Thursday, February 4, 2016

Erdogan’s Impunity

Brian CLOUGHLEY | 05.02.2016 | 00:00

Entirely coincidentally, on January 29, just at the time when western nations were at last paying a little attention to Turkish President Erdogan’s persecution of so many of his citizens, the Turkish government alleged that a Russian aircraft had violated Turkish airspace.
Western media headlines were predictable, as was the reaction by NATO, which is ever-ready to grasp at straws to attempt to justify its existence even after so many years of demonstrating a dismal combination of incompetence and belligerence.
After NATO’s 2011 blitz on Libya, the US Supreme Allied Commander Europe (the military head of NATO) at the time of the onslaught, Admiral James G (‘Zorba’) Stavridis, announced proudly that «NATO’s operation in Libya has rightly been hailed as a model intervention». The fact that his savage campaign reduced the country to its present catastrophic shambles and provided a base for Islamic State barbarians has caused him neither remorse nor repentance. This bloodstained oaf is now «Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, the oldest school in the United States dedicated solely to graduate studies in international affairs». Irony has no boundaries.
It will be remembered that Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft last November, alleging that the plane had flown through its airspace for seventeen seconds and therefore presented a shocking menace to Turkish sovereignty. No matter the absurdity of the Turkish stance at the time, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spouted the usual nonsense about «unacceptable violations» as if the fleeting passage of an aircraft along any border could possibly present any sort of threat. He actually declared that «For us, this does not look like an accident, it is a serious violation».
Had it not been for the fact that the Turkish shoot-down resulted in the death of a Russian pilot, the affair would have been laughable.
This time, in the January 29 incident, Turkey did not attempt to shoot down the aircraft that it alleged had flown momentarily in its airspace. This was wise, as the plane that was supposed to have committed the violation was not a ground-attack bomber without air-to-air missiles, but a more modern machine that would have deflected Turkish-fired missiles and blown an attacking aircraft out of the sky. But Erdogan immediately hyped the tiny incident (if indeed it actually took place) as if Turkey was being threatened by an enemy intent on its destruction.
The Turkish President’s reaction to this miniscule affair was to declare to the media that «Such irresponsible steps do not benefit either the Russian Federation, or Russia-Nato relations, or regional and global peace».
Surely he can’t be serious? An alleged airspace violation lasting for a period of perhaps a half-dozen heartbeats is a problem for «global peace»? The immediate conclusion is that the man is a fool.
But he is not a fool. He is a crafty manipulator of world opinion that is only too ready and anxious to be convinced that any Russian action, anywhere, is a threat to the West.
At the time of the first alleged violation of Turkish airspace it happened that the BBC was reporting, that «The European Commission has called on Turkey urgently to address significant failings on human rights and democracy».
Then Human Rights Watch observed in its 2015 Report that «The Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – elected president in August 2014 – are undermining the gains of the past decade with steps that erode human rights and the rule of law in Turkey... the government intensified its interference in the criminal justice system, reassigning judges, prosecutors, and police, attempted to exert greater executive control over Turkey’s already politicized judiciary, and clamped down on Internet freedom».
These condemnatory comments about Erdogan’s government by the European Union and Human Rights Watch were serious and demanded action. But Erdogan’s only actions at the time were to increase persecution of Turkey’s oppressed Kurds and to shoot down a Russian aircraft.
As a Kurdish member of Turkey’s Parliament put it: «Erdogan wants to play the role of a dictator in Turkey. He is seeking to break the will of the Kurdish people...»
Erdogan is not only seeking to break the will of the Kurdish people (in which endeavour he will never succeed, as the Kurds are a resolute and admirable people), but he is trying to break the will of citizens who question his increasingly dictatorial stance. He wants to destroy all those who speak against him. And he appears to be succeeding. Not only that, but his domestic persecution is ignored by most western media outlets, which are usually eager to criticise foreigners who do not follow western rules.
In January it was reported, that «US President Barack Obama has listed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan among the five world leaders [with whom] he has the closest personal ties», but Mr Obama has chosen to ignore the fact, that «two Turkish journalists face life in prison over a story alleging that the Turkish government was arming Islamist militants in Syria». The editor of Cumhuriyet newspaper and a reporter were charged with espionage and President Erdogan declared that they «would pay a heavy price», even before they appeared before a court.
There was not a word of criticism from any western government about this mockery of justice by the President of a NATO country who personally ordered the shooting down of an aircraft that allegedly violated his country’s airspace for seventeen seconds and is now complaining about another alleged fly-by that would have lasted – at most – for a similar time. The US and NATO have been supporting President Erdogan without reservation. They have thus awarded him impunity which indicates exemption from judgement following allegations of having committed crimes against humanity.
And on February 1 there came the news, that «the United Nations’ top human rights official has called for an inquiry into the alleged shooting of unarmed civilians by the army in the south east of Turkey». He asks «the Turkish authorities to respect the fundamental rights of civilians in its security operations».
No chance of that.
The «Turkish authorities» – President Erdogan and his adherents, in other words – have no respect for fundamental human rights. But he is opposed to Russia and in the eyes of his Western admirers can therefore do no wrong.
Tags: NATO Kurdistan Middle East Russia Turkey Erdogan

