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.
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.”
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’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.
Both John Kerry’s threats to expel Russia from the G8 and the Ukrainian government’s plea for Nato aid mark a dangerous escalation of a crisis that can easily be contained if cool heads prevail. Hysteria seems to be the mood in Washington and Kiev, with the new Ukrainian prime minister claiming, “We are on the brink of disaster” as he calls up army reserves in response to Russian military movements in Crimea. Were he talking about the country’s economic plight he would have a point. Instead, along with much of the US and European media, he was over-dramatising developments in the east, where Russian speakers are understandably alarmed after the new Kiev authorities scrapped a law allowing Russian as an official language in their areas. They see it as proof that the anti-Russian ultra-nationalists from western Ukraine who were the dominant force in last month’s insurrection still control it. Eastern Ukrainians fear similar tactics of storming public buildings could be used against their elected officials.
Kerry’s rush to punish Russia and Nato’s decision to respond to Kiev’s call by holding a meeting of member states’ ambassadors in Brussels today were mistakes. Ukraine is not part of the alliance, so none of the obligations of common defence come into play. Nato should refrain from interfering in Ukraine by word or deed. The fact that it insists on getting engaged reveals the elephant in the room: underlying the crisis in Crimea and Russia’s fierce resistance to potential changes is Nato’s undisguised ambition to continue two decades of expansion into what used to be called “post-Soviet space”, led by Bill Clinton and taken up by successive administrations in Washington. At the back of Pentagon minds, no doubt, is the dream that a US navy will one day replace the Russian Black Sea fleet in the Crimean ports of Sevastopol and Balaclava.
- NATO Secretary General: ‘We Condemn Russia’s Military Escalation In Crimea’ (Video)
- Senator John McCain: ‘West must condemn Russian involvement in Ukraine’ (Video)
- Senator Lindsay Graham: ‘Putin Is On The Wrong Side Of History’ (Video)
- No military option in Ukraine: British Foreign Secretary Hague (Video)
- International community tells Russia to pull its troops out of Crimea (Video)
- The crisis in Crimea could lead the world into a second cold war
- Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.): NATO Needs to Move Now on Crimea
- West’s puny response to Ukraine crisis will not deter Vladimir Putin
- Putin tells Obama Russia has right to protect interests in Ukraine
- Obama warns Russia against Ukraine intervention, says ‘there will be costs’
- Kerry Threatens Russia: All Options on the Table
- Kerry: Russia behaving in ‘19th century’ fashion
Britain is drawing up plans to ensure that any EU action against Russia over Ukraine will exempt the City of London, according to a secret government document photographed in Downing Street. As David Cameron said Britain and its EU partners would put pressure on Moscow after it assumed control of Crimea, a government document drawn up for a meeting of senior ministers said that “London’s financial centre” should not be closed to Russians.
The picture of the document was taken by the freelance photographer Steve Back, who specialises in spotting secret documents carried openly by officials entering Downing Street. The document was in the hands of an unnamed official attending a meeting of the national security council called by the prime minister to discuss the Ukrainian crisis.
- Ukraine crisis sends Russian stock market tumbling
- Ukraine crisis hits shares around world and sends oil and wheat prices soaring
- US, EU can put economic pressure on Russia (Video)
- Russia’s Ukraine actions ‘incompatible’ with G8 membership, west says
- Britain pulls out of G8 preparatory talks
- U.S. ‘Suspends’ Role in Russia G8 Summit After Obama, Putin Speak
Near-Bankrupt Rome Bailed Out As Italy Unemployment Rises To All Time High, Grows By Most On Record In 2013
A few days ago, we reported that, seemingly out of the blue, the city of Rome was on the verge of a “Detroit-style bankruptcy.” In the article, Guido Guidesi, a parliamentarian from the Northern League, was quoted as saying “It’s time to stop the accounting tricks and declare Rome’s default.” Of course, that would be unthinkable: we said that if “if one stops the accounting tricks, not only Rome, but all of Europe, as well as the US and China would all be swept under a global bankruptcy tsunami. So it is safe to assume that the tricks will continue. Especially when one considers that as Mirko Coratti, head of Rome’s city council said on Wednesday, “A default of Italy’s capital city would trigger a chain reaction that could sweep across the national economy.” Well we can’t have that, especially not with everyone in Europe living with their head stuck in the sand of universal denial, assisted by the soothing lies of Mario Draghi and all the other European spin masters.” And just as expected, yesterday Rome was bailed out.
