Sunday, January 31, 2010
Ok. I guess I should add here that the folks at Air Power Australia have an agenda: they really, really, do not want the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for their country. But hey - who could blame them?! Besides, the fact that these folks are horrified at the prospect at getting the F-35 JSF does not mean that they analyses are flawed. On the contrary, the analysts writing for Air Power Australia are among the best out there and I have never seen anybody challenging their expertise or conclusions.
Now, a full comparison would require further elements, such as a comparison of radars and radar modes, jamming capabilities, air to air missiles, etc. Air Power Australia already has published such comparisons and I am not going to re-publish all that stuff here. Rather, let me share the bottom line with you: there are only 2 real 5th generation fighters in existence: the F-22 and the PAKFA (and only the former is actually deployed) and of these two the PAKFA is the more capable and more advanced one. Russian 4+ (or even 4++ as some refer to them) such as the Su-35BM or the MiG-35 are trailing the F-22 very closely and are clearly ahead of other 4+ aircraft (Eurofighter, Rafale, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet).
Lastly, I would like to add here that the difference in costs between 4++ and 5th generation fighters is huge and that I believe that 4++ generation fighters have a better export potential than the immensely expensive and complex 5th generation ones. Airpower is really running into a diminishing marginal returns issue here. Ask yourself - what is better: a wing of 4+ fighters or a pair of 5th generation ones? The answer, of course, depends on assumptions and on your engagement scenarii, but I just don't see countries like, say, Indonesia or Venezuela coming up with many reasons to procure 5th generation fighters.
PS: does anybody know how to embed a full-size picture in Blogger? I tried all sort of things and the least bad one was to host the image on Picasa (which I did with the chart above). But it always de-pixelizes the damn picture. I really would want to post high res picture here without having to put up with the idiotic size limitations of Blogger. Any help with this would be really appreciated!!
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Found this one on the excellent militaryphotos.net site (again)
You can clearly see from these photos that the US F-22 and the Russian PAK-FA are dramatically different aircraft.
As as aside, militaryphoto.net is a very decent place to get some good discussions on military topics. Unlike so many other fora, the jingoistic flag-waving trolls usually get rapdly denounced because a lot of competent folks post there.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Well, this brings back the old days when Flug Revue would pop out some over-the-fence shots obtained from the Military Missions in East Germany, and the assembled reptiles at Flight would adjourn to our secret analysis facility to figure out what it all meant.
First of all, for anyone contemplating the use of the word "Raptorski": don't. While this is an airplane that could have been the answer to the Advanced Tactical Fighter requirement, way back when, it's not an F-22 in many important ways.
In a lot of ways, the T-50 reflects the heritage of the T-10 Flanker series - it's much more like them than Sukhoi's last fighter prototype, the forward-swept-wing Su-47 Berkut, ever was. From the Flanker family, the T-50 gets the massive "centroplane" - a wide central body that blends the fuselage and inner wing - three-surface aerodynamic control and true three-dimensional thrust vectoring. The main weapons bay has been seen on a Flanker model, too.
Look at some of these in detail. The centroplane is huge, extending well outside the engines and terminating at the rear in a broad beaver-tail between the exhaust nozzles.
It accommodates a boatload of fuel on the Flanker and will do the same here. After the canard hokey-pokey in the T-10 family (in on the Su-30MK, out on the Su-35) the T-50 has something different: the forward part of the leading edge extension is movable. According to the usually well informed Flateric over at Secret Projects, it is called the Povorotnaya Chast Naplyva (PChN) or movable LEX section.
3-D thrust vectoring is also used on the Su-35. The T-50 and the T-10 family are distinguished by widely separated engines, which is important because that's the only way to use vectored thrust in roll. What's new on the T-50 is that the designers have cashed in on TVC by shrinking the tail surfaces, saving on drag, weight and signature.
With separated engines and a wide body, the T-50 designers have been able to install dual front and rear weapon bays. Added to this are side bays outboard of the engines. Flateric reports that each bay is designed to hold "at least two" missiles and that the outer bays are designed for short-range AAMs. The centerline bays could each hold two large weapons (like R-33s) or three-to-four of the newly announced RVV-MD. The latter has folding wings, as does the RVV-SD development of the R-73 (AA-11 Archer) family - the latter explaining why the underwing bays are small.
The big new feature of the T-50 is stealth. The aircraft that flew today is a prototype - and it does not show visible features like a frameless canopy and panel alignment that you'd expect on a production aircraft. Other not-very-stealthy-looking features include the gaps around the inlet (compare the YF-23) and a spherical infrared search and track housing in front of the windshield. And, of course, the nozzles are round. But it has a chined forebody, edge alignment and (probably) inlet line-of-sight blockage and internal weapons.
Apparently the designers and systems analysts have looked at the thorny question of "how much stealth do we want to pay for?" and have come up with a different answer than the F-22 designers. The fact that the armed forces of potential adversaries don't have S-300 and S-400 missiles may have something to do with that answer.
Supercruise? Definitely. The aircraft has a lot of power, and you would not go with that sharply swept delta wing if that wasn't the goal.
The big question is how long the aircraft will take to enter service, which is a product of three factors - how much money is available, how many resources industry can muster to get the job done, and where the design, technically, stands at this point.
The first question depends largely on the Russian economy, and on the priority which the military gives to the fighter. At the moment, the strategic rocket forces are the priority and are elbowing all others away from the trough; also, the military could decide that the Su-35 is a good upgrade route for now. The X-factor: whether and when India will join the program, and how much cash it will involve.
The second - industry's ability to execute the program - is hard to estimate. On the downside, Russia has not inducted a brand-new aircraft into service since the 1980s. However, there are signs of a new development strategy at work here: the T-50's engines are outgrowths of the Su-35's and are being test-flown on a T-10 airframe, and the flight control system and (very likely) cockpit and avionics may be similar.
How far along is the program? Russian practice historically has been to start development with a series of prototypes that successively conform more to the production design. That's followed by an early series of aircraft that are "pre-operational" - flown by service units. Today's T-50 is, in US terms, something between a technology demonstrator and a systems development and demonstration aircraft.
Upshot - I would expect to see quite a few Su-35S regiments operational before we see a combat-ready T-50 - but with the caveat that a lot of Indian money could change things.
Commentary: I would like to make a couple of small points about the video seen today. First, this is not an operational model and the final product will look substantially different. For one thing, the model shown today is covered in very non-stealthy rivets more reminiscent of the MiG-29 than the F-22. This is normal, and don't be deceived by this. The aircraft shown today was not even painted, much less so covered with radar-absorbing materials including some very high-tech paint (something of a Russian speciality). Second, if one really feels like making comparisons, the PAK-FA/T-50 has more features in common with the (abandoned) YF-23 than the F-22. (the YF-23 was, by the way, the superior aircraft of the two, but the YF-22 was chosen on political grounds). However, Bill Sweetman is absolutely correct when he writes that the real lineage of this aircraft are the Flanker series planes. In other words, the PAK-FA/T-50 is a uniquely Russian design, very different from what was developed in the USA (F-22, F-35 and even YF-23). So don't buy the "Raptorski" crap.
by Jeffrey Rosen for the New Republic
Last summer, I watched a fellow passenger at Washington’s Reagan National Airport as he was selected to go through a newly installed full-body scanner. These machines--there are now 40 of them spread across 19 U.S. airports--permit officials from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to peer through a passenger’s clothing in search of explosives and weapons. On the instructions of a security officer, the passenger stepped into the machine and held his arms out in a position of surrender, as invisible millimeter waves surrounded his body. Although he probably didn’t know it, TSA officials in a separate room were staring at a graphic, anatomically correct image of his naked body. When I asked the TSA screener whether the passenger’s face was blurred, he replied that he couldn’t say. But, as I turned to catch my flight, the official blurted, “Someone ought to do something about those machines--it’s like we don’t have any privacy in this country anymore!”
The officer’s indignation was as rare as it was unexpected. In the wake of the failed Christmas bombing of Northwest Flight 253, the public has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic about these scanners. A recent USA Today poll found that 78 percent of respondents approved of their use at airports. Western democracies have been no less effusive. President Obama has ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to install $1 billion in airport screening equipment, and the TSA hopes to include an additional 300 millimeter-wave scanners. Britain, France, Italy, and the Netherlands have all made similar pledges to expand their use. (At the end of January, the European Commission's Information Commissioner, Viviane Reding, announced that in light of body-scanners' "privacy-invasive potential" and unproven usefulness, the machine should not be imposed without "full consideration of its impact.")
Let’s not mince words about these machines. They are a virtual strip search--and an outrage. Body scanners are a form of what security expert Bruce Schneier has called “security theater.” That is, they give people the illusion of safety without actually making us safer. A British MP who evaluated the body scanners in a former capacity, as a director at a leading defense technology company, said that they wouldn’t have stopped the trouser bomber aboard the Northwest flight. Despite over-hyped claims to the contrary, they simply can’t detect low-density materials hidden under clothing, such as liquid, powder, or thin plastics. In other words, the sacrifice these machines require of our privacy is utterly pointless. And, as it happens, it’s possible to design and use the body scanners in a way that protects privacy without diminishing security--but the U.S. government has failed to do so.