US to Quadruple Military Spending in Europe: Looming Quagmire of Heightened Tensions and Uncurbed Arms Race

Andrei AKULOV | 05.02.2016 | 00:00
Less than a week after Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that NATO's military build-up near Russian borders is «counterproductive and dangerous», the United States is ramping up the deployment of heavy weapons and armored vehicles to NATO member countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
statement from the White House said, expanded European operations will provide «continuous US armored brigade rotations» and «enable a quicker and more robust response in support of NATO’s common defense».
The administration said on February 2 it wants to quadruple military spending in Europe. It is proposing more than $3.4 billion in military spending in the region next year – far more than the $786 million in the current budget – and will position new equipment and have a full armored combat brigade (between 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers). The plans also include placing stocks of well-maintained gear and ammunition in forward locations across NATO's eastern flank on a rotating basis, at all times. Hungary, Romania and the Baltic states are among the countries where the equipment and additional forces could be deployed. «We’re going to have to help countries to harden themselves against Russian influence… and also mount – as we did in decades past – staunch defense of our NATO allies», Defense Secretary Ash Carter explained.

The proposed budget increase includes a $1.8bn outlay on 45,000 GPS-guided smart bombs and laser-guided rockets to boost the forces precision strike capability.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania asked for a big statement of American military support at the NATO defense meeting held this January.
The US already has 65,000 troops in Europe and has been stockpiling resources in Eastern Europe and the Baltic region for more than a year. Warsaw has called for a permanent NATO troop presence in the country.
For one, it wants more: permanent US bases hosting up to 5,000 troops each, as in the former West Germany during the Cold War. President Andrzej Duda has said, he will use the upcoming NATO summit in July to make this issue top the agenda.
The US Department of Defense announced in November 2015 that equipment from the European Activity Set (EAS) was scheduled to be delivered to Central and Eastern Europe.
The EAS is comprised of a combat brigade worth of prepositioned equipment, including 250 tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled howitzers staged at EAS sites in Mannheim and Grafenwoehr (both located in Germany). This equipment is drawn by rotational forces such as the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, which will then use it for training exercises with NATO and other partner nations. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania agreed to host company to battalion-sized elements of EAS equipment. Germany already hosts it.
«We will continue to step up our exercises this year», said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Annual Report he delivered a few days ago.
«We have visibly increased NATO’s presence in the eastern part of our Alliance. And to the south, we have agreed to increase the presence of AWACS early warning aircraft over Turkey, as we continue to augment Turkey’s air defenses», the Secretary reported.
«We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force to more than 40,000 troops. And at its core is our new, very high readiness ‘Spearhead Force’. That is now operational», he added.
Meanwhile, Romania over the weekend announced its desire to station a permanent alliance fleet –including ships from Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Germany, Italy, and the US – in the Black Sea to counter what they see as Russia's rising involvement in the region.
While the increase in funding for Europe is significant, the administration is proposing that the money come from a separate war-funding account that is meant to pay for operations in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, as well as continued American military presence in Afghanistan. That means it is a one-time request, not necessarily a continuing commitment built in to budget requests beyond 2017. This budget workaround leaves the decision on what to do about the future military spending in Europe for the next administration.

Not everyone happy in Europe

Not everyone in Europe will be happy about a larger US military presence. Take for instance the Czech Republic, where the President of the country enjoys wide public support. He has called many times for better relations with Moscow.
In 2014, 74% of Germans opposed the idea of larger US military presence in Europe.
Back then, the prime ministers of Slovakia and the Czech Republic also expressed their opposition to the increased presence.
It’s too early to say how European nations will react to the plans, but somehow, the mass public protests in the 1980s against the presence of intermediate range missiles spring to mind. Few people want to become a target for a retaliatory response.

It should be noted that the US plans are announced against the background of the statement on the conflict in Ukraine made by Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, saying there has been a «sharp de-escalation of hostilities» since August.
The Russian Embassy in Washington criticized the Obama administration for its new plans on the very same day the announcement was made.

