Russian-led security organization may be ready to flex its muscle

Russian-led security organization may be ready to flex its muscle

News analysis by Martin Sieff

The Rapid Reaction Force of the Russian-led CSTO will conduct exercises next week

WASHINGTON, DC – Friday, October 22, 2010 –The Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is preparing to carry out a series of large-scale military exercises next week. Up to now, the CSTO has been most noted for its failure to exert any direct military or security influence in Central Asia, but that is changing.

Former Soviet Eurasia, especially Central Asia, is now covered by a web of diplomatic and security alliances. But the CSTO is the only one that actually holds out any promise of bringing real support to fragile or threatened governments in the region.

The new exercises are the first coordinated testing of the CSTO’s long-delayed Collective Rapid Reaction Force. They will be carried out from this Monday to Friday at the Chebarkul training ground in Russia’s Urals region of Chelyabinsk.

Russia won the agreement of the other members of the CSTO in February 2009 to create the new Rapid Reaction Force. Kazakhstan, Tajikistan Armenia and Kyrgyzstan all approved the new Russian-led force. Belarus came later into the agreement.

Only Uzbekistan, which is wary of renewed Russian military and diplomatic power in Central Asia, still holds out among the seven alliance members. Uzbek President Islam Karimov pleaded ill health in August when he did not attend a CSTO informal summit in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, that approved the new Rapid Reaction Force plan.

Up to now, the CSTO has been notable only in its absence from Kyrgyzstan, the Central Asian nation that seems most in need of its support.

Russia and the CSTO stood back and did nothing when President Kurmanbek Bakiev was toppled by a nationwide wave of protests on April 7. And they also did nothing when the country was torn apart by the worst ethnic violence in its independent history against minority Uzbeks in the southern Kyrgyz cities of Osh and Jalalabad in mid-June.

However, General Nikolai Bordyuzha, the Russian prominent security expert who is the secretary-general of the CSTO, signaled Friday that this may be about to change.

BordyuzhaFriday told Susan Elliott, deputy assistant secretary (DAS) of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the US State Department, that the CSTO was already sending support to the Kyrgyz government to maintain security in its borders, the RIA Novosti news agency reported from Moscow.

“The Collective Security Treaty Organization takes all necessary measures to support the Kyrgyz government in ensuring external and internal security, liquidation of consequences of mass disorders that occurred in the republic in June 2010,” Bordyuzha stated according to the report, which was also carried by the news agency in Kyrgyzstan.

The Kremlin was happy to see pro-American President Bakiev toppled in Kyrgyzstan. And it was disappointed in the government of current President Roza Otunbayeva that took over the reins on April 8. Otunbayeva, like Bakiev, made clear she wanted the U.S. Air Force to continue operating out of the Manas air base near the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek.

However, the Kyrgyz parliamentary elections on October 10 saw the success of political parties which are both eager to strengthen ties with Russia and opposed to letting the United States continue to use the Manas air base. These parties look certain to play a major role in the country’s next government, which is now in process of being negotiated.

Therefore, Moscow seems to have given the CSTO, under Gen. Bordyuzha’s leadership, the go-ahead to actively support the new political leadership emerging in Kyrgyzstan.

That may also mean that the CSTO at last will actively begin carrying out significant military support and security functions for governments in the region that are friendly to Russia, but are also threatened by internal disorder.

Tajikistan is an obvious candidate for such support along with Kyrgyzstan. Tajikistan is now threatened by a revival of the bloody internal and Islamist-influenced civil war that cost between 50,000 and 100,000 lives between 1992 and 1997.

The rise of the CSTO at least will not lessen the significance of the Russian- and Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), or Shanghai Pact, in the region

The SCO has steered clear of intervening directly in the internal affairs of any of the four Central Asian nations (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) that are members of it.

No other military alliance based in Asia can match the potential military resources of the SCO nations, especially Russia and China.

But although the SCO describes its massive annual joint training operations as anti-terrorist exercises, in reality they are inter-operability maneuvers between the armed forces of Russia and China in case they ever have to work together in any full-scale war or military operation.

