Russian leadership for a serious security dialogue, a more formal recognition of Russia could be helpful as a great power. But as long as the Russian commitment to the dubious standards of international behavior remains, should no agreement be signed.

Janusz Onyszkiewicz, a former Polish defense minister and chairman of the Euro-Atlantic Association.

Putins Shock Forces

Putin’s Shock Forces

Young militants provide new muscle for the Kremlin.

The attacks came in crushing waves. Hours after Estonia removed a statue of a World War II-era Soviet soldier from Tallinn on April 27, a virtual blitzkrieg struck the tiny Baltic nation’s computer systems. Massive onslaughts of spam brought down the Web sites of government agencies, banks and news services and paralyzed large parts of Estonia’s cyber-reliant economy. NATO sent emergency Internet security assistance to defend the embattled member state. The Kremlin denied any role in the assault, whose source had yet to be positively identified as the electronic bombardment finally subsided last week.

Even so, the Russians have not tried to hide their rage against Estonia. On the contrary, the Kremlin has rolled out its newest weapon in the drive to reclaim Russia’s bygone regional dominance: a shadowy youth movement known as Nashi (Russian for “ours”). Highly disciplined and lavishly bankrolled by the Kremlin, the militant young nationalists have developed a formidable organization to oppose alleged enemies at home and abroad and to glorify Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. When the Estonians removed the statue from their capital’s main square, a Nashi-led mob shut down the highway out of Russia into Estonia. In Moscow, Nashi protesters stormed a press conference by the Estonian ambassador, retreating only after her bodyguards sprayed them with pepper gas.

But the United States, not Estonia, is Nashi’s particular bugbear. “It is time to put an end to America’s being the strongest and most influential empire,” says Nikolai Panchenko, a ranking member of the group. He’s echoing the views of the Russian leadership, whose stance toward the United States is more belligerent now than at any time since the cold war. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew to Moscow last week, seeking to tamp down the hostility before Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin sit down together at a G8 summit next month in Germany. Nevertheless, in two days of talks Rice won no concessions from the Russians beyond an agreement to cool the anti-U.S. rhetoric—such as Putin’s grim reference in a speech earlier this month to certain countries’ making “claims of exceptionality” and becoming “a new threat, as during the time of the Third Reich.”

Nazism is a recurring topic in Russia at the moment. The young militants call the Estonians fascists, and Russian dissidents (an endangered species) compare Nashi—and kindred groups such as Walking Together and the Young Guards—to the Hitler Youth of the ’30s and ’40s. New recruits to Nashi are given basic military training and can graduate to the black-uniformed street patrols of the Nashi Police or the fledgling Nashi Army, which earlier this month held military exercises 25 miles south of Moscow in Podolsk, marching, running obstacle courses, field-stripping firearms and practicing marksmanship. Two weeks ago, in the city of Sosnovy Bor, on the Estonian border, Nashi volunteers visited local schools to show a film titled “Lessons in Courage.” It opens with footage of a vast Nashi meeting of young people wearing identical white T shirts marked with a big red star. Next came shots of Putin juxtaposed with photos of a noble-looking wolf, followed by images of rats. “Putin is a lonely wolf surrounded by rats,” Panchenko told the schoolkids. “Russia has become too corrupt. It is time to change things, time for stronger leaders—like us.”

Yet one of Nashi’s principal aims is to prevent change. The group, which now claims 15,000 ranking members and 100,000 supporters, was launched by the Kremlin in response to the pro-democracy Orange Revolution that toppled a pro-Moscow regime in Ukraine in 2004. “The idea was to create an ideology based on a total devotion to the president and his course,” says Sergei Markov, one of the Russian youth movement’s architects. The Young Guards recently held a training exercise in which members defended a local TV station against a mob of “riot-ers” wearing orange bandannas. In April Nashi deployed thousands of volunteers across Moscow to hand out brochures and 10,000 specially made SIM cards for mobile phones. Recipients were told they would get special text messages in case of a Ukraine-style uprising. “Now people have a chance to receive precise instructions what to do to save their motherland if there is a pro-Western revolution,” says Nashi activist Tatyana Matiash, 22. Meanwhile, they can bully neighboring countries for daring to defy the Kremlin’s will.

Turkmenistan denies Russia’s “gas deals” statements

Turkmenistan denies Russia’s “gas deals” statements

* Turkmenistan raps deals touted by Russian officials

* Says significance of Europe-bound energy routes to grow

By Marat Gurt

ASHGABAT, Oct 28 (Reuters) – Turkmenistan denied on Thursday Russia’s statements that its gas export monopoly Gazprom could take part in a trans-Afghan gas pipeline and that Moscow and Ashgabat had agreed to freeze a Caspian pipeline project.

Russia’s top energy official, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, told reporters during President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Turkmenistan last week that Gazprom (GAZP.MM: Quote) could take part in the central Asian state’s TAPI pipeline project.

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, conceived in Soviet days, never got off the ground. But last month plans to build it were revived after the four nations signed a new framework agreement.

Sechin was later quoted by Russia’s Kommersant business daily as saying that Moscow and Ashgabat had decided not to revive the mothballed Caspian Sea Gas Pipeline as demand for fuel in Europe is yet to recover.

“Turkmenistan views such statements as an attempt to hamper the normal course of our country’s cooperation in the energy sector and call into question its obligations to its partners,” Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Turkmenistan, which in 2007 agreed with Russia and Kazakhstan to build a gas pipeline to Russia along the Caspian Sea, said it had launched construction of its stretch of the conduit.

“This is why reports that this project has been put on hold, based on statements by Russian officials, cause bewilderment. In all appearance, the declaring side does not implement or does not want to implement its obligations,” it said. There was “no agreement whatsoever” on the participation of Russian firms in the TAPI project, the Foreign Ministry said.

“SENSE OF REALITY”

“Turkmenistan hopes that when making their statements Russian officials will be guided in the future by the sense of responsibility and reality,” Turkmenistan said.

Turkmenistan, Central Asia’s largest natural gas producer and holder of the world’s fourth largest reserves of the fuel, plans to triple annual gas output within 20 years from the current 75 billion cubic metres level.

The desert nation is also keen to lessen its dependence on its former imperial master and traditional gas buyer, Russia.

As of Oct. 1, the country shipped 7.9 bcm of gas to Russia.

Annual gas purchases by Moscow previously accounted for two thirds of Turkmen gas sales, or around 50 bcm.

But in 2009 Gazprom stopped buying Turkmen gas for nine months after a pipeline explosion, sparking a broader diplomatic row over the fuel. The move cost Turkmenstan about $1 billion a month, and the standoff prompted Ashgabat to turn eastward.

Last December Turkmenistan launched a China-bound pipeline running to China’s north-western Xinjiang region through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Turkmenistan is also one of the preferred suppliers for the EU-backed Nabucco pipeline, intended to ship Central Asian gas to an Austrian gas hub via Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Hungary and reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.

“Turkmenistan will continue to raise the significance of Europe-bound projects in its energy policy and will independently choose partners,” the Foreign Ministry said.

(Reporting by Marat Gurt; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Alfred Kueppers; editing by Keiron Henderson)

American Democracy: Pro-Israel Tweedledum and Tweedledee

American Democracy: Pro-Israel Tweedledum and Tweedledee

Helen Keller’s pithy observation about American democracy being little more than a choice “between Tweedledum and Tweedledee” was never more true than in the upcoming midterm elections in the ninth congressional district of Illinois.

 

In a district which includes the affluent northern suburbs of Chicago along the shore of Lake Michigan, the central issue is not the two wars—or is it now three?—the country is fighting, nor is it the tanking economy, in great part caused by those debt-inducing wars. No, the burning issue here is… who cares more about Israel?

“A Jewish candidate has been trying to convince the mostly Jewish voters that his Jewish opponent has not done enough to protect the Jewish interest,” reports Ynetnews, the English language website of Israel’s most-read newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth. Although less than 25 percent of the ninth district’s constituents are Jewish, and there is little agreement about what constitutes “the Jewish interest,” it’s not a bad summary of Republican challenger Joel Pollak’s campaign to oust the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Jan Schakowsky.

Pollak, an Orthodox Jew born in South Africa, charges Rep. Schakowsky with being “soft on Israel’s security.”

Let’s take a brief look at Congresswoman Schakowsky’s record on Capitol Hill to see if there’s any truth to Pollak’s allegations.

Since she was first elected to Congress in 1998, Schakowsky has consistently backed policies sought by Tel Aviv and its unregistered foreign agents in Washington, ensuring the continuation of the U.S. military, diplomatic, and financial support on which Israel crucially depends. As might be expected, her “100 percent” pro-Israel record has included a reflexive defense of Israeli aggression and demands for crippling sanctions against Iran.

In the wake of Operation Cast Lead, which killed over 300 Palestinian children, Schakowsky voted for a House resolution supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza. Later, she co-sponsored what Rep. Dennis Kucinich dubbed the “wrong is right” resolution condemning the Goldstone report, which Kucinich said his colleagues had not even read. And after Furkan Dogan, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen armed with nothing more than a small video camera, was murdered execution-style by Israeli commandos on the Gaza flotilla, she signed the Poe/Peters letter to President Obama again touting Israel’s right to self-defense.