As Reuters reported, Matteo Renzi’s new Italian government on Friday approved an emergency decree to bail out Rome city council whose mayor had warned the capital would have to halt essential services unless it got financial help.
The decree transfers 570 million euros ($787 million) to the city to pay the salaries of municipal workers and ensure services such as public transport and garbage collection. Renzi, under pressure from critics who say Rome is getting favorable treatment, attached conditions to the bailout.
Rome must spell out how it will rein in its debt, justify its current levels of staff, seek more efficient ways of running its public services and sell off some of its real estate, the government decree said. Rome’s finances have been in a parlous state for years and it has debts of almost 14 billion euros which it plans to pay off gradually by 2048.
The city has around 25,000 employees of its own with another 30,000 or so working for some 20 municipal companies providing services running from electricity to garbage collection. ATAC, which runs the city’s loss-making buses and metros, employs more than 12,000 staff, almost as many as national airline Alitalia. Rome’s administrators say it needs help with extra costs associated with housing the central government, such as ensuring public order for political demonstrations, and to provide services for millions of tourists.
Here is the punchline, about Rome’s viability, not to mention Italy’s and Europe’s solvency:
The city of some 2.6 million people has been bailed out by the central government each year since 2008.
What is certain is that this year will not be the last one Rome is bailed out either. In fact, it will continue getting rescued for years to come because contrary to the propaganda, the Italian economy continues to get worse with every passing month, yields on Italian bonds notwithstanding.
The provincial government in Pakistan’s northwest state of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has said it has ended a more than three-month blockade of a NATO supply route to Afghanistan over contentious US drone strikes in the country, citing change in policy, Aljazeera reported. Until Thursday, the Tehreek-e-Insaf party, led by cricketer turned politician Imran Khan, had been blocking the route to pressure Washington to end drone attacks targeting armed groups in the region bordering Afghanistan. Khan himself has led these protests and has been a vocal critic of drone attacks in Pakistan.
In a statement, Khan’s party said it ended the protest after seeing a change in the US drone policy. Their decision also comes days after a Pakistani court ordered authorities to end the blockade of transit goods into landlocked Afghanistan. The party’s top leadership also “felt that the pressure of the blockade had already resulted in a shift in the Obama administration’s drone policy and as a result drones had been stopped for the present”, the statement read. It also said it ended the protest to respect the court order.
Party official Fiaz Ahmad Khalil said the blockade lasted 97 days. “We are happy that the American government has stopped drone attacks, and we are also positively responding by ending our protest,” Khalil said. Khan’s party launched the blockade after a US drone strike in November killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban.
- Pakistan: US Won’t Let Us Finish Iran Gas Pipeline
- US Claims to Curb Drone Strikes at Pakistan’s Behest
- Former Pakistani general says US seeks to ruin his country
- Robert Fisk: The world cannot turn a blind eye to America’s drone attacks in Pakistan
- Former military ruler Musharraf in court for treason trial
- Musharraf admits to have accepted ‘some’ US conditions after 9/11
- US-desired operation’ to be against country’s interests, says Imran
Ukraine’s interim prime minister, Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk, may prove to be arsenic to the beleaguered nation. “Recall the phone exchange between the Ukraine ambassador and Victoria Nuland (Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs) that got leaked out, where she basically said ‘we want Yats in there.’ They like him because he’s pro Western,” says Vladimir Signorelli, president of boutique investment research firm Bretton Woods Research LLC in New Jersey. “Yatsenyuk is the the kind of technocrat you want if you want austerity, with the veneer of professionalism,” Signorelli said. “He’s the type of guy who can hobnob with the European elite. A Mario Monti type: unelected and willing to do the IMFs bidding,” he said.
