Category Archives: European Union

The NSA and GCHQ Campaign Against German Satellite Companies

Andy Müller-Maguhn, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, Michael Sontheimer and Christian Grothoff report for The Intercept:

‘Treasure Map is a vast NSA campaign to map the global internet. The program doesn’t just seek to chart data flows in large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. Rather, it seeks to identify and locate every single device that is connected to the internet somewhere in the world—every smartphone, tablet, and computer—”anywhere, all the time,” according to NSA documents. Its internal logo depicts a skull superimposed onto a compass, the eyeholes glowing demonic red.

The breathtaking mission is described in a document from the archive of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden provided to The Intercept and Der Spiegel. Treasure Map’s goal is to create an “interactive map of the global internet” in “almost real time.” Employees of the so-called “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance—England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—can install and use the program on their own computers. It evokes a kind of Google Earth for global data traffic, a bird’s eye view of the planet’s digital arteries.’

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Russian FM: US wants to cut economic ties between EU and Russia to aid TTIP negotiations

Editor’s Note: For more on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), as well as its counterpart the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), there are plenty of links here. But if you only read one article on these trade deals and what they mean geopolitically, I would highly recommend this one.

The Peninsula reports:

‘”The US is trying to use the crisis in Ukraine to break economic ties between the EU and Russia and force Europe to buy US gas at much higher prices,” Lavrov said in a ministry statement of his interview with Russia’s Centre TV.

Washington wanted to use the five-month conflict in Ukraine “to economically tear Europe from Russia and bargain for itself the most favourable conditions in the context of the ongoing negotiations on the creation of a transatlantic trade and investment partnership”.

Lavrov accused Washington of trying to “impose on Europe deliveries of US liquefied natural gas at prices that can not be competitive compared with Russian gas prices”. Russia supplies about a third of the EU’s gas.’

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Time to End the Bloody Ukraine Conflict: Interview Katrina Vanden Heuvel

Editor’s Note: Katrina Vanden Heuvel has been editor of The Nation since 1995, she also partly owns the magazine. Her latest article for the Washington Post is linked below the interview. She is also married to Professor Stephen Cohen, whose articles and interviews have been regularly posted here during the Ukraine crisis as it has unfolded.

German chancellor Angela Merkel conducts secret opinion polls and uses them to shape policy

Editor’s Note: It would surprise me if more politicians didn’t do this. It reminds me of Obama’s ‘evolution’ in support of gay marriage. Politicians are faker than Joan Rivers’ face. Opinion polls are a great way to find out which way the wind is blowing. What politicians really think doesn’t matter, it’s what the voter thinks they think that helps them stay in office. Ultimately though, who they really serve isn’t the average voter, but the special interests that put money into their party coffers. 

Justin Huggler reports for The Telegraph:

‘For years, Angela Merkel’s opponents have marvelled at the German chancellor’s seemingly unerring sense of the national mood. But it has emerged that Mrs Merkel’s office has been conducting secret opinion polls and using them to shape government policy.

The chancellor’s office commissioned more than 600 opinion polls between 2009 and 2013, according to a report in Spiegel magazine – and no one outside a closely guarded circle knew about them until now.

[...] The findings counter earlier claims from Mrs Merkel that she does not rely on opinion polls. “I’m doing what I think is right and important,” Mrs Merkel told reporters in 2006. “To judge by polls would be completely wrong.”’

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Proposed Anti-Terror Law in France Would Erode Civil Liberties

Jillian York reports for the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

‘A proposed anti-terrorism law in France has freedom of expression advocates concerned.  The bill, as our friends at La Quadrature du Net frame it, “institutes a permanent state of emergency on the Internet,” providing for harsher penalties for incitement or “glorification” of terrorism conducted online.  Furthermore, the bill (in Article 9) allows for “the possibility for the administrative authority to require Internet service providers to block access to sites inciting or apologizing for terrorism” without distinguishing criteria or an authority to conduct the blocking.

Apart from specific concerns that the bill treats online speech as distinct from other speech, other provisions are just as problematic.’

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Polish president warns of rebirth of 1930s nationalism in Berlin speech

Reuters reports:

‘Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski has compared Russia’s incursions into Ukraine with 1930s-style nationalism in a speech in Berlin commemorating the beginning of World War Two, in which he urged the West to stand up to Moscow.