Echoing Tel Aviv’s rhetoric about the “existential threat” posed by Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons programme, Congresswoman Schakowsky has long been lending her name to a raft of legislation targeting Tehran. In 1999, Schakowsky co-sponsored the Iran Nonproliferation Act. In 2001, she co-sponsored the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act Extension Act. She has also co-sponsored the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act, and the Iran Freedom Support Act. More recently, Schakowsky co-sponsored the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, which a former CIA officer and political analyst described as “basically an act of war.”

“There’s more, much more, but you get the idea,” as Steve Sheffey, a pro-Israel political activist, put it in his Huffington Post defense of Schakowsky.

Her opponent, however, does not get the idea.

To Joel Pollak and his supporters, which include his Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, Schakowsky is “too sympathetic” to Palestinians and the sanctions against Iran are “weak.”

But the GOP nominee is most concerned about Obama’s feeble efforts to coax Netanyahu to comply with international law by ceasing the building of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. In a statement, Pollak called on Schakowsky to join him in “condemning the Obama administration’s ongoing attack on Israel.”

Among pro-Israelis there are concerns, however, that “efforts to transform support for Israel from a long-standing bipartisan national consensus into a divisive partisan wedge issue” could be counterproductive. “Ironically, by using Israel as a political football for partisan gain,” writes Sheffey, “Pollak’s supporters ignore the cardinal principle of pro-Israel advocacy: Support for Israel is and must remain bi-partisan.” According to Sheffey, Pollak has broken the Republican Party’s “friendly incumbent rule,” whereby pro-Israel opponents are expected to “disregard all other issues and vote solely based on Israel.”

Deeply concerned about the increasing use of support for Israel as a partisan issue in American domestic politics, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, reminded everyone that “bipartisan support for Israel is a strategic national interest for the State of Israel.”

One rule that Pollak didn’t break, however, is the tacit agreement among both major parties to never expose how profoundly corrupt the political system really is.

In 2000, the FBI began wiretapping Congresswoman Schakowsky as part of a wider investigation into foreign espionage and the corruption of American public officials. “The epicenter of a lot of the foreign espionage activity was Chicago,” according to former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, in an interview with The American Conservative magazine. “They needed Schakowsky and her husband Robert Creamer to perform certain illegal operational facilitations for them in Illinois.”

One would think that Joel Pollak would relish exposing Schakowsky’s entrapment by a female Turkish agent, revealed in Edmonds’ testimony under oath in a court case filed in Ohio. The problem for the aspiring pro-Israel legislator, however, is that the FBI investigation “started with the Israeli Embassy.”

And what choice does that leave American voters? As one frustrated commentator put it, there’s “not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties.” Nowhere is that more true than when it comes to their corrupt bipartisan support for Israel.

Christine Fair’s Report On Indian Influence from Afghanistan

India in Afghanistan, part II: Indo-U.S. relations in the lengthening AfPak shadow

BY CHRISTINE FAIR

Despite deepening security threats from both the Taliban and other Pakistan-based proxies operating against Indian personnel and institutions in Afghanistan, thus far India has remained committed to staying in Afghanistan. India has its own concerns about the ultimate settlement in Afghanistan given that such a political settlement will likely come about through some sort of a twinned process of reconciliation and reintegration of former Taliban fighters back into Afghanistan’s political landscape.

Surely this will be a prominent matter of discussion when U.S. President Barack Obama undertakes a state visit to India next month. As one Indian commentator recently wrote:

The real criterion for measuring success [of the Obama visit] would lie in assessing whether or not the two leaders have reached consensus on defining the dangers that their, and other, countries face from the Af-Pak area and how they intend to tackle it. They must agree on a mechanism for arriving at such assessment and there is only one way of doing it. What is needed is a trilateral forum of consultations consisting of the U.S., India, and Afghanistan.

In some measure, India should be assured that the Obama administration’s assessment of the "Pakistan challenge" more closely mirrors that of India than that of the Bush administration, which remained doggedly committed to its Panglossian assessments of Pakistani President Parvez Musharraf’s various promises to contend with the terrorism menaces based in and from Pakistan. However, as Bob Woodward lays bare in Obama’s Wars, while the Obama White House has a better appreciation of the challenges with Pakistan it lacks any significant strategy to contend with them.

Moreover, Obama has much to prove to the Indians following a shaky start. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to China first — not India. Both Obama and Clinton made various statements attesting to the primacy of China in the U.S.’s Asia strategy. India was piqued by the Obama administration’s lack of attention, having become habituated to the incessant wooing of the Bush administration, which urged the United States to alter its entire nonproliferation regime to accommodate the controversial Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear deal. The deal was important to Washington ostensibly to constrain China. Ashley Tellis, the architect of the deal, explained the importance of such a move in 2005:

If the United States is serious about advancing its geopolitical objectives in Asia, it would almost by definition help New Delhi develop its strategic capabilities such that India’s nuclear weaponry and associated delivery systems could deter against the growing and utterly more capable nuclear forces Beijing is likely to possess by 2025.

Any U.S. retrenchment from this position on China would leave India exposed.

India continues to watch with concern as Washington continues to ply military assistance to Pakistan while remaining unable or unwilling to compel Pakistan to abandon militancy as a tool of foreign policy and to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure that has inflicted such harm upon India and other countries the region. Worse, India fears that Washington will provide funds and access to weapon systems that are more appropriate to target India than Pakistani insurgents. In the wake of the recently concluded U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue, more defense wares will be on their way to Pakistan. India’s Defense Minister A.K. Antony summarized India’s concerns during a September 2010 trip to Washington: "We feel that even though the U.S. is giving arms to Pakistan to fight terrorism, our practical experience is (that) it is always being misused. They are diverting a portion against India," Antony had said during his visit here.

Will India stay the course in Afghanistan? Planning for the "day after"

Obama’s (largely misconstrued) announcement that U.S. troops will begin drawing down military forces from Afghanistan in a conditions-based fashion in July 2011 has been widely read as "sever and saunter," or perhaps even "cut and run" among Afghanistan’s neighbors. The Obama administration’s assurances that the United States will remain committed to Afghanistan’s development and transition have had little palliative impacts upon these calculations. India is no exception. Obama’s commitment to ending the military commitment to Afghanistan has triggered a vigorous domestic debate within India about its future role in Afghanistan.

Indians are right to worry about how they will continue their programs and initiatives in Afghanistan as the United States and other international military forces reconfigure their posture away from active military operations in the future. Indian personnel have been under steady attack in Afghanistan.

After the 2008 attack on India’s Embassy in Kabul, the Indian Express ran a poignant editorial that captured this dilemma. The author wrote:

After the Kabul bombing, India must come to terms with an important question that it has avoided debating so far. New Delhi cannot continue to expand its economic and diplomatic activity in Afghanistan, while avoiding a commensurate increase in its military presence there. For too long, New Delhi has deferred to Pakistani and American sensitivities about raising India’s strategic profile in Afghanistan.

Some Indian analysts have articulated an explicitly military option for India in Afghanistan. Dr.Subhash Kapila, writing in December 2009, explains, "India has wrongly shied away from a military commitment in Afghanistan for two major reasons. The first was the American reluctance to permit Indian military involvement in Afghanistan out of deference to Pakistan Army sensitivities. The second reason was the political and strategic timidity of India’s political leadership who have yet to recognize that being a big power would involve shouldering military responsibilities to reorder in India’s favor the security environment in South Asia." He argues that since the U.S. exit is a question of when not if, India must begin preparing extensive contingency planning for the "day after" of the U.S. exit from Afghanistan.

In August of 2008, Pragati (an online, independent Indian defense publication) dedicated an entireissue to debating whether or not India should send troops to Afghanistan. One author argued that India should expand its civilian effort as well as forge a military option. Shushant T. Singh, one of the contributors to that issue, explains, "A significant Indian military presence in Afghanistan will alter the geo-strategic landscape in the extended neighborhood, by expanding India’s power projection in Central Asia."

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza, in the same issue of Pragati, urges India to stay the course and push to train Afghan National Security Forces over the objections of the United States, NATO, and Pakistan. At the other extreme are those who worry that the benefits of any Indian presence in Afghanistan are outweighed by the cost. (India has already been forced to expand its security forces’ presence in Afghanistan to secure the civilian efforts underway.) Proponents of scaling back argue that India should do so when the United States and other coalition partners reduce their kinetic operations and retract their military footprints beginning in July 2011.

The stakes for India are higher than some may appreciate. India’s efforts to shape the outcome in Afghanistan with its own security interests will be important evidence that India has what it takes to be a power of any consequence outside of South Asia — much less globally. If India cannot effectively shape the course of events in its own "immediate neighborhood," how can it credibly lay claim to its great power aspirations at home or abroad?

Christine Fair is an assistant professor at Georgetown University and the author of Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States. In part one of this post, she considered India’s historical interests in Afghanistan.

Rand Corp. Experts Warns of Indian Influence from Afghanistan Soil

India wants to influence events in Pakistan from Afghan soil: Top US expert

http://app.com.pk/en_/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=120443&Itemid=2

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, Oct 27 (APP): India has not only Pakistan-specific interests in Afghanistan but also wants to be seen as extra-regional power through its presence in that country, according to a top American expert on the region.