[...] Despite these ominous signs, Ukraine Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt hailed the current crisis as “a day for the history books.” Most of the mainstream media have leaned decisively in the anti-Yanukovych camp. Ukraine’s new 450-seat parliament approved the appointment of the former Central Banker Yatsenyuk on Thursday by a vote of 371 to 1. Oddly enough, earlier this month, the pro-Western Yats trailed behind popular opposition leaders such as former heavyweight boxer Viltali Klitschko and the leader of the nationalist, Svoboda Party, Oleh Tyahnybok. But Yats had friends in high places and while he does not have strong support of the electorate, and would have no chance of winning an election, he is pro-IMF austerity and apparently the bulk of parliament is as well.
“Yatsenyuk was saying that what the Greeks did to themselves we are going to do ourselves,” said Signorelli. “He wants to follow the Greek economic model. Who the hell wants to follow that?” Also today, Yatsenyuk promised to implement “very unpopular measures” to stabilize the country’s finances. The government said it needs $35 billion to support the country over the next two years. His language in a news report broadcast by Bloomberg today indicates he is heading toward a potentially destabilizing austerity campaign
- The not-so-revolutionary new Ukraine government
- Naming of Officials in Ukraine Reflects Homage to Power of the Street
- Ukraine asks IMF for help on new financial aid program
- US’s Lew, IMF’s Lagarde Agree Ukraine Needs IMF, Bilateral Help
- Europeans question Brussels’ plan to bail out Ukraine (Video)
- Expert discusses Ukraine’s financial woes (Video)
- US experts in Ukraine to help tackle economic crisis
- Biden at center of US diplomacy with Ukraine
- Mikhail Gorbachev: Bulldoze EU & US aides from Ukraine and let the people decide
- Transcript of leaked Nuland-Pyatt call: ‘I think Yats is the guy…’
- Greg Palast: IMF’s four steps to damnation
- Symonenko: Interest on IMF loans paid from pensions of ordinary Ukrainians
- Ukraine: An unstable economy, but with great resources
The United States on Wednesday warned Russia against a military intervention in Ukraine as it renewed demands that Moscow withdraw troops from disputed enclaves in another former Soviet republic, Georgia. The U.S. also urged Georgia to further integrate with Europe and NATO in calls that come amid growing tensions between Russia and the West over the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president.
In pointed comments likely to fuel already heightened Russian suspicions over Western intentions in its backyard, Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia should be “very careful” in how it proceeds in Ukraine. In addition, he announced additional, but unspecified, U.S. assistance “to help support Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic vision.” And, he denounced Russia’s continued military presence in the breakaway Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in violation of the cease-fire that ended the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict.
Kerry, speaking at a meeting of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission at the State Department, insisted that U.S. policy toward Ukraine, Georgia and the other states that once made up the Soviet Union is not aimed at reducing Russia’s influence in its neighborhood. Instead, he maintained that U.S. encouragement for former Soviet states to integrate with the West is driven by America’s desire to see them succeed as robust democracies with strong economies.
“We don’t make that urging … as some sort of zero-sum game between the East and West or between us and any other party,” Kerry said. “We simply want people to be able to exercise their freedom of choice and be able to maximize their economic opportunities. That doesn’t mean that it can’t also mean engagement with others.”
Spain’s prime minister has called a referendum on independence for Catalonia “illegal” in his state of the union address. Mariano Rajoy vowed to block the vote, which the Catalan authorities intend to hold on 9 November. Both Spain’s ruling conservative party and the Socialist opposition have long stated their rejection of a referendum. But in recent months, the Catalan regional government has vowed to press ahead even without Madrid’s blessing.
Mr Rajoy told the Spanish parliament during the annual state of the nation debate that “this referendum can’t take place, it is not legal”. He added: “It is the entire Spanish people who have the capacity to decide what Spain is.” Mr Rajoy also addressed Spain’s economic problems in his speech, saying that the country had turned a corner and was “part of the driving engine” of Europe. He also revised the growth forecast upwards from 0.7% to 1% for 2014, and promised tax cuts for 12 million of Spain’s 17 million taxpayers.