 Russia - NATO Founding Act cancelled ?

«Moscow condemns the US for the promotion of weapons in Eastern Europe», says the headline of the statement published by Foreign Policy magazine.
The Russian Embassy called the announcement an attempt to «escalate tensions without obvious reasons» and said it violated the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997, which included an agreement that both sides would not station substantial combat forces on a permanent basis in the countries that joined the alliance.

Destabilizing European Security

«In our view, these steps of the USA and NATO are destabilizing European security and cause it damage», it states. «There should be no doubt that Russia will in all circumstances be able to protect its citizens and national security interests». Indeed, one does not have to be a military expert to realize that stationing forces abroad under the pretext of holding exercises cannot be done on a non-rotational basis. Any unit has an operational cycle, and any combat formation goes through exercises. The announced plans are nothing else but a permanent military presence of substantial forces. The talks about rotational basis do not change this fact. Actually, this is a declaration of the plans to withdraw from the Act, leaving the Russia-NATO military relationship without a legal basis to go upon. 

In case the Founding Act between Russia and NATO is cancelled, only some minor agreements will remain, some of which were signed during the Soviet Union era. They could hardly play any significant role in regulating relations between Moscow and the alliance. The document has played a very important role for the relationship during 19 years. Willy-nilly, Russia will have to deploy additional military aircraft and Iskander missile systems closer to the border. It would not breach any agreement if the Iskander missiles had nuclear warheads. Will it enhance the security of Western Europe?

Europeans Should Raise Voices

The US has taken a game changing decision with very serious implications to follow. It will greatly reduce European security and provoke an arms race with unpredictable results. There is still time to oppose the scenario. The interests of US administration do not always meet the interests of common Europeans who can raise voices and express their security concerns to influence the agenda of the next NATO summit which will be taking place this July in Warsaw, Poland. They can do it before it is too late to avoid the quagmire of heightened tensions and arms race.
Tags: NATO Pentagon Eastern Europe Russia US

Widerspruch Herr Steinmeier!

Guten Tag Herr Steinmeier,

das Syrische Volk, die Syrische Arabische Armee, die Syrische Regierung unter ihrem Präsidenten Dr. Bashar al-Assad, unterstützt von Verbündeten und einer breiten internationalen Solidarität, führt einen heldenhaften antiimperialisten Widerstand.
Genau wie in Stalingrad "bezahlen" sie diesen Widerstand mit einem fast unermesslich hohen Preis.

Aber, in Syrien wird dem Imperialismus sein "Stalingrad" bereitet.
Das ist gut so und von außergewöhnlicher historischer Bedeutung.

Mit antiimperialistischen Grüßen

Willi Schulze-Barantin

Rainer Rupp über Russland und Völkerrecht in Syrien

STOP Encircling Russia With US Bases! - xox pVs

Pentagon’s announcement  this week 2/1/16 that it will quickly quadruple the positioning of US-NATO heavy military weapons and troops near Russia’s eastern borders. The result, Steven Cohen argues, will further militarize the new Cold War, making it more confrontational and likely to lead to actual war with Russia. 

'Unprecedented Aggressive  Move Against Russia'

 The move is unprecedented in modern times. Except during Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, Western military power has never been positioned so close to Russia, making the new Cold War even more dangerous than was the preceding one. 

Russia to React says Steven Cohen

Russia will certainly react, probably by moving more of its own heavy weapons, including new missiles, to its Western borders, possibly along with a large number of its tactical nuclear weapons. The latter reminds us, Steven Cohen points out, that a new and more dangerous US-Russian nuclear arms race has been under way for several years, which the Obama Administration’s decision can only intensify. 

The decision will also have other woeful consequences, undermining ongoing negotiations by Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov for cooperation on the Ukrainian and Syrian crises and further dividing Europe itself, which is far from united on Washington’s increasingly hawkish approach to Moscow.

Cohen Deplores Lack of Public Debate

Cohen ends by expressing despair that these ongoing developments have been barely reported in the US media and publicly debated not at all, not even by current presidential candidates and the moderators of their “debates.” 
Never before has such a dire international situation been so ignored in an American presidential campaign. The reason may be, Cohen adds, that everything that has happened since the Ukrainian crisis erupted in November 2013 has been blamed solely on the “aggression” of Russian President Putin—a highly questionable assertion and media-policy narrative.    

