Archive | December 7th, 2016

UN, US Fail to Offer Humanitarian Aid to 90,000 Freed Aleppo Citizens

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The United States, the United Kingdom, France and the United Nations have not yet offered humanitarian relief to 90,000 Aleppo citizens, liberated from militants two days ago, the Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman said Wednesday.

“Two days after over 90,000 Aleppo residents were freed from terrorists, no offer of humanitarian assistance came from the office of UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, the British and French Foreign Ministries or the US State Department,” the ministry’s spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.

Konashenkov reminded about the previous US, UK, UN and French demands to provide humanitarian access to eastern Aleppo when it was held by the militants.

“Apparently, the [humanitarian] assistance was destined for certain other people living in the eastern parts of Aleppo,” Konashenkov said highlighting the absence of the above-mentioned sides’ interest in providing civilians with humanitarian aid after all the necessary conditions for the aid delivery had been created.

On Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the Syrian government forces had cleared almost half of eastern Aleppo from militant strongholds, liberating tens of thousands local residents.

Posted in USA, Syria, UKComments Off on UN, US Fail to Offer Humanitarian Aid to 90,000 Freed Aleppo Citizens

Saving Poroshenko? US State Dept offers $800k to Ukraine NGOs

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Washington is offering a grant of up to $800,000 to Ukrainian public organizations that will monitor regional authorities and secure ties with local media. Experts say it’s a way to keep President Petro Poroshenko in power amid declining popularity.

“[The] goal is to enhance the accountability and responsiveness of the Ukrainian government at the local level through civil society advocacy, monitoring, and civic activism,” reads a US State Department funding announcement, published this week on the  website.

It explains further that the State Department is looking for “civil society organizations,” either non-profit or for-profit (with some conditions) that will provide proposals “to perform a watchdog function and advocate for democratic governance” in Ukraine.

The description states the program is aimed at increasing civic activism in Ukraine at a local level and building and training a network of civic activists throughout the country. These in turn are to keep watch on the activities of local governments and encourage partnerships between civil society and media “to communicate important information about local reforms to the public.”

The organizations applying for the grant must present a program for their activities, along with a financial plan, by January 17, 2017. They are also required to have ties with “thematic or in-country partners, entities and relevant stakeholders, including private sector partners and NGOs” and provide proof of these links or their potential development.

The description states that applicants are also requested to have “demonstrable experience in administering successful, and preferably similar, projects.”

It adds that: “Projects should have the potential to have an immediate impact leading to long-term sustainable reforms, and should have potential for sustainability beyond DRL (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the State Department) resources.”

Among other things, the bureau says it welcomes projects that “advance the rights and uphold the dignity of the most vulnerable or at-risk populations,” with one of the criteria for the selection of candidates being their cooperation with minority groups.

The State Department reserves a significant role for itself in the implementation of the program that receives the grant. It will, for instance, demand quarterly reports on the program’s spending and progress.

‘Chance to keep Poroshenko at helm’ – experts on funding grant

Experts believe that this and other such funding opportunities Washington has offered Ukraine are a means of preventing the fall of the country’s president and Washington favorite, Petro Poroshenko. The Ukrainian leader’s public approval ratings have plunged recently.

According to , in November Poroshenko’s rating drew 14.3 percent of popular support – having plummeted to a low of 10.7 percent in summer. He is still behind former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in the ratings.

 to RT Russian, political analyst Nikolay Shlyamin said: “The activists who will work in the country under this program and for the money from this grant will penetrate [Ukraine’s] state agencies to monitor the spending of officials and then publish reports on the expenditures from the state budget.

“In addition, they will attract the media who will cover the process of fighting against corruption in the country. In this case, there is a chance that the Americans will be able to keep their favorite at the helm for the upcoming presidential elections,” Shlyamin believes.

He notes that the Ukrainian people have become disillusioned with Poroshenko’s leadership, with his promises to introduce visa-free travel with the EU and eradicate corruption proving a failure.

“Under Poroshenko, Ukraine has so far been unable to secure European Union and NATO membership. In domestic policy [there have been] also continuous failures,” Shlyamin told RT Russian.

He believes the current grant is one of the final efforts by US President Barack Obama’s administration to maintain US-Ukraine relations as they have been since the coup in 2014.