Millimeter-wave scanners came on the market after September 11 as a way of detecting high-density contraband, such as ceramics or wax, that would be missed by metal detectors when concealed under clothing--while avoiding radiation that could harm humans. The machines also reveal the naked human body far more graphically than a conventional x-ray. But, from the beginning, researchers who developed the millimeter machines at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory offered an alternative design more sensitive to privacy. They proposed to project any concealed contraband onto a neutral, sexless mannequin while scrambling images of the passenger’s naked body into a nondescript blob. But the Bush administration chose the naked machine rather than the blob machine: Some blob skeptics argue that blotting out private parts would make it harder to detect explosives concealed, for example, in prosthetic genitalia. Of course, neither the blob nor the naked machine would have detected the suicide bombers who have proved perfectly willing to conceal explosives in real body cavities, as a Saudi suicide bomber proved in a failed attempt to assassinate a Saudi prince using explosives planted in a place where the sun doesn’t shine.
Former DHS director Michael Chertoff, whose consulting firm now represents the leading vendor of the millimeter machines, Rapiscan, has been a vocal cheerleader for body scanning: He called the Christmas bombing a “very vivid lesson in the value of that machinery.” In 2005, under Chertoff’s leadership, TSA ordered five scanners from Rapiscan, claiming that its naked images were less graphic than those of competitors. TSA also introduced one additional privacy protection: Agents who review the images of the naked bodies are in a separate room and, therefore, can’t see the passengers as they’re being scanned. According to the TSA website, the technology blurs all facial features, and, based on some news accounts, private parts have been blurred as well. But because the TSA remains free of independent oversight, it’s impossible to tell precisely how they’re being used.
Most troubling of all, the TSA website claims that “the machines have zero storage capability” and that “the system has no way to save, transmit or print the image.” But documents recently obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center reveal that, in 2008, the TSA told vendors that the machines it purchases must have the ability to send or store images when in “test” mode. (The TSA told CNN that the test mode can’t be enabled at airports.) Because no regulations prohibit the TSA from storing images, the House (but not the Senate) voted last year to ban the use of body scanning machines for primary screening and to prohibit images from being stored.
As long as the TSA fails to blur images of both faces and private parts, the machines will represent a serious threat to the dignity of some travelers from the 14 countries whose citizens will now be required to go through them (or face intrusive pat-downs) before entering the United States. Some interpretations of Islamic law, for example, forbid men from gazing at Muslim women unless they are veiled. It’s also unfortunate that, a year after the Supreme Court declared, 8-1, that strip searches in schools are unreasonable without some suspicion of danger or wrongdoing, virtual strip searches will soon be routine for many randomly selected travelers at airports, rather than reserved for secondary screening of suspicious individuals.
But the greatest privacy concern is that the images may later leak. As soon as a celebrity walks through a naked machine, some creep will want to save the picture and send it to the tabloids. And the danger that rogue officials may troll the database is hardly hypothetical. President Obama’s embattled nominee to head the TSA, Erroll Southers, conducted two searches of the confidential criminal records of his estranged wife’s boyfriend, downloaded the records, and passed them on to law enforcement, possibly in violation of the Privacy Act, and then gave a misleading account of the incident to Congress. (On January 20, Southers withdrew his nomination.) That’s why the images should be anonymous and ephemeral, so agents can’t save the pictures or connect them to names.
Even if the body scanners protected privacy, Schneier insists, they still would be a waste of money: The next plot rarely looks like the last one. But, if we need to waste money on feel-good technologies that don’t make us safer, let’s at least make sure that they don’t unnecessarily reveal us naked. President Obama says that he wants to “aggressively pursue enhanced screening technology ... consistent with privacy rights and civil liberties.” With a few simple technological and legal fixes, he can do precisely that. Blob machine or naked machine--the choice is his.
Jeffrey Rosen is the legal affairs editor of The New Republic.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Twelve months ago a new U.S. administration entered the White House as the world entered a new year.
Two and a half weeks later the nation’s new vice president, Joseph Biden, spoke at the annual Munich Security Conference and said “it’s time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia.”
Incongruously to any who expected a change in tact if not substance regarding strained U.S.-Russian relations, in the same speech Biden emphasized that, using the “New World Order” shibboleth of the past generation at the end, “Two months from now, the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will gather to celebrate the 60th year of this Alliance. This Alliance has been the cornerstone of our common security since the end of World War II. It has anchored the United States in Europe and helped forge a Europe whole and free.” 
Six months before, while Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he rushed to the nation of Georgia five days after the end of the country’s five-day war with Russia as an emissary for the George W. Bush administration, and pledged $1 billion in assistance to the beleaguered regime of former U.S. resident Mikheil Saakashvili.
To demonstrate how serious Biden and the government he represented were about rhetorical gimmicks like reset buttons, four months after his Munich address Biden visited Ukraine and Georgia to shore up their “color revolution”-bred heads of state (outgoing Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is married to a Chicagoan and former Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush official) in their anti-Russian and pro-NATO stances.
While back in Georgia he insisted “We understand that Georgia aspires to join NATO. We fully support that aspiration.”
In Ukraine he said “As we reset the relationship with Russia, we reaffirm our commitment to an independent Ukraine, and we recognize no sphere of influence or no ability of any other nation to veto the choices an independent nation makes,”  also in reference to joining the U.S.-dominated military bloc. Biden’s grammar may have been murky, but his message was unmistakeably clear.
Upon his return home Biden gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal, the contents of which were indicated by the title the newspaper gave its account of them – “Biden Says Weakened Russia Will Bend to U.S.” – and which were characterized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies as “the most critical statements from a senior administration official to date vis-a-vis Russia.” 
It took the Barack Obama government eight months to make its first friendly gesture to Russia. In September of last year the American president and Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that they were abandoning the Bush administration’s plan to station ten ground-based midcourse interceptor missiles in Poland in favor of a “stronger, smarter, and swifter” alternative.
The new system would rely on the deployment of Aegis class warships equipped with SM-3 (Standard Missile-3) missiles – with a range of at least 500 kilometers (310 miles) – which “provide the flexibility to move interceptors from one region to another if needed,”  in Gates’ words.
The first location for their deployment will be the Baltic Sea according to all indications.
The proximity of Russia’s two largest cities, St. Petersburg and Moscow, especially the first, to the Baltic coast makes the basing of American warships with interceptor missiles in that sea the equivalent of Russia stationing comparable vessels with the same capability in the Atlantic Ocean near Delaware Bay, within easy striking distance of New York City and Washington, D.C.
Although Washington canceled the earlier interceptor missile plans for Poland, on January 20 the defense ministry of that country announced that not only would the Pentagon go ahead with the deployment of a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 anti-ballistic missile battery in the country, but that it would be based on the Baltic Sea coast 35 miles from Russia’s Kaliningrad district. 
The previous month Viktor Zavarzin, the head of the Defense Committee of the Russian State Duma (the lower house of parliament), said “Russia is concerned with how rapidly new NATO members are upgrading their military infrastructure” and “that Russia was especially concerned with the reconstruction of air bases in the Baltic countries for NATO’s purposes which include signal and air intelligence radio of Russian territory.” 
As it should be.
Since the Baltic Sea nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were ushered into NATO as full members in 2004, warplanes from Alliance member states have shared four-month rotations in patrolling the region, with two U.S. deployments to date.
Shortly before the patrols began almost six years ago the Russian media reported that “Relations between Russia and Estonia have been tense ever since NATO built a radar station on the Russian-Estonian border last year. On March 23, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko warned Russia would retaliate ‘if NATO planes fly over Russian borders after the Baltic nations join the alliance.’” 
Last year the Obama-Biden administration went ahead with a series of major military exercises in the Baltic region:
The annual BALTOPS (Baltic Operations), the largest international military exercise conducted in the Baltic Sea, run by the U.S. Navy, NATO and the latter’s Partnership for Peace program which included naval forces from twelve nations – Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the United States – led by U.S. Carrier Strike Group 12.
The 10-day Loyal Arrow 2009 NATO military exercises in Sweden with 50 jet fighters (the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 Eagle among them) and NATO AWACS.
The Cold Response 09 NATO exercises in Norway (north and west of the Baltic) with over 7,000 troops from thirteen nations as well as air and naval forces.
“Cold Response 2010 is expected to be even larger” than last year’s war games.  The U.S. Marine Corps “is planning Cold Response 2010, an exercise in Norway that could include a company of infantry Marines and a detachment of trainers with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command.” 
“The Corps has used caves carved into the sides of mountains here [Norway] for nearly 20 years, storing vehicles, equipment and ammunition later shipped everywhere from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to training exercises in Africa….[T]he Norwegians plan their security knowing that Marines will defend Norway in an attack using everything from Humvees to Howitzers that are already in place.” 