“We are witnessing the rebirth of nationalist ideology which violates human rights and international law under the cover of humanitarian slogans about protecting minorities,” Komorowski told the Bundestag lower house of parliament on Wednesday.

“We recognize this all too well from the 1930s,” said the president, using a speech to mark the 75th anniversary of the start of the war following the Nazis’ invasion of Poland to criticize Russia’s actions in Ukraine.’

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US and Europe at odds over NATO expansion to Ukraine, Georgia

Christoph Hasselbach reports for DW:

‘NATO is only obliged to collectively defend its own member states against attack from outside. Many European politicians must currently be secretly relieved by the existence of the principle. If Ukraine were a member of NATO, the annexation of Crimea in March would have plunged the Western alliance into an immediate military confrontation with Russia.

Yet only a few years ago, there was serious discussion about inviting Ukraine and Georgia to join the alliance. At the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, the United States, under President George W. Bush, campaigned vehemently in favor. However, several European states – including Germany – had misgivings, because even then they were concerned about the possibility of serious tensions with Russia.

Today, Berlin is more convinced of this than ever.’

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US Forbids The European Law Enforcement Agency From Releasing European Documents To European Officials

Glynn Moody reports for Techdirt:

‘Europol is probably not very well-known outside the EU. Here’s how it describes itself:

Europol is the European Union’s law enforcement agency whose main goal is to help achieve a safer Europe for the benefit of all EU citizens. We do this by assisting the European Union’s Member States in their fight against serious international crime and terrorism.

The emphasis is in the original. You may notice that it mentions Europe a few times, which underlines the fact that Europol is a European organization based in Europe, run by Europeans and serving Europeans. But the US seems to take a different view

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Half of Europeans want to tackle international issues without US meddling

Sara Miller Llana reports for The Christian Science Monitor:

‘A survey released today shows that Europeans approve of Obama’s international policies more than his own public: 64 percent compared to 43 percent.

But even in Europe, support is waning. And at the same time, Europeans are seeking a more independent path for themselves, which could have implications for US-European cooperation on everything from IS to Russian assertiveness to China’s rise.’

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Germany’s secret plan to invade America before WW1

George Dvorsky writes for io9:

The Secret German Scheme To Invade America Before The First World WarNearly two decades before the onset of World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm II set his imperialistic sights on the Americas. But to establish a presence there, Germany would have to put the U.S. in its place. To that end, it devised not one, but three plans to attack and invade America. Here’s how history could have unfolded very differently.

The plans for Imperial Germany’s invasion of the United States only came to light after the documents were found in 2002 at the German military archives in Freiburg. It was a remarkable and disturbing discovery, one which demonstrated the extent to which the Kaiser was willing to exert Germany’s presence onto the world — an urge that would continue well into the 20th century with the invasion of France in 1914 and the rise of Hitler’s Third Reich.’

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Chemical Industry using TTIP ‘to attack the precautionary principle’

Axel Singhofen reports for Chemical Watch:

‘The last 12 months have seen a surge of attacks against the EU’s precautionary principle. Some law firms consider it as a potential obstacle to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and UK Conservative MEP Julie Girling considers that “the EU’s expanding embrace of `precautionary’ regulation… may well be the biggest threat” to an agreement being signed off.

Last October, 12 CEOs of mainly chemical companies wrote to the presidents of the European Commission, Council and Parliament, calling for the formal adoption of an “innovation principle” as a counterbalance to “precautionary legislation”, because they were concerned that “the necessary balance of precaution and proportion is increasingly being replaced by a simple reliance on the precautionary principle and the avoidance of technological risk.’

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George Osborne denies UK defence spending will fall below 2% of GDP

Patrick Wintour reports for The Guardian:

‘George Osborne has refused to commit to an increase in defence spending after the general election and challenged claims that next year it will fall below 2% of GDP, the guideline figure agreed at the Nato summit on Friday.

The independent thinktank Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) has claimed spending will fall to 1.8%, but on Sunday Osborne said he did not accept that assessment, saying: “I think we need to continue to meet the 2% commitment,” adding that as chancellor he will always put Britain’s security needs first. Osborne was speaking after promising he will do whatever it takes to defeat Islamic State (Isis).’

