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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1082476 times)
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« Reply #12255 on: Mar 02, 2014, 08:44 AM »

Fresh Venezuela Protests after Violent Clashes

by Naharnet Newsdesk
01 March 2014, 21:50

Anti-government protesters took to the streets of Venezuela's capital on Saturday, calling for the release of dozens of activists who have been arrested during three weeks of violent demonstrations.

Protesters from a radical opposition group formed a convoy of cars and bikes in eastern Caracas after fresh violence on Friday saw pitched battles between security forces and demonstrators.

A total of 18 people have died in the demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro's government, according to official figures.

Protesters on Saturday vowed to boycott Venezuela's annual carnival celebrations as a mark of respect to the dead.

"We honor the dead. No carnival, there is nothing to celebrate," engineering student Argenis Arteaga told Agence France Presse at the protest.

Saturday's demonstration came after at least 41 people, including several foreign journalists, were arrested during Friday's clashes.

National Guard security forces used water cannons and tear gas to break up student-led demonstrations in the city's wealthy Chacao district.

Hooded protesters set up barricades and responded with a steady barrage of Molotov cocktails.

Maduro has labeled the protests that began on February 4 as a Washington-backed attempted "coup."

He claims that radical opposition leaders have joined students angered by high inflation and goods shortage in plotting to topple his nearly year-old government.

Friday's arrests included eight foreigners who were being "held for international terrorism," state VTV television said in a brief statement.

Venezuela's journalist association SNTP said one of the foreigners was U.S. freelance reporter Andrew Rosati, who writes for the Miami Herald.

Rosati was detained for half an hour and released after being "struck in the face and his abdomen" by security forces, the SNTP said on Twitter.

Also detained and released was a team of journalists from the Associated Press, it said.

The SNTP also said Italian photographer Francesca Commissari, who works for the local daily El Nacional, was being held.

Protest organizer Alfredo Romero said Saturday he had been in contact with Commissari .

"I spoke personally with Francesca Commissari. She's okay," Romero, president of the Venezuelan Penal Forum, wrote on Twitter.

Government officials released no details on the arrest of foreigners.

Friday's clashes added fuel to protests that had begun to flag after the government decreed several days of holidays to mark the start of carnival season.

In a separate incident, Maduro said National Guard members were "ambushed" and shot at while removing debris from the streets of Valencia, Venezuela's economic hub. One died from a shot in the eye and another was shot twice in the leg.

"All these things are aimed at triggering a backlash from security forces," Maduro said.

"Justice must prevail against implacable murderers and those preparing paramilitary groups... to hide behind alleged protests and seek civil war."

The Venezuelan Penal Forum, meanwhile, said 33 cases of "cruel and inhuman treatment or torture" have been reported to the public ombudsman.

The Venezuelan government said it was investigating 27 cases of human rights abuses, though it provided no details of possible wrongdoing.

Some of the deaths have been attributed to violent clashes with police, but other victims have been shot by unidentified gunmen, whom the protesters have accused of being government agents.

The government has denied all links to such killings.

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« Reply #12256 on: Mar 02, 2014, 08:46 AM »

Panama pays $100 million to ensure canal expansion’s completion

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, February 28, 2014 16:15 EST

A row over $1.6 billion in cost overruns on construction to widen the Panama Canal has been resolved, the parties said Friday, ensuring completion of the massive project.

The Panama Canal Authority and the consortium “Grupo Unidos por el Canal” (GUPC) announced “a final agreement in principle” after intense talks to resolve a two-month-long standoff.

“The plan here is that we would enter into commercial operations in January 2016,” said Jorge Quijano, the canal administrator. Under the original schedule, the canal expansion was supposed to have been ready this year.

The agreement offers co-financing of the construction, while awaiting the result of arbitration to assign final responsibility for the cost overruns, the consortium said.

In their deal, both sides agreed to make an immediate payment of 100 million dollars to the project, a cash infusion that will permit “the normal rhythm of work” to resume, the canal authority said.

The accord also extends until 2018 a moratorium on payment of a $784 million loan which the canal authority had advanced to GUPC.

Paperwork was being drawn up for the agreement and was to be signed “shortly,” the parties said in a statement said.

“GUPC expects the prompt conclusion of the agreement and the financing with the aim of executing the works and completing the project efficiently,” it said.

Quijano said the agreement was not perfect, but “it has the advantage that we can resume work rapidly and with the injection (of funds) we could be talking about completion of the projection in 2015.”

Seen as one of the world’s engineering marvels, the century old waterway handles five percent of the world’s maritime trade.

The construction to add wider locks and channels capable of handling much larger container ships is one of the world’s most ambitious civil engineering projects.

But in early February, a financial row led to a complete two-week suspension of the project by GUPC, which includes Sacyr, Italy’s Salini Impregilo, Belgium’s Jan De Nul and Constructora Urbana of Panama.

Work resumed on the massive construction project on February 20, and completion on the project is now assured following Friday’s deal.

Relief over the agreement was palpable on both continents Friday.

“This puts an end to the existing differences after negotiations that led to the result we all hoped for: the completion of a great work within the deadline,” said Antonio Tajani, the European Union’s Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship.

“This agreement is important for the world economy, for Panama, for Europe, for countries around the world and for the reputation of all parties involved,” he said.

Likewise, Quijano hailed the accord as one which “protects the interests of the Panama Canal within the terms of the contract, and respecting our mutual positions,” he said.

GUPC had been in dispute with the canal authority in part over geological difficulties which obliged the builders to spend much more on cement than expected.

GUPC said it based its estimates on incorrect data provided by the Canal Authority.

The 80 kilometer (50-mile) long canal, completed by U.S. interests in 1914 to offer a shorter, safer route between the Atlantic and Pacific, is used by 13,000-14,000 ships each year.

In 1999, ownership of the canal reverted from the United States to Panama.

The project to add a third set of locks to the canal ad originally been due to be completed next year.

But the project was running nine months late at the end of 2013, and has slowed further this year.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #12257 on: Mar 02, 2014, 08:59 AM »

New age of global unrest in full swing as industrial civilization transitions to post-carbon reality

By Nafeez Ahmed, The Guardian
Saturday, March 1, 2014 8:53 EST

If anyone had hoped that the Arab Spring and Occupy protests a few years back were one-off episodes that would soon give way to more stability, they have another thing coming. The hope was that ongoing economic recovery would return to pre-crash levels of growth, alleviating the grievances fueling the fires of civil unrest, stoked by years of recession.

But this hasn’t happened. And it won’t.

Instead the post-2008 crash era, including 2013 and early 2014, has seen a persistence and proliferation of civil unrest on a scale that has never been seen before in human history. This month alone has seen riots kick-off in Venezuela, Bosnia, Ukraine, Iceland, and Thailand.

This is not a coincidence. The riots are of course rooted in common, regressive economic forces playing out across every continent of the planet – but those forces themselves are symptomatic of a deeper, protracted process of global system failure as we transition from the old industrial era of dirty fossil fuels, towards something else.

Even before the Arab Spring erupted in Tunisia in December 2010, analysts at the New England Complex Systems Institute warned of the danger of civil unrest due to escalating food prices. If the Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO) food price index rises above 210, they warned, it could trigger riots across large areas of the world.

Hunger games

The pattern is clear. Food price spikes in 2008 coincided with the eruption of social unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Somalia, Cameroon, Mozambique, Sudan, Haiti, and India, among others.

In 2011, the price spikes preceded social unrest across the Middle East and North Africa – Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Libya, Uganda, Mauritania, Algeria, and so on.

Last year saw food prices reach their third highest year on record, corresponding to the latest outbreaks of street violence and protests in Argentina, Brazil, Bangladesh, China, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and elsewhere.

Since about a decade ago, the FAO food price index has more than doubled from 91.1 in 2000 to an average of 209.8 in 2013. As Prof Yaneer Bar-Yam, founding president of the Complex Systems Institute, told Vice magazine last week:

“Our analysis says that 210 on the FAO index is the boiling point and we have been hovering there for the past 18 months… In some of the cases the link is more explicit, in others, given that we are at the boiling point, anything will trigger unrest.”

But Bar-Yam’s analysis of the causes of the global food crisis don’t go deep enough – he focuses on the impact of farmland being used for biofuels, and excessive financial speculation on food commodities. But these factors barely scratch the surface.

It’s a gas

The recent cases illustrate not just an explicit link between civil unrest and an increasingly volatile global food system, but also the root of this problem in the increasing unsustainability of our chronic civilisational addiction to fossil fuels.

In Ukraine, previous food price shocks have impacted negatively on the country’s grain exports, contributing to intensifying urban poverty in particular. Accelerating levels of domestic inflation are underestimated in official statistics – Ukrainians spend on average as much as 75% on household bills, and more than half their incomes on necessities such as food and non-alcoholic drinks, and as75% on household bills. Similarly, for most of last year, Venezuela suffered from ongoing food shortages driven by policy mismanagement along with 17 year record-high inflation due mostly to rising food prices.

While dependence on increasingly expensive food imports plays a role here, at the heart of both countries is a deepening energy crisis. Ukraine is a net energy importer, having peaked in oil and gas production way back in 1976. Despite excitement about domestic shale potential, Ukraine’s oil production has declined by over 60% over the last twenty years driven by both geological challenges and dearth of investment.