The global financial crisis abruptly ended the golden age of neoliberal globalization (1990s-2008) for both the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) and caused a relative loss of their economic power. Simultaneously, the BRICS not only continued to catch up with an impressive pace (6% average GDP-growth), but also expanded their influence in multilateral organizations and intensified their mutual relations. Now, times seem dire enough for the old transatlantic partners to close the ranks by creating the biggest preferential trade agreement ever. The Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently negotiated between the EU and the US has the potential to become a game changer: 1) TAFTA | TTIP offers a way to set up new rules and norms (first mover advantage) based on EU and US interests that, due to the deadlocked Doha Development Round, could no longer be carried through within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) (withdrawal from multilateralism), 2) TAFTA | TTIP provides a strategy to contain the rise of China and other emerging powers by manifesting a new trench system of global trade, undermining production networks and diverting the flow of goods. Hence, TAFTA | TTIP is a reactionary move in the global geo-economic game and a warning that our world might become more divided than united.
Agriculture was always expected to be a main sticking point in the talks to form a “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership”, particularly since the goal is not just to reduce tariffs but also to reconcile the two different regulatory philosophies. The gap is especially wide on food safety, with the EU practising the “precautionary principle” – which has a much lower threshold for setting restrictions compared to the US, with its more lenient “risk assessment” model.
Agricultural policy and methods remain the subject of intense debate within the EU and divisive issues among its member states. In May, new European Parliament elections are expected to produce a big swing in favour of populists, many of them anti-American and from rural constituencies. Those lawmakers will ultimately have to approve TTIP so their political hue is vital.
The European Commission is expected soon to authorise the use of a new insect-resistant GM strain of corn/maize called Pioneer 1507. But that follows more than a decade of debate and six separate scientific studies. It also comes despite votes by 19 of the EU’s 28 member states to block approval thanks to the bloc’s weighted voting system. While the UK backed approval, France vehemently opposed it.
US corn and soyabean producers complain that it can take more than 4 years to approve certain genetically modified approved crops, when it should only take 18 months – and they also question the EU’s mandatory labelling of GMO products. “It is nothing less than a scare label for consumers,” says Mr Censky. Nick Giordano, vice-president and counsel for international affairs at the US National Pork Producers Council, acknowledges that these are “emotional issues” in Europe, but said Mr De Gucht’s comments were “troubling” and it was “preposterous” to question the safety of US food.
Workers at Cyprus’s state electricity utility have clashed with police in a rare explosion of anger over government privatisation plans under a $13.7bn international bailout. In a rowdy protest at parliament on Monday, up to 400 demonstrators burst through police barricades in central Nicosia while politicians were debating provisions of a privatisation law with the island’s finance minister. After electricity was cut to parliament, the finance committee meeting was moved to another part of the building.
Cyprus is required to approve legislation governing the future disposal of state assets under a three-year economic reform programme brokered with the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission a year ago. Monday’s protest, which left two demonstrators slightly injured, is unusual. The island has seen little of the unrest stirred by bailouts in other euro zone nations, even though its aid conditions were among the harshest and involved closure of a failing bank and forcing large depositors in a second to help recapitalise the lender. Under bailout conditions, Cyprus is called upon to privatise the electricity authority EAC, the Cyprus Ports Authority and Cyprus telecoms CyTA by 2018, raising $1.9bn.
More than 11m homes lie empty across Europe – enough to house all of the continent’s homeless twice over – according to figures collated by the Guardian from across the EU. In Spain more than 3.4m homes lie vacant, in excess of 2m homes are empty in each of France and Italy, 1.8m in Germany and more than 700,000 in the UK. There are also a large numbers of vacant homes in Ireland, Greece, Portugal and several other countries, according to information collated by the Guardian.