“Obama will soon leave office. Therefore, he needs to have time to allocate the necessary financial resources to continue the current policy and prevent future president Donald Trump from building a new line of cooperation with Ukraine,” he says.

Some, like film director Oliver Stone, have called the Maidan revolution of 2014 a , while former US Congressman Ron Paul called on foreign actors – like Washington, NATO or Moscow – to stay out of the country.

In 2015, Sputnik news agency reported that the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) – a bureau much like the DRL, which is offering the current grant – played a significant role in the preparation of the Kiev coup. From 2011 to 2014 it was  to have given some $14 million to Ukrainian NGOs which facilitated media coverage of mass demonstrations and organized youth movements.

After much speculation on the US role in the upheaval of 2014, President Obama last year openly  to having a hand in the events, or in his words “broker[ing] a deal to transition power in Ukraine.”

Shlyamin’s colleague Sergey Sudakov said that, given its political significance, a major grant like the one currently being advertised for Ukraine is likely to end up in the hands of someone trusted by Washington, such as billionaire investor George Soros.

“The government must be sure of the loyalty of those who are entrusted with such projects. After all, their goal [is] espionage and site preparation for the implementation of pro-American policy,” he said.

Experts say that under Obama, Washington has been striving to gain full control over Ukraine – a strategically important region due to its location close to Russia. Shlyamin noted that in this “struggle for Kiev,” Washington has been pursuing “soft force,” introducing US democratic values through methods such as education and cultural training.

Indeed, the US government has been known to large sums to work with Ukrainian media, businesses and civil society activists. Last year, Victoria Nuland, the State Department’s top diplomat for Europe, acknowledged that since 1991 America has poured $5 billion of taxpayers’ money into what she said was assisting Ukrainians in building “democratic skills and institutions.”

Grants were distributed through the DRL, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), with the money going to sponsor various NGOs, political parties and media outlets.

However, Ukraine is not the only country whose internal affairs Washington is keen on being closely involved in. Just two months ago it emerged that USAID had  $3 million to Russian non-governmental entities, according to data posted on government website .

The organization, which was banned in Russia in 2012 as “undesirable,” announced the funding opportunity just as Russia was preparing to hold parliamentary elections. The investment was listed under the heading ‘For activity in Russia,’ set to be completed by 2017.

Read more:

US allocates $3mn to back Russian NGOs ahead of parliamentary elections

Brokering power: US role in Ukraine coup hard to overlook

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‘Hermon National Park’ land appropriation and settlement expansion condemned by human rights group

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Al-Marsad 

Human rights organisation Al-Marsad has written to the EU, European governments and the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council regarding the approval last month by the Israeli government to expand the largest illegal Israeli settlement in the Occupied Syrian Golan by 1,600 settlements units; and the planned appropriation of Syrian land under the guise of the ‘Hermon National Park’ plan. The letter is available here.

In October, the Israeli Finance Ministry approved plans for the construction of 1,600 settlement units in the illegal Israeli settlement of Katzrin. With a population of 8,000, Katzrin is the largest Israeli settlement in the Occupied Syrian Golan. It was built over the destroyed Syrian villages of Qasrin, Shqef and Sanawber whose inhabitants were either forced to leave their homes by the Israeli army or were displaced by fighting during the Israeli occupation in 1967.

Katzrin is also home to various settlement businesses that illegally exploit the natural resources of the Occupied Syrian Golan, such as the Golan Heights Winery and Eden Springs / May Eden mineral water. In addition, Afek, an Israeli oil company that is illegally conducting oil exploration in the Occupied Syrian Golan, has an office in Katzrin. Afek is owned by a US company, Genie Energy, that includes Rupert Murdoch, Dick Cheney and James Woolsey (former head of the CIA) on its advisory board.

Furthermore, this announcement follows approval by the Israeli government in 2014 for a $108 million investment to establish 750 Israeli settlement ‘farming estates’ on 7,100 acres of land in the Occupied Syrian Golan.