But China under President Hu Jintao does not want to get caught up in any expensive and messy peacekeeping operations in Central Asia that might alarm Central Asian governments. They are happy to let the Russians take care of those problems. And the Russians are eager to do so in order to try and reassert their traditional hegemonic role in the region.

That means we should expect the CSTO to be flexing its muscles and exerting its power quite a bit in the years ahead.

Democracy is Paralyzed by a Populace Too Fearful to Act

Weimar in Jerusalem: the rise of fascism in Israel

By  Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery warns that fascism will overwhelm Israel unless progressive forces “awake from the coma, understand what is happening and where it is leading to, protest and struggle by all available means … in order to arrest the fascist wave that is threatening to engulf us”.

In Berlin, an exhibition entitled “Hitler and the Germans” has just opened. It examines the factors that caused the German people to bring Adolf Hitler to power and follow him to the very end…

[S]ince childhood, precisely this question has been troubling me. How did it happen that a civilized nation, which saw itself as the “people of poets and thinkers”, followed this man, much as the children of  Hamelin followed the pied piper to their doom.

This troubles me not only as a historical phenomenon, but as a warning for the future. If this happened to the Germans, can it happen to any people? Can it happen here, in Israel?

“This week, a new bill was tabled. It would prohibit non-citizens from acting as tourist guides in East Jerusalem… The bill is intended to deprive Arab Jerusalemites of the right to serve as tourist guides at their holy places in their city, since they are apt to deviate from the official propaganda line.”

As a nine-year old boy I was an eyewitness to the collapse of German democracy and the ascent of the Nazis to power. The pictures are engraved in my memory – the election campaigns following each other, the uniforms in the street, the debates around the table, the teacher who greeted us for the first time with “Heil Hitler”. I resurrected these memories in a book I wrote (in Hebrew) during the Eichmann trial, and which ended with a chapter entitled “Can it happen here?” I am returning to them these days, as I write my memoirs.

Fascism – no longer a taboo

I don’t know if the Berlin exhibition tries to answer these questions. Perhaps not. Even now, 77 years later, there is no final answer to the question: why did the German republic collapse?

This is an all-important question, because now people in Israel are asking, with growing concern: is the Israeli republic collapsing?

For the first time, this question is being asked in all seriousness. Throughout the years, we were careful not to mention the word fascism in public discourse. It raises memories which are too monstrous. Now this taboo has been broken.

Yitzhak Herzog, the minister of welfare in the Netanyahu government, a member of the Labour party, the grandson of a chief rabbi and the son of a president, said a few days ago that “fascism is touching the margins of our society”. He was wrong: fascism is not only touching the margins, it is touching the government in which he is serving, and the Knesset, of which he is a member.

Not a day – quite literally – passes without a group of Knesset members tabling a new racist bill. The country is still divided by the amendment to the law of citizenship, which will compel applicants to swear allegiance to “Israel as a Jewish and democratic state”. Now the ministers are discussing whether this will be demanded only of non-Jews (which doesn’t sound nice) or of Jews, too – as if this would change the racist content one bit.

This week, a new bill was tabled. It would prohibit non-citizens from acting as tourist guides in East Jerusalem. Non-citizens in this case means Arabs. Because, when East Jerusalem was annexed by force to Israel after the 1967 war, its Arab inhabitants were not granted citizenship. They were accorded only the status of “permanent residents”, as if they were recent newcomers and not scions of families that have lived in the city for centuries.

The bill is intended to deprive Arab Jerusalemites of the right to serve as tourist guides at their holy places in their city, since they are apt to deviate from the official propaganda line. Shocking? Incredible? Not in the eyes of the proponents, who include members of the Kadima Party. A Knesset member of the Meretz party also signed, but retracted, claiming that he was confused.

“The Knesset members act like sharks in a feeding frenzy. There is a wild competition between them to see who can devise the most racist bill.”

This proposal comes after dozens of bills of this kind have been tabled recently, and before dozens of others which are already on their way. The Knesset members act like sharks in a feeding frenzy. There is a wild competition between them to see who can devise the most racist bill.

It pays. After each such bill, the initiators are invited to TV studios to “explain” their purpose. Their pictures appear in the papers. For obscure MKs, whose names we have never heard of, that poses an irresistible temptation. The media are collaborating.

