The West is blinking in disbelief – Vladimir Putin just invaded Ukraine. German diplomats, French Eurocrats and American pundits are all stunned. Why has Russia chosen to gamble its trillion-dollar ties with the West? Western leaders are stunned because they haven’t realized Russia’s owners no longer respect Europeans the way they once did after the Cold War. Russia thinks the West is no longer a crusading alliance. Russia thinks the West is now all about the money.
Putin’s henchmen know this personally. Russia’s rulers have been buying up Europe for years. They have mansions and luxury flats from London’s West End to France’s Cote d’Azure. Their children are safe at British boarding and Swiss finishing schools. And their money is squirrelled away in Austrian banks and British tax havens. Putin’s inner circle no longer fear the European establishment. They once imagined them all in MI6. Now they know better. They have seen firsthand how obsequious Western aristocrats and corporate tycoons suddenly turn when their billions come into play. They now view them as hypocrites—the same European elites who help them hide their fortunes.
One of the more vivid political talking points to come out of Washington in the midst of Russia’s military incursions into Ukraine is that Russian President Vladimir Putin carried out such provocative actions because Obama’s failure to enforce his “red line” on Syria and commence with a bombing campaign this past fall signaled to Putin he would not face consequences. “I really believe that when Vladimir Putin looks around the world—sees what happened in Syria when the red line turned pink and the president didn’t act,” Republican Senator John McCain told CNN, “I think he’s emboldened and he’s acting.”
The Wall Street Journal, similarly, put it down to “Western weakness,” arguing “it’s no coincidence that Mr. Putin asserted himself in Ukraine not long after Mr. Obama retreated in humiliating fashion from his ‘red line’ in Syria.” The truth is, anyone who actually believes Putin took military action in Ukraine because Obama backed away from his plans to bomb Syria illegally, doesn’t know anything about international relations.
First of all, the most immediate parallel to Russia’s occupation of Crimea, Ukraine’s semi-autonomous peninsula, is Russia’s 2008 military action in Georgia, another former Soviet state that was leaning too far West for Moscow’s comfort. Following violent skirmishes, Russian forces occupied Georgia’s separatist provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This happened during the George W. Bush administration, which was so willing to use military force that it invaded Iraq on trumped up pretexts and in violation of international law. If Moscow were taking its cues based on Washington’s willingness to use force, surely it would have held back in Georgia for fear of retaliation from the Bush administration.
Whenever the United States fails to act with violence abroad—a rarity, mind you—you have politicians and pundits howling about America’s “credibility” being at stake. If other countries see us backing down, goes the thinking, they won’t properly fear U.S. power and therefore they’ll be unrestrained in their actions. Actually, the technical political science literature has largely put the “credibility” argument to rest. “There’s little evidence that supports the view that countries’ record for keeping commitments determines their credibility,” write two scholars who have studied the concept.
The United States plans to expand military cooperation with Poland and Baltic states to show “support” for its allies after Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel said Wednesday. ”This morning the Defense Department is pursuing measures to support our allies,” including expanded aviation training in Poland and increasing the US role in NATO’s air policing mission over Baltic countries, Hagel told lawmakers.
NATO’s top commander and head of the US European Command, General Philip Breedlove, also planned to confer with Central and Eastern European defense chiefs, Hagel said. ”This is a time for wise, steady, and firm leadership,” Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“It is a time for all of us to stand with the Ukrainian people in support of their territorial integrity and sovereignty, and their right to have a government that fulfills the aspirations of its people.” At the same hearing, General Martin Dempsey, the US military’s top-ranking officer, said he had spoken to his Russian counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov earlier Wednesday, urging “restraint.”
‘Hundreds of students demand President Obama reject the Keystone XL pipeline deal, but Obama has already fast tracked the southern half of the pipeline which is currently delivering Canadian tar sands to Texas refineries.’ (The Real News)
‘On Sunday, 398 opponents of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline were arrested in front of the White House in what could be the largest youth sit-in on the environment in a generation. Students from more than 80 colleges rallied at Georgetown University and then marched to the White House, wearing mock “hazmat suits” and holding banners with slogans like “Keep your oil out of my soil” and “Even Voldemort Hates Tar Sands.” President Obama is expected to issue a decision in the next few months on the pipeline, which would transport 830,000 barrels of crude every day from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the U.S. gulf coast. We speak to American University student Deirdre Shelly about why she was arrested on Sunday and the growing student-led movement to convince universities, colleges and cities to divest from fossil fuel companies.’ (Democracy Now!)