“India is interested in retaining Afghanistan as a friendly state from which it has the capacity to monitor Pakistan and even, where possible, cultivate assets to influence activities in Pakistan,” Christine Fair, a known South Asia expert, writes in an analytical piece for Foreign Policy magazine.
Analyzing New Delhi’s regional policy, Fair, who is currently an assistant professor at Georgetown University, says “India is interested in retaining Afghanistan as a friendly state from which it has the capacity to monitor Pakistan and even, where possible, cultivate assets to influence activities in Pakistan.”
In the piece headlined “India in Afghanistan : Strategic Interests, Regional Concerns” the expert notes “India’s profile in Afghanistan has been a quiet but looming concern for New Delhi, Washington, Brussels and of course Islamabad with all wondering what is the optimal role for India in Afghanistan’s reconstruction in light of the enduring security competition between India and Pakistan.”
On the one hand, she says, are those who want to expand India’s presence in Afghanistan through increased Indian training of Afghan civilian and military personnel, development projects, and expanded economic ties.”
On the other hand are those that caution against such involvement.  This view was articulated forcefully by then-top NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal in his August 2009 “COMISAF’s Initial Assessment.”
McChrystal opined: “Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan, including significant development efforts and financial investment. In addition, the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian. While Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India.”
Other analysts see Indian and Pakistani competition in Afghanistan as a new “Great Game” and argue that Afghanistan can be pacified only through a regional solution that resolves once and for all the intractable Indo-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir, adds Fair, who recently compiled a Century Foundation study on “India in Afghanistan and Beyond: Opportunities and Constraints.”
Fair remarks that “American officials are often unaware of how Indians conceive of their neighborhood.”
Indian policy analysts claim that India’s strategic environment stretches to the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf in the west (some will even claim the eastern coast of Africa as the western-most border of this strategic space); to the east, it includes the Strait of Malacca and extends up to the South China Sea; to the north, it is comprised of Central Asia; and to the south, it reaches out to Antarctica.
Raja Mohan, a doyen of Indian security analysis, explains in comparable terms that India’s grand strategy:
“Divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighborhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over the actions of outside powers. In the second, which encompasses the so-called extended neighborhood stretching across Asia and the Indian Ocean littoral, India has sought to balance the influence of other powers and prevent them from undercutting its interests. In the third, which includes the entire global stage, India has tried to take its place as one of the great powers, a key player in international peace and security.”
Thus, in many regards, India’s interests in Afghanistan can be seen as merely one element within India’s larger desire to be able to project its interests well beyond South Asia, the expert observes.
Indians claim that developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan have important
and usually deleterious effects upon India’s domestic social fabric as well as its internal security apart from the well-known problems in and over Kashmir.
“Indian interlocutors have explained to me that Islamist militancy coexists with a burgeoning Hindu nationalist movement that seeks to re-craft India as a Hindu state.
Hindu nationalists and their militant counterparts live in a violent symbiosis with Islamist militant groups operating in and around India. Islamist terrorism in India and the region provides grist for the mill of Hindu nationalism and its violent offshoots.”
After the Taliban consolidated their hold on Afghanistan in the mid-1990s, India struggled to maintain its presence and to support anti-Taliban forces.
Working with Iran, Russia, and Tajikistan, India provided important (but not fully detailed) resources to the Northern Alliance, the only meaningful challenge to the Taliban in Afghanistan. According to journalist Rahul Bedi, India also ran a twenty-five-bed hospital at Farkhor (Ayni), Tajikistan, for more than a year. The Northern Alliance military commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud, died in that hospital after he was attacked by al-Qaeda suicide bombers on September 9, 2001. Through Tajikistan, India supplied the Northern Alliance with high altitude warfare equipment worth around $8 million. India also based several “defense advisers,” including an officer of a brigadier rank, in Tajikistan to advise the Northern Alliance in their operations against the Taliban.
“Since 2001, India has relied upon development projects and other forms of humanitarian assistance. To facilitate these projects and to collect intelligence (as all embassies and consulates do), India also now has consulates in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat, and Mazar-e-Sharif, in addition to its embassy in Kabul. There also are a number of smaller-scale activities throughout Afghanistan. According to U.S., British, and Afghan officials interviewed over the last several years, India’s activities are not isolated to the north, where it has had traditional ties, but also include efforts in the southern provinces and in the northeast, abutting the Pakistani border.”

The Decomposing American Corpse and the Carrion-Eaters

Foreclosure fortune buys cars, yacht, mansions for doc-mill attorney

BY DAVID MCLAUGHLIN • BLOOMBERG NEWS

For Americans, the foreclosure crisis has wiped out fortunes, bringing destitution and homelessness. For Florida attorney David J. Stern, it has brought mansions, a Bugatti sports car and a luxury yacht.

Florida has the third-highest residential foreclosure rate in the U.S., and Stern, 50, has made a fortune off the bust. His foreclosure-processing business has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue preparing documents for the cases that his law firm brings on behalf of lenders seeking to reclaim homes from borrowers who can’t pay their mortgages.

Now his business is under scrutiny, as banks suspend foreclosures and evictions amid allegations that some home seizures were based on fraudulent documents. Attorneys general in every U.S. state have joined to probe foreclosure practices generally. Stern’s foreclosure firm and three others are under investigation by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.

“Some of these law firms we’re dealing with, we have reason to believe, actually forged documents, committed fraud, did all kinds of things,” McCollum said in an interview Oct. 15. “We don’t know where this is headed right now.”

Stern’s attorney, Jeffrey Tew, said Stern has used technology and a well-organized operation to efficiently process foreclosures. Stern gets a flat fee of about $1,400 a foreclosure, according to Tew, of Tew Cardenas LLP in Miami.

‘His acumen’

“David’s wealth is a reflection of his acumen and the tremendous volume of foreclosures,” Tew said in an interview yesterday. “He had something to do with the acumen part. He had nothing to do with the amount of foreclosures we have.”

Stern’s firm handles thousands of cases a month. It conducted a review of its files and found 21 had “issues with the affidavits,” Stern said in a Sept. 8 conference call to discuss second-quarter results for DJSP Enterprises Inc. DJSP provides non-legal foreclosure services, such as title searches, for his law firm, Law Offices of David J. Stern PA. Both businesses share the same Plantation, Florida, address.

Yushchenko May Have To Answer For Illegal Arms Sales To Georgia

 

Yushchenko May Have To Answer For Illegal Arms Sales To Georgia

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s ex-President Viktor Yushchenko has every chance of becoming a prime suspect in the ongoing criminal probe into illegal arms sales to Georgia.

Viktor Yushchenko
At least that’s the opinion of Valery Konovalyuk, who heads a parliamentary investigation commission looking into the matter.

As to the Prosecutor General’s Office, it denies having any new such cases on its radar.

In 2005 Georgia received six Buk-M1 missile complexes, which the Russian military insists were used to shoot down all the four Russian jets lost during the August 2008 war in South Ossetia.

Basing on the information obtained by his commission, Valery Konovalyuk insists that the sale was illegal, that the Buk missiles were taken off combat duty in Ukraine thus baring the country’s airspace. If this allegation proves to be true, Yushchenko will be in serious trouble.

According to members of the parliamentary commission probing the whole matter, by authorizing the sale of the advanced weapons to Georgia at a fraction of their real cost to boot, ($200 million instead of $2 billion they were really worth) the President did a great deal of harm to national defense.

Many MPs suspect that someone had his palms very well greased in that shady transaction that was personally overseen by the then President.

The commission submitted its report back in 2009 but with the new leadership now in place the MPs hope that the whole thing can finally get some traction.

In Kiev political analyst Vadim Karasev says that there’s been a whole bunch of statements by Viktor Yushchenko and his defense minister Yuri Yekhanurov that Ukrainian arms sales to Georgia, effected until August 2008, were fully in line with the laws of the land and pertinent international agreements.

In any case, chances of Tyshchenko’s case ever reaching the court floor are next to nil, believes another Ukrainian political analyst Vitaly Kulik.

Facts obtained clearly point to the Ukrainian law having been bent, namely where it comes to the Buk missiles that were taken off combat duty and sold to the Georgians.

However, it looks like the only one who is going to suffer is an obscure official who, responding to a verbal order from his superiors, authorized the delivery of the Buk missiles and other weapons to Georgia.

On the other hand, we are talking about the moral and political responsibility of the country’s previous leaders for arming Georgia ahead of the conflict in South Ossetia… Unfortunately, this does not entail any criminal prosecution for either Viktor Yushchenko or any other top official of his government.

The shady arms deals made as part of the Yushchenko-Saakashvili brotherhood cost the Ukrainian state both money and prestige. That’s the opinion of the parliamentary commission and something the ex-president should be held personally accountable for.

Source: The Voice of Russia

Ukranian Oligarch, Organized Crime, Questions for American Politician

Website ignores key facts in bid to tie Lincoln Chafee to organized crime in Ukraine

By C. Eugene Emery Jr.

Then-U.S. Ambassador William Taylor, Akhmetov lawyer Mark MacDougall, Lincoln Chafee and Toby Trister Gati, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, in Ukraine in 2007 / Photo courtesty Mark MacDougall

Given Lincoln Chafee’s record of being willing to buck the system and the Chafee family’s reputation, Rhode Islanders were jarred to hear the independent gubernatorial candidate being accused of consorting with someone who might have ties to organized crime.

But on Oct. 7, GoLocalProv, a five-month-old local news website, published the headline “International Intrigue: Chafee Consults to Controversial Ukrainian Billionaire.” It reported that its investigation had revealed that Chafee earned “as much as $100,000” from a three-year-old foundation established by “a Ukrainian billionaire with widely reported ties to organized crime.”