The Defense Professionals website in Germany published a report on January 26 of a meeting of the Nordic-Baltic Chiefs of Defense (Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Norway, Finland. Lithuania and Sweden) to plan the “Baltic Host, Sabre Strike, and Amber Hope exercises to be held in the Baltics this and the following year.”
“Exercise Baltic Host will be held this year in Latvia for participants from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and the US.”  Last year’s Baltic Host in Estonia included military personnel from that nation and from Latvia, Lithuania, United States European Command (EUCOM) and Strike Force NATO.
The earlier Amber Hope 07 was held in Lithuania and included the participation of over 1,700 troops from NATO and Partnership for Peace countries: Armenia, Britain, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, as well as representatives from NATO multinational headquarters.
Earlier this month a planning conference was held at the Gen. Adolfas Ramanauskas Warfare Training Center in Lithuania for the Sabre Strike 2010 military drills “where representatives of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and the US prepare[d] documentation and draft plans for the exercise which is scheduled to take place in Latvia in October 2010.”
“Sabre Strike 2010 will be designed to tune together interoperability procedures of the three Baltic States and the US with prospects of participation in the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) operation in Afghanistan and other multinational operations in the future. This exercise for the first time will pull together troops of the Baltic States and the US for a training event of such character.” 
2,000 troops from the four nations will take part and the war games will end with “a complex field exercise.” 
On January 28 the Helsingin Sanomat announced that “Finland is to play host to what is by far the largest naval military exercise that has ever been seen in Finnish territorial waters” in September which “will be joined by 50 ships and 2,500 persons.”
The Northern Coasts maneuvers will include warships and troops from Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States and will consist of both sea and land drills, and the “maritime operations will be supported by air and special troops.” 
Not only hosting the largest naval war games in its history – ones simulating “a conflict between two countries that has an effect on the surrounding countries as well” – Finland will provide “nearly the entire Navy fleet” for the operation.
A local reported inquired whether the maneuvers were related to Russia’s plans for a natural gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea:
“At least according to the Finnish Navy, the exercise does not have anything to do with the Baltic Sea’s planned underwater gas pipeline, Nord Stream.
“But at least off hand, Annele Apajakari, Chief Public Information Officer at Navy Command Finland, was unable to say why also the United States, the Netherlands, and France will be involved.” 
The preceding day the same newspaper ran a story about prospective NATO-Russia military tensions in the Baltic region and quoted retired Lieutenant-General Matti Ahola as warning: “If the United States were to bring its planned anti-missile vessels into the Baltic Sea, it would bring about a reaction.” 
That was a week after the announcement that U.S. Patriot missiles and 100 troops were headed to Poland’s – eastern – Baltic coast.
In an article bearing the headline “Thanks to Poland, the alliance will defend the Baltics,” the British weekly the Economist on January 14 wrote that NATO would “stand by its weakest members — the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania” – and was elaborating “formal contingency plans to defend them.”
The magazine reported that “The main push came from Poland, a big American ally in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the first to gain contingency plans — initially only against a putative (and implausible) attack from Belarus, a country barely a quarter of its size….Poland accelerated its push for a bilateral security relationship with America, including the stationing of Patriot anti-missile rockets on Polish soil in return for hosting a missile-defence base.” 
“Formal approval is still pending and the countries concerned have been urged to keep it under wraps. But sources close to the talks say the deal is done: the Baltic states will get their plans, probably approved by NATO’s military side rather than its political wing. They will be presented as an annex to existing plans regarding Poland, but with an added regional dimension. That leaves room for Sweden and Finland (not members of the alliance but increasingly close to it) to take a role in the planning too. A big bilateral American exercise already planned for the Baltic this summer is likely to widen to include other countries.” 
Poland is the prototype for and the foundation upon which the Pentagon and NATO are constructing a formidable military – naval, air, ground and interceptor missile – network in the Baltic Sea region on Russia’s northwest frontier.
Late last year Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vygaudas Usackas delivered a lecture called “The New NATO Strategic Concept: Lithuania’s Vision” to participants of the Higher Command Studies Course of the Baltic Defense College (BALTDEFCOL) in which he stated “NATO is the embodiment of transatlantic relations. NATO should remain open to western countries, such as Finland or Sweden, to eastern countries like Ukraine or Georgia, as well as to the Balkan countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and other countries.”  (The Baltic Defense College is based in Estonia and in addition to instructing officers from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also trains personnel from other NATO and EU states and countries like Bosnia, Georgia, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine.)
As well as advocating the incorporation of states neighboring Russia to its west and its south into NATO, the Lithuanian foreign minister asserted “that Article 5 was the basis of the organisation and it should remain the cornerstone of NATO in the future.” 
NATO’s Article 5 is a mutual military assistance obligation, the main substance of which is in its first paragraph, which reads:
“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”
The outlines of a NATO “defense force” in the Baltic area and beyond were further delineated last November when it was revealed that Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine are to establish a “joint army.” The combined military unit “may have a political objective. It is meant to set up an alternative center of military consolidation for West European projects, a center which could embrace former Soviet republics (above all Ukraine), now outside NATO. There is no doubt who will control this process, considering U.S. influence in Poland and the Baltics.” 
Additionally, it will be linked to the Multinational Corps Northeast which was initially formed of Danish, German and Polish troops and later joined by forces from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. And the U.S. “[T]he Baltic military has cooperation experience with Polish troops. The Ukrainian military, too, has cooperation experience with NATO within the Partnership for Peace program….Establishment of a permanent brigade-class joint unit is expected to improve teamwork, allowing Ukrainians to grow into NATO’s command, staff, tactical and logistic culture.” 
The Multinational Corps Northeast has been used in Afghanistan where it has acquired direct combat zone experience.
The American client responsible for Ukraine’s abrupt pro-NATO orientation, President Viktor Yushchenko, barely won 5 percent of the vote in this year’s January 17 presidential election and is on his way out of office barring a reprise of the “orange revolution” of six years ago. Though at the NATO Military Committee meeting on January 27 Colonel-General Ivan Svyda, Chief of the General Staff and Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, announced that his nation was training troops for the NATO Response Force, a 25,000-troop global strike force. “The NATO Response Force (NRF) is a highly ready and technologically advanced force made up of land, air, sea and special forces components that the Alliance can deploy quickly wherever needed.
“It is capable of performing missions worldwide across the whole spectrum of operations….” 
The Ukrainian military chief announced “We selected 12 detachments that are undergoing training in line with NATO standards and represent all types and branches of troops, including engineer units, the marines, field engineers, chemical and biological defense troops and others. Up to 500 Ukrainian servicemen will participate in the [alliance's response] force.” 
The U.S. and NATO intend Ukraine to serve as a bridge between their new outposts on the Baltic Sea to the north and Georgia and Azerbaijan on Russia’s southern border.
Ukraine is being mentored and shepherded into the NATO pen with the U.S. employing the Baltic states of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as both models and guides. The same mechanism with the same actors is being used for Georgia.
Last month the defense ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania signed a communique on joint military collaboration which “welcomed closer military cooperation in the security sector between the Baltic States and the USA which also included joint exercises in the Baltic region.” 
After releasing the statement, the three defense chiefs visited the Adazi Training Base in Latvia and “met with Gen. Roger A. Brady, Commander US Air Forces in Europe and NATO Allied Air Component.
“In the communique the NATO operation in Afghanistan was underscored as a priority of all the Baltic States.” 
On January 1 the Trilateral Baltic Battalion (BALTBAT) – with troops from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – began duty in the 14th rotation of the NATO Response Force. “On the same date Lithuanians…also enter[ed] a half-year standby period in the EU Battle Group.” 
On the Western end of the Baltic, on January 17 Swedish Defense Minister Sten Tolgfors spoke on the Targeting Decisions on Strengthening Defense Capability (TDSDC) program launched on January 1, pledged that “Sweden will develop its national defense in cooperation with NATO and neighbors Finland, Denmark and Norway” and added:
“Our defense policy adds a new neighborhood perspective. The structure and direction of Sweden’s Armed Forces will continue to have a clear Baltic profile. We have northern Europe’s largest and most qualified Air Force that is twice as large as any of our neighbors, and it has a full operational range.”
“It is the biggest renewal of security and defense policy for decades in Sweden. We will use 2010 to make the requisite decisions to carry out the modernization of our military, and civilian crisis, management capabilities.” 
Under the new program all members of the Swedish armed forces, now transitioned from a conscript to an all-volunteer (according to NATO demands for military “professionalization” of member and partner states) status, “are to be available for deployment at home or abroad in five to seven days in situations of ‘heightened alert.’” 
“In the old system, a third of the forces – which in 2008 meant 11,400 military personnel – were supposed to be able to deploy within one year from mobilization. In the new defence system, all 50,000 members of the forces would have to be ‘usable and available’ within a week….The soldiers in the conscript army could never be used for missions outside Sweden’s borders, but now that all soldiers will either be full-time employees or on contract, they will be available to deploy anywhere….New is also the focus on the Baltic Sea Region.” 