Israel’s place in the international club of fascists

This is not a uniquely Israeli phenomenon. All over Europe and America, overt fascists are raising their heads. The purveyors of hate, who until now have been spreading their poison at the margins of the political system, are now arriving at the centre.

In almost every country there are demagogues who build their careers on incitement against the weak and helpless, who advocate the expulsion of “foreigners” and the persecution of minorities. In the past they were easy to dismiss, as was Hitler at the beginning of his career. Now they must be taken seriously.

Only a few years ago, the world was shocked when Jörg Haider’s party was allowed Into the Austrian government coalition. Haider praised Hitler’s achievements. The Israeli government furiously recalled its ambassador to Vienna. Now the new Dutch government is dependent on the support of a declared racist, and fascist parties achieve impressive election gains in many countries. The “Tea Party” movement, which is blooming in the US, has some clearly fascist aspects. One of its candidates likes to go around wearing the uniform of the murderous Nazi Waffen-SS.

So we are in good company. We are no worse than the others. If they can do it, why not us?

But there is a big difference: Israel is not in the same situation as Holland or Sweden…

The German republic carried the name of Weimar, the town where the constituent assembly adopted its constitution after World War I. The Weimar of Bach and Goethe was one of the cradles of German culture.

It was a shiningly democratic constitution. Under its wings, Germany saw an unprecedented intellectual and artistic bloom. So why did the republic collapse?

Generally, two causes are identified: humiliation and unemployment. When the republic was still in its infancy, it was forced to sign the Versailles peace treaty with the victors of World War I, a treaty that was but a humiliating act of surrender. When the republic fell behind with the payment of the huge indemnities levied on it, the French army invaded the industrial heartland of Germany in 1923, precipitating a galloping inflation – a trauma Germany has not recovered from to this day.

When the world economic crisis broke out in 1929, the German economy broke down. Millions of despairing unemployed sank into abject poverty and cried out for salvation. Hitler promised to wipe out both the humiliation of defeat and the unemployment, and fulfilled both promises: he gave work to the unemployed in the new arms industry and in public works, like the new autobahns, in preparation for war.

And there was a third reason for the collapse of the republic: the growing apathy of the democratic public. The political system of the republic just became loathsome. While the people were sinking into misery, the politicians went on playing their games. The public was longing for a strong leader, to impose order. The Nazis did not overthrow the republic. The republic imploded, the Nazis only filled the void.

In Israel there is no economic crisis. On the contrary, the economy is flourishing. Israel did not sign any humiliating agreement, like the Treaty of Versailles. On the contrary, it won all its wars. True, our fascists speak about the “Oslo criminals”, much as Hitler ranted against the “November criminals”, but the Oslo agreement was the opposite of the Versailles treaty, which was signed in November 1919.

If so, what does the profound crisis of Israeli society stem from? What causes millions of citizens to regard with complete apathy the doings of their leaders, contenting themselves with shaking their heads in front of the TV set? What causes them to ignore what’s happening in the occupied territories, half an hour’s drive from their home? Why do so many declare that they do not listen to the news or read newspapers anymore? What is the origin of the depression and despair, which leave open the road to fascism?

“… the genetic code of the Zionist movement is pushing towards the annexation of the whole of the historical country up to the Jordan River, and – directly or indirectly – the transfer of the Arab population.”

The state has arrived at a crossroads: peace or eternal war. Peace means the foundation of a Palestinian state and the evacuation of the settlements. But the genetic code of the Zionist movement is pushing towards the annexation of the whole of the historical country up to the Jordan River, and – directly or indirectly – the transfer of the Arab population. The majority of the people is evading a decision by claiming that “we have no partner for peace” anyhow. We are condemned to eternal war.

Democracy is suffering from a growing paralysis, because the different sectors of the people live in different worlds. The secular, the national-religious and the Orthodox receive totally different educations. Common ground between them is shrinking. Other rifts are gaping between the old Ashkenazi community, the Oriental Jews, the immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, and the Arab citizens, whose separation from the rest is increasing all the time.