The foundation is The Foundation for Effective Governance, established “to facilitate systematic dialogue between experts, government, business, civil society, organizations, and mass media.” Its website says the foundation is the private initiative of Rinat Akhmetov, who established it with a $50 million gift, designed to cover five years.

Akhmetov is the billionaire son of a coal miner whose empire includes steel, iron and coal operations. Forbes.com regularly includes him in its list of the world’s richest people. In the 2010 ranking, he was pegged at number 148, with an estimated net worth of $5.2 billion.

The GoLocalProv story

To back up the suggestion of an organized crime link, GoLocalProv cited — and offered links to — English language versions of two stories, both from 2005, one from Kiev and the other from Russia.

One, at Kommersant.com, reported that Akhmetov had been called in for questioning by Ukraine’s Interior Ministry. The ministry did not give a reason. That story quotes Sergey Kornicha, head of the ministry’s Economic Crimes Department as saying, “I am deeply convinced that Akhmetov is the real head of an organized crime group,” a quote repeated by GoLocalProv.

Omitted from the GoLocalProv account is information in the same paragraph reporting that Kornicha’s boss, Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko, had said he personally had not seen any evidence that Akhmetov was implicated in any criminal offenses. The minister had said that Kornicha was promising that he would prove his case or apologize to Akhmetov. Five years later, we could find no evidence that either has occurred.

The second story is on the website of the Kyiv Post, also from July 2005, which offers the even more inflammatory suggestion — but not directly mentioned by GoLocalProv — that Akhmetov was suspected of being involved in the 1988 shooting of Serhiy “Botsman” Chernyshev.

That story also reports that Akhmetov’s Washington law firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, was asserting that it had a sworn statement from Botsman insisting that Akhmetov had no involvement in the shooting. The firm also said that Botsman had given the same assurance to prosecutors.

The Kyiv Post story cites political analyst Vadym Karasiov as saying that it is no secret that Ukraine’s elite has, in the past, been closely tied to organized crime groups. It quotes Karasiov as predicting that Akhmetov would likely be arrested in early 2006. We were unable to find any evidence that Akhmetov was ever arrested for anything.

GoLocalProv also said that “Akhmetov was named as a suspect in a murder investigation,” citingan article about former presidential candidate John McCain in The Nation. But that article offers no details and GoLocalProv offers none.

In the Kyiv Post article, Akhmetov’s law firm suggested that the government was pursuing Akhmetov because he had been an active supporter of the previous Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych.

The 2005 allegations came after Yanukovych was overthrown as part of the so-called “Orange Revolution,” which began in November 2004. When officials tried to question Akhmetov as part of a murder investigation, he was out of the country. When Yanukovych’s party regained power in 2006, Akhmetov returned to Ukraine, according to the article in The Nation, which mentions Akhmetov in passing.

Akhmetov was then elected to the Ukrainian parliament and continues to serve there.

The billionaire, now 44, has not taken crime allegations lightly. In 2008, a London court awarded him $100,000 after he objected to stories in the Ukrainian paper Obozrevatel, according to a report from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, at ReportingProject.net. In January 2010, after the French daily newspaper Le Figaro described him as “a bandit in the past,”he got a retraction.

Cianci picks up the story

After GoLocalProv released its story, its media partner, WPRO-630 radio, gave it wider distribution by airing an interview with Taras Kuzio, a visiting fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., and editor of the Ukraine Analyst newsletter.

Kuzio told former Providence mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, now a WPRO talk show host, that Akhmetov hails from Donetsk, a large industrial town in Eastern Ukraine. “Donetsk was basically the wild east in the 1990s and many people who were involved in so-called business were also involved in corruption and organized crime,” Kuzio said.

WPRO’s online summary of Kuzio’s comment says, in part: “Mr. Kuzio described Rinat Akhmetov as Ukraine’s Tony Soprano.” (Kuzio, in the interview, referred to the fictional crime boss twice.)

Kuzio, a critic of the current Ukrainian leadership, which Akhmetov supports, said in a telephone interview with PolitiFact Rhode Island that there is no solid proof that Akhmetov is a mobster. He claimed that there’s no proof because the Ukrainian system is so corrupt and all the witnesses are dead.

He said the rich businessmen in the country are either former bureaucrats who used their connections or former mobsters who used muscle. Akhmetov wasn’t a bureaucrat, so people assume he became wealthy because he was involved in organized crime.

But that doesn’t make it true.

Another view from Ukraine

For another perspective, we called Brian Mefford, who spent 10 years in Ukraine working for a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development, and is now a political consultant there.

He said the probes of Akhmetov never went anywhere.

In a telephone interview, he agreed that in the 1990s “all the former Soviet Union was sort of the Wild East. A lot of fortunes were made overnight and (Akhmetov) was in the right place at the right time to capitalize on that.”

Mefford said the laws in Ukraine “are archaic and they create a system where everyone is in violation of the law, so you could find something bad to say about every single businessman in the country because the laws don’t create an environment where you can operate in an openly Western manner. So I think everybody has questions about where people in this country make money.”

“There’s a saying in the Ukraine for these situations,” he said, referring to the millionaires of the region. “Nobody knows how they got the first million. But the second million they can explain. How did Akhmetov get his first million? Nobody knows. But I don’t think anybody knows for any businessman here in this country. But his business now is operating above board. It’s a well-known, respected business employing thousands of people across the country.”

So while some people may suspect Akhmetov of being involved in organized crime, there is no evidence to back that up.

Chafee’s involvement

Chafee, who says he wants to fight corruption and refuses to go on WPRO during the time slot occupied by Cianci because of Cianci’s felony convictions and behavior while mayor, went onWPRO’s John DePetro program to explain that he was invited to join the foundation in 2007. At the time, he was working for The Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

“I received a phone call from a Washington law firm and they were recruiting individuals to advise the Ukraine on their emerging economy from the Soviet era,” he said.

Chafee said he asked questions about the job but was reassured by the fact that the board included other distinguished people, including Kim Campbell, Canada’s first female prime minister;Frances Cairncross, rector of Oxford University’s Exeter College and a Brown University graduate; and Gyorgy Suranyi, a former president of the National Bank of Hungary.

“These are all very, very distinguished individuals,” Chafee said.

Mark MacDougall is the lawyer who contacted Chafee. He said the former Senator had lots of questions and went to Ukraine before agreeing to serve on the Foundation’s board. “He asked me about Mr. Akhmetov and where his money came from,” said MacDougall. But his chief concerns were about the foundation. “He wanted to make sure his good name wasn’t being misused.”

“Ukraine is thought to be an ongoing laboratory in how democratic institutions develop and I think [Chafee] was very attracted to that,” said MacDougall. “He was never hired as a consultant.”

Chafee, in an interview with PolitiFact Rhode Island, recalled MacDougall saying that Akhmetov had a reputation in Ukraine. “He pretty much shared all the rumors with me. But he said they’re unsubstantiated, and you can take them as you wish.”

Chafee said he can understand the rumors. People ask, “‘How did it happen so fast, from state-owned businesses going into privately owned? How did that happen?’ Those were the questions I had,” he told DePetro.

For as much as $100,000 a year, “We travel throughout the Ukraine to learn about the economy and give our best advice we can,” Chafee told DePetro. He acknowledged that it’s a lucrative position and said he could understand why people are suspicious of Akhmetov because he controlled major industries once owned by the state.

Chafee also told WPRO that he met Akhmetov “very briefly” on one occasion. When we interviewed Chafee, he said he met Akhmetov twice. The first time was when “We just said ‘Hi'” and the second was in the past year when Akhmetov hosted an informal luncheon for the foundation’s board and they discussed issues involving Ukraine.

Chafee said he has never seen any evidence of impropriety at the foundation and would have resigned if he did. “We’re not taking political sides or giving any kind of varnished advice, and I would not participate if I wasn’t comfortable with any kind of contribution I was making.”

Akhmetov checks his own background

In 2005, Akhmetov, sensitive to the allegations of criminal activity swirling around him and eager to do business in other countries, hired Kroll Associates, an investigations firm in London, to look into the billionaire’s background.

The probe — for which Kroll insisted on being paid in advance to avoid pressure to reach a specific conclusion — took about six months and included interviews with scores of government officials, police contacts and Akhmetov associates, along with records kept by the former Soviet Union to make sure the Ukrainian records hadn’t been altered, according to Omer Erginsoy, a senior managing director who led the investigation.

The resulting report is shown to companies seeking to do business with Akhmetov’s or one of his companies.

“We couldn’t find any basis for supporting the [criminal] allegations,” Erginsoy told us. They all seemed to be cases of “kompromat,” a Russian word for an attempt to compromise a political or business rival, he said. “You try to discredit the guy by coming up with some supposed fact, you can embellish on and place it in the public domain of the media. It goes viral and it gets quoted, and it’s even easier now, with the Internet.”

Such allegations can gain traction because doing business in Ukraine could be rough in the 1980s and ’90s. There were, for example, murders involving rival regional clans of traders who competed to supply goods to various businesses as the old Soviet system dissolved. “It became inevitable that these successful guys, each and every one of them, were variously accused of having ties to criminal organization in the period,” Erginsoy said.

Akhmetov was a trader, but he didn’t remain one, said Erginsoy. “Rather than just supplying goods to these industrial companies that were really faltering, he decided to buy these debt-ridden companies from the state and turned them around. He was one of a handful of guys who had a vision of getting out of the informal economy and owning these assets, developing a real asset base and turning it into a proper company.”