‘Turkey has gone rogue, UN Security Council must get involved’

Not only is there evidence of Turkey financing and arming ISIS and other terrorist groups, but we now see the Turkish government cracking down on its own citizens, says Middle East analyst Sharmine Narwani.
Since the end of the WWII and the beginning of the Cold War Britain and the US have had a very close strategic working relationship with the Turkish government.
The Russian Defense Ministry Monday released video footage, which it claims shows the Turkish military shelling Syrian territory using heavy artillery.
RT: Russia's defense ministry is clearly angered by Turkey not releasing any evidence. Do you think the Russian ministry has a point here?
Sharmine Narwani: Of course they do. A lot of people can make allegations, but the proof is in the pudding. If the Turks have evidence - like any other nation states – if you have evidence that someone has violated your territorial integrity or your sovereignty, you need to show that evidence so that the international community understands what is happening and can act accordingly. So of course the Russians are fully justified to demand information when allegations are made so publicly and so widespread, and expect an answer.
RT: What about the NATO’s claim that this would go against the national security or they can’t release the information for security reasons?
SN: I don’t know why this information would be secure – is it because of how they gain that information, where their satellites are, what they’re watching? There are ways, there are mediation committees that can look at evidence with impartial actors who can look at evidence and provide the answers that the Russians and the Turks need. It seems to me that we’re entering a stage where we are going to have to need some kind of international mediation between the Russians and the Turks on some of these contentious issues.
RT: Turkey's yet to comment on today's video of the shelling. Would you expect to hear anything from Ankara?
SN: No, nothing that would support the Russian position or the allegations of the Syrian state. The Turks rejected and turned their backs on the Russian claims of shooting down the plane last November and handled that in such a bad and confrontational way that the Russians had to act by slapping sanctions on the country, limiting trade and tourism and other such things.
It is a very dangerous situation for Turkey as these things escalate; the rhetoric escalates as well as the incidents. Today we’ve seen the Turkish lira fall. There is a real necessity for these actors to clarify things and to get past it. But I don’t think the Turks seeing past behavior that we can expect them to acknowledge these claims and deal with them as one would expect from a major international player.
RT: In just the last week we've seen a lot of claims and counter claims by both sides. How difficult do you think it is to work out who's telling the truth?
SN: That’s true; this is why we have organizations like the UN. The UN and its Charter is there to prevent war and then help regulate conflict when it does break out. People are looking to NATO and the Pentagon for answers; we’re not going to get it from these players. This is the UN’s job, this is when they need to step-up, but they are being very squeamish about involvement in this, because of course the Syrian conflict is ultimately a massive global geopolitical fault line where all the major players in the world have taken sides. We shouldn’t be looking to the organizations that the Russians are asking for answers. This is something that falls well within the domain of the UN and it is unfortunate that they are not stepping up to do anything about this. 
Turkey has become quite a rogue actor during this Syrian conflict. Not only have we seen evidence of them participating in the financing and arming of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda in Syria Ahrar ash-Sham and other terrorist groups, but this has also spilled into Turkey and now we see the Turkish government killing its own citizens and making mass arrests, and regulating the freedom of speech, arresting journalists, etc. Turkey has gone rogue, and we can’t have much expectation from that state, we need now to turn to UN Security Council for some answers.

US & UK have given Turkey a blank check in Middle East

Middle East expert and publisher of Politics First magazine, Marcus Papadopoulos says America and Britain, who are Turkey’s main backers, might dismiss the evidence provided by Russia.
RT: Why would Turkish armed forces fire shells across the Syrian border?
MP: What is clear is that the Turkish government’s objective of trying to overthrow the Syrian government through the use of Islamic terrorists has failed and Turkey’s role, its links to Islamic terrorism in Syria, is being exposed for the whole world to see.
Now, why would the Turkish military start shelling Syrian territory? I think there are a number of reasons for that. In recent months the Syrian army, backed by the Russian military air campaign, is advancing rapidly along the Syrian –Turkish border; they are liberating areas from ISIS occupation, from al-Nusra occupation. Also, at the same time, in the east of the country, in the central area along the border Syria’s Kurds, the YPG [People's Protection Units], are also liberating areas along the Syrian-Turkish border.
So the Turkish government could be shelling in those parts of Syria where the Syrian Army and the YPG are, as warning shots trying to deter the Syrian army from liberating its own territory and also from the Kurds. Obviously Turkey has a very, very complex relationship with the Kurdish forces. Also, it could be an act of provocation. Turkey might be trying to provoke the Syrian army, in particular, to respond to the shelling, so that Turkey has a reason to stage some sort of military intervention into Syria.
RT: What reaction do you expect from Turkey to the allegations?
MP: Turkey will categorically deny it, and no matter how persuasive, how concrete the evidence is – that the Russian Defense Ministry has, America and Britain – Turkey’s main backers in the world, will simply dismiss the evidence. Why? Because since the end of the WWII, the beginning of the Cold War, America and Britain have pushed for a very, very close strategic working relationship with Turkey. In effect, the Americans and the British have given Turkey a blank check to do what it wants in the region. For example, after the first Gulf War, American and British warplanes would patrol the north of Iraq to protect the Kurds from Saddam Hussein’s forces, but those planes, when they were going back to their base in Turkey, would pass Turkish airplanes on their way to actually bomb the Kurds in Northern Iraq. And at the moment in Northern Iraq the Turkish government has deployed Turkish forces, which of course is completely at odds with the UN charter and international law. If we go to Cyprus – Cyprus was invaded in 1974 by Turkey illegally, they ethnically cleansed the Greek Cypriots of Northern Cyprus. Now, on all three occasions, America and Britain have been silent.  The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Wir sagen Danke Herr Seehofer! Seehofer bei Putin (Bericht Bayrisher Rundfunk)Mission Moskau