For the second time in my life, I may have to witness the collapse of a republic. But that is not predestined. Israel is not the goose-stepping Germany of those days, 2010 is not 1933. The Israeli society can yet sober up in time and mobilize the democratic forces within itself.

But for that to happen, it must awake from the coma, understand what is happening and where it is leading to, protest and struggle by all available means (as long as that is still possible), in order to arrest the fascist wave that is threatening to engulf us.

US seeks wider CIA role to fight militants in Pakistan

Indo-Asian News Service
The US is pushing to expand the presence of its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers in Pakistan in order to help Islamabad target the safe havens of Al Qaeda and other militants more aggressively, a media report said. The push comes as the White House seeks ways to prod Islamabad into more aggressive action against groups allied with the Al Qaeda hiding in safe havens near the Afghan border, The Wall Street Journal said quoting senior government officials.

The US has asked Pakistan to allow additional CIA officers and special military trainers to enter the country as part of efforts to intensify pressure on militants. The requests have so far been rebuffed by Islamabad.

There are currently about 900 US military personnel in Pakistan, 600 of which are providing flood relief and 150 of which are assigned to the training mission.

The push for more forces reflects, in part, the increased need for intelligence to support the CIA’s drone programme that has killed hundreds of militants with missile strikes. The additional officers could help Pakistani forces reach targets drones can’t.

Officials have even said they were going to stop asking for Pakistani help with the US’s most difficult adversary in the region, the North Waziristan-based Haqqani network, because it was unproductive, the report said.

The current efforts to expand CIA presence are meant to expand intelligence collection and facilitate more aggressive Pakistani-led actions on the ground. Some US officials remain hopeful that Islamabad will allow a greater covert presence that could include CIA paramilitary forces.

Given Pakistan’s objections to US ground troops, using more CIA paramilitary forces could be a “viable option”, said a government official. “That gives them a little bit of cover,” the official added, referring to the Pakistanis.

US officials also said a stronger US-Pakistan intelligence partnership would not be a substitute for closer working relationship with the military’s special operation forces.

While the Obama administration has been focused on North Waziristan, officials said there is a need for Pakistani operations in the southern city of Quetta and the surrounding province of Baluchistan.

The Pakistani government has in the past used its control over visas to express displeasure with US policy and limit the number of Americans who can work in the country.

A senior Pakistani official said if the Pakistani public became aware of US military forces conducting combat operations on Pakistani territory, it would wipe out popular support for fighting the militants in the tribal areas. Whether covert CIA forces would cross that line however, remains an open question.

How Many People Realize the Massive Tax Increases That Will Begin January 1?

[It would probably be better for all of us if Republicans Will Repeal Wall Street Rules]

Six Months to Go Until The Largest Tax Hikes in History

From Ryan Ellis

In just six months, the largest tax hikes in the history of America will take effect.  They will hit families and small businesses in three great waves on January 1, 2011:

(N.B. This version of the document contains even more tax hikes than the original version did)

First Wave: Expiration of 2001 and 2003 Tax Relief

In 2001 and 2003, the GOP Congress enacted several tax cuts for investors, small business owners, and families.  These will all expire on January 1, 2011:

Personal income tax rates will rise. The top income tax rate will rise from 35 to 39.6 percent (this is also the rate at which two-thirds of small business profits are taxed).  The lowest rate will rise from 10 to 15 percent.  All the rates in between will also rise.  Itemized deductions and personal exemptions will again phase out, which has the same mathematical effect as higher marginal tax rates.  The full list of marginal rate hikes is below:

– The 10% bracket rises to an expanded 15%
– The 25% bracket rises to 28%
– The 28% bracket rises to 31%
– The 33% bracket rises to 36%
– The 35% bracket rises to 39.6%

Higher taxes on marriage and family. The “marriage penalty” (narrower tax brackets for married couples) will return from the first dollar of income.  The child tax credit will be cut in half from $1000 to $500 per child.  The standard deduction will no longer be doubled for married couples relative to the single level.  The dependent care and adoption tax credits will be cut.

The return of the Death Tax. This year, there is no death tax.  For those dying on or after January 1 2011, there is a 55 percent top death tax rate on estates over $1 million.  A person leaving behind two homes and a retirement account could easily pass along a death tax bill to their loved ones.