We spent much of the eighties resisting Ronald Reagan’s new Cold War, and his new nuclear weapons of all shapes and sizes. We pushed back against his giant ‘defense’ budgets and countered his harrowing rhetoric. We knew Star Wars was a scam, and the MX missile a danger. We grimaced at his appointments to key policymaking positions, and scoffed at his insincere arms control efforts.
In the end, we prevailed (after a sort). We get much of the credit for preventing planetary incineration that seemed frighteningly close at the time (Gorbachev deserves some too). Professional activists, Plowshares heroes, and a handful of stalwart others stayed in the anti-nuclear weapons movement trenches. Although nukes were not abolished with the end of the Cold War, most of the rest of us nonetheless moved on to fight other evils, and to work on one or more better world construction projects.
It’s time to return. President Obama released his FY 2015 budget on Tuesday, March 4. Ready for this? It asks for considerably more money (in constant dollars) for nuclear weapons maintenance, design and production than Reagan spent in 1985, the historical peak of spending on nukes: $8.608 billion dollars, not counting administrative costs. The Los Alamos Study Group crunched the numbers for us.
Journalist Barrett Brown Wins a Victory in His Case as Government Dismisses Charges Related to Link-Sharing
Journalist Barrett Brown has won a huge victory. The government has moved to dismiss all of the counts related to his sharing of a link to a file from the private intelligence firm, Stratfor, that was already publicly available to others.
The government dismissed one count of trafficking in “stolen authentication features” count and ten counts of “aggravated identity theft” for transferring and possessing without lawful authority the means of identification for multiple individuals. It had claimed that by sharing the link Card Verification Values (CVVs) of credit cards, the card holders’ names, their user names for online account access and address, phone numbers and email address information had been exposed.
From the government’s dismissal motion:
…The United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, by and through the undersigned Assistant United States Attorney, files this Motion to Dismiss Count One and Counts Three through Twelve in the original Indictment and in the Superseding Indictment in the above entitled and numbered cause…
Gerald Celente calls the Western media “presstitutes,” an ingenuous term that I often use. Presstitutes sell themselves to Washington for access and government sources and to keep their jobs. Ever since the corrupt Clinton regime permitted the concentration of the US media, there has been no journalistic independence in the United States except for some Internet sites.
Glenn Greenwald points out the independence that RT, a Russian media organization, permits Abby Martin who denounced Russia’s alleged invasion of Ukraine, compared to the fates of Phil Donahue (MSNBC) and Peter Arnett (NBC), both of whom were fired for expressing opposition to the Bush regime’s illegal attack on Iraq. The fact that Donahue had NBC’s highest rated program did not give him journalistic independence. Anyone who speaks the truth in the American print or TV media or on NPR is immediately fired. Russia’s RT seems actually to believe and observe the values that Americans profess but do not honor.
I agree with Greenwald. Greenwald is entirely admirable. He has intelligence, integrity, and courage. He is one of the brave to whom my just published book, How America Was Lost, is dedicated. As for RT’s Abby Martin, I admire her and have been a guest on her program a number of times. My criticism of Greenwald and Martin has nothing to do with their integrity or their character. I doubt the claims that Abby Martin grandstanded on “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” in order to boost her chances of moving into the more lucrative “mainstream media.” My point is quite different. Even Abby Martin and Greenwald, both of whom bring us much light, cannot fully escape Western propaganda.
The Central Intelligence Agency is under investigation for allegedly spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee, panel Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein confirmed Wednesday. The CIA is prohibited from spying on Americans, and spying on members of Congress and their staff would raise particular concerns about the separation of powers. Congress created the House and Senate Intelligence committees in the 1970s to oversee the CIA, the National Security Agency, and other spy agencies after uncovering a slew of spying abuses.