Last autumn a German Luftwaffe Eurofighter intercepted a Russian plane over the Baltic Sea. “After the German jet challenged the radar plane, the Russians scrambled two fighters, which approached at supersonic speed. Finnish jets then escorted the Russians back to international airspace, averting a further escalation of the situation.” 
This month NATO extended its Baltic warplane deployments until 2014. “The Baltic skies are presently secured by the so-called NATO air police, which in addition to fighter planes also provide air defense systems and manpower.” 
Added to the permanent presence of Western military aircraft are now American Patriot missiles and troops to operate them in Poland, “a demonstrative anti-Russian move” according to a leading general of the latter nation. 
Persistent U.S. and NATO military moves are threatening to turn the Baltic Sea region into a powder keg that another hostile encounter between Western and Russian military aircraft could ignite at any time.
As to government officials and the news media in Russia, a year is a sufficiently long period of time to awaken from the illusion of an imaginative rest button that will reverse a decade of NATO penetration of the Baltic Sea and the consolidation of military infrastructure there aimed squarely – and exclusively – at their own nation.
Scandinavia And The Baltic Sea: NATO’s War Plans For The High North
Afghan War: NATO Trains Finland, Sweden For Conflict With Russia
End of Scandinavian Neutrality: NATO’s Militarization Of Europe
ABC Of West’s Global Military Network: Afghanistan, Baltics, Caucasus
1) Berlin Wall: From Europe Whole And Free To New World Order
Stop NATO, November 9, 2009
2) Associated Press, July 23, 2009
3) Center for Strategic and International Studies, July 28, 2009
4) Russia Today, September 17, 2009
5) With Nuclear, Conventional Arms Pacts Stalled, U.S. Moves Missiles And
Troops To Russian Border
Stop NATO, January 22, 2010
6) Voice of Russia, December 8, 2009
7) RosBusinessConsulting, March 26, 2004
8) Barents Observer, March 4, 2009
9) Marine Corps Times, July 21, 2009
11) Defense Professionals, January 26, 2010
12) Lithuanian Armed Forces, January 11, 2010
14) Helsingin Sanomat, January 28, 2010
16) Helsingin Sanomat, January 27, 2010
17) Economist, January 14, 2010
19) Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, November 28, 2009
21) Russian Information Agency Novosti, November 18, 2009
24) Ukrinform, January 28, 2010
25) Defense Professionals, December 14, 2009
27) Defense Professionals, January 4, 2010
28) Defense News, January 25, 2010
30) Radio Sweden, January 18, 2010
31) The Local (Germany), November 3, 2009
32) Russian Information Agency Novosti, January 4, 2010
33) Interfax-Ukraine, January 20, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Peres in Berlin, Netanyahu in Auschwitz, Lieberman in Budapest and Edelstein at the UN headquarters in New York all plan to attack the Goldstone report into the Gaza war on International Holocaust Day this Wednesday.
Israel's political echelon will once again try to divert attention from the fact that the Israeli crime is beyond comparison.
Israeli Propaganda Minister Edelstein told Ynet before leaving for New York. "The connection between the Goldstone Report and the international Holocaust memorial day is not an easy thing”. He is indeed correct. The true interpretation of the Goldstone report is that Israelis are the Nazis of our time. “We must learn the lessons from what happened” Says Edelstein, “then too, those who yelled out were told that Hitler is a clown and that all the gloomy predictions of the 1930s were nonsense.”
Someone should advise the Israeli Propaganda man that by now no one regards mass murderer Barak, Nuclear enthusiast Peres, warmonger Livni or ultra racist Lieberman as clowns. We respect them for what they are. Yet, we prefer to see them locked behind bars.
In fact, those world leaders around the world who bowed to Jewish pressure and made the Holocaust into an international memorial day must have been convinced that the Holocaust carries a universal message against oppression and racism. They were actually correct, if the holocaust has any universal and ethical meaning, stopping the ‘Jews only state’ and bringing its criminal political and military leaders to justice is the true interpretation of the lesson of the Holocaust.
Propaganda Minister Edelstein added "on the Holocaust memorial day of all days, which also marks the battle against global anti-Semitism, we must discuss this connection, because today the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces are accused of harvesting organs and murdering children”. The Israelis better internalise that the truth of Israeli brutality is now common knowledge. IDF mass murder of children, elders and women is part of our collective memory. The Israeli institutional involvement in organ harvesting is also well documented and an accepted fact.
Minister Edelstein is wrong when he argues that "After World War II and the establishment of the State of Israel, anti-Semitism is not directed at Jews but at Israel and the Israelis. The Goldstone Report, the publications in Sweden about organ harvesting and similar reports, are simply a type of anti-Semitism." Edelstein is wrong because all the accusations against Israel are well grounded. Furthermore, the opposition to Israel, its Jewish lobbies and Jewish power in general is politically orientated rather than racially motivated.
In the wake of the ‘International Holocaust Memorial Day’ I will say it loudly and openly. To oppose the Jewish state and Jewish nationalism is the true meaning of the memory of the Holocaust. To say NO to Israel is to say NO to racism. This is what ethics and universalism are all about.
Commentary: This is an excerpt of the Ynet article Gilad is referring to:
Israel to launch attack on Goldstone Report on Holocaust Day. The world will mark International Holocaust Day on Wednesday. Monday will see President Shimon Peres fly to Berlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leave for a visit to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. They will be joined by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Budapest and Information Minister Yuli Edelstein in New York. Before meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Edelstein referred to the report accusing Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza, calling it "anti-Semitic"A BBC piece adds the following details about the "Holocaust Day" events:
Addressing Germany's parliament, Israel's president Shimon Peres said some of those who carried out the Holocaust "still live on German and European soil, and in other parts of the world". "My request of you is: Please do everything to bring them to justice." Shimon Peres was given a standing ovation by German MPsNeedless to say, the BBC makes absolutely darn sure that we all remain fully aware of the Only Correct And Historically Accurate Figure for the number of victims of the "Holocaust" by reminding us that "At least six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II" (the "at least" helpfully leave room for an upgrade of this figure should it be needed).
Reading through all this nonsense I was reminded of Norman Finkelstein's thesis that every time Israel gets in trouble yet another unspeakable atrocity the Israel Lobby worldwide immediately initiates a propaganda campaign about the "new Antisemitism". What better illustration of that could there be then the frank admission that Israel to "launch attack on Goldstone Report on Holocaust Day".
It is also outright hilarious that a war criminal like Peres is asking the German Parliament to make sure that every Nazi criminal is brought to justice while the entire Israeli government and military high command is more than "qualified" to be brought to justice at a Nurenberg-like trial. That Peres got a standing ovation from the German MP - rather than a fit of hysterical laughter or, at least, some thrown eggs - is a telling illustration the firm grip the Israel Lobby has on European politics.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
For all intents and purposes, Turkey has given up on the European Union, recognising it as a bastion of Islamophobia and captive to US diktat. As Switzerland bans minarets and France moves to outlaw the niqab, the popular Islamist government in Istanbul moves in the opposite direction -- supporting the freedom to wear headscarfs, boldly criticising Israel and building bridges with Syria. This is nothing less than a fundamental realignment of Turkish politics towards Turkey’s natural allies -- the Arabs ... and the Russians.
This new alignment with Russia began in 2001 when Turkish and Russian foreign ministers signed the Eurasia Cooperation Action Plan. It went into high gear in February 2009, when Turkish President Abdullah Gul made a state visit to Russia, including a visit to the Russian Federation’s thriving and energy-rich Autonomous Republic of Tatarstan, populated by a majority of Muslim Turks, with pipelines, nuclear energy and trade the focus of attention.
In the past, Russia had poor relations with Turkey, which since its founding as a republic in 1922 was firmly in the Western camp and seen by Moscow as a springboard for infiltration into the Caucasus and its Turkic southern republics. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Yeltsin’s Russia acquiesced to US hegemony in the region, and as part of this opening to the West, Turkish schools, construction firms and traders came in great numbers to the ex-Soviet “stans” (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan). 9/11 convinced Russian president Vladimir Putin to go so far as welcoming US military bases in the most strategic “stans”. The old Great Game appeared to be over, lost resoundingly by Russia.
But as the world tired of the US-sponsored “war on terrorism”, it seemed the Great Game was not over after all. A NATO member, Turkey was soon joined by Bulgaria and Romania, making the Black Sea a de facto NATO lake, alarming a now resurgent Russia.
Ukraine’s Western-backed “Orange Revolution” in 2004 further tilted the balance away from Russia, with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko defiantly vowing to join NATO and kick the Russian fleet out of Crimea. He even armed Georgia in its war with Russia in 2008.
However, not only Russia was fed up with the new pax americana. Over 90 per cent of Turks had an unfavourable view of the US by 2007. It is no surprise that Turkey began to back away from unconditional support of NATO and the US, notably, during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, by its refusal in 2008 to allow US warships through the Bosphorus Strait to support Georgia, and by its outspoken criticism of Israel following the invasion of Gaza that year.