Higher tax rates on savers and investors. The capital gains tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 20 percent in 2011.  The dividends tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 39.6 percent in 2011.  These rates will rise another 3.8 percent in 2013.

Second Wave: Obamacare

There are over twenty new or higher taxes in Obamacare.  Several will first go into effect on January 1, 2011.  They include:

The Tanning Tax. This went into effect on July 1st of this year.  It imposes a new, 10% excise tax on getting a tan at a tanning salon.  There is no exemption for tanners making less than $250,000 per year.

The “Medicine Cabinet Tax” Thanks to Obamacare, Americans will no longer be able to use health savings account (HSA), flexible spending account (FSA), or health reimbursement (HRA) pre-tax dollars to purchase non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines (except insulin).

The HSA Withdrawal Tax Hike. This provision of Obamacare increases the additional tax on non-medical early withdrawals from an HSA from 10 to 20 percent, disadvantaging them relative to IRAs and other tax-advantaged accounts, which remain at 10 percent.

Brand Name Drug Tax. Starting next year, there will be a multi-billion dollar tax assessment imposed on name-brand drug manufacturers.  This tax, like all excise taxes, will raise the price of medicine, hurting everyone.
Economic Substance Doctrine. The IRS is now empowered to disallow perfectly-legal tax deductions and maneuvers merely because it judges that the deduction or action lacks “economic substance.”  This is obviously an arbitrary empowerment of IRS agents.

Employer Reporting of Health Insurance Costs on a W-2. This will start for W-2s in the 2011 tax year.  While not a tax increase in itself, it makes it very easy for Congress to tax employer-provided healthcare benefits later.

Third Wave: The Alternative Minimum Tax and Employer Tax Hikes

When Americans prepare to file their tax returns in January of 2011, they’ll be in for a nasty surprise—the AMT won’t be held harmless, and many tax relief provisions will have expired.  These major items include:

The AMT will ensnare over 28 million families, up from 4 million last year. According to the left-leaning Tax Policy Center, Congress’ failure to index the AMT will lead to an explosion of AMT taxpaying families—rising from 4 million last year to 28.5 million.  These families will have to calculate their tax burdens twice, and pay taxes at the higher level.  The AMT was created in 1969 to ensnare a handful of taxpayers.

Small business expensing will be slashed and 50% expensing will disappear. Small businesses can normally expense (rather than slowly-deduct, or “depreciate”) equipment purchases up to $250,000.  This will be cut all the way down to $25,000.  Larger businesses can expense half of their purchases of equipment.  In January of 2011, all of it will have to be “depreciated.”

Taxes will be raised on all types of businesses. There are literally scores of tax hikes on business that will take place.  The biggest is the loss of the “research and experimentation tax credit,” but there are many, many others.  Combining high marginal tax rates with the loss of this tax relief will cost jobs.

Tax Benefits for Education and Teaching Reduced. The deduction for tuition and fees will not be available.  Tax credits for education will be limited.  Teachers will no longer be able to deduct classroom expenses.  Coverdell Education Savings Accounts will be cut.  Employer-provided educational assistance is curtailed.  The student loan interest deduction will be disallowed for hundreds of thousands of families.

Charitable Contributions from IRAs no longer allowed. Under current law, a retired person with an IRA can contribute up to $100,000 per year directly to a charity from their IRA.  This contribution also counts toward an annual “required minimum distribution.”  This ability will no longer be there.

Russia complains U.S. not acting on Afghan drug labs

[Will 0% American cooperation on Russian anti-narcotics plans translate into 0% Russian cooperation on the northern supply network?]

Russia complains U.S. not acting on Afghan drug labs

A U.S. soldier walks through an opium field in Afghanistan, which produces most of the world’s opium.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia is complaining that the United States has not acted on information the top Russian anti-drug official provided about many narcotics laboratories in Afghanistan.

Victor Ivanov, the head of Russia’s federal drug control agency, says he provided U.S. officials in Kabul months ago the coordinates of 175 laboratories where heroin is processed. He says U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials in Kabul have told him they are awaiting U.S. military approval to take down the labs.