Currently, about 80% of Ukraine’s oil, and 80% of its gas, is imported from Russia. But over half of Ukraine’s energy consumption is sustained by gas. Russian natural gas prices have nearly quadrupled since 2004. The rocketing energy prices underpin the inflation that is driving excruciating poverty rates for average Ukranians, exacerbating social, ethnic, political and class divisions.

The Ukrainian government’s recent decision to dramatically slash Russian gas imports will likely worsen this as alternative cheaper energy sources are in short supply. Hopes that domestic energy sources might save the day are slim – apart from the fact that shale cannot solve the prospect of expensive liquid fuels, nuclear will not help either. A leaked European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) report reveals that proposals to loan 300 million Euros to renovate Ukraine’s ageing infrastructure of 15 state-owned nuclear reactors will gradually double already debilitating electricity prices by 2020.

“Socialism” or Soc-oil-ism?

In Venezuela, the story is familiar. Previously, the Oil and Gas Journal reported the country’s oil reserves were 99.4 billion barrels. As of 2011, this was revised upwards to a mammoth 211 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, and more recently by the US Geological Survey to a whopping 513 billion barrels. The massive boost came from the discovery of reserves of extra heavy oil in the Orinoco belt.

The huge associated costs of production and refining this heavy oil compared to cheaper conventional oil, however, mean the new finds have contributed little to Venezuela’s escalating energy and economic challenges. Venezuela’s oil production peaked around 1999, and has declined by a quarter since then. Its gas production peaked around 2001, and has declined by about a third.

Simultaneously, as domestic oil consumption has steadily increased – in fact almost doubling since 1990 – this has eaten further into declining production, resulting in net oil exports plummeting by nearly half since 1996. As oil represents 95% of export earnings and about half of budget revenues, this decline has massively reduced the scope to sustain government social programmes, including critical subsidies.

Looming pandemic?

These local conditions are being exacerbated by global structural realities. Record high global food prices impinge on these local conditions and push them over the edge. But the food price hikes, in turn, are symptomatic of a range of overlapping problems. Global agriculture’s excessive dependence on fossil fuel inputs means food prices are invariably linked to oil price spikes. Naturally, biofuels and food commodity speculation pushes prices up even further – elite financiers alone benefit from this while working people from middle to lower classes bear the brunt.

Of course, the elephant in the room is climate change. According to Japanese media, a leaked draft of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) second major report warned that while demand for food will rise by 14%, global crop production will drop by 2% per decade due to current levels of global warming, and wreak $1.45 trillion of economic damage by the end of the century. The scenario is based on a projected rise of 2.5 degrees Celsius.

This is likely to be a very conservative estimate. Considering that the current trajectory of industrial agriculture is already seeing yield plateaus in major food basket regions, the interaction of environmental, energy, and economic crises suggests that business-as-usual won’t work.

The epidemic of global riots is symptomatic of global system failure – a civilisational form that has outlasted its usefulness. We need a new paradigm.

Unfortunately, simply taking to the streets isn’t the answer. What is needed is a meaningful vision for civilisational transition – backed up with people power and ethical consistence.

It’s time that governments, corporations and the public alike woke up to the fact that we are fast entering a new post-carbon era, and that the quicker we adapt to it, the far better our chances of successfully redefining a new form of civilisation – a new form of prosperity – that is capable of living in harmony with the Earth system.

But if we continue to make like ostriches, we’ll only have ourselves to blame when the epidemic becomes a pandemic at our doorsteps.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed © Guardian News and Media 2014

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« Reply #12258 on: Mar 02, 2014, 09:15 AM »

In the USA...United Surveillance America

Obama in 'direct' confrontation with Putin on Ukraine

Washington (AFP) ‎3‎/‎2‎/‎2014‎ ‎5‎:‎03‎:‎43‎ ‎AM

President Barack Obama told President Vladimir Putin that Russia's dispatch of troops to Ukraine flouted international law and warned he was courting political isolation if the incursion continues.

Obama also spelled out the right of the Ukrainian people to chart their own destiny and symbolically began to line up the long-time Western alliance against Russia, calling the leaders of France and Canada.

Secretary of State John Kerry also hosted a joint conference call with six other foreign ministers from Europe and Canada as well as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the Japanese envoy to the US "to coordinate on next steps."

Obama's 90-minute telephone call with Putin represented the kind of direct confrontation between the men who run the White House and the Kremlin rarely seen since the end of the Cold War.

The White House account of the call was unusually detailed and blunt, hinting at tense exchanges as fractures deepened in a relationship that has been deteriorating since Putin returned as president in 2012.

"President Obama expressed his deep concern over Russia's clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity," the White House said.

Obama told Putin his actions were a "breach of international law, including Russia's obligations under the UN Charter, and of its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine."

Kerry also warned in a later statement that Moscow was risking the peace and security not just of Ukraine, but also the wider region.

If Russia did not de-escalate tensions, it would have a "profound" effect on ties with the US, said Kerry, who is due to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of talks in Rome next week.

Asked about the tone of the call, a senior US official resorted to diplomatic parlance indicating an uncomfortable conversation, describing it as "what you'd expect: candid and direct."

- Obama team mulls options -

Obama's national security team met at the White House to mull options on Ukraine, a day after the president warned Putin's actions would incur "costs."

Those costs would entail an immediate halt from the US side to preparatory talks on the G8 summit in the Olympic resort of Sochi on the Black Sea in June, Obama told Putin.

The crisis deepened after Putin secured an endorsement by lawmakers to send troops to Ukraine.

Officials in Kiev had earlier said Russia had already dispatched 30 armored personnel carriers and 6,000 additional troops into Crimea to help pro-Kremlin militia gain broader independence from the new pro-EU leaders in Kiev.

Obama called on Putin to pull his troops back to Russian barracks in the Crimean peninsula.

But in a sign his appeal fell on deaf ears, a Russian readout of the call hinted at an expansion of the operation, as Putin reserved the right to protect Russian interests in eastern Ukraine.

Obama suggested international observers appointed by the United Nations Security Council and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe should be dispatched to safeguard ethnic Russians in Ukraine.

He also stated strong support for the Kiev government and pledged to work with bodies like the International Monetary Fund, the OSCE and NATO to mitigate its deepening economic crisis.

The US president called French President Francois Hollande and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, leaders of Atlantic nations along with Britain that formed the backbone of post-war Western resistance to the Soviet Union.

Condemning Russia's moves "in the strongest terms," Harper recalled his ambassador to Moscow and warned he may join Washington in snubbing June's G8 summit in Russia.

And Washington upped the diplomatic offensive at the United Nations, with US ambassador Samantha Power branding Russia's parliamentary approval "as dangerous as it is destabilizing."

"The message is pull back your forces. Let us engage in political dialogue, engage with the Ukrainian government which is reaching out to you for that dialogue," Power said.

But meaningful action on the crisis at the UN seems unlikely, given Russia's veto power as a permanent Security Council member.

Before Putin and Obama connected, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.

A US defense official said there had been "no change" to Washington's defense posture in the European region.

Washington appears to have limited options to change Putin's calculations.

In addition to snubbing the G8 summit, it could cut off economic and trade cooperation that Moscow wants to deepen, or impose sanctions on Russian finance institutions or key officials.

Obama could order a show of military support for US allies in eastern Europe through NATO, but wants to avoid a Cold War-style chess match with Moscow.

He also needs Russian support for several key foreign policy priorities including nuclear talks with Iran and destroying Syria's chemical arms.


U.S. Warns Russia It Risks Losing G8 Membership over Crimea

by Naharnet Newsdesk
02 March 2014, 16:28

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry bluntly warned Russia on Sunday that it risked losing its place among the prestigious Group of 8 developed nations over its deployment of troops in Crimea.

Kerry warned President Vladimir Putin that "he is not going have a Sochi G8, he may not even remain in the G8 if this continues. He may find himself with asset freezes, on Russian business, American business may pull back, there may be a further tumble of the ruble."

"There is a huge price to pay. The United States is united, Russia is isolated. That is not a position of strength," the top U.S. diplomat told NBC's Meet the Press.

The United States, Britain, and France have already pulled out of preparatory meetings this week for the G8 summit due to be held in June in Sochi, amid growing global concerns over Moscow's threat to invade neighboring Ukraine.

Ukraine's new interim government has called up all military reservists to stave off the threat and warned their country was on the brink of disaster.

"If Russia wants to be a G8 country, it needs to behave like a G8 country," Kerry also said on CBS's "Face the Nation" as he hit the Sunday morning talk shows, to ratchet up the pressure on Moscow.

And he warned: "The G8 plus some others and all of them, every single one of them, are prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia with respect to this invasion."

"They're prepared to put sanctions in place, they're prepared to isolate Russia economically, the ruble is already going down."


John McCain Wants To Push The United States Into A Full Scale War With Russia

By: Justin Baragona
Saturday, March, 1st, 2014, 1:23 pm      

On Saturday, the day after President Obama addressed the nation on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) made a statement. As per his usual self, McCain made sure to undermine the President regarding his foreign policy strategy. At the same time, he pushed for the US to commit to sending troops into Ukraine and confronting Russia directly.

Below is McCain’s full statement:

    “I am deeply concerned that Russia’s ongoing military intervention in Crimea may soon expand to eastern Ukraine. Yesterday, President Obama said that Russia would face ‘costs’ if it intervened militarily in Ukraine. It is now essential for the President to articulate exactly what those costs will be and to take steps urgently to impose them.