In contrast to the US-sponsored colour revolutions in the ex-socialist bloc, Turkey’s “Green Revolution” brought the religious-oriented Justice and Development Party to power in 2002. Its political direction has been in search of balance in the region and peaceful relations with its neighbours, including Armenia and the Kurds. In 2004 Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a joint declaration of cooperation in Ankara, updated in February 2009 by Gul and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Moscow. Gul declared, “Russia and Turkey are neighbouring countries that are developing their relations on the basis of mutual confidence. I hope this visit will in turn give a new character to our relations.”
Key to this is Turkey’s proposal for the establishment of a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform. Following Gul’s visit, Turkish media even described Turkish-Russian relations as a “strategic partnership”, which no doubt set off alarm bells in Washington.
None of this would be taking place without solid economic interests. Turkish-Russian economic ties have greatly expanded over the past decade, with trade reaching $33 billion in 2008, much if it gas and oil, making Russia Turkey’s number one partner. They may soon use the Turkish lira and the Russian ruble in foreign trade.
This is the context of Medvedev’s visit 13 January to Ankara, which focussed primarily on energy cooperation. Russia’s AtomStroiExport had won the tender for the construction of Turkey’s first nuclear plant last year, and Medvedev was eager to get final approval on Turkish cooperation in Gazprom’s South Stream gas pipeline to Europe. Turkey will soon get up to 80 per cent of its gas from Russia, but this dependency is no longer viewed as a liability in light of the two countries’ new strategic relations.
Just what will happen to the West’s rival Nabucco pipeline, also intended to transit Turkey, is now a moot point. Nabucco hopes to bring gas from Iran and Azerbaijan to Europe through Turkey and Georgia. Given the standoff between the West and Iran and the instability of Georgia, this alternative to Russia’s plans looks increasingly unattractive. Azerbaijan, shrewdly, has already signed up with South Stream.
Kommersant quoted Gazprom officials as saying that Turkey could soon join Italy and Germany as Russia’s “strategic partner”. Italy’s ENI is co-funding the South Stream project. The other arm of Gazprom’s pincer move around Ukraine is Nord Stream, and Germany late last year gave its final approval for Nord Stream. A Polish minister compared the Russia-Germany Nord Stream project to the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentropp pact, because the pipeline allows Russia to deliver gas to Western Europe and “turn off the taps” to Ukraine in case it stops paying or starts stealing gas as happened several times under the Orange revolutionaries.
Turkey is very much a key player in this new Great Game, only it appears to have changed sides. The Russian and Turkish prime ministers voiced the hope that their trade would triple by 2015, and announced plans to for a visa-free regime by May this year. “In the end, without doubt, [a visa-free regime] will lead to activating cooperation between our countries,” said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.
The presidential elections now in progress in Ukraine could take some of the wind out of the sails of South Stream. Its rationale could be brought into question if the new Ukrainian president succeeds in convincing Moscow that s/he will make sure no further hanky-panky takes place. Ukraine, in dire economic straits, needs the transit fees, which would disappear if current plans go ahead. But the damage the Orange revolutionaries did to Ukraine’s economy and relations with Russia is already a fait accompli. Says Alexander Rahr at the German Council on Foreign Relations, “Under every leadership, Ukraine will try to make use of its geographical position and the Russians realised this some time ago. This is why they desperately need a way to circumvent Ukraine.”
Even if Ukraine, too, changes teams and rejects NATO expansion plans, it will still have to thrash out a new role, most likely minus its gas transit commissions. Contender Viktor Yanukovich has signalled he would sign up to an economic cooperation agreement with Russia and smooth over existing political problems like the question of the Russian fleet and possibly the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Turkey could well follow suit. “If any Western country is going to recognise the independence of Abkhazia, it will be Turkey because of a large Abkhazian diaspora there,” says Rahr.
There is no reason why Ukraine couldn’t join the budding Russian-Turkish alliance, founded on regional stability and peace, unlike the current NATO-led one of confrontation and enmity. This would leave only the mad Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili quixotically fighting his windmills, dictator of a rump state -- the very opposite of his intended role as NATO’s valiant knight leading its march eastward. Even inveterate Turkish foe Armenia seems eager to join the new line-up, as last year’s exchange of ambassadors demonstrated.
Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/ You can reach him at http://ericwalberg.com/
Monday, January 25, 2010
Today its my very real pleasure to publish my interview with Carlo who, since our "meeting" in August 08, became a regular commentator on this blog. Carlo is extremely well-informed about the situation in Latin America (his other specialty is Russia) and I asked him to agree to a Q&A about the current developments on this continent. It is hard to overstate the importance of Latin America in the worldwide struggle against the USraelien Empire and recently the liberation struggle has been faced with numerous ominous developments. Now is a perfect time to make a survey of the "Latin American Union" with an expert like Carlo to whom I am deeply grateful for his time and expertise.
The Saker: Carlo - lots of things have been happening in Latin America. The USA successfully overthrew President Zelaya of Honduras, Evo Morales was brilliantly won the General Election in Bolivia, but in Chile a multi-billionaire right wing president, Sebastian Piñera, won the presidential elections with 51.6% of the vote. The US recreated the 4th Fleet under SOUTHCOM, Colombia allowed the US to open a series of military bases and Venezuela reported regular airspace violations by US military aircraft from Colombia (a de-facto US colony) and the Dutch Antilles (a de-jure and de-facto Dutch/NATO colony). Venezuela is engaged in a major arms purchase program (from Russia) while at the same time the oil prices are putting Venezuela in a difficult economic situation. The earthquake in Haiti made it possible for the USA to essentially occupy the small country and make darn sure that the devastation would not be a pretext for the return of the legitimate President. What do you make of all these, and other, developments in Latin America? What is your assessment of the "State of the Continent", so to speak.
Carlo: Well, you already made an excellent summary of the most important events in Latin America in the last years. The region has made important progress in the last 10 years, but we should notice that the "golden years" are gone. These lasted from 2002, when the US became completely involved in Afghanistan and began preparing the war against Iraq, til 2008, when the 4th Fleet was reactivated, and it meant that South American countries could do mostly what they wanted without fearing a US intervention. Now there are more risks when implementing independent policies in the region, but I think Chavez, Morales and Correa don't fear these risks anyway.
Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean are different cases, and the US kept intervening there even during the height of the "War on Terror". I think it is extremely likely that the US participated in the coup against Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004 (he was forced to board a US plane with US military personnel) and a possible manipulation of Mexican presidential elections in 2006, when a leftist candidate almost won.
The Saker: Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador seem to be forming in informal alliance of Latin American countries which clearly reject US imperialism and who want to built a new economic model. How are, in your opinion, these countries doing, how successful have they been.
Carlo: Politically, very successfully. They have a very good image throughout the world (except perhaps Cuba), even though there are many attacks from the US corporate media, and this makes unlikely a direct military attack against them. They also managed to decrease poverty and income differences (which are huge in most of the continent), and create better health and education systems - Venezuela was the second country in the region, after Cuba, to eradicate illiteracy. But there may be problems ahead. The main economical and political engine of this alliance was surely Venezuela, fuelled by very high oil prices. But now that these have decreased drastically, inflation and deficit budget are increasing in Venezuela, and this may affect Chavez's government in the parliamentary elections that will happen this year. Chavez made the big mistake of not diversifying his country's economy, which only exports oil and imports most of the industrialized products and even a great part of the food it consumes. In 2005 a program to settle unemployed urban workers in the countryside was implemented, but it will probably take some time to bring results. Anyway, despite the problems, Chavez's popularity is still very high, so probably he won't suffer very bad results in the elections.
The Saker: In contrast, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay have followed a "sort of but not really" kind of progressive course, in which the rhetoric is definitely Left-leaning, but the actual policies are not. What kind of result has that brought these governments and how do you assess their future prospects?
Carlo: You could have included Chile in the list also, at least until Piñera assumes. First, let's talk a bit about Mercosur. This was originally conceived in the 1980's as a free trade area between Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, but its role has grown, and now it has a parliament, very easy transit of people (it is not even needed a passport to travel between these countries), an increased number of associate members (Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, the last is to become a full member as soon as Paraguay approves its membership), and plans to create a common currency. Mercosur did a lot to integrate these countries, but has its share of problems, mostly the commercial disagreements between the two biggest and most industrialized members, Brazil and Argentina. Uruguay and Paraguay have less diversified economies and sometimes feel their interests are overshadowed by the biggest members, so many times they turn to the US to have an alternative market for their agricultural products. The same happens with Chile, which is mostly an exporter of raw materials: this country has been ruled by the moderate left since Pinochet left power in 1990, but remained an important political and comercial partner of the US.