Meanwhile, under the guise of the ‘Hermon National Park’ plan the Israeli authorities are seeking to appropriate 25,000 acres of land that have been used by the residents of Syrian villages, Majdal Shams and Ein Qynia, since Ottoman rule for agriculture and housing. If approved the ‘Hermon National Park’ plan would, in particular, surround Majdal Shams in the north and west. Therefore, the only area available for urban expansion of the village would be agricultural land in the south – a main source of livelihood for the local Syrian population. It is not possible to expand the village to the east given its close proximity to the fortified ceasefire line.

The designation of land by the Israeli authorities as a ‘national park’, ‘abandoned property’ or for ‘military or public needs’ is a regularly used tactic to either prevent the expansion of Syrian and Palestinian communities under occupation, or to appropriate land for settlement construction.

Therefore, Al-Marsad:
• Calls on the international community to strongly condemn plans for the construction of 1600 settlement units in the illegal settlement of Katzrin and the planned expropriation of Syrian land under the guise of the ‘Hermon National Park’ plan; and obtain binding commitments from Israel that it will stop these activities.
• Invites foreign governments and international organisations to send fact-finding missions to the Occupied Syrian Golan to witness firsthand the deteriorating human rights situation.

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Nothing Important Happened in Syria on Tuesday, Nov. 29

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By Paul Larudee 

On Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, after more than five years of fighting in Aleppo, Syrian government forces recaptured a major portion of the “rebel” enclave often called “east Aleppo”.

It now should be called “southeast Aleppo”, and soon perhaps just “Aleppo”. Thousands of grateful Syrian civilians ran into the arms of the soldiers, and were provided with food, shelter, transportation, medical services, and other needs.

They recounted horror stories of how the “rebels”, under the leadership of the extremist al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (AKA Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), denied them food and water and shot at them when they tried to leave (after confiscating their mobile phones so that no one could hear their story). Nevertheless, hundreds of fighters decided to accept the government offer of amnesty, and laid down their arms, while the rest retreated into the shrinking enclave.

The main water pumping station for the entire city had been in this liberated section of the city, and government engineers promise that service will soon be restored for the first time in many years.

It is a major turning point in the Syrian war, signaling the beginning of the end for efforts by the US, NATO and the Arabian monarchies to create “regime change” and a failed state in place of the secular government supported by the vast majority of Syrian citizens.

But apparently none of this is of any importance. After following what I thought were exciting developments through Twitter, Facebook, RT, and various alternative media sites, I flipped through the evening news of the three major US television networks (ABC, NBC & CBS) to see what sort of coverage they might have. I was expecting denunciations, accusations of Russian and Syrian atrocities, and the usual lies and distortions.

Instead, I found nothing at all. There was no coverage of Syria. Apparently, nothing of any consequence had happened. Instead, there was a story about how a group of US workers had won the lottery and had all become millionaires.

Silly me! I had thought it was a historic turning point. I can only imagine that the lavishly funded Aleppo Media Center and White Helmets “impartial” “volunteer” organizations were too busy running for their lives, along with their head-chopping heroes, to concoct their stories and stage their imitation rescue and black flag operations, and distribute them to the western media. Without these sources, the corporate media were left with nothing to report except stories that contradicted everything they had been reporting for months and years.

Silence is golden.

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Kissinger and Brzezinski to be honoured by Nobel Institute and Oslo University

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By Jan Oberg | TFF PressInfo  

These two top officials behind major US wars (Iran/Afghanistan and Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos) and regime change (against Allende, Chile) will speak at the first of a new event, The Nobel Peace Prize Forum Oslo, created by the Nobel Institute in Oslo.

The leaders of the two institutions declare that they are proud to have succeeded in getting these two diplomats to Norway – and the media, of course, will be there. The event is sponsored by the California-based company InCircl – a marketing and mobile payment company.

The university rector is dr. med. and participant at Bilderberg world elite power group in 2011 Ole Petter Ottersen and you can write him at on.oiu@rotker

These two experts on warfare and interventionism will – Orwellian style – speak about “The United States and World Peace After The Presidential Election”.

This is the country that, since 1980, has intervened violently in Iran, Libya, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Kosova/Serbia, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, i.e. 14 Muslim countries. It has some 630 base facilities in 130+ countries. It has its US Special Forces (SOF) in 133 countries.

It has used nuclear weapons without apology and owns the second largest arsenal of nuclear weapons.