The CIA’s internal watchdog, its inspector general, is reviewing whether CIA agents hacked into the computers of Senate staffers who were involved in producing a report critical of the agency’s now-defunct detention and interrogation program, The New York Times reported Wednesday. According to McClatchy, the inspector general’s office has asked the Justice Department to investigate the case. The committee worked on the 6,300-page interrogation report for years. The report, which remains classified, concluded that brutal interrogation techniques produced little valuable intelligence. Last June, the CIA responded with its own 122-page report challenging particular facts and the conclusion of the Senate’s document. Ending the interrogation program was one of President Obama’s first acts in office.
Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat and member of the Intelligence panel, wrote a letter to Obama on Tuesday, urging him to support declassification of the full report. Udall referred vaguely to the CIA’s alleged spying on the committee. “As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the Committee in relation to the internal CIAreview, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy,” Udall wrote. “It is essential that the Committee be able to do its oversight work—consistent with our constitutional principle of the separation of powers—without the CIA posing impediments or obstacles as it is today.”
Today RT America anchor Liz Wahl resigned on air, claiming she disagrees with the channel’s editorial stance. And here’s what I have to say about it. These days it takes a lot of courage to work for RT. Never before have I seen RT and its journalists bullied like this. See for yourselves what they did to poor Abby. First, she openly voiced disagreement with Russia’s stance on air – and was virtually made an American hero. But then Abby reminded everyone how much she disagrees with America’s stance as well, adding she takes pride in working at RT, where she is free to express her views. Less than an hour passed before Abby had her name dragged through something I have difficulty finding a decent name for this late at night. The US mainstream media even went as far as claiming we had orchestrated the whole thing as a publicity move. They labeled Abby a conspiracy theorist, bringing to light her past as an activist. In less than 24 hours, they first sang her praises and then excoriated her. All of this in front of her colleagues, including Liz Wahl. How do you think they felt watching that?
Yesterday I spent quite some time explaining to a New York Times correspondent why I consider Russia’s position to be right. I’m Russian. I support my country and I will fight for the truth for as long as it takes. Neither Abby, nor Liz, nor many other employees are Russian nationals, but foreign. And now their country is likening my country to Nazi Germany. For many years they have worked for RT in good faith, proving every day that a voice that stands out from the mainstream media can be beautiful and strong, attract an audience that grows daily. These are the people who were the first to tell their country about the Occupy movement, who were detained at protest rallies, handcuffed for hours and then tried in court for doing their job. These are the people who were outraged by US hypocrisy in Syria, Libya – you can finish the list yourself – and reminded the world who used chemical weapons most often, even resorting to nuclear bombs. These are the people who did things the Western mainstream media would have never done. But those were peaceful times. And now we’ve got a genuine war going on – no, thank God, it’s not in Crimea. It’s a media war. Every single day, every single hour the guys who work for us are told, “You are liars, you are no journalists, you are the Kremlin propaganda mouthpiece, you’ve sold yourselves to the Russians, it’s time you quit your job, and everybody is laughing at you, so change your mind before it’s too late.”
- A Monster Reawakens: The Rise of Ukrainian Fascism
- Is the U.S. Backing Neo-Nazis in Ukraine?
- Pravy Sektor: far-right gains after Ukraine’s revolution (Video)
- Ukraine nationalist leader calls on ‘most wanted’ terrorist Umarov ‘to act against Russia’
- Ukrainian Jews worry that rise of Svoboda party will bring anti-Semitism back into vogue
- Chief rabbi of Ukraine urges Jews to flee Kiev after attack on students
- Ukrainian nationalists strive to shake off allegations of anti-Semitism
- The ex-Israeli soldier who led a Kiev fighting unit
- Anonymous operations expose Ukrainian Bandera nazis
- Ukraine ultranationalist leader vows to hang new interior minister ‘like a dog’
- Video goes viral of Ukraine nationalist activist attacking prosecutor
- Fighting fascism from Ukraine’s Russian enclave
- Popular Uprising, Foreign Manipulation and Rising Fascism in Ukraine
- Yarosh’s appeal to terrorist Umarov
- Interview with Dmytro Yarosh, Leader of Right Sector
- Svoboda: The Rising Spectre Of Neo-Nazism In The Ukraine
- John McCain Went To Ukraine And Stood On Stage With A Man Accused Of Being An Anti-Semitic Neo-Nazi
A phone conversation suggesting snipers who shot protesters in Kiev might have acted on the orders delivered by the opposition coalition – not former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich – has been leaked online. The phone conversation features Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet telling EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton his suspicions regarding sniper attacks on protestors that took place in Kiev in February.