    Russia’s use of force in Ukraine is unfolding in clear violation of Russia’s own commitments to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. None of us should be under any illusion about what President Putin is capable of doing in Ukraine, especially now that he has requested, and the Russian Duma has approved, the deployment of Russian troops, not just in Crimea but in the country of Ukraine.

    Every moment that the United States and our allies fail to respond sends the signal to President Putin that he can be even more ambitious and aggressive in his military intervention in Ukraine. There is a range of serious options at our disposal at this time without the use of military force. I call on President Obama to rally our European and NATO allies to make clear what costs Russia will face for its aggression and to impose those consequences without further delay.”

Make no mistake about McCain’s statement that there are other options available without resorting to military force.  He wants the United States to go to war and he wants it to happen yesterday. He’s been banging the war drums especially hard lately, whether it is Iran, Syria or Russia. He not only wants to push us into a full-scale war, he wants to try to make the President look like a weak leader while doing so.

However, nobody is taking McCain seriously anymore. The President isn’t going to listen to anything he says, and McCain’s sphere of influence has rapidly shrunk the past few years. Other than maybe Senators Kelly Ayotte and Lindsey Graham, nobody on Capitol Hill is really joining forces with McCain when he goes off on his hawkish tirades. While Republicans in Washington love to rip the President for every decision he makes, most also know that the American people have no appetite for another war. The recent situation with Syria made that abundantly clear.

Once again, we just see bitter, angry old man McCain taking out his frustrations with the 2008 election results every time he goes off on one of these hackneyed rip jobs on the President. He is so transparent and impossible to take as a serious foreign policy expert. He just wants to shake his fist angrily at the White House and claim that the President doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s become the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving dinner that only reads WND and The Blaze and watches Fox News 24/7.


Faced with declining ice cover, U.S. Navy eyes greater presence in Arctic

By Reuters
Saturday, March 1, 2014 21:10 EST

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Navy is mapping out how to expand its presence in the Arctic beginning about 2020, given signs that the region’s once permanent ice cover is melting faster than expected, which is likely to trigger more traffic, fishing and resource mining.

“The Arctic is all about operating forward and being ready. We don’t think we’re going to have to do war-fighting up there, but we have to be ready,” said Rear Admiral Jonathan White, the Navy’s top oceanographer and navigator, and director of the Navy’s climate change task force.

“We don’t want to have a demand for the Navy to operate up there, and have to say, ‘Sorry, we can’t go,’” he said.

The Navy this week released an “aggressive” update to its 2009 Arctic plan after a detailed analysis of data from a variety of sources showed that seasonal ice is disappearing faster than had been expected even three years ago. The document said the Bering Strait was expected to see open water conditions about 160 days a year by 2020, with the deep ocean routes of the Transpolar transit route forecast to be open for up to 45 days annually by 2025.

The document includes dozens of specific tasks and deadlines for Navy offices, including calling for better research on rising sea levels and the ability to predict sea ice thickness, assessment of satellite communications and surveillance needs, and evaluation of existing ports, airfields and hangars. It also puts a big focus on cooperation with other Arctic nations and with the U.S. Coast Guard, which is grappling with the need to build a new $1 billion ice-breaking ship.

The Navy is conducting a submarine exercise in the Arctic next month, and plans to participate in a joint training exercise with the Norwegian and Russian military this summer.

White said the Navy’s new projection was aimed at answering “the billion dollar question” of how much it would cost to prepare for an increased naval presence in the Arctic, and trying to determine what investments were needed when.

“We’re trying to use this road map to really be able to answer that question,” White said, noting that early smaller-scale investments could help avert bigger bills in the future.

He said efforts were under way now in the Navy to identify specific requirements for weather-hardened ships and other equipment, land-based infrastructure, and better bandwidth for satellite and shore-based communications capabilities.

The Office of Naval Research and the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are already funding numerous Arctic-focused projects with industry, White said, predicting increased public-private projects in recent years. He said he realized U.S. military budgets are under pressure, but hoped the plan would help undergird Arctic-related budget requests in coming years by showing lawmakers that the Navy had carefully studied and evaluated its options.

“As far as I’m concerned, the Navy and Coast Guard’s area of responsibility is growing,” White said. “We’re growing a new ocean, so our budget should be growing in line with that.”

The Navy’s plan does not alter any current funding, but calls for identification of future ships and other weapons by the third quarter of fiscal 2014, which ends September 30, in time to be considered for future budget deliberations.

“Our challenge over the coming decades is to balance the demands of current requirements with investment in the development of future capabilities,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert wrote in an introduction. “This roadmap will ensure our investments are informed, focused, and deliberate as the Navy approaches a new maritime frontier.”

The Navy has long operated submarines in the region, and flies surveillance and unmanned aircraft as needed, but by 2020 it plans to boost the number of personnel trained for Arctic operations. By 2030, as the Arctic Ocean becomes increasingly ice-free, the Navy said it would have the training and personnel to respond to crises and national security emergencies.

The Navy’s updated road map noted that the Arctic has significant oil, gas and mineral resources, including some rare earth minerals now supplied mainly by China, and estimated hydrocarbon resources of over $1 trillion. Those resources are attractive to big multinational corporations and other countries, but they face big financial, technical and environmental risks due to the harshness of the environment, and the unpredictable weather, White said.

“If we do start to see a rush, and people try to get up there too fast, we run the risk of catastrophes,” he said, urging a more gradual, measured move into the region by the private sector. “Search and rescue in the cold ice-covered water of the Arctic is not somewhere we want to go.”
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Ken Wills)


Paul Ryan and John Boehner Go Back On Their Word By Demanding More Spending Cuts

By: Rmuse
Sunday, March, 2nd, 2014, 9:50 am   

Greed, also known as avarice, is the inordinate desire to possess everyone’s wealth with the intent to keep it for one’s self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival or extravagant comfort. It is applied to an immorally high desire for, and pursuit of, wealth and power generally to those who already are wealthy beyond imagination. The inordinate desire for wealth in a particular class of people means going to any length to take every bit of wealth, including the necessities for survival, from every other person until there is nothing left to take; in America it is the ultra-wealthy and their legislative arm the Republican Party taking everything from America and its people. Now, it is glaringly obvious that there are no limits to what Republicans will take from the people including food, jobs, wages, healthcare, pensions, housing, and their lives simply because they can and to satisfy the greed of the wealthy and their corporations.

In December 2013, the House and Senate passed a two-year budget and spending agreement that the President signed into law and it was hailed as a major accomplishment for the dysfunctional Republicans in the House particularly. The budget was a major gift to Republicans who brokered spending levels that were less than the Paul Ryan budget Republicans passed every year since they took control of the House knowing it would never get past the Senate or the President’s veto pen. However, despite just passing a budget for fiscal 2014 and 2015, Republicans are bemoaning Senate Democrats intent of not passing a budget for fiscal 2015 regardless they just passed a 2015 budget that is already in place. The issue Republicans cannot comport is the budget agreement they just overwhelmingly passed does not take everything from the people to give the rich and corporations unsustainable tax cuts.

Senator Patty Murray who teamed with Paul Ryan to negotiate the two-year budget said there was no reason to do a fiscal 2015 budget after the two-year deal struck in December with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. In a statement Murray said, “Fiscal Year 2015 is settled, the Appropriations Committees are already working with their bipartisan spending levels, and now we should work together to build on our two-year bipartisan budget, not create more uncertainty for families and businesses by immediately re-litigating it. I went into my negotiations with Chairman Ryan hoping we could give the American people some much needed certainty after years of lurching from crisis to crisis, and I was very glad that our two-year budget deal accomplished that.” However, on Friday Republicans began assailing Senate Democrats for “avoiding responsibility” in deciding against re-creating a budget for 2015 they just spent months negotiating and passing.

The motivation for  Ryan and Republicans to scrap and replace the two-year budget is because they did not get to destroy Medicare, all but eliminate food stamp funding, make major cuts to Social Security, or slash domestic spending that Republicans demanded, so John Boehner expects the House to pass Ryan’s 2015 budget despite the 2015 budget is already in place. A senior Democratic aide said the GOP “just wants to reopen the FY15 budget so they can play politics and use a vote-a-rama for partisan and campaign-related show-votes,” and that may be true to a point, but they are serious about a new Ryan budget for 2015 to eviscerate domestic spending and put an end to programs Americans paid for and expect a return on when they retire.

Ryan said he intends to write a new budget even though the December budget law established a smaller discretionary spending level of $1.014 trillion for 2015 than his Path to Prosperity budget, but he failed to give the rich and corporations unsustainable tax cuts or eviscerate Medicare and Social Security that Ryan calls “entitlements.” He said his new budget will combat income inequality to foster economic growth by giving “job creators” incentives to start hiring; such as a 15.9% tax cut for the rich and corporations. Ryan said, “CBO says our budget outlook is unsustainable. We’ve made some progress on the discretionary side, but on the main drivers of our debt, entitlements, we’ve got a lot more work to do. House Republicans will keep offering real solutions to get spending under control, fix our broken tax code, create jobs, and put us on the path to balance.” According to Ryan, fixing the broken tax code and creating jobs means more tax cuts for the rich and corporations as well as tax increases for the middle class and the poor. Putting us on the path to balance means ending Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and food stamps as Americans know them even though the Draconian cuts still will not pay for his concept of “fixing the broken tax code” (more outrageous tax cuts for the richest Americans).