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Hungary’s Crackdown on the Press

Philip N. Howard writes for The New York Times:

‘The European Union faces a challenging conundrum. While Hungary has embarked on building Europe’s most controlled media system, the European Commission just agreed in August to provide the country with nearly 22 billion euros of economic assistance.

Hungary has become a disturbing example of how a political elite can roll back democracy, even in the heart of Europe. Leveraging an electorally successful right-wing populism, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has staged an autocratic crackdown on the nation’s press, which the independent watchdog Freedom House now ranks as only “partly free.”’

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Switzerland ‘could grant Edward Snowden asylum if he testifies against NSA’

Natasha Culzac reports for The Independent:

‘Switzerland would grant Edward Snowden asylum if he revealed the extent of espionage activities by the US government, recommendations by the Swiss Attorney General reportedly conclude.

According to Swiss newspaper Sonntags Zeitung, an official has said that Mr Snowden should be guaranteed safe entry and residency in the country, in return for his knowledge on America’s intelligence activities.

Last month, Mr Snowden was told he could remain in Russia for another three years. He was not granted political asylum, but again awarded temporary residence as an extension of the one-year visa given to him last summer.’

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Mikhail Gorbachev: West should stop dragging Ukraine into NATO

RT reports:

‘[Ex-Soviet President Mikhail] Gorbachev writes that in his view the Ukrainian conflict can only be settled through dialogue, both inside the country and at an international level. He points out that leading nations were largely to blame for the current dire situation, as from the very beginning they were testing Ukraine’s integrity. EU countries, and first of all Germany and France, have already understood this and are taking steps to de-escalate the crisis, which is a good thing, the ex-president says.

Gorbachev also emphasized that good relations with Russia must become a priority in Ukraine’s foreign policy and this should also be understood and accepted by Western nations. Leaders of these nations should stop dragging Ukraine into NATO because these attempts would result in nothing but strife between Ukraine and Russia.’

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German DM: No Need to Spend as Much on Military as NATO Wants

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘Whenever NATO gets together, as they did at last week’s summit, you can count on a push for military spending increases. NATO’s official targets is 2% of every member nation’s GDP in military spending, and almost no nation is spending that much.

And there’s no need, according to German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who instead of letting the NATO push go in one ear and out the other insisted publicly that there was no reason for her nation to so dramatically increase its military budget.’

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Hagel Vows Increased Military Aid to Georgia

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel today promised more US military aid to Georgia, during a visit to the Caucasus republic, insisting the aid was part of a response to Russia’s “long-term challenge” to the US.

Georgia has been keen to cash in on the ongoing eastern Ukrainian war, which the US is blaming Russia for, and trying to present it as somehow related to the brief 2008 Russo-Georgian War.’

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Spain’s brain drain ‘worst in Western Europe’

The Local reports:

Spain's brain drain 'worst in Western Europe'‘Spain is among the European countries hardest hit by the so-called ‘brain drain’ effect with thousands of professionals including nurses and teachers taking steps to leave the country in recent years, new figures from the European Union show.

One of the most damaging aspects of Spain’s economic crisis has been the departure from the country of university graduates and highly skilled professionals. With jobs hard to come by and research and development funding slashed in many industries, anecdotal evidence suggests many people have decided to make the move elsewhere.’

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Polls: Most Catalans don’t want independence vote to go ahead if found illegal

Reuters reports:

‘A majority of Catalans believe a planned independence vote in November should not go ahead if, as expected, the referendum is declared illegal, two polls showed on Sunday, as the Spanish region prepares for a stand-off with Madrid.

Catalan President Artur Mas has promised a referendum allowing Catalans to decide whether they want the northeastern region to break away from Spain. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to block the move in the courts, saying such a vote would be unconstitutional.’

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Italy’s fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage

Anthony Faiola reports for The Independent:

The Colosseum in Rome‘They have clothed the world’s wealthy fashionistas and bejeweled Hollywood stars. Now, Italy’s kings of fashion are poised to give this nation’s crumbling monuments a makeover to restore them to their former glory, something the cash-strapped Italian government cannot do.