Many of the homes are in vast holiday resorts built in the feverish housing boom in the run up to the 2007-08 financial crisis – and have never been occupied. On top of the 11m empty homes – many of which were bought as investments by people who never intended to live in them – hundreds of thousands of half-built homes have been bulldozed in an attempt to shore up the prices of existing properties. Housing campaigners said the “incredible number” of homes lying empty while millions of poor people were crying out for shelter was a “shocking waste”.
The last four years have been particularly disappointing for France in terms of military collaboration. While Germany grew more and more economically powerful, the country has taken on less and less under Chancellor Merkel when it comes to foreign and security policy. Her previous foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, even spoke of “a culture of restraint” when it came to military missions and then-defense minister Thomas de Maiziere gruffly countered Paris’ calls for more military engagement by saying Germany didn’t need any lessons from its partners on that point.
“In France, those in foreign policy and security circles were asking themselves whether Germany is even still able and ready to form alliances,” said Stefan Seidendorf of the German-French Institute (dfi) in Ludwigsburg.
It’s only against this background that it becomes clear why so many commentators in both countries view Merkel’s comments on German-French cooperation as a turning point in Germany’s foreign policy approach. Meanwhile, Germany’s newly formed grand coalition government is positioning itself differently than its predecessor.
President Joachim Gauck as well as the incoming foreign and defense ministers, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Ursula von der Leyen, have called for greater German engagement abroad. Von der Leyen even indicated during her most recent trip to Africa that Germany has military capacity available. Her basic message seemed to be that Germany is prepared to take on more responsibility in the future, including in Africa. The chancellor is making assurances that Germany will share the burden there with France.
Historically the nation’s largest trading partner by far, Russia has been Ukraine’s go-to financier in times of trouble, a role that has often been criticized by Western nations as giving them undue influence over Ukraine’s internal affairs. Having just gone through an apparent regime change, which sent long-time Russian ally President Yanukovych into hiding, the United States and Britain are hoping to establish ties with the “new Ukraine” and, unsurprisingly, they’re going the exact same route Russia has.
US and British officials were quick to promise financial aid to “cushion the impact of reforms” by the new government, with Britain’s Chancellor George Osborne saying he was “ready with a checkbook” to rebuild Ukraine. Bizarrely, US officials interspersed their promises for aid with warnings to Russia not to “intervene militarily,” even though there has been no indication anyone had even raised that as a possibility.
- Ukraine leadership vows to steer toward EU
- EU aims to woo new leadership with aid deal
- Osborne says ready to open cheque book for Ukraine through IMF, EU
- Eric Draitser: Ukraine’s Sickness …and Europe’s Cure
- Volatile Ukraine teeters on brink of bankruptcy
- Ukraine Seeks $35 Billion as Yanukovych Arrest Warrant Is Issued
- U.S. wants Ukraine to remain unified, cautions Russia
- John McCain: Putin should be ‘nervous’
- Susan Rice Warns Russia Against Interference
- Russia Feels Double-Crossed over Ukraine – But What Will Putin Do?
- Russia steps up Ukraine rhetoric
- Russian Foreign Ministry calls for preventing deterioration of situation in Ukraine
- Thousands Call for Secession from Ukraine in Crimea
- Tensions at rise in pro-Russia Ukraine (Video)
- Dmitry Rogozin: If Ukrainian protests are peaceful, Catherine Ashton is a ballerina
- RT: US supports Ukraine turmoil though media blame Putin for chaos (Video)
- Protesters turn to mourning in Kiev (Video)
Ukrainians get first look at Presidential Palace, Tymoshenko sure Ukraine will join EU in near future
- ‘The dictatorship has fallen.’ But what will take its place?