“For some reason they are unable to carry out any operations to destroy these laboratories, because there is a delay from the military side,” Ivanov told The Associated Press through an interpreter Thursday.

Ivanov was in Washington for a meeting of a commission on drugs set up by the U.S. and Russian presidents to improve cooperation.

The U.S. DEA would not comment, saying it does not confirm or deny information shared by other nations.

Russia has long complained that the U.S. and NATO refusal to implement poppy eradication programs in Afghanistan is contributing to a flood of Afghan heroin into Russia. U.S. officials have argued that destruction of poppy fields would drive Afghan farmers into the arms of the Taliban.

Russia claims that drug production in Afghanistan has increased exponentially since the U.S.-led invasion that overthrew the Taliban government in 2001. It says smugglers freely transport Afghan heroin and opium north into Central Asia and Russia, and onward to Western Europe. Afghanistan is the world’s largest supplier of opium.

Ivanov has said that Russia has 2 million opium and heroin addicts.

NATO has urged Moscow to contribute to the war effort in Afghanistan by training more counternarcotics agents and providing helicopters to the Afghan government’s air force.

Ivanov said he also has suggested going after the major landlords in Afghanistan’s poppy growing region by submitting their names to the United Nations for sanctions.

“It wouldn’t be difficult to trace them,” he said.

Ivanov said he discussed the issue with U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke and other officials Thursday, then left frustrated that they provided no evidence that poppy eradication would strengthen the Taliban.

“It sounded not like constructive discussion but a manifestation of stubbornness,” he said. “I cannot say they are not listening. They are listening very carefully and attentively. But unfortunately, there are no results

Putin Visit Raises Speculation About Gas Deal To Merge Gazprom, Naftogaz

Putin Visit Raises Speculation About Gas Deal To Merge Gazprom, Naftogaz

KIEV, Ukraine — Experts said Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin isn’t coming to Ukraine for nothing. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is coming to Kyiv, and once again he’s got gas on his mind.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin
Russia’s most powerful man will meet his Ukrainian counterpart, Mykola Azarov, during the seventh session of the Ukrainian-Russian intergovernmental committee on economic cooperation on Oct. 27.

And although the official visit has received hardly any hype, the last time the two men met, during the sixth session of the same committee in Sochi, Russia, last April, Putin shocked financial markets and foreign governments alike by proposing a merger of the countries’ state oil and natural gas companies.

This time, one of the subjects of talks will also be gas – in particular, changes to bilateral gas agreements, Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov told journalists.

Shortly after Azarov’s boss, the Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, came to power in February, Kyiv extended the Russian navy’s presence in Ukraine’s autonomous region of Crimea for another 25 years in exchange for a cheaper gas price, which nevertheless continues to climb.

Then Putin began proposing all kinds of far-reaching integration projects such as the unification of the two countries’ nuclear industries, aviation sectors and, most importantly, their state gas companies – Gazprom and Naftogaz Ukraine.

More recently, Azarov has publicly complained that Ukraine needs an even lower gas price from Gazprom, leading to speculation as to what Kyiv would offer Moscow in return next.

Ukraine depends on the Russian state-controlled gas giant Gazprom for the majority of the gas used by its export-oriented industry, some of which directly competes with Russian companies.

Since Putin came to power in Russia, first as president in 2000 and now as premier, the Kremlin has done little to conceal its use of gas and oil exports to control former satellite countries and influence individual governments of the European Union.

Despite fears that Gazprom, which accounted for 17 percent of world gas production in 2008, would swallow up its much smaller Ukrainian counterpart Naftogaz, officials in Kyiv have denied any intention of allowing this to happen.

Instead, most of the statements coming out of Kyiv since Putin’s April proposal have suggested the creation of an “international” consortium to manage and invest in Ukraine’s international pipeline, which delivers about 80 percent of Russian gas exports to Europe.

When asked for more details about Putin’s Oct. 26 visit to Kyiv, Naftogaz spokesperson Olena Yurieva said she could neither confirm nor deny whether any agreements were to be signed.

A top official at Ukraine’s Energy Ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no new gas deal would be announced.

However, more than one Kyiv-based gas analyst told the Kyiv Post that Putin was not coming to Ukraine for nothing.