But as Italy courts private cash to rescue some of the globe’s best-known relics of the ancient world, a debate is raging over the commercialisation of history. The Italians have been careful to avoid, say, the kind of US-style rebranding that could lead to Prada’s Pompeii or the Leaning Tower of Gucci. But critics are already fretting about corporate exploitation of Italy’s national patrimony.’

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Fearmongering: Why Independence Could Put Scotland In Danger Of Russian Invasion

Editor’s Note: Of all the fearmongering coming from the ‘no’ campaign, this has to be my favourite piece. THE RUSSIAN’S ARE COMING! Desperate.

James Cook writes for Business Insider:

HMS Astute sailing to Faslane Naval Base in Scotland‘If Scotland votes “Yes” on independence, it will begin a long process of creating its own naval defence force, a process that could leave its coastline at risk. The Royal United Services Institute, a British military think tank, said last week that Scottish independence would trigger a national debate over the U.K.’s nuclear weapons if the submarines carrying the Trident missile system were relocated to the south coast of Britain, away from the fleet’s current base in Scotland. The relocation could add £3.5 billion to the cost of maintaining the U.K.’s armed forces.

But there are larger concerns over the future of Scotland’s naval defenses. While Scottish independence would indeed spark a debate on Britain’s nuclear future, as well as kickstarting a costly process to relocate the submarine fleet, some experts caution that Scottish independence could leave it vulnerable to naval threats.

Put simply, the Russians sail their submarines into Scottish waters on a regular basis. Russian vessels approach Scottish waters about once or twice a year, close enough to require the Royal Navy to perform counter-maneuvers.

And Russia has a recent history of military adventurism, in the Ukraine. Although there is absolutely no reason for Russia to invade Scotland, the departure of Trident from Northern waters could — in theory — let the Russians do whatever they like up there.’

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NATO Plans ‘Joint Military Exercises’ in War-Torn Ukraine

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘Previously planned annual NATO military exercises inside Ukraine were understandably delayed by a massive civil war breaking out in eastern Ukraine. NATO, apparently seeing it as a chance to stick it to Russia, is now saying they plan to hold the exercises later this month, even though the war is still going on [Ed: a ceasefire has now been enacted, whether it holds is another matter entirely].

Fortunately, the 10-day exercises will be taking place in western Ukraine, far from the actual warzone, and close to the border with Poland. 1,300 NATO troops, including 200 US combat troops,will be taking part.’

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Former US Ambassador to Moscow: To Resolve Ukraine Crisis, Address Internal Divisions & Russian Fears of NATO

‘Ukraine has retracted an earlier claim to have reached a ceasefire with Russia. The office of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko initially said he agreed with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on steps toward a ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. But the Kremlin then denied a ceasefire agreement, saying it is in no position to make a deal because it is not a party to the fighting. Ukraine has accused Russia of direct involvement in the violence amidst a recent escalation. The confusion comes as President Obama visits the former Soviet republic of Estonia ahead of a major NATO summit in Wales. On Tuesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest outlined NATO’s plans to expand its presence in eastern Europe. Ukraine and NATO have accused Russia of sending armored columns of troops into Ukraine, but Russia has denied its troops are involved in fighting on the ground. We are joined by Jack Matlock, U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991.’ (Democracy Now!)

Ukraine Ceasefire Takes Hold, but an Expanding NATO Raises Threat of Nuclear War: Interview with Stephen Cohen

‘The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels are reportedly set to sign a ceasefire today aimed at ending over six months of fighting that has killed at least 2,600 people and displaced over a million. The deal is expected this morning in the Belarusian capital of Minsk as President Obama and European leaders meet in Wales for a major NATO summit. The ceasefire comes at a time when the Ukrainian military has suffered a number of defeats at the hands of the Russian-backed rebels. In the hours leading up to the reported ceasefire, pro-Russian rebels launched another offensive to take the port city of Mariupol, which stands about halfway between Russia and the Crimea region. The Ukrainian government and NATO have accused Russia of sending forces into Ukraine, a claim Moscow denies. The new developments in Ukraine come as NATO has announced plans to create a new rapid reaction force in response to the Ukraine crisis. We are joined by Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University, and the author of numerous books on Russia and the Soviet Union.’ (Democracy Now!)