The US stands for about 40% of the world’s military expenditures, is the world’s leading arms exporter and has killed more people than anybody else since 1945. It’s the master of (imprecise) drone strikes. It presently supports Saudi Arabia’s bestial war on Yemen and conducts a military build-up in Asia and the Pacific planning, as it seems, for what looks like a future confrontation with China. And not with terribly positive results in its Middle East policies since 1945.

So with all these credentials, please tell us about world peace!

The U.S. should be seen as quite incapable of peace-making – not the least thanks to Dr. Kissinger (now 93) who is associated with major “war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offences against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture” in places such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Timor, and Chile as stated in the classical book about his peace-making by Christopher Hitchens “The Trial Of Henry Kissinger.”

Here is Carl Estabrook’s trustworthy account with personal references.

Brzezinski (now 88) doesn’t have as much blood on his hands but his hawkish “Realpolitk” contributions to US foreign policy – including its failures – over decades are well described here.

So, undoubtedly these voices from past militarism and imperialism – here understood as theoretical concepts, not as ideological slogans – are supposed to enlighten the participants in Oslo, young university students in particular, in the right teachings, in U.S. international political history and concepts, promote their surreal peace concept and present an interpretation of the – surely – benign US and its exceptionalist role in the future world (dis)order.

Let me be very clear: I am in favour of universities being open, of free academic debate and freedom of expression. These two cast-off ideologues are entitled to that too – in Oslo for sure.

But I do have this to ask:

Who will get the same honour while holding the different, opposite views – as should be the case in normal academic-intellectual settings?

Will the Nobel Institute and Oslo University honour intellectuals with such other values and perspectives? Would they invite victims of the policies of the US under the influence of Kissinger and Brzezinski?

And would somebody be invited to a similar high-profiled event who works with peace concepts that – in stark contrast to these two – are based on conflict analysis, anti-imperialism, anti-militarism, disarmament, nonviolence, reconciliation, forgiveness and the cultures of peace including dialogue and negotiations?

This brings me to a confession of sorts:

While I am in favour of intellectual freedom and open debate, I am not in favour of the Nobel Institute inviting people such as Kissinger and Brzezinski. The Institute as well as the Nobel Committee that decides who shall be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize has a mandate based upon the will of Alfred Nobel.

And he wrote there that he wanted his Prize to go to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

It goes without saying and without further discussion that the two visitors have done nothing – nothing – for that.

To award prizes – and honour by invitations – alleged, non-convicted war criminals should, by simple logics, be unthinkable. Impossible.

The link between the prize committee and the institute is clear; that link is embodied in professor Olav Njölstad, a historian, who both heads the Nobel Institute and is a member (secretary) of the Nobel Committee.

The Kissinger-Brzezinski event is nothing less than a slap in the face of everyone working for peace and of Alfred Nobel’s will.

It’s a crystal clear violation of that will and legal authorities as well as the Swedish Nobel Foundation ought to secure that anything like this can never happen again. I know from experience that none will take action. Peace is war and war is peace – and why should they care about a will and legal issues when they honour people who have systematically broken international law or advocated the breaking of it?

Or, in other words, anybody who feels they need to be enlightened by two of the oldest and worst representatives of the most militant and war-fighting nation on earth about the world’s future and about peace signals only one thing: The intellectual and moral decay of a small Western country totally submissive to the US – which itself is in utterly clear moral, intellectual, political and economic decay – and Empire fast approaching its end thanks to its own policies.

One way to go: Boycott the event and let Kissinger, Brzezinski, Njölstad and Ottersen be the only ones who turn up in that huge hall on December 11th.

Or, go there – students, media and civil society – and raise all the questions any independent, decent academic must. And anyone must who takes the word peace seriously.

Posted in Middle East, USAComments Off on Kissinger and Brzezinski to be honoured by Nobel Institute and Oslo University

House passes intelligence bill aimed at thwarting Russia’s ‘influence over people & governments’

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The House of Representatives has passed an intelligence bill aimed at tackling what Washington claims is political interference by Russia on a global level.

The 93-page bill, passed by the House in a 390-30 vote on Wednesday, calls for setting up a new, interagency panel to suppress Russia’s alleged attempts to “exert covert influence over peoples and governments,” The Washington Post reported.