The long-term deficit has already been reduced by $3.3 trillion due to spending cuts President Obama negotiated to preserve the good faith and credit of the United States, but Republicans were unable to take Americans’ Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and food stamps that is their motivation to replace the budget deal they just passed in December. Senator Murray sent out a memo to her Senate colleagues on Thursday arguing that spending cuts since 2010 reduced the long-term budget deficit by $3.3 trillion, and proposed that Congress pivot away from more time-wasting budget fights since “we have some breathing room to focus more on creating jobs, expanding opportunity and generating broad-based economic growth now and into the future—while we keep looking for ways to tackle our long-term fiscal challenges using a balanced and responsible approach.”

Republicans have absolutely no interest in a responsible and balanced approach to long term fiscal challenges, or creating jobs, expanding opportunity, and generating economic growth that does not entail more unsustainable tax cuts for the richest 1% and their corporations. Their approach for thirty years has been the so-called “trickle down” economic theory that not only failed to created jobs or improved the economy, it only enriched the wealthy and corporations beyond their wildest dreams. Subsequently, since their “approach” of taking from the 98% has so successfully enriched the wealthy, they are loath to change; particularly if change entails helping the great majority of Americans.

Even though House Republicans overwhelmingly voted (332 to 94) to approve a two-year budget including fiscal year 2015, they are reneging, criticizing Senate Democrats, and crying foul because although it cut spending more than Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity budget, it did not take Americans’ Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, or food stamps to partially fund tax cuts for the richest Americans. Republicans are going to attempt to sell their “replacement budget” scheme as “getting spending under control, fixing our broken tax code, creating jobs, and putting us on the path to balance,” but Democrats will be there every step of the way to define “fixing the tax code, creating jobs, and getting spending under control” as absurdly unsustainable tax cuts for the rich, and destroying Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Besides backing out of a budget they already passed two months ago, they will successfully waste taxpayer time and money because their sole motivation for serving in Congress is taking everything from Americans to hand it to their greedy campaign donors.


Symbolic Book-Burning Is Alive And Well In South Carolina

By: Dennis S
Saturday, March, 1st, 2014, 10:04 pm      

If South Carolina is not the most backward state in the nation, it’s tied for first with some of its red state brethren, like say, Arkansas. The latest insult to the intelligence of any civil human being is the punitive symbolic book burning of a publication titled “Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio.” The local newspaper describes it as a publication comprised of a collection of essays and poems from Southern gay residents.

The book was chosen by a panel of educators on the Upstate campus of the University of South Carolina. It is required reading for all incoming university freshmen. Wait for it! Wait for it! KERBOOM!!! The homophobic right-wing went predictably nuts. And in their corner, eager to please even the most radical of his constituents, stood state Representative Garry (yes, 2 r’s) Smith. Riding to the rescue of Neanderthal parents, whose kids were trapped in a literary web of Queerville.

Smith, just turning 57, is an active and enthusiastic member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and serves on its Communications and Technology Task Force. In his homophobic wisdom he decided to emulate symbolically, the actual historical book-burnings that have been all the rage since antiquity right up to the present day.

Via a line item in the upcoming budget, Smith is proposing to cut $17,142 in funding to the University, the exact cost of the books. The College of Charleston is about to meet the same fate. Smith and like-minded colleagues want to punish this fine institution’s theory that we’re all created equal, by withholding $52,000 in funding. According to the Post and Courier, this brouhaha revolves around a committee assigning a book as Summer Reading. “Fun Home” is the best-selling and highly acclaimed memoir written by Alison Bechdel, a lesbian. It includes passages on Alison coming to terms with her sexuality. Smith Characterized the book as “promoting the gay and lesbian lifestyle.”

Holy catfish! A college kid being exposed to a book about sex? A prominent majority (around 60%) of the student population has already done the deed on campus multiple times according to assorted sources.

The College of Charleston caved in somewhat in agreeing to change the process for choosing next year’s selection.

Smith represents District 27 in Greenville County. He lives in Simpsonville. In addition to his legislative duties, he runs a consultancy, Nin Tai Enterprises, out of his home. Nin Tai or nintai is Japanese (he probably picked it up in a Karate class) for patience and perseverance. Merriam-Webster defines perseverance as a continued effort to achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition. And you can bet that the South Carolina homophobic Republican legislative community, with Smith as their mentor, will Nin Tai this issue to its line item conclusion.

Not surprisingly, Smith has been President of the Simpsonville Rotary Club and held the same position in the Simpsonville United Methodist Men’s Ministry. You remember the Methodist church? That’s the same outfit that defrocked one of their ministers for officiating at the marriage of his gay son and partner. It’s not the sinner, it’s the sin, silly!

I decided an extreme gay-basher like Garry Smith, at the very least, deserved a phone call from Dennis S. He actually answered his phone and, to his credit, didn’t rush my call. The first thing I did was tell him how disgusting his proposed book-burning action was to me. He insisted it wasn’t book burning, symbolic or otherwise. He was just responding to the will of his constituents.

In response to my many inquires, he allowed as to how he had no gay family members, but he did have gay neighbors. “Ever have them over for dinner? No. Ever read the book, Out Loud? No! Ever have a heart to heart talk with a homosexual about what it’s like to be gay in South Carolina? No!” I asked him if he was a member of ALEC and he fessed up that he was. Is he ever! He’s even on the Communications and Technology Task Force. I proceeded to give him an ear-full of rhetoric about the ALEC hold on red state legislatures. He had no comment.

I really pressured him on what he had against the gay community. He insisted nothing and went back to the mantra of simply serving his constituency. He also tried to deflect his rancid actions by pointing out wondrous pieces of legislation he had introduced. On examination, I couldn’t find a single piece of legislation he had sponsored all by his lonesome. Even if it was the second coming of the Civil Rights Act, whenever you see a right-winger throw something on the floor of the general assembly of a moderate nature, it’s just to deflect attention away from his or her basic extremism. And you don’t get more extreme than punishing Colleges and Universities for choosing books on subject matter you find objectionable. I also wanted to know if a book had been chosen that was extremely violent, would he recommend fiscal censure. “No.”

I thought the most telling answer I heard from Smith was in response to a question about Amazon (which has a major presence in the state) shipping numerous books with gay content and themes. “Is it your intention to go through their stock and tell Amazon you’re going to take away some of their tax breaks and incentive money for daring to deal in a trade that involves books that may encourage the homosexual lifestyle?” His answer was as predictable as a Kardashian story on E-News. “NO!!!”

I kept asking him why he hated gays and what was it about gays that he found so repugnant. He repeatedly denied hating gays and ducked the issue of repugnance. I finally told him it was most likely the practice of gay sodomy. I informed him that statistically, the act is performed by well over 40% of heterosexual males with over 30% of heterosexual females. There was no rebuttal.

I will say the guy was willing to sit on the phone and take it. Problem is that just when you think the Republicans have hit their nadir of hate and bigotry, along comes another vomitous example topping all that has gone before. How many steps are we away from an actual modern-day American bonfire consuming gay-themed books? Zero! Its already been done. The best-known incident was probably the Kansas City burning in 1993 by a Fundamentalist preacher of Nancy Garden’s coming of age, teenage love for another girl novel, “Annie on My Mind” on the steps of the Kansas City School Board building. He threw in “Heather Has Two Mommies” for good homophobic measure.

And how far are the haters willing to go? Would Smith consider legislation to chain the doors of movie theaters showing the likes of Brokeback Mountain?

Sure he would.


In keeping with Representative Smith’s indifference to forbidding violent reading matter, along comes the Boone, North Carolina county board of education. The board voted Thursday to let local HIGH SCHOOL students continue to read “The House of Spirits.” Included in its contents are passages depicting rape and torture.

Gay-themed books? Never! Rape and torture? Yep! Remember, you’re still in the Deep South.

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« Reply #12259 on: Mar 03, 2014, 06:54 AM »

Ukraine mobilizes following Pig's ‘declaration of war’

By Reuters
Sunday, March 2, 2014 22:01 EST

By Natalia Zinets and Alissa de Carbonnel

KIEV/BALACLAVA, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukraine mobilized for war on Sunday and Washington threatened to isolate Russia economically after the Pig declared he had the right to invade his neighbor in Moscow’s biggest confrontation with the West since the Cold War.

“This is not a threat: this is actually the declaration of war to my country,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said in English. Yatsenuik heads a pro-Western government that took power in the former Soviet republic when its Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovich, was ousted last week.

The Pig secured permission from his parliament on Saturday to use military force to protect Russian citizens in Ukraine and told U.S. President Barack Obama he had the right to defend Russian interests and nationals, spurning Western pleas not to intervene.

Russian forces have already bloodlessly seized Crimea, an isolated Black Sea peninsula where Moscow has a naval base.

On Sunday, they surrounded several small Ukrainian military outposts there and demanded the Ukrainian troops disarm. Some refused, leading to standoffs, although no shots were fired.

As Western countries considered how to respond to the crisis, the United States said it was focused on economic, diplomatic and political measures, but made clear it was not seriously considering military action.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Kiev on Tuesday to show “strong support for Ukrainian sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their own future, without outside interference or provocation,” the State Department said in a statement.


With Russian forces in control of majority ethnic Russian Crimea, the focus is shifting to eastern swaths of Ukraine, where most ethnic Ukrainians speak Russian as a native language.