Brazil and Argentina are very unique countries. In Brazil, the rightists have a very strong hold in Brazilian mass communication (mostly Globo, one of the biggest mass-media corporation in the world), and they usually support the US economical and political agenda. On the other hand, Brazil has a very diversified economy, it exports many industrialized products, like automobiles, electronics and aircrafts, and is undoubtedly the leader in South America, having by far the biggest territory, population and economy. And the political leaders, even though not left-leaning, usually pursue a more independent foreign policy. This was true for previous presidents, like centrists José Sarney (1985-1990) and Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2003). And the independent policy got stronger (though not as much as in Venezuela and Bolivia) with Lula, the current president since 2003, who is extremely popular, and has always been at odds with the mass media.
Argentina was the most industrialized country in the region until the 1970's, but is perhaps the only country in which a de-industrialization program was conceived and applied on purpose (Russia and other former Soviet countries were largely de-industrialized in the 1990's, but it wasn't done so much on purpose, it was mostly due to the ill-conceived "reforms"), in two phases: first during the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1976 to 1983, and then during the hard-right presidency of Carlos Menem, from 1989 to 1999. The rightists are not so strong in this country because people felt directly the consequences of a very pro-US politics and monetarist economics, which ruined the country and caused most of the industries to close, creating huge unemployment and a sharp decrease in living standards (which, til the 1970's, were much higher than any other South American country).
The presidency of the Kirchners (first Nestor, from 2003 to 2007, and since then his wife Cristina) have been a contradictory and deceiving government. After the complete collapse of the country in 2001, Nestor Kirchner assumed in 2003 and had a quite successful presidency, restoring the economy and partially re-industrializing the country. Also, ties with Venezuela and Bolivia have increased, and some anti-US rhetorics have appeared. But Argentina kept close ties with Israel (even adhering to the US and Israelian version of the attack against the AMIA Jewish center, which was bombed in 1994, blaming Iran and Hezbollah for it). But the Kirchners have a very apathetic foreign policy, differently from Brazil and Venezuela, which are constantly seeking new allies and partners to diminish the influence of the US and Europe in the region. Cristina Kirchner last week canceled an official visit to China, because of conflicts with her vice-president. And after some years of high growth and some decrease of poverty, the economy has been deteriorating again, with high inflation, stagnation and a new rise of poverty and income differences. There has been no interest in fighting inflation, instead what the government has been doing since 2007 is interfering in the main statistical institute, trying to hide the true economical data. And with shrinking popularity, it is very probably that they won't remain in power after 2011, when there will be new presidential elections, but it is still impossible to know what will happen then. Nestor and Cristina Kirchner are probably the biggest disappointment in the region: the country seemed to be in the right path from 2003 til 2006, but since then they became more arrogant, distant from the population, made billionaire agreements with business which showed loyalty to them, and their personal fortune increased 7-fold in just one year (2008). Lula, though not as independent and progressive as Chavez, and also with some corruption scandals, at least managed to increase considerably the economy, decrease poverty to some extent, and specially strengthened Brazilian influence in the world.
The Saker: Mexico, Peru, Colombia and now, Honduras are clearly under US control and have pretty much cast their lots with the US Empire. Do you believe that these countries are now indeed firmly under US imperial control or do they still have the potential to free themselves?
Carlo: Mexico has a US ally in the presidency, Felipe Calderón, thanks to very controversial elections in 2006. And Honduras went under US control through a coup against former president Zelaya, who was a close ally of Chavez. So these two countries could have a possibility of freeing themselves, though proximity with the US make this much harder than in South America. Colombia, on the other hand, has a very rightist president who was elected through legitimate elections, and who is also very popular. But Alvaro Uribe, the Colombian president, is surely the biggest threat: using "anti-terrorist" rhetorics (against the FARC guerrilla which controls a great part of Colombian territory) he even attacked Ecuadorian territory in 2007, to kill some FARC leaders who were there for negotiations to have Ecuador as a mediator in the Colombian conflict. Uribe also uses very strong rhetorics against Chavez, accusing him of supporting the "terrorists", and there are fears that a war between both countries may appear.
The Saker: How would you assess the role and importance of the OAS, in particular in comparison with ALBA and how would you assess the current status and potential of ALBA?
Carlo: The OAS is, nowadays, quite useless. The entire region opposes the US embargo against Cuba (even Canada criticizes it), nevertheless it continues to exist and there seems no possibility that it will end anytime soon (unless there is a sudden regime change in that country). There was a consensus in the OAS in the 60's and 70's, when Latin America was entirely ruled by the right, mainly by military dictators. But since democracy has returned to the region in te 80's, there is no consensus at all in the OAS. About ALBA: it is an interesting political, strategical and economical proposal. Its members are Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and Saint Vincent and Granadines. It appeared as an alternative against the US-led Free Trade Area of the Americas (which, by the way, will hardly be implemented entirely, except by some countries which signed bilateral agreements with the US, like Colombia). But ALBA is still only beginning, and Mercosur is a much more consolidated agreement and includes the two biggest economies in South America, Brazil and Argentina.
The Saker: It is clear that the Latin American continent is becoming polarized and there is a lot of talk about the risk for military conflicts. How likely do you think that such conflicts really are? In particular, what do you make of the US moves of recreating the 4th Fleet and opening bases in Colombia? Do you think that a major US intervention is being prepared and, if yes, against what country? Venezuela?
Carlo: The US didn't care for South America for quite some years, when they dedicated mostly to Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, and a lot of independent movements popped in the entire region. Even Mexico almost elected a leftist president in 2006, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Having realized this, the US is now coming back, for sure, with an increased military presence in the region. Hugo Chavez and even Fidel Castro had hopes that Obama would improve ties with their countries, the most "rebel" ones. But, as all other hopes people used to have for Obama, this one has also vanished completely. Anyway, I think a direct intervention of the US in the region, specially a military attack, is very unlikely, as it would be hugely unpopular in the entire world. But destabilization, economical wars, manipulation of elections and "revolutions for democracy" (similar to the Ukrainian and Georgian cases) are very real possibilities, and some of them may even be realities (for example, manipulation of the 2006 presidential elections in Mexico).
There are risks of a military conflict between the country with the most independent policy in South America, Venezuela, and the biggest ally of the US in the region, Colombia - two countries which, by an irony of fate, are neighbors. But I think the risk is small. The populations of both countries would be strongly against a war, and don't want any conflict. Also, I think a war between them wouldn't be good for the US, either. The last war that happened in South America was a brief border conflict in a remote jungle area between Peru and Ecuador in 1995, which lasted one month, and in 1998 both countries signed a treaty solving the territorial disputes between them.
The Saker: More generally, we can say that what is going on nowadays in Latin America is a struggle between the White, colonial, plutocracy and the native, indigenous popular movements. I am not much of a Marxist, but find that a class analysis of the politics in Latin America makes a great deal of sense. Do you agree with this view and, if yes, what do you see as the likely outcome of this 21 century "class struggle"?
Carlo: What you affirm mostly applies to Bolivia, and in a smaller degree to Argentina and Chile, where there is a division between European descendants, who belonged to the higher classes, and poorer Indian descendants. With Morales as president, Bolivia has made a great progress to integrate the Indian descendants, and now the country is officially called The Multinational State of Bolivia, with 36 native languages recognized as official, together with Spanish. But in Brazil, for example, there has been a lot of miscegenation, though usually the division was between European and African (brought as slaves) descendants. But I would say you are right in the aspect that Latin America is polarized between very poor populations, with no access to quality education and health care, minimal infrastructure and low qualification jobs, if not unemployed and going into crime, and, on the other hand, rich and medium classes who have lifestyles very similar to Western Europeans and North Americans. Latin America is not so much a poor region, it has a reasonable decree of economical development, even high in some countries (Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay), but the greatest tragedy in this region is the extremely unfair division of wealth and unequal access to education and health services.
Carlo Moiana, 32, is Brazilian and has been living in Argentina since 2005. He contributed voluntarily to the Portuguese-version of the online newspaper Pravda.ru from 2003 til 2008, and since this year has been a follower of the Vineyard of the Saker blog (which he discovered during the South Ossetian war).
Saturday, January 23, 2010
I do not believe that the Israelis are about to attack Lebanon, and most definitely not with a ground operation.
The only circumstance in which I think that could happen is as part of a greater US-Israeli attack on Iran. From the Israeli point of view, striking at Hezbollah in Lebanon preemptively as part of a "active defense" of the Jews in Palestine would make sense.
So the real question is: are the USA and Israel about to strike at Iran?
I still believe that such an attack will happen sooner or later. Everything is pretty much in place for it and I am not aware of any indicators and warning which would indicate any further preparatory steps for such an attack. Unless, of course, we consider the current Israeli troop movements as exactly such an indicator.
I sure hope that the folks in Tehran are monitoring this very, very, carefully.
Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua say the US is using the international relief operation in Haiti as a cover-up for a military takeover.
Bolivian President Evo Morales said that he will request an emergency UN meeting to reject what he calls the US military occupation of Haiti.
"It's not right that the United States should use this natural disaster to invade and militarily occupy Haiti," Morales told a press conference on Wednesday.