Ministerpräsident Seehofer hat in Moskau dafür geworben, die westlichen Sanktionen gegen Russland zu lockern. Beim Gespräch mit Präsident Putin plädierte er für einen Schulterschluss mit dem Kreml angesichts der vielen Krisen weltweit. 
Von: Nikolaus Neumaier 
Das Treffen fand in Putins Residenz vor den Toren Moskaus statt. "Wir wollen mit ehrlichem Herzen unseren Beitrag leisten, dass wir in schwierigem politischem Umfeld wieder ein Stück Vertrauen und Normalität herstellen", sagte der CSU-Vorsitzende. "Daran wollen wir mitwirken." Putin erwiderte: "Die Probleme von heute betreffen uns alle." Er dankte für Seehofers Besuch und betonte: "Wir wissen um Ihre Haltung, Ihren Willen, viel für eine Normalisierung zu tun."
Horst Seehofer besucht Russland | Bild: dpa-Bildfunk
"Man muss Realpolitik betreiben und so wie ohne die Russen eine Lösung der Probleme mit dem Iran nicht möglich gewesen wäre, so geht es bei allen großen Konfliktherden auf dieser Erde. Insbesondere in Syrien."
Ministerpräsident Horst Seehofer (CSU)

Im Interesse Bayerns

Schon auf dem Flug nach Moskau hatte Seehofer die Folgen der Sanktionen auch für Bayern beklagt und Moskaus Rolle bei der Lösung von Krisen hervorgehoben. Der CSU-Chef lobte gegenüber den mitreisenden Journalisten das russische Eingreifen in Syrien und das Engagement bei der Lösung der Iran-Krise. 
"Ich war immer skeptisch gegenüber Sanktionen. Wir müssen jetzt sehen wie realistisch man wieder davon wegkommt. In Schritten oder in einem Schritt. Darüber werden wir reden, wie der Putin das beurteilt."
Ministerpräsident Horst Seehofer (CSU)

"Keine Nebenaußenpolitik"

Der CSU-Chef betonte erneut, dass die Reise nichts mit Nebenaußenpolitik oder Konkurrenz zu Kanzlerin Merkel zu tun habe. Unmittelbar nach seiner Landung in Moskau fuhr Seehofer zur Residenz des russischen Präsidenten in Nowo-Ogarjowo. Dort traf er am Nachmittag mit Putin zu einem Meinungsaustausch zusammen. An dem Gespräch nahm auch der frühere bayerische Ministerpräsident Stoiber teil, der mit Putin befreundet ist. Als Gastgeschenk im Gepäck hat die bayerische Delegation eine Bronzestatue der Bavaria.

Wagenknecht verteidigt Seehofer

Ungewohnte Unterstützung erfährt Seehofer von der Fraktionsvorsitzenden der Linken im Bundestag. 
"Ich finde, man muss Gesprächsfäden haben, gerade ein Land wie Russland, das direkt an die EU angrenzt, wo wir aus Sicherheitsgründen meines Erachtens engere Beziehungen bräuchten. Ich hätte mir gewünscht, dass es aus der Bundesregierung jemand machen würde."
Sahra Wagenknecht in der radioWelt im Bayerischen Rundfunk
Die Reise von Außenminister Steinmeier nach Saudi-Arabien hält Wagenknecht dagegen für ein falsches Signal. Riad sei ein Land, wo Menschen verfolgt, eingekerkert, ausgepeitscht und auch geköpft würden sowie ein Hauptantreiber des Kriegs in Syrien.