Those areas saw more demonstrations on Sunday after violent protests on Saturday, and pro-Moscow activists hoisted flags for a second day at government buildings and called for Russia to defend them.

Russia has staged war games with 150,000 troops along the land border, but they have so far not crossed. Kiev said Russia had sent hundreds of its citizens across the border to stage the protests.

Ukraine’s security council ordered the general staff to immediately put all armed forces on highest alert. But Kiev’s small and under-equipped military is seen as no match for Russia’s superpower might.

The Defence Ministry was ordered to stage a call-up of reserves, meaning theoretically all men up to 40 in a country with universal male conscription, though Ukraine would struggle to find extra guns or uniforms for significant numbers of them.

Kerry condemned Russia for what he called an “incredible act of aggression” and brandished the threat of economic sanctions.

“You just don’t, in the 21st century, behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext,” Kerry told the CBS program “Face the Nation”.

He said Moscow still had a “right set of choices” to defuse the crisis. Otherwise, G8 countries and other nations were prepared to “to go to the hilt to isolate Russia”.

“They are prepared to isolate Russia economically. The rouble is already going down. Russia has major economic challenges,” he said. He mentioned visa bans, asset freezes and trade isolation as possible steps.

Obama discussed the Ukraine crisis in calls with allies, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron said they agreed Russia would pay “significant costs” unless it changed course.

Analysts said U.S. economic sanctions would likely have little impact on Russia unless they were paired with strong measures by major European nations, which have deeper trade ties with Moscow and are dependent on Russian gas.

Ukraine’s envoy to the United Nations said Kiev would ask for international military support if Russia expanded its military action in his country.

At Kiev’s Independence Square, where anti-Yanukovich protesters had camped out for months, thousands demonstrated against Russian military action. Speakers delivered rousing orations and placards read: “Pig, hands off Ukraine!”

“If there is a need to protect the nation, we will go and defend the nation,” said Oleh, an advertising executive cooking over an open fire at the square where he has been camped for three months. “If Pig wants to take Ukraine for himself, he will fail. We want to live freely and we will live freely.”

The new government announced it had fired the head of the navy and launched a treason case against him for surrendering Ukraine’s naval headquarters to Russian forces in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, where Moscow has a major naval base.


Obama spoke to the Pig for 90 minutes by telephone on Saturday after the Russian leader declared he had the right to intervene and quickly secured unanimous approval from his parliament.

The Kremlin said the Pig told Obama that Russian speakers were under threat from Ukraine’s new leaders, who took over after Yanukovich fled huge protests against his repression and rejection of a trade deal with the European Union.

The Pig reiterated that stance in a telephone call with Merkel on Sunday, the Kremlin said, adding he and Merkel agreed that Russia and Germany would continue consultations to seek the “normalization” of the situation.

But in a sign of concern among Russian liberals, members of Putin’s own human rights council urged him on Sunday not to invade Ukraine, saying threats faced by Russians there were not severe enough to justify sending in troops.

Ukraine, which says it has no intention of threatening Russian speakers, has appealed for help to NATO, and directly to Britain and the United States, as co-signatories with Russia to a 1994 accord guaranteeing Ukraine’s security.

After an emergency meeting of NATO ambassadors in Brussels, the alliance called on Russia to bring its forces back to bases and refrain from interfering in Ukraine.

Despite expressing “grave concern”, NATO did not agree on any significant measures to apply pressure to Russia, with the West struggling to come up with a forthright response that does not risk pushing the region closer to military conflict.

“We urge both parties to immediately seek a peaceful solution through bilateral dialogue, with international facilitation … and through the dispatch of international observers under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council or the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe,” NATO said in a statement.

Washington on Saturday proposed sending monitors to Ukraine under the U.N. or OSCE flags.

So far, the Western response has been largely symbolic. Obama and others suspended preparations for a G8 summit in Sochi, where Russia has just finished staging its $50 billion winter Olympic games. Some countries recalled ambassadors. Britain said its ministers would stay away from the Paralympics due next in Sochi.

“Right now, I think we are focused on political, diplomatic and economic options,” a senior U.S. official told reporters.

“Frankly our goal is to uphold the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, not to have a military escalation,” he added.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged world leaders on Sunday to work to calm the crisis and defended Russia’s membership of the G8, saying it enabled the West to talk directly with Moscow.


Ukraine’s military is ill-matched against its neighbor. Britain’s International Institute of Strategic Studies estimates Kiev has fewer than 130,000 troops under arms, with planes barely ready to fly and few spare parts for a single submarine.

Russia, by contrast, has spent billions under the Pig to upgrade and modernize the capabilities of forces that were dilapidated after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Moscow’s special units are now seen as equals of the best in the world.

In Crimea, Ukraine’s tiny contingent made no attempt to oppose the Russians, who bore no insignia on their uniforms but drove vehicles with Russian plates and seized government buildings, airports and other locations in the past three days.

Kiev said its troops were encircled in at least three places. It pulled its coast guard vessels out of Crimean ports. Ukraine said its naval fleet’s 10 ships were still in Sevastopol and remained loyal to Kiev.

Scores of Russian troops with no insignia were camped outside a base of Ukrainian troops at Perevalnoye, on a road from Crimea’s capital, Simferopol towards the coast.

A representative of the base commander said troops on both sides had reached agreement so no blood would be shed.

“We are ready to protect the grounds and our military equipment,” Valery Boiko told Reuters television. “We hope for a compromise to be reached, a decision, and as the commander has said, there will be no war.”

Igor Mamchev, a Ukrainian navy colonel at another small base outside Simferopol, told Ukraine’s Channel 5 TV that a truckload of Russian troops had arrived at his checkpoint and told his forces to lay down their arms.

“I replied that, as I am a member of the armed forces of Ukraine, under orders of the Ukrainian navy, there could be no discussion of disarmament. In case of any attempt to enter the military base, we will use all means, up to lethal force.”

A unit of Ukrainian marines was also holed up in a base in the Crimean port of Feodosia, where they refused to disarm.

Elsewhere on the occupied peninsula, the Russian troops assumed a lower profile on Sunday after the pro-Moscow Crimean leader said overnight the situation was now “normalized”.

The Pig's justification citing the need to protect Russian citizens was the same as he used to launch a 2008 invasion of Georgia, where Russian forces seized two breakaway regions.

In Russia, state-controlled media portray Yanukovich’s removal as a coup by dangerous extremists funded by the West and there has been little sign of dissent with that line.

In Donetsk, Yanukovich’s home city, the local government building was flying the Russian flag for the second day on Sunday. The local authorities have called for a referendum on the region’s status, a move Kiev says is illegal. A pro-Russian “self-defence” unit held a second day of protest, attracting about 1,000 demonstrators carrying Russian flags.

(Additional reporting by Peter Graff, Sabina Zawadzki, Pavel Polityuk, Timothy Heritage and Stephen Grey in Kiev, Lina Kushch in Donetsk, Peter Apps and Guy Faulconbridge in London, Will Dunham, Arshad Mohammed and Matt Spetalnick in Washington, and Lou Charbonneau at the United Nations; Writing by Peter Graff, Paul Taylor, Frances Kerry and Peter Cooney; Editing by Philippa Fletcher, Meredith Mazzilli and Mohammad Zargham)


US concedes Russia has control of Crimea and seeks to contain the Pig

• Senior officials say goal is to avoid further Ukraine incursion
• Administration to apply economic and political pressure
• Kerry to fly to Kiev after saying Russia G8 status at risk
• Obama’s 90-minute Putin call: no meeting of minds

Paul Lewis and Spencer Ackerman in Washington and Jon Swaine in New York, Monday 3 March 2014 07.56 GMT     

The US conceded on Sunday that Moscow had “complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula” and announced that the secretary of state, John Kerry, will fly to Kiev in an attempt to halt a further Russian advance into Ukraine.

Senior US officials dismissed claims that Washington is incapable of exerting influence on the Russian president, Pig Putin, but were forced to admit that Crimea had been successfully invaded by 6,000 airborne and ground troops in what could be the start of a wider invasion.

“They are flying in reinforcements and they are settling in,” one senior official said. Another senior official said: “Russian forces now have complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula.”

On Monday, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said he had discussed Ukraine with his Chinese counterpart and their views coincided on the situation there.

Lavrov said in a statement that the two veto-wielding UN security council members would stay in close contact on the issue.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian border guards reported a buildup of armoured vehicles near a ferry port on the Russian side of the Kerch Channel – a narrow sea channel dividing Russia and the Ukraine. A statement from the guard spokesperson said Russian ships had also been moving in and around the city of Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea fleet has a base, and that Russian forces had blocked telephone services in some areas.

Although President Barack Obama’s administration called for the Pig to withdraw troops to Russian military bases on the peninsula, its objective appeared to have shifted to using political and economic threats to prevent any further military incursion.

One senior official said the major decision facing the Pig was whether to “continue to escalate troop movements into other parts of Ukraine”.

“We’ve already seen the intervention in Crimea,” the official said. “It would be even further destabilising to expand that intervention into eastern Ukraine.”

The official added: “Our bottom line is they had to pull back from what they’ve already done, go back into their bases in Crimea. We’ll be watching very, very carefully of course and will be very, very concerned if we saw further escalation into eastern Ukraine.”