The draft legislation goes on to state that the panel would be tasked with “countering active measures by Russia to exert covert influence, including exposing falsehoods, agents of influence, corruption, human rights abuses, terrorism and assassinations carried out by the security services or political elites of the Russian Federation or their proxies.”

The bill could be seen in direct opposition to President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to strengthen relations with Moscow.

In addition to thwarting Russia’s alleged interference, the bill also outlines funding for efforts to foil attacks and deny terrorists safe harbor in Iraq, Syria, North Africa, and other locations. It aims to strengthen counter-intelligence and address threats from adversaries in cyberspace, space and at sea.

It also updates whistleblower procedures in the intelligence community and requires a declassification review of intelligence reports on detainees transferred out of Guantanamo Bay by President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill before the end of the year.

Also Wednesday, the six Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a letter to President Obama, seeking declassification of information about Russia’s alleged meddling in the US presidential election.

“We believe there is additional information concerning the Russian government and the US election that should be declassified and released to the public,” they wrote in the letter. “We are conveying specifics through classified channels.”

Moscow has dismissed claims that it meddled in the US presidential election as “nonsense,” with President Vladimir Putin calling the accusation an attempt to distract American voters from domestic issues.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently told Italian newspaper Corriere della sera that there is still no proof of Moscow’s alleged meddling in the US presidential elections, calling the accusations “myth-making with a goal to solve the short-term political objectives.”

“No promised ‘evidence’ of interference in the electoral process has been presented neither to the American, nor to the international public,” Lavrov said.

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Russia negotiates with Turkey for surrender of Jihadis in east Aleppo

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By Alexander Mercouris 

The Financial Times provides confirmation that as claimed by The Duran in early November Turkey is brokering talks between Russia and the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo for them to surrender the eastern districts of the city.

Back on 2nd November 2016 I wrote a piece for The Duran in which I said that all diplomatic contacts with the US over Syria having completely failed, the Russians were trying to negotiate the surrender of eastern Aleppo with Turkey.

This is what I said:

“Having despaired of getting the US to separate Al-Qaeda/Jabhat Al-Nusra from the other Jihadis in Aleppo, and getting them to withdraw, it is likely the Russians are trying to agree the same thing with the Turks.  Indeed [General] Gerasimov’s [Russia’s Chief of General Staff] comments today essentially say as much.”

Today there is confirmation from the Financial Times that such talks in Ankara are indeed underway. Here is what it reports:

“Syrian rebels are in secret talks with Russia to end the fighting in Aleppo, according to opposition figures, a development that shows how the US could become sidelined in some of the Middle East’s most pivotal conflicts.

Four opposition members from rebel-held northern Syria told the Financial Times that Turkey has been brokering talks in Ankara with Moscow, whose military intervention last year on the side of President Bashar al-Assad helped turn the five-year civil war in the regime’s favour. Russia is now backing regime efforts to recapture the rebel’s last urban stronghold in Syria’s second city of Aleppo.

“The Russians and Turks are talking without the US now. It [Washington] is completely shut out of these talks, and doesn’t even know what’s going on in Ankara,” said one opposition figure, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.”

Importantly the Russians are not denying the talks. Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s formidable spokeswoman, responded to questions by the Financial Times about the talks as follows

“Washington isolated itself. We’ve been negotiating with the [Syrian] opposition in Turkey for years — it’s not news.”

The Financial Times misunderstands the negotiations which are underway. It quotes Charles Lister, a Syria expert at the Middle East Institute in Washington, as explaining Russia’s intentions in this way

“Russia is hedging its bets. It would prefer to make a deal with the opposition.  If Aleppo were to fall, the Syrian regime would need so many troops to hold the city that its forces would be left thin elsewhere in the country — or dependent on Iranian help, which Moscow would prefer to avoid.”

This is certainly wrong. As The Duran has been reporting ever since September, the consistent Russian demand, and the key provision of the unsuccessful Kerry-Lavrov agreement of September, is that all the Jihadis fighters must quit eastern Aleppo, which must be surrendered to the government. 

It should hardly need saying that Aleppo would be far more defensible without any Jihadi fighters there, rather than with Jihadi fighters owing allegiance to terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda and ISIS still in control of some of the eastern districts of the city.