MacDougall said Chafee was shown a copy of the 49-page report, but Chafee said he doesn’t remember seeing it.

(MacDougall’s firm allowed us to read the report. But they would not allow us to copy it. Because we can’t share it with our readers, we are not quoting from it here.)

Ambassador urged Chafee’s involvement

Some may be suspicious of a report about yourself that you pay for, even if you pay for it in advance from a respected investigations firm.

So we spoke with William B. Taylor Jr., U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009.

Taylor was at the initial meeting in Ukraine where Chafee was deciding whether to join the foundation.

“Everybody in Ukraine has a history, but we know more about some than others,” said Taylor, now a vice president at the United Institute of Peace in Washington.

“There have been a lot of rumors and unsubstantiated claims about (Akhmetov’s) background. But the embassy has done some checking and other United States government agencies back in Washington have done some checking,” he said. “While there are a lot of press stories, we had nothing to indicate that it would be a problem for people to be dealing with Mr. Akhmetov. Not just Senator Chafee, but others as well.”

Taylor said he met with Akhmetov many times and “he saw that if the country was going in a direction of more openness and transparency in business dealings, it would be better for individual companies like his.”

Taylor said he advised Chafee and others about becoming involved in the foundation.

“I told them this foundation [Akhmetov] was putting together, near as we could tell, would mean good things for the country,” said Taylor. With “the benefit of advice and guidance from internationally known and respected people like Senator Chafee and others, they could do some good things for the country.”

Extraordinary claim, inferior evidence

We contacted the cofounder of GoLocalProv, Josh Fenton, to inquire about the story. He asked us to email our questions. We did. That was Wednesday afternoon. Neither he nor his staff has given us any answers.

We decided not to apply the Truth-O-Meter to this story because while the careful wording of the GoLocalProv headline may be technically accurate, it became clear to us when we probed deeper that key elements of the story are false or unproven.

GoLocalProv offered no evidence that Chafee is paid to directly consult with Akhmetov. He is paid to advise a foundation created by Akhmetov to improve conditions in Ukraine.

As for Akhmetov’s “widely reported ties to organized crime,” we’re reminded of the fact that it can be very difficult to prove a negative. After all, how would you prove to someone that you’re not involved with organized crime?

In the end, we’ve seen no convincing evidence of such a link. As far as we could tell, Rinat Akhmetov has never been indicted or convicted of any crime. We couldn’t find any reference of even a minor arrest.

All we found were suspicions, suggestions, innuendo, and conspiracy theories circulating in the rough-and-tumble world of an emerging Ukrainian democracy.

In the end, what the GoLocalProv story is stating is that Chafee is involved with a mobster.

That’s an extraordinary claim, given Chafee’s reputation.

Astronomer Carl Sagan used to say that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

In this case, the evidence doesn’t even rise to the level of the ordinary.

Turkey moves to deepen China ties

[Should we see the Turkish and US missions as competition, or as the old “one-two-punch”?  SEE: Clinton heads to Asia to assure China’s neighbors]

Turkey moves to deepen China ties

FULYA ÖZERKAN 

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu will set out for China late Wednesday. AP photo
Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu will set out for China late Wednesday. AP photo

With China rising as a world power, Turkey has intensified its efforts to increase dialogue, sending its foreign minister to the Asian nation for a weeklong trip just three weeks after receiving the Chinese prime minister.

Experts say, however, that it will not be easy to establish an equal relationship with Beijing.

“The increase in trade with China is creating a situation [weighted] against Turkey,” Selçuk Çolakoğlu of the Ankara-based think tank USAK, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. “Economic targets set by the two countries are not overlapping.”

The trade balance between Turkey and China is heavily in the latter’s favor. Turkish exports to China surpassed $1.45 billion in the first eight months of 2010, compared to imports of $10.67 billion. Statistics show that 65 percent of Turkey’s $28.5 billion total foreign trade deficit from January to June was due to imports from Russia, China and the United States.

Turkey imports natural gas from Russia and technological products from the United States, while the trade deficit with China largely comes from consumer goods.

Though Turkey officially recognized the People’s Republic of China in 1971, the country has not been prominent in Ankara’s strategic vision. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s departure for China late Wednesday indicates that is changing. Turkish businessmen expressed high hopes about the new engagement, saying high-level interaction in the political realm will encourage mutual investment.

“We were continually in the position of being the importing country. Exports were long neglected. Now there’s an awakening,” said Derya Aydıner, head of the Turkish-Chinese Chamber of Commerce. “We are moving from one-sided interaction toward mutual trade with China.”

Both economic and political relationships between the two countries remained weak until the 1990s, when China stepped onto the world stage after its reform and opening-up drive in 1978, becoming a member of the World Trade Organization in 2001. Turkey and China have set a timetable to increase their trade volume to $50 billion by 2015 and to $100 billion by 2020, boldly vowing to trade in their national currencies.

A strategic partnership?

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said earlier this month that Turkey and China had agreed to boost their relationship to the level of strategic cooperation, something he hailed as an important sign following the institution of similar policies with Russia and Iran.

Though Western-oriented opinion makers have recently criticized Ankara for moving away from Europe and forging close links with countries in the Middle East, especially Iran, analysts say the warming of Turkish-Chinese relations will not fuel such debates. Instead, they say, the growing ties should be seen as an effort to fill a significant gap in Turkish foreign policy.

President Abdullah Gül visited China in 2009 and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao became the first Chinese premier in eight years to visit Turkey when he traveled to Ankara early this month. Turkey and China have signed eight separate agreements to deepen their ties on issues ranging from energy and transportation to telecommunications and culture. The relationship has also grown in the military sphere, with NATO-member Turkey inviting China to join an Anatolian Eagle military exercise.

Not all analysts think the relationship will continue to progress smoothly, though.

“All this should not be interpreted as Turkish-Chinese relations turning into a strategic partnership. This is not the case at all. Whatever Turkey and China do to improve their relationship, they will remain rivals,” said Sinan Oğan, the chairman of the Ankara-based think tank TÜRKSAM. “In 15 to 20 years time, Turkey will become part of a natural alliance made up of the United States, Russia and Japan against China. The Turkish position will not be for, but against China.”

Energy could be a key part of the two countries’ future relations, but with both dependent on oil and gas, and competing for Caspian-based resources, cooperation will not be easy to come by. Experts say renewable energy and nuclear energy could be more promising.

Uighur Turks a source of concern

Connections between Turkey and Uighur Turks in China continue to be a potential source of problems in Turkish-Chinese relations.

Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, shares linguistic and religious links with the Uighurs in China’s western-most region, known in Turkish as Doğu Türkistan (East Turkistan). There are several associations belonging to Uighur Turks in Turkey.

Ankara was only able to normalize its relationship with Beijing after it made some restrictions on activities of Uighur Turks in Turkey, who protested Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s trip to Ankara early this month. Members of the East Turkistan Culture and Solidarity Association chanted slogans and unfurled banners in front of the hotel where Wen was staying. One of the protesters attempted to throw a shoe at the Chinese leader but failed to connect with his target.

The relationship with China was strained by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s describing the 2009 ethnic violence in China’s Xinjiang region as “a kind of genocide” and granting a visa to Rebiya Kadeer, an exiled Uighur based in the United States who China has blamed for the ethnic unrest that killed some 184 people.

FM Davutoğlu’s schedule

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will set out for China late Wednesday, after attending the National Security Council meeting in Ankara. He will first visit Kashgar, an oasis city in the western part of the Xinjiang region, and then travel to Urumqui, the capital of Xinjiang, on Thursday. Davutoğlu will fly to Shanghai on Saturday and visit the Turkish pavilion at the EXPO fair. On Monday, he will travel to the capital, Beijing, to participate in official meetings and lecture on Turkish-Chinese relations at the Beijing International Studies Institute.

The Systematic Attack Upon Islam in Tajikistan

[Tajikistan’s anti-Islam purge stinks of Stalin and his program for the elimination of Christian churches (SEE: USSR anti-religious campaign (1928–1941) “In the period between 1927 and 1940, the number of Orthodox Churches in the Russian Republic fell from 29,584 to less than 500.).]

Islamic Party Cries Foul As Tajikistan’s ‘Women’s Mosque’ Burns

Tajik officials say the Islamic Renaissance Party had been warned many times about holding prayers and selling religious materials at its headquarters. Tajik officials say the Islamic Renaissance Party had been warned many times about holding prayers and selling religious materials at its headquarters.

October 25, 2010
By RFE/RL
Tajikistan’s Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) says a fire that destroyed the party’s cultural center in Dushanbe — widely known as the “women’s mosque” — was not an accident.

The building, adjacent to the party’s headquarters and its main prayer hall, was almost completely destroyed by fire on the afternoon of October 23.

The religious center functioned as the only mosque in Tajikistan that allowed women to pray alongside men.

Mahmadali Hayit, a deputy head of the IRP, suggested the building was set ablaze deliberately. “I think it was arson and it was done with some type of fuel,” he said. “The fire started from the back of the building, which does not have any electrical line.”

Authorities in Dushanbe say the incident is under investigation and that “nothing is clear at this point.” Interior Minister Abdurahim Qahhorov visited the site to talk to party leaders and assess the situation.