According to the description of the related video uploaded on YouTube, the call was taped by officers of the Ukrainian security services (SBU), loyal to Yanukovich. Paet is heard telling Ashton that there was evidence both protesters and security forces came under sniper fire during the deadly protests in the Ukrainian capital last month. During the conversation Paet airs the possibility that members of the opposition coalition might have had something to do with the shootings.
President Vladimir Putin has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, according to director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute Geir Lundestad. The announcement on Wednesday comes at an awkward time as Russia currently stands accused of invading Ukraine, something most people recognize as one of the most un-peaceful things a leader can do.
Voice of Russia notes that the nomination had likely been submitted back in October, when Putin had just acted as a main figure in the deal to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons. This didn’t take into account that Putin was also providing Syria with conventional weapons, but such is the way the Nobel Peace Prize works. It’s a system much like the Pulitzer Prize, where it’s actually surprisingly easy to get nominated for the award and often doesn’t really mean anything.
Listening to the US media, even the most diligent news junkie would find it difficult to know that the U.S. State Department played not only a vital role in the violence and chaos underway in Ukraine but was also complicit in creating the coup that ousted democratically elected President Viktor Yanuyovch. Given the Russian Parliament’s approval of Putin’s request for military troops to be moved into Crimea, Americans uninformed about the history of that region might also be persuaded that Russia is the aggressor and the sole perpetrator of the violence.
Let’s be clear about what is at stake here: NATO missiles on the adjacent Ukraine border aimed directly at Russia would make that country extremely vulnerable to Western goals and destabilization efforts while threatening Russia’s only water access to its naval fleet in Crimean peninsula, the Balkans, the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East – and not the least of which would allow world economic dominance by the US, the European Union, the IMF, World Bank and international financiers all of whom had already brought staggering suffering to millions around the globe.
The fact is that democracy was not a demand on the streets of Kiev. The current record of events indicates that protests of civil dissatisfaction were organized by reactionary neo-Nazi forces intent on fomenting a major domestic crisis ousting Ukraine’s legitimate government. As events continue to spiral out of control, here is the chronology of how the coup was engineered to install a government more favorable to EU and US goals.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has dismissed reports Kiev is allegedly in talks with the United States over a possible deployment of missile defense systems in Ukraine. ”There are no negotiations on this issue and there’s not even a hint of them,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Eugene Perebiynis was quoted by Interfax-Ukraine news agency as saying Wednesday. Perebiynis said Kiev and Washington were in talks on possible financial aid to Ukraine, with no strings attached. Earlier in the day, local media, citing Ukrainian ambassador to Belarus Mykhailo Yezhel, reported missile systems were on the table as part of the aid talks. Yezhel served as Ukrainian Defense Minister from 2010 to 2012 under the leadership of the ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.
- Ukrainian Ambassador: U.S. missile defense in Ukraine in exchange for financial aid is on negotiating table
- Russia stations missiles near border with Poland, Lithuania
- Moscow: missiles in western Russia legitimate
- From 2012: NATO Launches Missile Defense Shield
- From 2012: Russia Threatens Preemptive Strike if NATO Builds Missile Defense Shield
- From 2012: NATO Interested in Missile Defense Cooperation with Ukraine
- From 2008: Ukraine Ready To Work With West On Missile Defense
Scrape away the media sensationalism and geopolitical posturing and it boils down to a simple dynamic: follow the energy. Though many seem to believe that internal politics and geopolitical posturing in Ukraine are definitive dynamics, I tend to think the one that really counts is energy: not only who has it and who needs it, but where the consumers can get it from. Let’s cut to the chase and declare a partition along long-standing linguistic and loyalty lines a done deal. Let’s also dispense with any notions that either side can impose a military solution in the other’s territory. Media reports on the weakness of Ukrainian military forces abound (for example, Ukraine Finds Its Forces Are Ill Equipped to Take Crimea Back From Russia), but Russia’s ability to project power and hold territory isn’t so hot, either. [...] A de facto partition is already baked in because neither side can force a re-unification. Various jockeying and posturing will undoubtedly continue for some time, but the basic end-game is already visible: de facto partition.