Charles Lister’s analysis is I am sorry to say just another example of the wishful thinking and failure to assess realities in Syria objectively which has beset Western understanding of the conflict in Syria since its start.Full article

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Brexit-Style Referendums Idea Gains Popularity in Three EU States After UK Vote

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The idea of conducting a referendum on exiting the European Union has become more popular in EU countries, including Italy, Poland and Spain ever since the Brexit vote, while large numbers of people in other states of the bloc would support holding such a referendum, IFop pollster revealed in a survey for Sputnik.

According to the poll, the number of people who would support such a referendum has increased by 7 percent in Italy since July and now stands at 53 percent. The number of supporters of a vote on EU membership has also increased in Spain and Poland by 5 percent, to 39 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

The Brexit-style referendum is also popular in other European countries. Almost half, or 47 percent, of French nationals polled backed such an idea. The number of supporters of holding a referendum on exiting the European Union in Germany stands at 43 percent. The survey was carried out by France’s IFop pollster on October 22-26. As many as 5,019 people took part in the poll. The maximum sample error stands at 3.1 percent.

On June 23, the United Kingdom voted on referendum to leave the European Union. UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the country would trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017, thus kick-starting withdrawal negotiations.

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Russia sets out its policy on terrorism, nuclear war & global ties in new Foreign Policy Concept

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President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree approving Russia’s new Foreign Policy Concept. The document specifies Moscow’s position on key global issues, highlighting its relations with the US, EU, China and other countries.

Published on Thursday, the concept is now in force, replacing the previous one from 2013. Moscow’s “views on core principles, priority directions, aims and tasks of the Russian foreign policy” are stated in the document of almost 40 pages.

Saying that Russia pursues an independent foreign policy based both on national interests and respect for international law, the concept states that Moscow’s policy is “open, foreseeable” and “shaped by centuries” of Russia’s historic role in the development of global civilization.

“Russia is fully aware of its special responsibility for maintaining security in the world both on global and regional levels, and is aimed at cooperative actions with all concerned states in the interest to solve common issues,” the document says.

Moscow calls for “creation of a broad international anti-terrorist coalition, firmly based on a legal framework, and effective and systematic cooperation among states,” the document says. No “double standards” should have a place in such a coalition, which should become the main force to fight global terrorism.

Nuclear war hazard low, but US missile shield threatens Russia’s national security

Moscow stands for the creation of “zones free of nuclear weapons and other types of weapons of mass destruction, especially in the Middle East,” the concept states, adding that “fighting international terrorism is key priority in international security.”

No country should use terrorist organizations to pursue its “political, ideological and other aims,” it says. Political and legal framework for nuclear and other weapons nonproliferation course is key, to avoid risks of such weapons landing in the hands of terrorist organizations.

Russia stays true to its international obligations in the arms control, and expects the same from its partners. Washington’s development of its global missile defense system is viewed as a “threat to national security,” with Moscow “reserving the right to take relevant counter measures.”

“Russia stands for constructive cooperation with the US in the field of arms control, with a compulsory allowance for an inseparable correlation between strategic offensive and defense weapons,” the document says. Global strategic stability should be the key factor in possible further arms reduction, it adds.

“Despite [the fact] that a threat of a large-scale war, including nuclear war, initiated between key states remains low, risks that [such states] may be involved in regional crisis, escalating them, are growing,” the new Foreign Policy Concept warns.

Russia-US dialogue possible, but only if US abandons its ‘restraining’ course

Washington and its allies have been pursuing a “restraining course” against Russia, aiming to “pressure” it both politically and economically, the document says, adding that such policy “undermines regional and global security.” It also harms long-term interests of both sides, and goes against a “growing necessity for cooperation” and joint counteraction to global threats.

Russia reserves the right to “harsh” retaliatory measures to “unfriendly actions,” including measures in toughening its national defense.

Moscow “is interested in building mutually beneficial relations with the US, taking into consideration the two countries’ responsibility for global strategic stability and the state of international security in general,” the concept stresses, adding that the two nations have significant opportunities in trade, investment, scientific and other forms of cooperation.