Kerry will fly to Kiev on Tuesday, to meet Ukraine’s new government and display “strong support for Ukrainian sovereignty”, a state department official said. However, in Washington there were mounting questions, particularly from Republican opponents of the administration, about the influence Kerry and other officials have over Moscow.

Kerry, Obama and other senior officials spent the last 24 hours frantically attempting to rally an international coalition of countries to condemn Moscow over the Crimea invasion, and commit to economic sanctions in order to prevent a further advance into other pro-Russian parts of Ukraine.

Obama spoke by phone with the British prime minister, David Cameron, Polish president Bronisław Komorowski and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

“We are concerned as we watch this situation that the Russians have badly miscalculated,” one of the senior officials said. “There is a very fierce and proud tradition in Ukraine of defending their sovereignty and territorial integrity. So far Ukraine has showed, and Ukrainians individually have showed, marked restraint … but the longer this situation goes on, the more delicate it becomes.”

Earlier on Sunday, Kerry told CBS leading western nations were prepared to enact economic sanctions against Russia over what he called an “incredible act of aggression”.

“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext,” Kerry said. “It is really a stunning, wilful choice by President Putin to invade another country. Russia is in violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia is in violation of its international obligations.”

Asked how the US and its allies might respond, Kerry stressed the economic harm that could befall Russia if it continued its occupation of Crimea, but repeatedly said “all options” were under consideration.

However, in a conference call with reporters later on Sunday, three senior US administration officials made clear that the “menu” of options before the White House does not include military action.

“Frankly, our goal is to uphold the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, not to have a military escalation,” one of the officials said. “I don’t think we’re focused right now on the notion of some US military intervention. I don’t think that would be an effective way to de-escalate the situation.”

During the call, which last almost an hour, the officials said they were looking to provide Russia with “off-ramps” that would enable the Pig to reverse his course, and were applying pressure through a broad international coalition that had agreed to to ostracise Moscow.

That process has begun with major powers pulling out of preparatory meetings ahead of the G8 summit which is due to be hosted in Sochi in June, as well as the cancellation of other trade-related meetings with Russia planned for this week. In effect, Russia is being threatened with expulsion from the G8 group of countries, unless it withdraws from Ukraine.

That will quickly escalate to possible sanctions, including potential visa and banking restrictions targeting Russians close to the Pig. Currently, the US is reviewing “all of our economic and trade cooperation with the Russian Federation”, one official said, and all 28 members of Nato were planning to sign up to a single statement, strongly condemning Moscow.

“The Pig is not going to have a Sochi G8, he may not even remain in the G8 if this continues,” Kerry told NBC earlier in the day. “He may find himself with asset freezes, on Russian business, American business may pull back, there may be a further tumble of the ruble.”

The Obama administration is also working with the European Union and International Monetary Fund to fast-track a package of financial aid and loans, in order to shore-up Ukraine’s economy.

The officials argued that Russia had miscalculated by invading Ukraine and effectively conquering the Crimean peninsula. What US officials described as the Russian “intervention” was likely to bolster “the people of Ukraine’s desire to reorient towards Europe”, an official said.

Another senior official said: “When it comes to soft power, the power of attraction, the Pig has no game. So he’s left with hard power and it’s a very dangerous game to play.”

However, the senior officials sounded flustered as they struggled with accusations from reporters that Obama had shown himself to be powerless in the face of Russian aggression.

On Friday, Obama made a forceful public address, warning the Pig that there would be “costs” if Russia intervened in Ukraine. On Saturday he spent 90 minutes on the phone with the Russian leader, ultimately failing to dissuade him from taking military action.

Asked if Obama had a “credibility problem”, one senior official replied: “The premise of your question is he [Putin] is strong and [the] president of the United States is weak. He [Putin] is not acting from a position of strength right now.”

The official added: “You’re seeing the ability of the United States to bring with us … the rest of the G7 countries, the rest of Nato, and frankly the large majority of the world in condemning this action.”


Ukrainian Government Rushes to Dampen Secessionist Sentiment

MARCH 2, 2014

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s besieged interim government raced to head off violence that might set off a Russian invasion of its eastern provinces on Sunday, recruiting wealthy eastern businessmen to become provincial governors in an effort to dampen secessionist sentiment there.

As complete Russian control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula became a reality on Sunday, with Western officials reporting that thousands more Russian troops were flowing into the region, worries mounted in Kiev that the mostly ethnic-Russian east could be next to fall.

In Kharkiv, the eastern city that is the country’s second-largest, a sprawling pro-Russian protest camp occupied the central square, and Russian flags were on display. Many said they would even prefer that Russian troops invade the city, just 20 miles from the border, instead of submitting to Kiev’s rule.

“I would welcome them with flowers,” said Aleksandr Sorokin, 55, a pensioner walking by a phalanx of riot police officers guarding the administration building in Kharkiv. “We do not want to spill blood, but we are willing to do so.”

Even as Kiev’s pro-Western government called up its army reserves and vowed to fight for its sovereignty, calling Russia’s invasion of Crimea a “declaration of war,” it mustered a mostly political response to demonstrations in the east.

The office of President Oleksandr V. Turchynov announced the two appointments on Sunday of two billionaires — Sergei Taruta in Donetsk and Ihor Kolomoysky in Dnipropetrovsk — and more were reportedly under consideration for positions in the eastern regions.

The strategy is recognition that the oligarchs represent the country’s industrial and business elite, and hold great influence over thousands of workers in the east. Officials said the hope was that they could dampen secessionist hopes in the east and keep violent outbreaks — like fighting between pro-Western and pro-Russian protesters in Kharkiv that put at least 100 people in the hospital on Saturday — from providing a rationale for a Russian invasion in the name of protecting ethnic Russians.

At the same time, Ukrainian officials sought international help after a rapid Russian invasion of Crimea over the weekend turned into a celebration of pro-Kremlin sentiment in the streets there.

Hundreds of troops acting in the name of the provisional pro-Russian government in Crimea fanned out to persuade the thin Ukrainian forces there to give up their arms or swear allegiance to the new authorities, while the new government in Kiev tried to keep their loyalty while ordering them not to shoot unless under fire.

There were reports Sunday evening that the newly appointed Ukrainian Navy chief, Rear Adm. Denis Berezovsky, had sworn allegiance to “the people of Crimea” and its new government. A YouTube video showed an anxious, sweating Admiral Berezovsky, eyes downcast, quickly pledging to protect the region and its people — ostensibly against the Kiev government. Embarrassed officials in Kiev immediately removed him and said they would investigate him for treason.

In Kiev, Ukraine’s prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, warned that the country was on the “brink of disaster” after the Russian move into Crimea.

“This is the red alert — this is not a threat, this is actually a declaration of war to my country,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said.

What began in Ukraine three months ago as a protest against the government of President Viktor F. Yanukovych has now turned into a big-power confrontation reminiscent of the Cold War and a significant challenge to international agreements on the sanctity of the borders of post-Soviet nations.

But even as Western leaders warned that Russia would face political and economic penalties, and reiterated their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, it was difficult to see what immediate penalties could persuade the Kremlin to retreat from Crimea and stop exerting pressure through its supporters in eastern Ukraine.

Russia on Sunday kept up its propaganda campaign in defense of the Crimean takeover, citing undefined threats to Russian citizens and proclaiming large defections of Ukrainian forces in Crimea, which Western reporters said appeared to be unfounded.

Instead, the scenes were of Ukrainian troops in the peninsula being bottled up in their bases, surrounded by heavily armed soldiers without insignia.

At Perevalnoye, about 15 miles south of the regional capital, Simferopol, hundreds of soldiers in unmarked uniforms, with masks, helmets and goggles surrounded a Ukrainian marine and infantry base, using vehicles with Russian plates. Inside about two dozen Ukrainian soldiers could be seen, equipped with an old BMP armored personnel carrier.

The Ukrainian commander, Col. Sergei Starozhenko, 38, told reporters that the unmarked troops had arrived about 5 a.m. and that “they want to block the base.” He said he expected them to bring reinforcements and call for talks. Asked how many men he had at his command, he said simply, “Enough.” After 15 minutes of conversation with what appeared to be a Russian officer, he said, “There won’t be war,” and returned inside, while the standoff continued.

At the Balaklava offices of the Ukrainian Coast Guard and the border police, the Russian troop trucks that effectively besieged it on Saturday were already gone. A member of the Sevastopol Council, Sergei Nepran, said there had been an agreement with the Russians that the Ukrainians would remain in the office and not be put out to sea. Mr. Nepran claimed that the Sevastopol police “have come over to the people” and are now under control of a new pro-Russian mayor, Anatoly Chaly. Mr. Chaly, he said, had replaced a Kiev-appointed mayor who was forced to resign.

A Ukrainian marine base in the Crimean port of Feodosiya was also surrounded, with the soldiers refusing to disarm. While Ukraine pulled its Coast Guard vessels out of Crimean ports, Kiev said its naval fleet’s 10 ships were still in Sevastopol and remained loyal.

The Russian state-owned news agency Itar-Tass cited the Russian border guard agency claiming that 675,000 Ukrainians had fled to Russia in January and February and that there were signs of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the country.

Russia insists that its intervention is only to protect its citizens and interests from chaos and disorder after the still-unexplained departure from Kiev of the Kremlin-backed president, Mr. Yanukovych.