[...[ This map rounds out the European energy Rosetta Stone. When they hear that Italian fighter jets are over Tripoli, or that the French Foreign Legion has returned to the deep Sahara Desert, they can can better understand the reasons and real objectives of such operations.
Many have noted that the Russia economy is critically dependent on oil and gas exports to the EU. It should be noted that the converse is less true every day about EU dependence on Russian oil and gas. The Wall Street Journaleven had a line about an EU proposal to push natural gas EAST to the Ukraine. It’s hard to understand that passage or where the natural gas could come from unless one understands the North Africa to southern Europe gas pipelines.
The factors bringing the conflict in Ukraine to a head are:
1. The natural gas discoveries in eastern Poland and western Ukraine played the largest role.
2. The reduced importance of the gas pipeline running through the Ukraine to Europe as compared to 2009. Since that time the Nordstream lines have been finished and Gazprom acquired commercial control of the Belarus pipeline. The South Stream lines are well along in development.
3. Fast developing liquid natural gas (LNG) seaport terminal infrastructure.
Events in Libya, Mali and Algeria are not hermetically isolated from this. They are part of a comprehensive energy policy problem being dealt with by the same leaderships. It increasingly looks like a series of peripheral Energy Wars that are being fought out for control of Europe. LNG exports are going to become a weapon in the struggle for geopolitical influence and control.
This highlights another problem for Russia/Gazprom. Its present natural gas advantage in Europe now rests mainly on its pipeline infrastructure. This advantage is fading due to the current and proposed pipeline projects running through Turkey to Europe, plus LPG terminal & ship developments, plus the five trans-Mediterranean pipelines from Libya, Algeria and Morocco to southern Europe, plus local shale gas plays…
The Ukraine is not the only country becoming less systemically important to Europe for natural gas supply. So is Russia. Current events will only accelerate everyone’s efforts to diversify away from such an unstable and apparently dangerous supplier. I think the long-term fallout from the Ukrainian Crisis will be similar to China’s attempt to exploit its temporary low price monopoly position in rare earth metals a few years ago. The result is rare earth metals are becoming less rare by the day as alternate mines outside China are opened and reopened.
Russia said on Tuesday that it would retaliate if the United States imposed sanctions over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. ”We will have to respond,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement. “As always in such situations, provoked by rash and irresponsible actions by Washington, we stress: This is not our choice.”
US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Ukraine is not a sign of Russian strength but rather a reflection of the deep concern Russia’s neighbors have about Moscow’s meddling. In remarks to reporters, Obama ridiculed Putin’s justification for any Russian military action in the Crimearegion of southern Ukraine.
- US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya distorted international law
- Russia will not go to war with Ukraine, our relations are fraternal
- Annexing of Crimea out of question
- Ukraine coup unconstitutional, an armed takeover of power
- I agree with Maidan’s call for change, crooks replaced crooks for decades
- Yanukovich has no political future, I don’t sympathize with him
Russia’s incursion (invasion if you prefer) into Crimea, with prospects for movement into Eastern Ukraine, is the culmination of US/NATO policy since 1991. The unraveling of the USSR and its Soviet bloc (the Warsaw Pact) dismantled the largest empire in modern history. Even more striking, it was the most peaceful dissolution of a major empire in history. The fact that an empire stretching over a dozen time zones that included hundreds of ethnic groups with concrete historical and contemporary grievances with each other broke up without a bloodbath is nothing short of a miraculous – and a reflection of the destruction of spirit and even of economic understanding that marked the distortions of Stalinism, neither capitalist nor socialist but a bureaucratic collectivism whose final stage proved to be kleptocracy.