Religion And Politics

IRP leaders say the incident took place a day after officials from the country’s Religious Affairs Committee visited the center to tell the party to stop using the building for prayers.

The IRP’s Mahmadali Hayit believes the fire was no accident.

“I see a direct connection between the delegation’s visit and this fire,” Hayit was quoted by the IRP’s website as saying.

Earlier in the week, the party headquarters was raided by law enforcement agencies. They disrupted prayers and “also took away some disks and literature on display there for sale,” Hayit said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Mahmadullo Asadulloev said the IRP had repeatedly been told not to use its headquarters for prayers and for selling religious compact disks.

“Such raids were taking place for years. But now they are reinforced,” Asadulloev said. “Tapes and disks that are being sold there illegally should be confiscated.”

Closure Order

The mosque is at the center of a long-running dispute between Tajik officials and the IRP, the only officially registered Islamic party in Central Asia.

The state Committee for Religious Affairs insists the building is not officially registered as a prayer house and that political parties should not have mosques.

Party officials have in the past said the government was seeking to close down the mosque to prevent any future growth in the party’s influence.

Hayit said the party previously had been warned by the Religious Committee that the mosque would be closed by October 13. However, according to Hayit, the party was hoping “the issue will be resolved peacefully.”

According to party officials, between 2,500 and 3,000 people attend Friday Prayers at the party headquarters’ mosque.

Women attend Friday Prayers at Islamic Renaissance Party headquaters in Dushanbe.

At least 100 women took part in Friday Prayers in the adjacent prayer room, which is separated by a partition from the main hall where the men pray. The IRP, however, calls it a women’s religious cultural center.

Traditional Islam

Tajik religious authorities banned women from attending mosque prayers in 2004. No official reason was given, but pro-government clerics had argued that the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam — followed by a majority of Tajiks — does not require women to attend mosque prayers.

But the decision sparked some protests by women and religious leaders, who criticized it as a violation of women’s rights.

Women and girls in Tajikistan do not traditionally attend mosque prayers.

In certain places, most notably in the Muhammadiya Mosque in the Vahdat district outside Dushanbe, and in a mosque run by prominent Mullah Hoji Mirzo in the southern city of Kulob, some women used to participate in Friday Prayers.

However, in recent years the authorities have ordered both mosques to stop holding women’s prayers.

written by Farangis Najibullah with contribution from RFE/RL’s Tajik Service

Pak Army Closes Afghan Border Boxing-In Shia of Parachinar

Pak Army blockades fiercely anti-Taliban tribe near Afghan border

Kurram, Oct 27 (ANI): Pakistan’s military has blockaded a strategically important district in the country’s north, sealing in a fiercely anti-Taliban tribe.
The Turi community is a bitter enemy of the Taliban, and has been keeping them out of Kurram tribal district, near the Afghan border, the BBC reported.

After Colonel Tausif Akhtar of the Pakistani security forces announced the move on Monday evening at a news conference in Parachinar, the main town in Kurram, five border crossing points- Terimangal, Spina Shaga, Khairlachi, Burki and Shahidano Dand- have been shut, with security beefed up.

“We have done this due to internal security concerns, because there have been sectarian clashes in Kurram and we do not want miscreants from outside to exploit the situation,” said Akhtar.

The blockade comes amid reports that the Turis have once again refused to allow the militants to enter Afghanistan via Kurram.

However, many in Kurram suspect that the government is pressurising the Turis to meet Taliban demands to cross their land, as the blockade means that the Turis are hemmed in by the military on one side and by the Taliban on the other.

After the Taliban blockaded the east of Kurram, effectively cutting off the area from the rest of Pakistan, the tribe had been forced to rely on trade with Afghan towns and villages over the border.

But the government decision to block this route, too, now places the Turis under an economic stranglehold, said the BBC.

Last week, Haqqani network members had held talks with Turi leaders in Islamabad in a bid to strike a deal on gaining access to Kurram, it added.

Though the Taliban allegedly offered safe passage for Turis travelling overland from Kurram to Peshawar in return, they reportedly rejected the Taliban approach- for at least the fourth time since 2008.

While the Turis, who follow the Shia branch of Islam, have traditionally abhorred the Taliban, who adhere to a hardline Sunni form of the faith, many Taliban consider Shias to be non-Muslims. (ANI)

Russian Troops May Train Afghans Outside Afghanistan

Russian troops may train Afghans

London, Oct 27 – Twenty years after the Soviet army quit Afghanistan, the Russian military may resume training Afghans, the Guardian reported Wednesday.

But NATO officials said the plan did not envisage having Russian troops in Afghanistan.

The Red Army was forced out by US-backed mujahideen in 1989 after fighting the guerrillas for about a decade.

The Guardian said the proposed plans precede an alliance summit next month to be attended by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Several joint NATO-Russian initiatives on Afghanistan were on the cards including the use of Russian helicopters and crews to train Afghan pilots, possible Russian training of Afghan national security forces and increased cooperation on counter-narcotics and border security, officials said.

But the officials said there was no question of Russian troops coming back to Afghanistan.

‘There are no plans to reintroduce Russian soldiers into Afghanistan – (it’s) not part of Russia’s intent, not Afghan, and not ours. Russians may get involved in training helicopter pilots if they provide some helicopters, but not in Afghanistan itself,’ a NATO spokesman said.

‘In the past, Russians have collaborated on training counter-narcotics police outside of country. None of the initiatives on the table involve Russian troops in Afghanistan.’

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was quoted as saying: ‘Russia is strongly interested in increased cooperation… Last December, when I visited Moscow, I suggested that Russia provide helicopters for the Afghan army.

‘Since then Russia has reflected on that and there are now bilateral talks between Russia and the US. I would not exclude that we will facilitate that process within the NATO-Russia council.’

Officials feel that Russian-made helicopters were more suited to Afghan conditions than their Western equivalents.

A diplomat pointed out that the Hamid Karzai government’s attitude would be key to the Russian plan to get involved in training Afghan army recruits.

IANS

NATO planning vastly stepped up Russian involvement in Afghanistan

NATO planning vastly stepped up Russian involvement in Afghanistan

From ANI

London, Oct 27(ANI): The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is reportedly in the final stages of negotiations with Russia for a joint initiative in Afghanistan.

According to the Telegraph, a formal agreement may be reached at NATO’s two-day summit, which will be attended by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in Lisbon from November 19.

“The summit can mark a new start in the relationship between NATO and Russia,” the newspaper quoted Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary-General, as saying.

“We will hopefully agree on a broad range of areas in which we can develop practical co-operation on Afghanistan, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics,” he added.

According to reports, the deals would include supply of Russian helicopters and Russian crews to train Afghan pilots.

Meanwhile, Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov hopes that Western peacemaking troops will not withdraw before they have fulfilled their mission in the region.

“We are watching things in Afghanistan very closely and we are exchanging our experience with the Americans. Russia is ready to pass on to America the experience gained by our veterans of the war in Afghanistan,” the Independent quoted Serdyukov, as saying.

“Withdrawal of the [Western] troops would naturally affect the situation in central Asia, we currently cannot even imagine how. For this reason we want to help the West, among other things with helicopters, whose delivery we are now discussing,” he added.

Copyright Asian News International/DailyIndia.com

Ukrainians have their own heroes and vision of history

Stop hanging over us!

Ukrainians have their own heroes and vision of history

By Ivan KAPSAMUN, The Day
Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day
THE ECHO OF THE TOTALITARIAN EPOCH

Last days saw, so to speak, a “sign of de-Stalinization.” What prompted some writers to focus on this was an important event in Russia’s public life — a statement by Mikhail Fedotov, the newly-appointed head of the Human Rights Council under the president of Russia, which was in many ways groundbreaking. He said that it is necessary to “de-Stalinize the social mentality of Russia’s citizens.” Ukrainians are especially interested in Russia finally opting for a democratic system. It is clear that Stalinism today is, above all, an imperial mentality that endures and rejects the Ukrainian identity, recognizing the Holodomor as genocide, and the right of Ukrainians to have their own heroes. It is a reason to impose on us their ideology in the form of the so-called common history manual.

We have already written about the Big Politics program on the Inter TV channel, which triggered a hot-heated debate. There was a particularly interesting moment in it: Sergei Uvarov, a Moscow guest and, presumably, a Ukraine expert, was outraged that his speech drew no applause. He exhibited an emotional reaction and began to suspect that he had spoken to a handpicked audience.

A young man from the audience raised his hand and replied with outstanding personal dignity. It took us quite an effort to track him down: he is a Kyivan student, Nazar Lytvyn. This program featured the very rational political scientist Vadym Karasiov, whom The Dayhas already interviewed, and the historian Vladyslav HRYNEVYCH, who agreed to answer The Day’s questions about the show, de-Stalinization and other topics.

THE UKRAINIAN INTELLIGENTSIA MAY ONLY SUPPORT THE GOVERNMENT IF IT REVERSES ITS MEMORY POLICY

VLADYSLAV HRYNEVYCH

Mr. Hrynevych, why do you think there is so much trickery in today’s Ukraine in regards to the topic of de-Stalinization?

“As a matter of fact, we have not heard the term ‘de-Stalinization’ since the new team came to power. Moreover, the leadership is always trying to adjust to Russia — to its canons and approaches to historical research. It is afraid of offending Russia and, in general, of saying a ‘wry’ word. Actually, speaking of de-Stalinization, we must note that this process began in full after the Orange Revolution. It is during this period that we began to depart from Soviet history and tried to create or recreate our own democratic canons, which can help us assume our own identity.