The development of dialogue on bilateral relations, as well as on other international issues “is only possible if based on equality, mutual respect and non-interference in one another’s internal affairs.”

In regard to contacts with NATO, Moscow plans to build its relations with the alliance based on its eagerness to be engaged in equal partnership. So far, Russia negatively regards NATO’s expansion, with its military infrastructure getting closer to the Russian borders. Such actions are considered as “defying the principle of equal security” and might cause new “division lines in Europe.”

Meanwhile, Moscow praises the role of the United Nations in “regulating international relations and coordinating world policies,” saying that there are no other options to replace the organization in the 21st century.

Relations with EU among Moscow’s priorities, abolishing visa regime will strengthen ties

Stepping-up mutually beneficial bilateral ties with European countries is named among one of Russia’s key priorities in the new Foreign Policy Concept.

The EU is Russia’s important trade and economic partner, the document says, adding that Moscow also regards Europe as its associate in foreign policy and is looking for “stable cooperation” based on mutual respect. Relations with Germany, France, Italy and Spain are mentioned as being key for the Kremlin in promoting its interests on the international arena.

“The strategic task in relations with the EU is forming a broad economic and humanitarian space from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean,” that will unite and “harmonize” the European continent, the concept says.

“The visa regime remains one of the main barriers in the way of development of contacts between Russia and the EU. The gradual cancellation of the visa regime on a reciprocal basis will become a powerful impulse for strengthening cooperation between Russia and the EU in economic, humanitarian, cultural, educational and other spheres,” the document says.

Russia to strengthen ties with the East, presence in the Antarctic

Among Moscow’s other foreign policy priorities, the concept mentions developing further relations with its eastern neighbors. “Full-scale” partnership and cooperation with China is on the agenda, as well as “further deepening” of strategic partnership with India. With the latter, Russia has always had “privileged” relations, according to the document, which says that the two nations’ cooperation is based on corresponding foreign policies, “historic friendship and deep mutual trust.”

Japan and other countries in the Asia-Pacific Region are also mentioned as important partners to work with in the near future.

“Russia will also continue its work on preserving and widening its presence in the Antarctic,” the concept states, adding that Moscow is as well “open for building relations with Canada” to cooperate in the Arctic and other regions.

Russia’s position on Syria is also mentioned in the new Foreign Policy Concept, with Moscow standing for the Middle Eastern country’s “unity, independence and territorial integrity.” Representatives of all ethnic and religious groups in Syria should be provided with equal security and peace, and enjoy “equal rights and opportunities,” the document says.

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US reactions to the death of Fidel Castro

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Fidel Castro

By Lawrence Davidson

Rejoicing at the death of a hero

There was something both sad and disturbing about popular American reactions to the death of Fidel Castro on Friday 25 November 2016. According to the New York Times, news of his death caused much of the Cuban American population of south Florida to “fill Miami’s streets with song”. Those were songs of “rejoicing” rather than dirges. We will examine why these celebrations occurred later in this analysis. However, first we want to give Señor Castro his due.

Fidel Castro was the man who led the successful effort to overthrow the brutal and reactionary dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista – a dictatorship that had the backing of the US government.

The Castro-led victory of 1959 began a long period of transformation for Cuba, raising the country from a starkly poor Third World condition to a modernising socialist state. Here are some of that country’s achievements under Castro’s leadership:

  • The expansion of nationwide public education, which uplifted the Cuban population from being largely illiterate to being mostly literate.
  • The introduction and development of a modern and accessible public health care system, which all but eliminated death from curable diseases and greatly reduced the infant mortality rate.
  • The expansion of services, such as the electric grid, sewage systems, and a reliable water supply, into the countryside.
  • The establishment of programmes of sustainable development as the nation’s economy diversified according to environmentally safe guidelines. This involved redistribution of large landed estates to over a quarter million peasants.
  • A significant reduction of both racism and sexism through education and new laws.
  • A considerable reduction of economic disparities.

There was, of course, a price to be paid for these advances. All of this and more was made possible by instituting a socialist economy and a one-party government. This alienated much of the the country’s upper and middle classes. Resistance brought varying degrees of repression. Over time many of those whose economic lifestyles were compromised learned to resent and indeed hate Castro. Tens of thousands of them fled to the United States.