“If ‘revolutionary chaos’ in Ukraine continues, hundreds of thousands of refugees will flow into bordering Russian regions,” the border service said, according to Tass, providing another unsubstantiated justification for Russian military intervention.

In the eastern city of Kharkiv, where pro-Russian sentiment dominated in the streets, a smaller cadre of pro-Western residents accused Russia of sending people into Ukraine to support the demonstrations. Many of them said they feared an invasion was imminent.

“Russia needs these provocateurs so that it can justify coming in to defend them,” said Vladimir Nakonechniy, 47, who was attending an opposition protest of several thousand in the city on Sunday.

“You could not even find a Russian flag in this city before,” he said. “And now there are suddenly hundreds of them on the streets? I don’t think that is by accident.”


Pressure Rising as Obama Works to Rein In Russia

MARCH 2, 2014

WASHINGTON — As Russia dispatched more forces and tightened its grip on the Crimean Peninsula on Sunday, President Obama embarked on a strategy intended to isolate Moscow and prevent it from seizing more Ukrainian territory even as he was pressured at home to respond more forcefully.

Working the telephone from the Oval Office, Mr. Obama rallied allies, agreed to send Secretary of State John Kerry to Kiev and approved a series of diplomatic and economic moves intended to “make it hurt,” as one administration official put it. But the president found himself besieged by advice to take more assertive action.    

“Create a democratic noose around the Pig's Russia,” urged Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “Revisit the missile defense shield,” suggested Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. “Cancel Sochi,” argued Representative Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican who leads the Intelligence Committee, referring to the Group of 8 summit meeting to be hosted by President Pig Putin. Kick “him out of the G-8” altogether, said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip.

The Russian occupation of Crimea has challenged Mr. Obama as has no other international crisis, and at its heart, the advice seemed to pose the same question: Is Mr. Obama tough enough to take on the former K.G.B. colonel in the Kremlin? It is no easy task. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany told Mr. Obama by telephone on Sunday that after speaking with the Pig she was not sure he was in touch with reality, people briefed on the call said. “In another world,” she said.

That makes for a crisis significantly different from others on Mr. Obama’s watch. On Syria, Iran, Libya and Egypt, the political factions in Washington have been as torn as the president over the proper balance of firmness and flexibility. But as an old nuclear-armed adversary returns to Cold War form, the consequences seem greater, the challenges more daunting and the voices more unified.

“It’s the most important, most difficult foreign-policy test of his presidency,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat who became under secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration. “The stakes are very high for the president because he is the NATO leader. There’s no one in Europe who can approach him in power. He’s going to have to lead.”

Mr. Obama came to office with little foreign-policy experience and has been repeatedly tested by a new world in which the main threats are Islamic extremism and civil war. While increasing drone strikes and initially building up forces in Afghanistan, he has made it his mission to pull out of two long wars and keep out of any new ones.

But the limits of his influence have been driven home in recent weeks, with Syria pressing its war against rebels and Afghanistan refusing to sign an agreement allowing residual American forces. Now the Crimea crisis has presented Mr. Obama with an elemental threat reminiscent of the one that confronted his predecessors for four decades — a geopolitical struggle in the middle of Europe. First, the pro-Russian government in Kiev, now deposed, defied his warnings not to shoot protesters, and now Mr. Putin has ignored his admonitions to stay out of Ukraine.

Caught off guard, Mr. Obama is left to play catch-up. With thousands of reinforcements arriving Sunday to join what American officials estimated were 6,000 Russian troops, the Pig effectively severed the peninsula, with its largely Russian-speaking population, from the rest of Ukraine.

“Russian forces now have complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula,” a senior administration official said on the condition of anonymity.

No significant political leaders in Washington urged a military response, but many wanted Mr. Obama to go further than he has so far. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, has already devised language to serve as the basis for possible bipartisan legislation outlining a forceful response, including sanctions against Russia and economic support for Ukraine.

The president has spoken out against the Pig's actions and termed them a “breach of international law.” But he has left the harshest condemnations to Mr. Kerry, who on Sunday called them a “brazen act of aggression” and “a stunning willful choice by President Putin,” accusing him of “weakness” and “desperation.”

In addition to Ms. Merkel, Mr. Obama spoke with his counterparts from Britain and Poland on Sunday and won agreement from all the other G-8 countries to suspend preparations for the Sochi meeting and find ways to shore up the economically fragile Ukrainian government. The administration also canceled a trade mission to Moscow and a Russian trip to Washington to discuss energy while vowing to also scrap a naval-cooperation meeting with Russia.

In television interviews, Mr. Kerry suggested that the United States might impose sanctions, boycott the Sochi meeting in June and expel Russia from the G-8. Germany, however, publicly expressed opposition to expulsion, an ominous sign for Mr. Obama since any meaningful pressure would need support from Berlin.

But Mr. Obama offered Russia what aides called an “offramp,” a face-saving way out of the crisis, by proposing that European observers take the place of Russian forces in Crimea to guard against the supposed threats to the Russian-speaking population cited by the Kremlin as justification for its intervention.

Mr. Obama’s aides said that they saw no evidence of such threats and considered the claim a bogus pretext, and that they wanted to call the Pig's bluff. Privately, they said they did not expect the Pig to accept, and they conceded that Mr. Obama probably could not reverse the occupation of Crimea in the short term. They said they were focusing on blocking any further Russian move into eastern Ukraine that would split the country in half.

Some regional specialists said Mr. Obama should ignore the talk-tough chorus and focus instead on defusing a crisis that could get much worse. Andrew Weiss, a national security aide to President Bill Clinton, said the Obama administration should be trying to keep Ukraine and Russia from open war. “For us to just talk about how tough we are, we may score some points but lose the war here,” Mr. Weiss said.

The crisis has trained a harsh spotlight on Mr. Obama’s foreign policy, with critics asserting that he has been too passive.

Mr. Corker traced the origins of the Pig's brash invasion to September when, in the face of bipartisan opposition in Congress, Mr. Obama pulled back from plans to conduct an airstrike on Syria in retaliation for a chemical-weapons attack on civilians. Instead, he accepted a Russian offer to work jointly to remove the chemical weapons.

“Ever since the administration threw themselves into the arms of Russia in Syria to keep from carrying out what they said they would carry out, I think, he saw weakness,” Mr. Corker said of the Pig. “These are the consequences.”

Of course, had Mr. Obama proceeded with an attack, he would have paid a different price for ignoring the will of Congress and the grave misgivings of an American public weary of war. Republicans who opposed confrontation in Syria insist this is different.

Mr. Rubio, who opposed authorizing force in Syria, agreed that that conflict had serious ramifications for American interests. But he said the showdown in Crimea was about freedom itself and the hard-fought American victory over totalitarianism in the Cold War. In that sense, even Republicans who opposed Mr. Obama in Syria were pushing for a hard line against the Pig.

“The very credibility of the post-Cold War world and borders is at stake here,” Mr. Rubio said in an interview.

Obama aides reject the notion that he has underestimated the Pig. From the beginning, they said, he had a cold-eyed assessment of the possibilities and limitations of engagement with the Pig. And they noted that neither President Bush’s reputation for toughness nor his courtship of the Pig stopped Russia from going to war in 2008 with another neighbor, the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

While Mr. Obama has not gone as far as many in Washington want him to go, the president has been less focused on immediate actions than on making sure he and America’s traditional allies are on the same page. Working from the Oval Office over the weekend, wearing jeans and a scowl, he called several of his G-8 counterparts to “make sure everybody’s in lock step with what we’re doing and saying,” according to a top aide.

Administration officials said the Pig had miscalculated and would pay a cost regardless of what the United States did, pointing to the impact on Russia’s currency and markets. “What we see here are distinctly 19th- and 20th-century decisions made by the Pig to address problems,” one of the officials said. “What he needs to understand is that in terms of his economy, he lives in the 21st-century world, an interdependent world.”


NATO Wants International Observers Sent to Ukraine

by Naharnet Newsdesk
02 March 2014, 22:42

NATO allies on Sunday urged the deployment of international observers to Ukraine and said the alliance sought "to engage" with Moscow at NATO-Russia talks.

"We urge both parties to immediately seek a peaceful resolution through dialogue, through the dispatch of international observers under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council or the OSCE," said a statement issued after almost eight hours of talks between NATO's 28 ambassadors.

NATO condemned Russia's military escalation in Crimea and expressed "grave concern" about the Russian parliament's authorization to deploy armed forces in Ukraine.

Any such action would be "a breach of international law" and would contravene the principles of the NATO-Russia Council and NATO's Partnership for Peace, it said.

The allies also said the NATO-Ukraine Commission had met at Kiev's request, adding, "we intend to engage with Russia in the NATO-Russia Council."

Asked to elaborate, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said many members had asked for a meeting with Russia and that there would be one, but he gave no timing.

The statement called on Russia to "honor all its international commitments, to withdraw its forces to its bases, and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine.

"We urge both parties to immediately seek a peaceful resolution through dialogue, through the dispatch of international observers under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council or the OSCE," the allies added.

They called also for "an inclusive political process in Ukraine based on democratic values, respect for human rights, minorities and the rule of law, which fulfills the democratic aspirations of the entire Ukrainian people."


Kerry to Visit Kiev as Russia Faces Outcry

by Naharnet Newsdesk
03 March 2014, 07:16

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Kiev this week in a show of support for the embattled leadership, as Washington and its allies slammed Moscow for violating Ukraine's sovereignty.