“When Putin came to power in Russia, de-Stalinization, which had begun in that country in the Yeltsin era, essentially slowed down. This signaled an overall rollback, i.e., a return to Stalinist values, because Stalin is a crucial element for Russian empire. This helps Russian leadership to attempt to recreate a powerful super-empire, for imperial values are very important for Russian mentality: everybody was afraid of us, we ruled the world, the Kremlin used to pick up a phone and tell half of Europe, Asia and Africa what to do. This really moves the Russian heart. In this case, Stalin, with all his crimes and atrocities, was the one who forced the entire world to fear and reckon with Russia. And, what is more, he is associated with winning the World War II. What he had done before is receding to the background. For modern-day Russian identity, the victory in World War II is the most significant event, which made Russia a superpower. In this sense, Stalin cannot be thrown away because we say ‘Stalin’ and mean ‘victory,’ we say ‘victory’ and mean Stalin. If you delete Stalin from this word combination, that victory will be empty. Therefore, Stalin is a butcher and a murderer on the one hand, and a great victor on the other.

“Russian school manuals published in the past five years, after Putin ordered the ‘right’ textbooks to be written (moreover, he promised to bring to justice the publishers who would produce the ‘wrong’ books), have seen a U-turn from de-Stalinization. For example, the manual by Danilov and Filippov ends in 1945. It does not explain what totalitarianism is because the authors consider it a bad word and suggest using the word ‘modernization.’ In other words, Stalinism is regarded as a period of modernization that turned a peasant Russia into a rocket-launching one. Stalin is treated as a great manager who succeeded in carrying out this modernization. The manual’s authors mainly emphasize industrialization, devoting 80 positive pages to it, while the Holodomor, owing to which the industrialization was in fact possible, takes up but one passage.

“I am not inclined to exaggerate the role of the Orange period, but, against the backdrop of economic failures, negative effects on public wellbeing, and political chaos, Yushchenko’s national memory policy, criticized, incidentally, by many historians, was about de-Stalinization. I just wonder why these historians are silent now. How are they going to criticize this policy now? As you know, there was so much mocking of Lviv’s Lontsky Prison and Bykivnia in Kyiv. The right approach was to get rid of our Soviet legacy. Even the Occupation Museum, which many people also ridiculed for lack of wisdom, was a rational project that fit in with the de-Stalinization concept.”

What is your attitude to the Russian politician Sergei Markov’s idea to write a common manual on Russian and Ukrainian history? Is this possible at all?

“Whenever we raise this question, I have another one to ask: why do the Russian, or our leaders, need this? It is very simple. The Russians are very well aware that it will be difficult to restore their empire without Ukraine. As a matter of fact, when they say we should write a common manual, it is, above all, an attempt to use identity as a means of caging Ukrainians, especially those who still find it difficult to find their identity. The Russians know only too well that ours is a split country and, hence, they take advantage of this, manipulating the awareness of the people. If you deprive people of their language, history, and identity — they will think it is normal. The Russian imperial project is in fact aimed at tying Ukraine up — intellectually, morally, and in terms of identity — to Russia as tightly as possible, and uses history as an argument.

“The European democratic rhetoric, which both Markov and Kolesnichenko resorted to, hides Russian imperial intentions. When somebody always urges us to be more democratic and tolerant, and to embrace European values, this means they are pulling wool over our eyes. Because their media is frank about the fact that [Russia] will not manage to restore an empire of sorts without Ukraine. Who guarded the Chinese border in the Soviet era? The Ukrainians. They are not there now. In other words, there is no, pardon the expression, ‘cannon fodder’ to do the dirty work.”

What about Fedotov’s statement about Russia’s intention to carry out de-Stalinization?

“Russia is as eager as Ukraine to integrate into the European space. They are motivated by a host of economic problems. So it is extremely important for Russia to have the image of a civilized country, and Stalinism is quite an uncivilized thing. This is why both Putin and Medvedev have been dissociating themselves from and condemning Stalinism in the past few years. The real situation is that, on the one hand, Stalinist methods and crimes are being condemned and, on the other, Stalin is being glorified. Frankly speaking, I would be very glad if Russia embarked on a democratic path and condemned Stalinism, among other things. The point is that deeds not always follow words. I have already mentioned Danilov’s and Filippov’s textbook. It is about not only history but also about political spin. It is teachers, rather than pupils, who must study this manual to know how to teach history. Incidentally, this book came under scathing criticism in the West for being biased.

“Besides, the State Duma of Russia passed two resolutions on the ‘right’ interpretation of Ukraine’s past. Then they set up the so-called Medvedev Commission that deals with countering the falsification of history. The Russian authorities are actively supporting this: a number of projects have been launched to study history textbooks in neighboring countries. We know there have already been some conflicts, as with the relocation of [Red Army soldiers] monuments in Tallinn and Kutaisi. Another resolution is aimed at countering the rehabilitation of Nazi war criminals and their henchmen in the former Soviet republics. Passed on the eve of Victory Day, this law prescribes punishment for attempts to revise the assessment of World War II. This virtually Stalinist document is a manifesto of sorts by which Moscow is asserting its rights and laying claim to ideological control in the post-Soviet space, first of all, in its European part. Russia is just making it clear that it will not tolerate any pluralism of views on the history of World War II. Incidentally, the institutions that promote writing a ‘true’ history of Russia are far from always considered academic.

“Therefore, de-Stalinization in Russia is a desired, rather than an actual, thing. In other words, Russia’s national memory policy is very far from its leader’s recent declarations. We will see whether Russia’s declarations on de-Stalinization will be backed up by actions or whether they are just meant to woo the West. In reality, the latest Western research shows there is no de-Stalinization going on. Russia is not waging a large-scale campaign to condemn Stalinism. All this sank into oblivion after Yeltsin because the authoritarian regime does not want any parallels to be drawn with the Stalinist regime.”

Perhaps, at least in words only, Russia is trying to snatch the de-Stalinization initiative from Ukraine?

“While in the Yushchenko era it was possible to analyze something because many institutions dealt with this issue, now we simply do not have any national memory policy. There is the Institute of National Remembrance, which has done very much in pursuing the national memory policy. We can clearly see this only now that de-Stalinization is being folded up, especially when this institute is now headed by the communist Soldatenko who is guided by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, and is mulling over the publication of a book of documents on UPA atrocities. Pursuing this policy, the institute only discredits the authorities, particularly Yanukovych, instead of doing any good. I do not think it will hold out for a long time, if it continues moving in this direction. So, taking into account that fact that the government is not pursuing any national memory policy, we cannot say that Russia can overtake us. Not only are doing nothing: on the contrary, we are ruining what was done during the presidency of Yushchenko.

“The new leadership has completely lost the support of Ukrainian intellectuals who do not wish, on their part, to cooperate with the authorities. And the people who hang around Yanukovych only pretend to be intellectuals. In this case, the leadership has found itself in a blind alley by its own effort. So they ought to think of how long they will manage to stay in power without relying on the potential of Ukrainian intellectuals. The Ukrainian intelligentsia will only offer its support if the leadership reverses its current national memory policy. It is not a question of political preferences. The leadership simply does not know how to cope with what they can possess at last when nobody gives them a helping hand. Therefore, the point is not that Russia has overtaken them — the point is that they still fail to understand that de-Stalinization is a needed and civilized thing to do.”

What do you think causes the leadership to be unaware of the necessity to carry out this process?

“The cause is absolutely clear. Ukraine is a country that has a lot of identities, of which we can single out two and call them, for convenience, pro-Ukrainian and pro-Soviet. The latter is largely based on Russian patriotism. This means preference for the Russian language and culture as well as nostalgia for the Soviet Union. Yushchenko brought in an elite that endorsed the idea of pro-Ukrainian identity and considered it necessary to Ukrainize this country’s identity for the sake of development. But the current ruling elite, mostly hailing from Donetsk, was born and raised in a region, where all things Ukrainian were weak and all things Russian and Soviet were blurred. The Ukrainian language, culture, and identity are of no value for them. They thought that once they had come to power and imposed their will, all the rest would become resigned to their fate. This leadership does not understand that no social, mental, and intellectual questions can be answered by injunctions. This cannot be done by force. Stalin was once bent on physically destroying the Ukrainian elite. This is now, naturally, impossible. After all, what did Stalin manage to do? As soon as the regime foundered in the late 1980s, the Ukrainian identity immediately came to the fore.

“Power is now wielded by people whom I cannot possibly call an elite. They do not know at all whether they are Ukrainian or Russian. I once read that when non-ethnic Ukrainians were appointed to top offices in the Soviet era, they would become Ukrainian patriots within a year or two. Somebody even complained to Moscow that the rotation of cadres was too slow and people here became Ukrainian patriots too fast. In this case the Donetsk clan found itself in a similar situation. These people came to Kyiv, where they felt a certain influence and resistance, because neither Kyiv nor Lviv support them. For example, they can politically cancel an election or do something else, but this will not produce a result. Unfortunately, the Donetsk clan continues to discredit itself when it allows its inner circle to stage all kinds of provocations. Among them are Tabachnyk and Soldatenko, who are acting against, rather than for, their leaders. But even they will be unable to de-Ukrainize Ukraine.