- Yulia Tymoshenko released as country lurches towards split
- Tymoshenko out of jail, still divisive
- Kiev crowd not fully convinced by Tymoshenko
- Tymoshenko good revolutinary leader, not that great at governing
- Flashback: Yulia Tymoshenko Sentenced To 7 Years In Jail
- Parliament chief takes presidential power
- Yanukovich refused exit from country
- Ukraine president:’ this is a fascist coup’
- Ukrainian Governor, Mayor flee for Russia
- Leaders in east Ukraine vote to take control of their areas
- White House keeping close eye on Ukraine
- The “Ukraine Situation” Explained In One Map
- 7 reasons Russia wants to keep Ukraine all to itself
- Bank Runs Begin In Ukraine As Russia’s Largest Bank Halts Lending
- Why Ukraine Erupted Into Violence And Forced Its President To Flee
- Ukrainian Journalist: 10 Things The West Needs To Know About The Situation In Kiev
- Ukraine’s Big Three: Meet the Opposition Leaders at the Helm of Euromaidan
- Ukrainian opposition group Right Sector says keep up protests
- Ukrainian rabbi tells Kiev’s Jews to flee city
- ‘I’ll be fighting Jews and Russians till I die’: Ukrainian right-wing militants aiming for power
Angela Merkel should be made aware during a visit to London this week that the rising tide of Euroscepticism in Britain could cause the country to leave the EU, Tory MPs said on Saturday night. The German chancellor will address both houses of parliament on Thursday and meet the Queen, during a visit ministers believe could be crucial to David Cameron‘s chances of securing the UK a better deal inside the EU, in time for a referendum by the end of 2017.
Merkel has made clear she is willing to try to help Cameron by pushing for changes to freedom of movement rules to limit so-called “benefit tourism” between EU member states and press for cuts in EU regulation. But diplomats says she is unlikely to support a reopening of EU treaties that could allow large-scale “repatriation” of powers of the kind demanded by many Tory Eurosceptics. Downing Street appears to have accepted that talk of “repatriation” of powers may be unrealistic and a focus on rule changes within the existing treaty framework may be more realistic. Sources say Merkel’s view is that, while she wants to help Cameron, the more urgent task for Berlin is to create a more stable and lasting framework for the euro, rather than reopening the entire EU treaty rulebook.
ICELAND’S government will seek parliamentary approval to withdraw its application to join the European Union, opting not to restart accession talks that were put on ice a year ago. A bill proposing the withdrawal was sent to parliament late on Friday and was due to be debated next week, a foreign ministry spokesperson said on Saturday. The move came after the parliamentary caucuses of the ruling parties – the centrist Progressive Party and the conservative Independence Party – voted on Friday to withdraw the application.
In comments on the proposal quoted by online news site Visir.is, the government said it “did not have a support base” to complete the accession process. Opinion polls have consistently shown a majority of Icelanders oppose joining the EU. Iceland was instead to focus on its ties with the EU as member of the European Economic Area (EEA) – the free trade zone comprising non-EU countries Liechtenstein and Norway as well as the 28-strong EU bloc.
Iceland opened membership talks in 2009 under a coalition that took office after the financial crisis in which Iceland’s main banks collapsed. The accession talks were put on ice ahead of general elections in April which resulted in a change of government, opposed to EU membership.
On Friday, Feb 14, 92 prisoners escaped from their prison in the Libyan town of Zliten. 19 of them were eventually recaptured, two of whom were wounded in clashes with the guards. It was just another daily episode highlighting the utter chaos which has engulfed Libya since the overthrow of Muammar Ghaddafi in 2011.
Much of this is often reported with cliché explanations as in the country’s ‘security vacuum’, or Libya’s lack of a true national identity. Indeed, tribe and region seem to supersede any other affiliation, but it is hardly that simple.
On that same Friday, Feb 14, Maj. Gen. Khalifa Hifter announced a coup in Libya. “The national command of the Libyan Army is declaring a movement for a new road map” (to rescue the country), Hifter declared through a video post. Oddly enough, little followed by way of a major military deployment in any part of the country. The country’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan described the attempted coup as “ridiculous”.
Others in the military called it a “lie.” One of those who attended a meeting with Hifter prior to the announcement told Al Jazeera that they simply attempted to enforce the national agenda of bringing order, not staging a coup.
- Edward S. Herman: NATO’s war on Libya
- Obama Order: Libya an ‘Extraordinary Threat’ to US Foreign Policy
- Is General Khalifa Hifter The CIA’s Man In Libya?