"If you have all these problems with the injured and the dead from the earthquake, you have to go there to save lives, and you don't do that from a military standpoint," he added.
An outspoken critic of US policies, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez also had accused Washington of occupying Haiti "under the guise of the natural disaster."
Nicaragua also has taken a similar stance toward US with respect to the situation in Haiti.
The United States is deploying up to 20,000 troops to Haiti. US servicemen have taken control of the country's international airport.
The Pentagon has sent one of its biggest aircraft carriers to Haiti, along with other navy and coast guard vessels.
On Friday, Arturo Valenzuela, the US assistant secretary of state for Western hemisphere affairs rejected that the US was occupying Haiti.
"Haiti is a sovereign country, everybody respects Haiti's sovereign country, the United States respects Haiti's sovereignty," said Arturo Valenzuela.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission shreds the fabric of our already weakened democracy by allowing corporations to more completely dominate our corrupted electoral process. It is outrageous that corporations already attempt to influence or bribe our political candidates through their political action committees (PACs), which solicit employees and shareholders for donations. With this decision, corporations can now also draw on their corporate treasuries and pour vast amounts of corporate money, through independent expenditures, into the electoral swamp already flooded with corporate campaign PAC contribution dollars.
This corporatist, anti-voter decision is so extreme that it should galvanize a grassroots effort to enact a Constitutional Amendment to once and for all end corporate personhood and curtail the corrosive impact of big money on politics. It is indeed time for a Constitutional amendment to prevent corporate campaign contributions from commercializing our elections and drowning out the civic and political voices and values of citizens and voters. It is way overdue to overthrow “King Corporation” and restore the sovereignty of “We the People”!
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Ukraine may join NATO Response Force in 2015-16
Bruessels: Ukraine has been invited to join the NATO Response Force as a partner country in 2015-16, a spokesman for the NATO military committee said Wednesday.
Colonel Massimo Panizzi said Ukraine would become "the first non-NATO country to join the Response Force."
The Response Force consists of rapid deployment forces with land, air and sea components, capable of swiftly reacting to crisis situations.
Panizzi added that the matter would be discussed at a meeting of Ukrainian and NATO chiefs of staff on January 26 in Brussels.
He described the move as "a significant step forward in the implementation of military reform" that NATO is expecting from Kiev "on its way" toward NATO candidate status.
Asked whether other NATO partners could join the Response Force, Panizzi said: "All partners are invited to cooperate within the framework of the process."
Ukraine was one of the first NATO partner countries to offer to play a role in the NATO Response Force.
The country's pro-Western leadership has been pursuing NATO membership since 2004, when President Viktor Yushchenko came to power.
Ukraine failed to secure membership in the NATO Membership Action Plan, a key step toward joining the alliance, at a NATO summit in April 2008.
Russia vehemently opposes the post-Soviet country's NATO ambitions, and in February 2008 the Kremlin threatened to retarget missiles at Ukraine if it joined NATO.
The NATO Response Force is capable of performing missions worldwide across the whole spectrum of operations, including evacuations, disaster management, counterterrorism, and acting as 'an initial entry force' for larger, follow-on forces.
Russia is creating a similar force with its partners in the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
I am very grateful to Zerkes for taking the time to answer my questions. For more info on these and other topics, make sure to visit Zerkes' blog.
The Saker: how would you assess the socio-political climate in Turkey? How are the military and the Islamic parties balancing each other out and what do you see is the general "mood" of the "street" so to speak?
Zerkes: I will answer this question in two parts. First by focusing on the people on the street and then by focusing on the political dynamics.
First, it's for sure that Turkey is changing rapidly these days. For the first time since the beginning of the republic some people started questioning the military. These people would have never imagined the beloved military could be corrupt, its members involved in thousands of disappearances, kidnapping, prostitution, arm and drug trade, etc. This is extremely confusing for Turkish people who are willing to open their eyes, listen, and think. Kurdish people already knew all of these since they were the victim but nobody listened to them for so long which is why they ended up starting their armed struggle. When Kurds look deep into what's happening now, the whole operation feels like "giving the state a face lift" without honestly facing the problem and curing it. A number of retired colonels have started committing suicide recently and Kurds somehow don't believe these thugs all of a sudden developed some morals and started feeling guilty all together.
Not too long ago some of military's projects to pay for making movies and tv series with explicit company/person names leaked to the media. The societal manipulation tools that were only available to the military and the deep state (forming secret organizations, making of movies and series such as "Breath/Nefes", "Valley of the Wolves", etc.) are now available to the current government too. These projects are really bad imitations of "loyalty building projects" you can see in the USA. The people (some of whom are "reporters") who make these and/or direct these media projects are closely affiliated with the military or Turkish Secret Service (MIT). Some progressive Turkish writers have started writing about these projects.
If I were to try to put the mood for non-Kurds in one word, I would call it schizophrenia. Turkish people, for the first time are hearing some of the atrocities their security forces have committed against Kurds and other people but they have extreme difficulty with coming to terms so a lot of them are going back to extreme nationalism/racism and attack anything that challenges their belief. Such people are demonstrating hatred against anyone who is different (they recently attacked gypsies in a town and made the gypsies leave the town and their reasoning was because gypsies lived better). Lynching moves toward Kurds in western part of Turkey are on the rise. Kurds get attacked simply because they speak Kurdish or sing a Kurdish song. The police just watches and then arrests the people who get attacked while those who attack are praised by being sensitive and loyal citizens.
The word I would use for the Kurdish side is disappointment. The state and the government want to make sure everyone knows who the boss is. Turkish state and government repeat at every chance that their main goal is annihilation of the PKK, there cannot be education in mother language and things a like. The state and government's main goal seems to be to disarm Kurds, divide them, and then consume the natural resources and make sure that no Kurdish identity is left. You can see this mindset in some rhetoric used against assimilated Kurds already. Since Kurdish was banned for such a long time and people couldn't get educated in their own language some of them cannot speak Kurdish. The rhetoric used against them is that they have no right to ask for anything since they cannot even speak their own language.
The closure of main Kurdish political party DTP and arrests of Kurdish politicians (and those that also got banned from participating in politics) is nothing but response to local elections of 2009 in which Kurds won big time against the current government despite all the support the government received from the police, military, governors etc in Kurdistan. Heck, the government offices were acting like election bureaus of AK Party. If the goal of Turkish side was to end armed clashes and encourage Kurds to participate in political process, Turkey wouldn't have arrested all the Kurdish politicians, handcuff them, and escort them in a single line to the prison while serving its pictures to the press. These politicians have never ever took part in any armed resistance. They did speak for Kurdish rights though. In fact these have been the people who never backed down despite all the threats they received and had their friends or family members assassinated. There is actually something depressingly funny. When DTP was closed, among people who were banned from politics because they were DTP administrators was a shepherd who wasn't a politician. Gordon Taylor, a blogger has published about it. The question is if cows will get banned from voting!
Politically (the state and government), what you are seeing in Turkey now is balancing of the current government's strength with that of the military's. This is being supported (and engineered) by the USA and help comes through providing intelligence to the current government on the Ergenekon case and similar issues. This is not to say the current government and the military hate one another. They are actually in agreement. The biggest project they have is to suffocate the Kurdish question by removing any defense Kurds may have (currently the PKK/HPG) and then force them into submission.
We should ask then. Why should PKK cease to exist? Let's look at the big picture first. US and EU have a Greater Middle East Project (GMEP) and the planned oil and gas pipelines extending from South Kurdistan (North Iraq) all the way to Europe, running through Turkey necessitates Kurds not disrupting the oil and gas flow (there is flow of another merchandise but we will come to that later). This means solving the Kurdish question or pacifying it. The other face of the medallion is that the GMEP requires Turkey be a regional power, much stronger than Iran and with much influence. So, in a nutshell, US will be playing it's cards in the region through a Muslim country which is Sunni.
Can a country which is constantly losing blood and is distracted by its internal issues be a regional power? Hardly. So the Kurdish issue has to be "resolved" one way or another. From what I can see so far, Turkey doesn't want a solution that would result in say autonomy for Kurds or even mention of the words Kurd or Kurdistan in the constitution. Education in mother tongue is strongly opposed as well. To be able to dictate its terms on Kurds freely, Turkey is trying to annihilate the PKK by collaborating with US, EU, and other countries in the region. Everyone pretty much seems on board. PKK hasn't killed even an American chicken and yet it's being declared as common enemy by the USA.
The Saker: what do you make of the Turkey-Israel alliance? Is that something imposed by the USA, or do Turkey and Israel work directly together, and sometimes even against the USA as is strongly suggested by Sibel Edmonds?
Zerkes: Turkey and Israel go way back and they are allies. It wouldn't surprise me if Israel and Turkey formed alliances which would be against US interests because Israel and Turkey both need one another desperately. Israel needs Turkey because it's the only country in the region that Israel can rely on, train its military with, get water and crops from, etc. Turkey needs Israel because it constantly balances out Arabs and Iran. It's no secret that Israel is the biggest supporter of Kemalism which is the official ideology of the state and its military. Israel has very strong ties to Turkish military.