“For this reason, the Donetsk clan will have to adapt and become Ukrainized. There is no other way out. Either they will adjust to Ukrainian rules or go nowhere. They will not draw up their own rules. Even Prof. Tolochko, who opines that Ukrainians created the Russian Empire and that it is our common heritage, will not help here, let alone Tabachnyk with his still crazier ideas. The Russian and Soviet empires are not our common heritage. The proof of this is the Holodomor, the OUN-UPA, and Chornobyl. Our historical memory is entirely different, so we will never adapt to the Russian mentality. I think the current leadership will gradually understand this and will, sooner or later, try to get rid of their most odious members — in other words, they will opt for a compromise. This is meant to attract the Ukrainian elite to ruling the state.”

There was a very interesting moment at the Inter TV channel’s latest program Big Politics, when a student from the audience raised his hand and spoke to the Russian guest Sergei Markov, responding to his passionate speech: “If we had a normal security service, you would be in no laughing mood.” Would you comment on this? What does this mean?

“Apart from being an academic historian, I am also a professor at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. This means I mingle with young people who study impartial history. A Norwegian acquaintance of mine surveyed the state of languages in Ukraine and found that Russian-speaking young people in Kharkiv believe that Ukrainian should be the official language. Kyiv-Mohyla Academy is one of the few institutions in Ukraine where Ukrainian is spoken everywhere. I think that people, who have gone to Ukrainian schools and studied Ukrainian textbooks deprived of imperial and totalitarian bombast are the foundation of Ukrainian patriotism.

“During the abovementioned talk show, young people never applauded Markov, which means they took a dim view of the idea of a common textbook. And Ganapolsky was certainly wrong to give this student a talking-to for being ‘undemocratic.’ Can you imagine that our compatriot comes to France or Germany and begins to say in a TV program what Markov said in Ukraine: ‘your textbooks are not your business and if you are undemocratic and dim-witted, we will tell you what to write?’ This is a national insult. The student spoke from the bottom of his heart. And he was right because he meant: ‘If you have come to a foreign country and want to foist your approaches on us, where is our security service, which is supposed to protect us from you?’”

***

The Day got in touch with the person who responded to Markov’s “progressive” statements. He is Nazar Lytvyn, a 5th year (master’s degree) student, majoring in finance, at Kyiv National Vadym Hetman Economic University.

“WE MUST CORRECTLY ASSESS STALINISM AND CLEAR OUR CONSCIENCE OF THE SOVIET PAST”

NAZAR LYTVYN

Nazar, you could have remained silent during Markov’s speech. Why did you choose to speak?

“Firstly, I am very grateful to you for an opportunity to express my opinion. That moment on the talk show, I had prepared no special questions. I was just listening to the debate. I will tell you straightaway that Mr. Markov’s words revolted me. I could not help responding, for I was not indifferent to what he said. In general, I think any patriotically-minded person would have done the same in my place. He, a Russian State Duma member, came to us — to a Ukrainian TV channel — first of all, as a guest, so he should not have taken the liberty to lecture us on how to write Ukrainian history textbooks and, in general, to express contemptuous ideas about our history and heroes. I think the SBU should deal with this kind of people. I am not going to assess the performance of this organization under the previous president, but they really dealt with such people as Zatulin and Luzhkov, who also allowed themselves, whenever they visited Ukraine, to express doubts about Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity.”

There have been instances in Europe, when the French and the Germans wrote common history manuals. What do you think should occur in Ukraine-Russia relations to enable the two countries to write common textbooks? It is possible now, or ever?

“I do not think it is possible today. And, in general, I do not understand how we can write about a common history if we are different countries and have different histories. Naturally, there can be some common positive moments for both countries, but Russia is a conqueror, while Ukraine is a country that has always been fighting for its independence, mainly against Russia. In other words, we have a history of liberation. So there is very little in common between the two countries. And if we recall the Russian leadership’s comment about how collapse of the USSR is the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century — and we know that this ‘catastrophe’ resulted in Ukraine’s independence, what common history can we talk about? Yes, Ukraine and Russia are close in many respects, we are neighbors and, in all probability, a common textbook will be possible in the future. But, for this to happen, each side should admit its own faults and failures. History consists of black and white streaks, so one should not say that Russia has always been good for us. This is wrong. Moreover, our people do not think so. We have heroes of our own that Russia must recognize if it wants common textbooks to be written.”

Why do you think Russia has recognized the Polish tragedy in Katyn but does not want to recognize the Ukrainian Holodomor tragedy?

“Yes, Poland was at times part of the Russian imperial or Soviet sphere of influence, but Ukraine was much closer. Even Russians themselves are saying that it is impossible to reestablish a Russian empire without Ukraine. Taking into account that in the early 2000s Russia embarked on the path of the restoration of what I may call a once powerful empire, Ukraine has become the main object of pressure on the part of Russia. Moreover, they need our human and economic resources. The Polish situation is different: new world realities and, hence, new geopolitics. But the main thing is that the Poles are more unanimous in defending their interests. Poland has always been taking the same view on the Katyn tragedy, no matter who was in power. This has never been the case in Ukraine because some Ukrainian politicians do not consider the Holodomor as genocide. Russia will not recognize the Holodomor as long as there is no unity on this question in Ukrainian society and, what is more, among politicians. Only united can we resist Russian pressure.”

What do you think causes de-Stalinization to slow down in today’s Ukraine?

“I represent the younger generation that was shaped in independent Ukraine, although I was born in the USSR. My views were formed in independent Ukraine. It is perhaps the patriotic upbringing by my parents that allows me to say that de-Stalinization must be carried out to the end. Stalin was one of the greatest butchers of the Ukrainian people, so I don’t think de-Stalinization is bad. We must properly assess that period and clear our conscience of the vestiges of the Soviet past.

Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day
BYKIVNIA

“You know, whenever officials and the opposition attend such TV programs as Big Politics, they try to tell the public that economic matters and people’s wellbeing is the thing to focus on. I do not think so because what is the most important is our language and history, i.e., social issues, as well as whether people abide by democratic procedures, laws, and the Constitution. I think politicians wangle public opinion when they say that earning money and, pardon, eating is the main thing. Politicians believe that ordinary people are disillusioned with politics. This may be partially true, but, as far as the younger generation is concerned (I don’t mean myself only), they are taking a keen interest in our political life, and they are concerned whether it will be worse or better.”

In your speech during the talk show, you said the phrase: “If we had a normal security service.” What is wrong with the security service and the government in general?

“I would not like to criticize the SBU for cooperating with Russia and in fact selling out our national interests. I just want to say that it is doing nothing to resist the Russian onslaught — sometimes it even encourages this onslaught. Why did it happen? Ukraine is diverse. I find it difficult to say what would have happened if another candidate had won, but the tragedy is that our democratic forces failed to unite. Nor can they, unfortunately, do so today, when the authorities are constantly pressuring them. Let us hope they will be able to unite in the future. The opposition will hardly manage to recoup its losses in the upcoming local elections, but they stand a good chance in the next parliamentary vote. They must unite by all means in order to offer at least some resistance to the government and avert any further ‘passionate love’ of Russia by way of integrating into Europe.”

I wonder why you have such a strong liberal arts background while you study exact sciences at the university. Secondly, can you tell us about the way audiences are selected for the Big Politics program? What was the audience’s reaction to Markov’s words?

“I have a good liberal arts background thanks to the school I went to. I come from Ternopil oblast. I have read and still read literature. Family upbringing is also important. My father and grandfather always take interest in politics and history, and they handed this down to me when I was still a child. Although politics is a dirty thing, I am interested in it.

“Yevgeny Kiseliov was right to say that it is mostly the students’ audience which was not ‘bribed.’ The students applauded the guests they liked and kept silent when they disagreed with somebody. In this case I managed to respond and thus express my protest. In reality, most of the Ukrainian, especially Kyivan, universities represented by their students in the audience applauded to the idea that there should be no common history textbook. The audience was patriotically-minded and did not support Markov’s theses. I know many of those who took part in this program, so I can say that most of them are opting for Ukraine’s democratic future and movement towards Europe, as well as better standards and values.”

Iran Urges Global Fight Against Money Laundering, Terrorism

Iran Urges Global Fight Against Money Laundering, Terrorism

Journal of Turkish Weekly (JTW)

 

TEHRAN, Oct. 23 (MNA) — National Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei has called on the world’s legal organizations to launch intensive campaign against money laundering, terrorism, and drug smuggling.

Mohseni Ejei made the remarks at the conference of prosecutor generals of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in China on Friday.

During the recent years, several national and international conferences have been held on these issues, however, more serious measures must be taken in this regard, Mohseni Ejei stated.

The chief prosecutor said over the past three decades, Iran has been under the intense pressure of the U.S., the Zionist-backed terrorist groups and drug mafia.

He also said the Islamic Republic of Iran has ratified certain laws and regulations in the campaign against terrorism, drugs, and money laundering.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Mohseni Ejei noted that the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan has led to a rise in drug trafficking in the region and created major problems for Iran.

In his address to the conference, Mohseni Ejei proposed the following steps to help resolve such crises:

(1) Establishing a special committee to explore the roots of global organized crimes.

(2) Taking necessary measures to increase bilateral and multilateral cooperation at regional and global levels on identification and extradition of criminals, fight state and non-state terrorism, exchange data and so on.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an intergovernmental mutual-security organization which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.


Saturday, 23 October 2010

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