Volodymyr Omelchenko, a gas analyst at the Kyiv-based think tank Razumkov Center, said there is a 50 percent chance that Putin and Azarov will announce some kind of a deal.

“The most realistic scenario is some kind of a joint venture to control Ukraine’s pipelines,” he said. Some kind of European entity would likely be involved to deflect criticism of a Russian takeover, he added.

But the current authorities in Kyiv are divided in their attitudes toward greater Russian involvement in Ukraine’s gas sector.

“If Azarov had his way, a merger deal would have already been signed,” Omelchenko said. But there are also the industrialists like [billionaire Rinat] Akhmetov and others who don’t want the Kremlin monopolizing pricing, and the gas-sector wing like [businessman Dmytro] Firtash and [Energy Ministry Yuriy] Boyko, who want to maintain control over sales and distribution,” Omelchenko said.

Mykhailo Gonchar, a Ukrainian gas analyst, said more likely is a protocol of some kind being signed: “It wouldn’t have any legal force but it would be one step further than the unilateral declaration made following the last session in April.”

As evidence that something is brewing, Gonchar noted that Gazprom has been on the prowl for a public relations company in Kyiv to promote the impending deal.

“The Ukrainian public still feels negative about the idea of Gazprom controlling its gas pipelines, so the idea is to soften this position through PR,” he said.

Serhiy Pashinsky, an opposition lawmaker who sits on parliament’s fuel and energy committee, said he doesn’t expect anything on Oct. 27 except more hype: “I think what we’re going to see is another witch-doctor dance by Putin intended to dispel all the evil spirits from Ukrainian-Russian relations.”

The West Bank Failure of UN, “the World’s Best Hope”

[The broad failure of international governance in the face of widespread Jewish penetration, for the sake of undermining government decisions in favor of Israel, is most clearly demonstrated in the existence of these “colonies” (settlements) of the Jewish state in the middle of the shrinking Palestinian state.  The very existence of these colonies on Palestinian land is the result of a long-running covert criminal conspiracy by mostly Russian “Jews” (Khazars) to actively steal another people’s land, while doing business as usual with the governments of the world.  Our president’s farcical “peace offensive,” cannot proceed unless these settlers are removed to the other side of the river Jordan, and everyone involved knows that, yet they pretend that the impossible is possible, in order to create the temporary illusion that Obama is a great “peacemaker.”  In the end, there will be a massive war to sweep one group of people off the banks of the Jordan River.  Guess which group that will be.]

Israeli presence on Palestinian land ‘irreversible’

By Barbara Plett


Jewish settlement of Pisgat Zeev in East Jerusalem (16 October 2010)
Israel’s refusal to extend a freeze on settlement construction has derailed peace talks

A UN human rights rapporteur has said continued settlement construction will probably make Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land irreversible.

Richard Falk said the peace process aimed at creating an independent, sovereign Palestinian state therefore appeared to be based on an illusion.

He said the UN, the US and Israel had failed to uphold Palestinians’ rights.

Israeli officials said Mr Falk’s report on the Palestinian territories was biased and served a political agenda.

Nearly half a million Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are held to be illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

‘De-facto annexation’

In a report for the UN General Assembly, Mr Falk said Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem had become so extensive it amounted to de-facto annexation of Palestinian land.

He said this undercut assumptions behind UN Security Council resolutions which said Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory in 1967 was temporary and reversible.

Such assumptions are the basis for the current peace process aimed at creating an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

This now appears to be an illusion, said Mr Falk.

Israel said the report was utterly biased and served a political agenda, criticising its author for making no mention of what it called Palestinian terrorist attacks.

Mr Falk told journalists that his mandate was to report on the Israeli occupation, not on the rights and wrongs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He said he based his conclusion not only on the deepening expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but on the eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, and the demolition of their homes.

Israel’s refusal to extend a partial 10-month freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank has derailed peace negotiations sponsored by the United States. Washington wants them resumed.

But Mr Falk said both governments and the United Nations had failed to uphold Palestinian rights.

He urged the UN to support civil society initiatives, such as campaigns to sanction or boycott Israel for alleged violations of international law.