I have to make a statement on the current rifts between Israel and Turkey. My opinion is that these are carefully crafted shows to strengthen Turkey's position in the Middle East so it can safely reduce Iran's effect. Arab countries already started gravitating toward Turkey and forming alliances with Turkey. This is exactly what US and EU want. While these small crises seem to be harmful for Israel they only do minor short term harm to its reputation. In the long term, Israel actually wins because if the plans go well, in the long run, Iran's influence will be weaker and Arabic states will be under Turkey's hand and we all know Turkey in the NATO and will probably be a EU member or will be given a special status.
The Saker: what can you tell us about the role and objectives of Turkey towards the Caucasus in general and Russia, Chechnia and Georgia specifically. The Chechen insurgents used to see Turkey as a friendly "rear-base", what has happened since the (relative) defeat of the Chechen insurgency in the 2nd Chechen war?
Zerkes: I am not very knowledgeable on the Caucasus but from what I hear and read, I can tell you that most of the right wing criminals go to Azerbaijan or other Turkic states in the Caucasus to have more training and continue their activities such as drug and arms trading. Turkey is trying to have serious influence in the region especially through Gulen movement. Gulen movement was founded and is lead by an imam named Fethullah Gulen who currently lives in the USA.It's basically promoting Turkish-Islam synthesis. The movement is big all over the world, particularly strong in Turkey. The current government is basically composed of Gulen's followers. Who is Fethullah Gulen? I quote from Rasti:
Who is Gulen?
Fetullah Gulen is "a 67-year-old Turkish Sufi cleric, author and theoretician," according to a recent profile in the UK's Prospect magazine. Prospect ran a public poll last month to find the world's greatest living intellectual. Gulen 'won' the poll after his newspapers alerted readers to the poll's existence. Gulen is also the leader of the so-called 'Gulen Movement' which claims to have seven million followers worldwide. The Gulen Movement has extensive business interests, including "publishing activities (books, newspapers, and magazines), construction, healthcare, and education."
The full article can be read here
You can also read about Gulen movement, CIA, and turkish deep state ties here
There is actually a nice article titled "Uighur Nationalism, Turkey and the CIA" at Terrorism-illuminati.com summarizing Gulen movement, it's ties to CIA, and use of Gulen movement on Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard, specifically Central Asia. The full article can be read here and I think it's a must read:
To wrap this question up, the Chechens are still well-organized and well-supported in Turkey. I haven't kept up with the details though.
The Saker: I hear a lot of rumors about the Turkish deep state being heavily involved in drug trafficking. How much of a factor in the Turkish deep state's decision-making process towards, say, Afghanistan or the Caucasus is the drug trade?
Zerkes: they are not rumors. It was just a few weeks ago that a drug ring composed of some high level police officers were arrested. A few days ago, it was another ring lead by a retired colonel. While most Turks like to blame PKK for the drug trade (without even thinking how in the earth PKK network could extend all the way to Afghanistan and be sustainable). It's a known fact that the Turkish army tanks, helicopters, and armored vehicles have been used to transport heroin within Turkey.
Recently, one of the Drug lords (a Kurdish person but one of the Kurds who is a model for what kind of Kurds the state has been wanting) Baybasin who is in prison in the Netherlands spoke from the prison to Taraf daily (a Turkish news paper) and revealed some of his ties with high level military personnel (generals) and high level politicians such as ex prime minister Suleyman Demirel and other people deeply involved in the deep state like Mehmet Agar (he is said to have conducted over thousands of operations against Kurdish civilians). Baybasin also revealed the fact that he received counter guerrilla training (Baybasin is referring to training by Ergenekon which is the Turkish Gladio) and talked how they were taking arms to Afghanistan and bringing Heroin in return. Baybasin also mentioned a few of the presents he gave to some high level generals which can be easily verified. One of them was a villa to a general's wife. Baybasin also mentioned something interesting that one of his ships, loaded with heroin, was sank after the drugs were emptied. That heroin was never accounted for (this is not the first time). My guess is that this attitude become a habit at the Turkish side and hence we have the Ergenekon operations today. Bosses never like it when you steal from them. So, if anything, I think the whole operation is to show what happens to those who steal from the bossmen.
Sibel Edmonds also has some great analysis on Turkish state's involvement in drug trade. There is also an article by Kendal Nezan published in Le Monde Diplomatique.
Finally, since US, EU, and Turkey love to blame PKK with drug trade, I do have to state that not one single member of the PKK has been actually tried and found guilty of drug trade. PKK has also offered review of its accounts. Head of KCK Murat Karayilan offered this to USA and EU when USA Dept of Treasury froze the PKK funds in the USA which doesn't exist and also assets of Murat Karayilan which he doesn't have. Karayilan stated that his daily expense is under a dollar. The PKK also constantly makes calls and publicizes names of those who are trying to sell drugs in Kurdistan. If anything, PKK is really becoming a problem for marketing heroin in Kurdistan. Now that US is allowing "farmers" in Afghanistan to start "farming" again, I suppose it would make the flow much easier if PKK didn't exist and there would be more customers too. Also, given the fact that the shady characters associated with the deep state are almost always are linked to the Caucasus, I suspect marketing there and making the Caucasus an alternate or a second route for drug trade is an option. I do believe that would be a safe option for them if they can really secure enough ground. After all Turkic republics will be friendlier to Turks. Having a second line is simple redundancy rule in supply chain management.
It has been well publicized that Heroin trade keeps banks and governments afloat. My guess is that the big boys are desperate for the heroin trade even more today especially given the the current global economic crisis. More drug trade and more oil are needed to keep gears turning but there is a problem. The Kurds and their armed resistance happens to be strategically positioned to disrupt flow of both of them at least on one front and Russia can disrupt it on the other front. We'll wait and see how Russia will play it's cards about this.
The Saker: which political forces do you see as the main allies of Turkey in the region, both as actual allies and as potential allies?
Zerkes: the one and true ally in the region for Turkey will be Israel. Iraq, Iran, and Syria are allies with Turkey against Kurds. Turkey will make Arabic countries allies if it can really pull off the regional leader role given by the US. That will mean savor grapes with Iran. Iran and Turkey are actually competing right now in South Kurdistan. I heard somewhere that Iran has banned/limited activities of Gulen movement in Iran (Russia banned them sometime ago). Turkey is also trying to cut deals with Ukraine to make sure no Kurdish organization supporting Kurdish cause can exist there (same thing it's going in US and EU). Turkey was using the votes of the Chechen population in Ukraine as a bargaining chip.
The Saker: which political forces or countries in the region do the Kurds see as a potential ally? What do the Kurdish political parties make of Russia, Armenia, Greece or Serbia all of which are historically in conflict with Turkey and its Western allies?
Zerkes: I am not really sure if Kurds see any of these countries as an ally. I personally don't. In Middle East the only way you can have true allies is that you are strong. Countries like Greece and Serbia will be allies with Turkey for the future pipelines so I don't think they will really be allies for Kurds. Iran may turn out to be an ally for Kurds in the long run but it will be a while before Kurds can trust any of the counties among which Kurdistan is divided. As for Russia, I am sure Kurds know that Russia would turn its back to them for the right price which happened before and more than once. The most recent one was because of the Blue Stream project where Russia made a deal with Turkey and US the agreement resulted in capture of Ocalan. Having said that, I do believe temporary alliances with Iran and Russia would be possible. This is because these two countries would be getting the short end the stick if the GMEP were to materialize. Given the situation with imperial plans on heroin and oil and gas flow, Russia and Iran should waste no time to ally with Kurds. Only then all three of them can win. The alternative is bigger losses for both Iran and Russia. This time, it's not Kurds who have much to lose. Russia and Iran becoming allies with Kurds makes long term strategical sense too since Kurdistan has abundance of water and he who holds water will be the power in the Middle East in the long run.
I have a feeling Armenia wants the GMEP to materialize and they want the border with Turkey open so they can have more trade. Armenians will need this more and more as Turkey increases its influence on countries neighboring Armenia.
While talking about allies in the region, I need to state a less known historical anecdote. Back in the 80ies, a few PKK guerrillas actually fought against IDF. I may be wrong about the exact figure but I think about 11 PKK guerrillas were killed by the IDF and several were captured alive. Israel had asked why the PKK guerrillas were in this fight and the guerrillas had said because what IDF was doing was wrong. The PKK was training alongside with Palestinians at the time. The real reason doesn't matter much since it was only a handful of them but that was enough for Israel. The point is that the Israeli military help for Turkey to fight against Kurds started back then and grew larger every year.
Kurds have realized long ago that they are alone in their struggle for their basic human rights and started relying on themselves. PKK did state many times that they are not in love with guns and they are ready to drop them if Kurds are given their cultural rights and guarantees for their basic rights in the constitution.
For now, the status quo still hasn't changed: no friends but the mountains.