- Libyan PM announces ‘compromise’ after militia ultimatum
- Militias’ ultimatum heightens Libya tensions
- Disillusionment in Libya Over Vote on Charter Assembly
- Libya to compensate women raped during 2011 uprising
- NOC: Libya’s oil output falls to 390,000 bpd due to protests in west
- Libya MPs ‘agree on early elections’
- Niger extradites ex-Gadhafi official to Libya
‘For 40 years the militant group ETA carried out a bloody campaign for independence in the regions of Spain and France known as Basque country. 800 people lost their lives in the campaign with countless others injured. More than two years ago ETA announced a unilateral, permanent ceasefire in favour of a political agreement but the Spanish government maintains it won’t enter talks with the group until it admits defeat and surrenders unconditionally. But now ETA is expected to announce that it will hand over its weapons and bomb-making equipment.’ (Truthloader)
As the Obama Administration continues to try to insinuate itself into the Ukraine protest movement, they have felt to issue multiple statements in recent days denying that it is a “proxy war” or anything Cold War-like. It’s not really clear who the denials are designed to convince, as whatever you want to call it, America’s policy in the Ukraine remains profoundly Russo-centric, and for years America’s relationship with Ukraine has been colored entirely by a desire to back the side that’s not pro-Russia.
Russia’s interests in the Ukraine remain relatively straightforward, supporting the politicians popular in the Russian-speaking east, and those who back Russia keeping its naval base in the Crimea, the historic home of the Russian Navy. US policy, by contrast, is to back whoever Russia isn’t backing, pushing their membership in NATO seemingly just because Russia opposes that membership, and because it would force the nation to relocate its navy further south. In the past that’s included the color-coded revolution of early 2005, the embezzlement scandal-ridden government in 2009-10, and the current protesters.
But while nominally backing protesters for the sake of backing protesters, US officials have increasingly cozied up to the neo-Nazi elements trying to hijack those protests toward violent revolution, openly meeting with their leaders and praising them as the voice of a “free” Ukraine. If that policy decision isn’t being done simply to spite Russia, it is a profound shift from the traditionally anti-Nazi stance of modern US foreign policy.
- Ukraine crisis: Why Russia and EU both stand to lose
- Obama, Vladimir Putin discuss Ukraine deal
- US hails Ukraine deal, wants immediate implementation
- Ukraine protesters call for Yanukovych’s immediate ouster, denounce peace deal
- Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich Reportedly Flees Kiev
- Ukraine peace deal halts violence but crowds still angry
- Polish FM warned protest leaders: ‘Sign deal or you will all die’
- Ukraine to Release Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko
- Ukraine default risk rises as Russia bond sale canceled
- ‘Don’t be doormat’ Russia warns cash-starved Kiev
- Russian media paint a dark picture of Ukraine
- Ukraine’s western pro-European cities warn they could break away
- The Day We Pretended to Care About Ukraine
- Senators Press Obama for Sanctions Against Ukrainian Officials
- Euromaidan: The Dark Shadows Of The Far-Right In Ukraine Protests
- John McCain Meets Oleh Tyahnybok In Ukraine
- Ukrainian far-right group claims to be co-ordinating violence in Kiev
- Secret Tape Reveals US-backed Plot to Topple Ukraine’s Democratically-Elected President
- Victoria Nuland Admits: US Has Invested $5 Billion In The Development of Ukrainian, “Democratic Institutions”
- US NGO Uncovered in Ukraine Protests
- Documentary: The Revolution Business
- Meet the Face of Ukraine’s Protests, ‘Yulia’ Video Goes Viral
- Ukrainian ‘Protesters’ Backed by Kony 2012-Style Scam?
- Documentary: Ukraine Burning
For the residents of a small French town close to the Mediterranean reporting a crime will soon be as easy as picking up a takeaway… as long as it is not car theft.
The town of Le Cannet, close to Cannes in the Alpes-Maritimes is set to become the first to benefit from a ‘drive-through’ police station – as long as their car engines are switched off.
Inspired by the drive-through takeaways and supermarkets, already a familiar sight in France, the new service will allow the victims of crime to report an incident without leaving the comfort of their own car.