Part of the reason that this went off with such little violence was due to the mutual desire of President George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev to end the Cold War’s threat of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Gorbachev for his part recognized that the Warsaw Pact nations needed to be let go, in order to free resources to build up a more middle class consumer economy. Demilitarization was to be achieved by disarmament, all the more remarkable in view of the largest human losses suffered in world history from military invasion had occurred just two generations earlier. Germany became the focus, pending its reunification in1990. It had invaded its neighbors every generation or so since the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. In World War II it laid waste to the USSR and left 25 million of its people dead. Other East European nations, including Romania (and, along with victims of Stalinist oppression, e.g., the Baltics and Ukrainians, welcomed the Nazis and fought against Russia). The NATO alliance thus remained the main threat that had held the Soviet Union together
So Russia had vital security concerns that could only be met by assurances that NATO would not move into the Warsaw Pact states, where so much Soviet blood had been shed in World War II. President George H. W. Bush (#41) made assurances that if the Soviets were to dissolve the Warsaw Pact, Russia must be assured that the NATO would not fill the vacuum. But his successor, Bill Clinton, broke this promise by quickly taking the former Warsaw Pact states into NATO, and then moved into territory formerly occupied and incorporated into the USSR with the Baltics. It should have been foreseen – and probably was inevitable – that these new entrants wanted NATO, given their own experience with Soviet occupation. But the eagerness of a triumphalist United States to surround Russia militarily rather than disarm led Russian leaders to feel betrayed by the US breaking its word.
The Baltics fear Russia’s military buildup over Ukraine will lead to Moscow sowing more trouble in their region after it curbed important exports last year and buzzed their borders, forcing NATO to scramble jets dozens of times. The former Soviet republics of Estonia and Latvia have their own large ethnic Russian minorities and are alarmed by President Vladimir Putin’s justification for Russian actions in and around Ukraine as protection for Russian speakers there. While all three Baltic republics have joined NATO – and Lithuania next year should be the last of the three to adopt the euro – these small countries are largely dependent on energy from Russia and have strong trade ties.
“Thanks be to God, we are NATO members,” Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told reporters on Monday. Grybauskaite said she was concerned about Russian military exercises in Kalinigrad, a Russian enclave tucked between Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic sea and headquarters of Russian Baltic fleet. ”We are following the situation with (Russia’s) increased military readiness and drills at our borders,” said Grybauskaite, adding Lithuania and Poland could bring up the issue with NATO.
A repeat of a situation like in Crimea is highly unlikely in the Baltics because of the region’s NATO and EU membership, which Ukraine does not have. ”The risk is much lower for Russia intervening in the Baltic states,” said Michael Taylor, a senior analyst for Europe at Oxford Analytica. “It will be a real challenge to the U.S. and EU, and the West will not be able to ignore that,” But Russia has long complained the rights of ethnic Russians are being undermined in the Baltics and they have long been vocal in warning of Russian soft power assertiveness. Ahead of Latvia joining the euro this year, foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics was unequivocal – entry was an “insurance policy” over Russia.
To ensure that such a scenario never happens again, Moscow is now in the process of infiltrating the last pro-European republics in its sphere of influence. Moldova is especially important to the Russians: a country, smaller than the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalia, almost entirely surrounded by Ukraine except for a border it shares with Romania. The republic, which left the Soviet Union in 1991, only has three million inhabitants. Until 2009, the communists led the country — but now a pro-European coalition is in power. Moldova long ago agreed on the text of an Association Agreement with the EU and it is supposed to be signed in August. This makes Moldova and Georgia the only ones of the six original former Soviet republics risking rapprochement with Europe. But will it actually happen?
The Kremlin is currently expending significant effort to loosen Europe’s grasp on Moldova — and using the Gagauz to do so. The Gagauz capital, Comrat, is a sleepy town in the south Moldavian steppe where the only language spoken aside from Gagauz is Russian and people watch Moscow’s Channel One. The rest of Moldova has also changed its attitude towards Europe — only 44 percent of them are still in favor of integration into the EU, while, at the same time, the number of people in favor of entering the Customs Union with Russia has grown from 30 to 40 percent. Formuzal claims the Moldovan government has erected an “African democracy” in the country — claiming that it has tightened its control over ministries, courts and public prosecutors’ offices and is handing out money to party members and relatives, while the Gagauz minority receives nothing. ”We want our own state,” he says. “We want the same status as the Republic of Transnistria.” That strip of land, which separated from Moldova in 1992 in a civil war, has been kept alive by Russia ever since.
Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko Sunday made a point of stating that the Maidan revolution that has transformed Ukraine will not be a factor in Belarus. “There will be no Maidan in Belarus,” Lukashenko said. He admitted that likewise tensions exist in his country and said it is the “sacred mission” of the Belarusian state to “preserve peace and stability in our land.” Lukashenko vowed his government will “prevent even smallest indications of instability in our country. The neighboring Ukraine, which has become an arena for a clash between powerful internal and external forces, should be a lesson for us.”
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice characterized Belarus as the “last remaining true dictatorship in the heart of Europe.” Lukashenko has imposed authoritarian control over the landlocked eastern European country since 1994. Belarus declared independence in 1990 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Despite widespread criticism in Europe, Lukashenko has maintained Soviet-era polices, including state ownership of the economy.
During anti-government demonstrations in 2011, Lukashenko vowed there would be “no color revolution” in Belarus like the ones in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. He blamed outside influences and the internet-based Revolution Through Social Networks for the protests. Lukashenko said the government would respond violently to peaceful demonstrations challenging the state. Hundreds of activists from the online organization were arrested in Minsk. Journalists were also arrested and detained.
Following independence “Belarus’s history presents a long litany of laws restricting the country’s independent media, legislation hindering the work of NGOs, the expulsion of foreign diplomats and NGO workers for conspiring against the regime, and arrests at demonstrations protesting Lukashenka’s policies,” write Abel Polese and Donnacha Ó Beacháin (The Color Revolutions in the Former Soviet Republics). On Independence Day 2011, the police used tear gas and batons against hundreds of Belarusians protesting against Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule.
Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy, and George Soros’ Open Society funded Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) attempted to gain the release Ales Bialiatski, a purported human rights activist who was sentenced to four years in prison. Bialiatski was the vice president of FIDH, “making him anything but a ‘human rights defender’ and instead a coordinator of US-backed destabilization efforts that have been ongoing in the Eastern European nation for years,” writes researcher Tony Cartalucci.
“Several years back,” writes Andrrei Khrapavistski (The struggle for survival of independent newspapers and the role of new media during the 2006 Belarus presidential elections), “the International Research & Exchanges Board, the Soros Foundation, and the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies were forced by the Belarusian government to close their offices in Belarus, but some of them continue to function either from abroad or covertly within the country, providing some insight into the Belarusian conundrum.”
The top ten recipients slated to receive US foreign assistance in 2014 all practice torture and are responsible for major human rights abuses, according to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other major human rights organizations. The violators and degree of aid they are expected to receive are: 1. Israel – $3.1bn, 2. Afghanistan – $2.2bn, 3. Egypt – $1.6bn, 4. Pakistan – $1.2bn, 5. Nigeria – $693m, 6. Jordan – $671m, 7. Iraq – $573m, 8. Kenya – $564m, 9. Tanzania – $553m, 10. Uganda -$456m.
Each of the listed countries are accused of torturing people in the last year, and at least half are reported to be doing so on a massive scale. Financial support for such governments could violate existing US law mandating that little or no funding be granted to a country that “engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture.” The United States remains a signatory of the United Nations Convention against Torture, ratified in 1994. That the top ten recipients of US assistance all practice torture calls into serious question the Obama administration’s overall stance on and understanding of fundamental human rights.
A leading principle of international relations theory is that the state’s highest priority is to ensure security. As Cold War strategist George F. Kennan formulated the standard view, government is created “to assure order and justice internally and to provide for the common defense.” The proposition seems plausible, almost self-evident, until we look more closely and ask: Security for whom? For the general population? For state power itself? For dominant domestic constituencies? Depending on what we mean, the credibility of the proposition ranges from negligible to very high. Security for state power is at the high extreme, as illustrated by the efforts that states exert to protect themselves from the scrutiny of their own populations.
In an interview on German TV, Edward J. Snowden said that his “breaking point” was “seeing Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress” by denying the existence of a domestic spying program conducted by the National Security Agency. Snowden elaborated that “The public had a right to know about these programs. The public had a right to know that which the government is doing in its name, and that which the government is doing against the public.” The same could be justly said by Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning and other courageous figures who acted on the same democratic principle. The government stance is quite different: The public doesn’t have the right to know because security thus is undermined – severely so, as officials assert.