If the socialist road was, predictably, going to divide Cuba in such a drastic way, why did Castro decide to go this route? It was not, as popularly believed, because he came to power a convinced communist. His move to the left was in direct reaction to the policies adopted by the US government.

Fateful visit

In April 1959, at the invitation of the American Association of Newspaper Editors, Castro paid a visit to the United States. The trip provided an opportunity for consultations with the US government. US officials only begrudgingly met Castro. There was a lot of annoyance at his early, if short-lived, declaration of neutrality when it came to the Cold War. President Dwight Eisenhower showed his displeasure with Castro by opting for a game of golf. However, Castro did manage to get a three-hour audience with Vice-President Richard Nixon.

It seems that the meeting did not go very well. Castro refused to promise swift new elections in Cuba. He was convinced that the nation’s priorities were economic and not political. And although Castro protested that he was not a communist, Nixon was suspicious. After the meeting he concluded that Castro was “either incredibly naive about communism or under communist discipline – my guess is the former.”

Subsequently, the US government refused any economic assistance to the new Cuban regime. Worse yet, a decision was made to institute “punishment politics”. In March 1960 President Eisenhower set up funding for the overthrow of Castro. A year later the Kennedy administration carried out the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion. It was against this background that Castro and his advisors quickly turned to the Soviet Union for the economic and military assistance necessary for their survival.

Rejecting sacrifice

Do those who jumped for joy in Little Havana on 25 November understand this history? Most of them are the descendants of individuals who rejected Castro’s socialist ideals. Their own loyalties were not to Cuban society as a whole, but rather to family and/or a restricted economic community that was being forced to sacrifice for the greater good. Yet, for many Cubans of means, the notion of the greater good proved too threatening to be identified with their local interests.

Thus, the rejoicers’ immediate ancestors fled to the US with their portable wealth and formed the political lobby (based, by the way, on the strategy and tactics of the Zionist lobby) that kept the US government scheming against Cuba for over 50 years. Is it any wonder that their children should have a biased view of history?

The Conservative reaction

The Cuban Americans are not the only ones to express a one-sided view of things. Members of the American conservative elite also rejoiced at Castro’s death. Here a representative voice is that of George Will, a political commentator whose columns appear in the Washington Post and other newspapers.

… the United States created an ongoing wartime situation for Havana. Under such circumstances the historically usual reaction is for a government – any government – to become more controlling.

Will’s column on Castro’s death appeared on 28 November 2016 under the title Cuba a Tomb of Utopianism. It is an historically incorrect judgment by virtue of the fact that Cuba’s achievements under Castro’s leadership, some of which are listed above, are not utopian at all, but rather quite real. However, Will cannot see this any more than the celebrants of Little Havana. For him, Castro is nothing more than a “charismatic totalitarian” whose life was “nasty” and whose “regime was saturated with sadism”. He goes on to compare Castro to Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini.

What is his evidence for these morbid exaggerations? Well, the Cuban government imprisoned some of its opponents, though they allowed many more of them to emigrate out of the country. Between 500 and 700 of Batista’s henchmen were tried and executed. Over time the regime manifested increasing authoritarian tendencies, largely due to relentless US efforts to destroy the country’s economy and overthrow its government. In other words, the United States created an ongoing wartime situation for Havana. Under such circumstances the historically usual reaction is for a government – any government – to become more controlling. George Will takes no notice of this.

Conclusion

The Cuban American rejoicing at Castro’s death, and George Will’s misreading of it as the a sign of a “dead utopianism”, are both disturbing manifestations of historical narrow-mindedness. In the case of the celebrants, this attitude is no doubt connected to pent-up anger over the fact that something had been taken from them, or from their relatives, as part of an effort to remake a society that, prior to 1959, had only enriched the wealthy and impoverished the poor.

George Will’s attitude is a function of his conservative worldview. He gives no credit at all to the economic and social achievements of Fidel Castro because he can’t get past his ideologically driven interpretation of the political steps taken to realise them.

And neither of the above will admit to the truth that the Cuba policy of the United States over more than 50 years contributed strongly to the road Castro took.

Posted in USA, CUBAComments Off on US reactions to the death of Fidel Castro

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