Former First Lady on Hollande: ‘He does not like the poor, privately he calls them the toothless ones’

John Lichfield reports for The Independent:

‘In the 320 pages of Valérie Trierweiler’s literary revenge attack on François Hollande, just two words may have destroyed what remains of the hapless French President’s credibility. France has exploded with self-righteous rage at Ms Trierweiler’s claim that a Socialist President, who once said that he “hated the rich”, jokingly refers to the poor in private as “les sans dents” – “people without teeth”.’

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U.S. and Allies Form Coalition Against ISIS

Helene Cooper reports for The New York Times:

‘The Obama administration said Friday that it had formed a coalition of countries to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, unveiling a military and political campaign that officials said could eventually serve as a model for fighting extremist groups around the world.

In a hastily organized meeting on the outskirts of the NATO summit meeting, diplomats and military officials from the United States, Britain, France, Australia, Canada, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark huddled on what they called a two-pronged strategy: working to bolster allies fighting on the ground in Iraq and Syria, while the United States, alone so far, bombs Sunni militants from the air, so long as they are in Iraq.’

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Pentagon set to open second drone base in Niger as it expands operations in Africa

Craig Whitlock reports for The Washington Post:

‘The Pentagon is preparing to open a drone base in one of the remotest places on Earth: an ancient caravan crossroads in the middle of the Sahara. After months of negotiations, the government of Niger, a landlocked West African nation, has authorized the U.S. military to fly unarmed drones from the mud-walled desert city of Agadez, according to Nigerien and U.S. officials.

The previously undisclosed decision gives the Pentagon another surveillance hub — its second in Niger and third in the region — to track Islamist fighters who have destabilized parts of North and West Africa. It also advances a little-publicized U.S. strategy to tackle counterterrorism threats alongside France, the former colonial power in that part of the continent.

Although the two allies have a sporadic history of quarreling when it comes to military action, U.S. and French troops have been working hand in glove as they steadily expand their presence in impoverished West Africa. Both countries are alarmed by the presence of jihadist groups, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, that have taken root in states whose governments are unable to exert control over their own territory.’

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Rasmussen: Ball in Ukraine’s court over NATO after election

Adrian Croft reports for Reuters:

‘NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday that Ukraine’s political leaders expect a new parliament to abandon the country’s non-aligned status after an election next month in a possible prelude to an application to join NATO. Ukraine said on Friday it would seek the protection of NATO membership after what Kiev and its Western allies say is the open participation of the Russian military in the war in Ukraine’s eastern provinces.

Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich, who was toppled in a revolution this year, had pursued non-aligned status since he took power 2010 – a route taken by many developing countries not wishing to be linked with NATO or any major power bloc. If Ukraine scrapped its non-alliance status after the Oct. 26 vote, NATO would discuss with Kiev “how to move forward”, Rasmussen said, but he said it was too early to say how long it might take for Ukraine to join the U.S.-led alliance.’

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Boys & Their Toys: NATO military flights surprise over Cardiff and Newport

Gavin Thomas reports for BBC News:

Osprey MV-22 aircraft ‘A series of training flights by military helicopters and other aircraft ahead of the NATO summit startled residents in Newport and Cardiff on Monday. The elite US Marine Corps HMX-1 squadron, which provides air support to US Presidents, thundered over the cities, along with RAF Military helicopters and police air support.

Perhaps the most dramatic sight were the Osprey MV-22 aircraft, which can land and take off like a helicopter but then tilt their rotors to become conventional planes. The Ospreys, which visited both the Celtic Manor summit venue and Cardiff city centre, were accompanied by Sikorsky VH-60N helicopters, a VIP version of the US Blackhawk.’

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NATO to create high-readiness force to counter Russian threat

Ewen MacAskill reports for The Guardian:

Nato is to create a 4,000-strong “spearhead” high-readiness force that can be deployed rapidly in eastern Europe and the Baltic states to help protect member nations against potential Russian aggression, according to Nato officials. Leaders from the 28 Nato countries are expected to approve the plan at the alliance’s summit in Wales when the Ukraine crisis tops the agenda on Friday.

The Nato secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the force, drawn on rotational basis from Nato allies, could be in action at “very, very short notice”. Rasmussen described it as a mixture of regular troops and special forces that could “travel light but strike hard”. It would be supported by air and naval forces as needed.’

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