The top U.S. diplomat led warnings from around the globe that Moscow risked being stripped of its coveted seat as one of the Group of Eight nations, and could face a damaging economic fallout for sending troops into Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

Kerry denounced what he called a "brazen act of aggression", as he pointedly added a stop in Kiev to a planned trip to Rome and Paris this week.

He will meet Tuesday with the new Ukrainian leadership and the parliament to "reaffirm the United States' strong support for Ukrainian sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

The surprise trip reveals growing alarm at fast-moving events in Ukraine, with U.S. senior officials saying Russian forces now had "complete operational control" of southern Crimea.

Washington has renewed calls for Russian President Pig Putin to pull back his troops, and the leaders of the world's top industrialized powers turned on their fellow G8 member, condemning Russia's "clear" violation of Ukraine's sovereignty.

Symbolically billing themselves as the "G7," the leaders said in a statement that Russia's actions were incompatible with the group's principles.

And in unison, they said they would not take part in preparatory talks due this week for June's G8 summit in the Russian city of Sochi.

After a 90-minute phone call with the Pig on Saturday, President Barack Obama spoke Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.

The leaders said Moscow's actions were a "breach of international law and a threat to international peace and security," a White House statement said.

They also pledged to work together on a financial aid package for cash-strapped Ukraine.

In the call with Cameron, "they agreed there must be 'significant costs' to Russia if it did not change course on Ukraine," Downing Street said.

Washington and its G8 allies were prepared to slap sanctions on Moscow, Kerry said, warning billions of dollars in trade and investment could be at stake. There could also be possible visa bans and American businesses may move to pull out of Russia.

"If Russia wants to be a G8 country, it needs to behave like a G8 country," Kerry told CBS television's "Face the Nation."

The Pig "is not going to have a Sochi G8, he may not even remain in the G8 if this continues. He may find himself with asset freezes on Russian business... there may be a further tumble of the ruble," Kerry warned on NBC's "Meet the Press."


The Pig Engages in Test of Will Over Ukraine

MARCH 2, 2014

MOSCOW — President Pig Putin has left little doubt he intends to cripple Ukraine’s new government, forcing it to make concessions or face the de facto partition of areas populated predominantly by ethnic Russians, from the Crimea to Odessa to the industrial heartland in the east.

That strategy has been pursued aggressively by subterfuge, propaganda and bold military threat, taking aim as much at the United States and its allies in Europe as Ukraine itself. The pivotal question now for Kiev and Western capitals, is how boldly the Pig continues to push his agenda, risking a more heated military and diplomatic conflict.

So far, the Kremlin has shown no sign of yielding to international pressure — but it also has not taken the most provocative step yet, openly ordering Russian troops to reinforce those already in Crimea and expand its incursion into southern or eastern Ukraine.

Asked on Sunday about President Obama’s suspension of preparations to attend the Group of 8 summit meeting scheduled for June in Sochi — along with Canada, France and Britain — the Pig spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, replied cuttingly and dismissively. “It’s not a minus for Russia,” he said. “It will be a minus for the G-8.”

The Pig has yet to make public remarks on the crisis in Ukraine, leaving his ultimate goals uncertain and unpredictable. Still, his strategy is aimed at blunting the impact of a popular uprising that sought to push the country away from Russia and deepen ties with Europe, and the Pig has already left the fledgling government disorganized, discredited and forced to compromise on terms that would keep the country firmly within Russia’s sphere of influence, especially regarding the Crimea peninsula.

The Kremlin’s pledge to protect compatriots in Ukraine from suppression of a Western-minded majority mirrors Russia’s role in other disputed territories of the former Soviet republics over the years, including Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Those two breakaway regions of Georgia survived in a diplomatic limbo after the collapse of the Soviet Union with overt and covert Kremlin pressure until war erupted in 2008 and Russia routed ill-prepared Georgian troops.

Russia brushed aside strong warnings from the United States and others at the time and recognized them as independent countries — and paid little price for it in the long run. The Pig appears to be calculating again that Russia is too important for other countries to respond more forcefully, despite warnings like those by Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday that the United States would consider an array of sanctions that could include freezing assets and travel of senior officials here.

“As brilliant as the man is, he has only one pattern,” Nina L. Khrushcheva, a professor of international affairs at the New School in New York, said of the Pig. Ms. Khrushcheva, the great-granddaughter of Nikita S. Khrushchev, whose decision to cede Crimea to Kiev’s jurisdiction instead of Moscow’s in 1954 is a disputed legacy at the heart of Russia’s claims in Ukraine, added, “It’s a clever pattern, but he has only one.”

The stakes in Ukraine are, however, much higher than the war with Georgia. And given Ukraine’s strategic position in the center of Europe, so are the risks. Russia has significant trade with Ukraine, but even more so with Europe. Its gas monopoly, Gazprom, has already made it clear that it was prepared to forgo discounts on natural gas that Russia offered the government of President Viktor F. Yanukovych and to collect on the debt Ukraine already owes. As it did in 2006 and 2009, Russia could turn off the supply to Ukraine. But since its pipelines pass west through Ukraine, that would mean cutting off Russia’s largest customers in Europe, too.

Any escalation of Russia’s military intervention, especially if it meets resistance and bloodshed, will almost certainly rattle investors and plunge Russia’s unsteady economy into free fall. With the value of the ruble already falling, there was quick speculation of a rocky start when the stock market opens on Monday.

For now, such calculations appear to be secondary to the fury that the toppling of Mr. Yanukovych’s government has caused inside the Kremlin. Ukraine has deep historical, social and religious connections to Russia that are often underestimated in the United States, especially. More significantly, Mr. Putin and the close circle of aides he relies on most, view the overthrow of Mr. Yanukovych as a coup orchestrated by the West to undercut Russia’s vital interests.

Sergei Utkin, the head of the Department of Strategic Assessment, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that the relentless anti-Americanism on state media was in the past dismissed as crude propaganda that served a transparent political purpose but appeared now to reflect the actual worldview of the Kremlin. “It’s a catastrophe for Ukraine and for Russia,” he said. “The problem is that quite a few people in Russia don’t understand the consequences. They believe the country is strong and can do whatever it wants to do.”

How the Pig perceives these events remains central to what happens next, experts said. Does he believe he has already succeeded by making clear that Russia has the will and the means to force its agenda in Ukraine? Or does he feel the job is only half done and that having stoked Russian nationalism, he has no choice but to plow ahead?

The deployment of Russian troops across Crimea — which Mr. Peskov refused to acknowledge — has already effectively severed Crimea from Ukrainian control, even as it provoked tense confrontation with Ukrainian troops at some bases. It allowed a new regional leader to plead for Russia’s protection and gave the Kremlin the pretense to oblige.

Ethnic Russian supporters — abetted by Russia’s secret services, according to Ukrainian and foreign officials — are now mounting demonstrations in other cities, including Kharkiv and Donetsk, that could lead to similar calls for Russian intervention.

The unanimous vote by Russia’s upper house of Parliament on Saturday night to authorize an intervention, after a debate that vilified the United States in ways reminiscent of the darkest periods of the Cold War, took place after the first Russian reinforcements had already begun arriving, according to Ukrainian and other Western officials. The vote nevertheless gave the Pig a strong hand to play, threatening a much larger conventional military operation to protect “citizens and compatriots” in Ukraine, as the Pig said in telephone conversations with Mr. Obama and the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, according to the Kremlin.

Mr. Peskov said that the Pig had not yet ordered the operation but now had “the full array of options available to him” if the crisis worsened. He emphasized that Russia supported a unified Ukraine, but also argued that the country’s new leaders had violated the agreement brokered by the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland to establish a unity government that would leave Mr. Yanukovych in place as president until new elections in December.

He suggested a diplomatic resolution would begin with a return to the terms of those agreements. That would mean the dismissal of the new interim government that the United States and others have already endorsed and the return of Mr. Yanukovych, who appeared on Friday at a surreal news conference in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don after dropping out of sight for a week. “He may be the last man to present himself for the presidency,” Mr. Peskov said, reflecting the greatly diminished reputation of Mr. Yanukovych in Moscow now, “but he is the legitimate one.”

For now, though, with a large-scale military exercise in western Russian already underway, the country felt very much on a war footing. By Sunday, an information campaign swept like an orchestrated gust through state-controlled news media. There were frenetic reports of clashes in Ukraine, of fascist threats to ethnic Russians and of the flight — entirely unsubstantiated — of 675,000 Ukrainians crossing Russia’s frontier as refugees. (One channel, in fact, showed a short line of cars at Ukraine’s border with Poland, not Russia.) The official Channel One network canceled its live broadcast of the Academy Awards early on Monday morning here.

The authorities also authorized and evidently helped organize a rally of thousands of people supporting the Pig and the “defense” of Russians in Ukraine on Sunday, while the police rounded up at least 360 people who attempted to rally against war outside the Ministry of Defense and the Kremlin, according to OVD-Info, an organization that monitors political prisoners.

The voices of dissent struggled to be heard over the drums of war. Sergei S. Mitrokhin, the leader of the liberal Yabloko Party, denounced the Federation Council’s vote as “giving a free hand to start a war with a brotherly people.”


Agence France-Presse March 3, 2014 9:19 March 3, 2014 9:19

Russia launches 'propaganda' war over Ukraine

Russia launched an all-out propaganda campaign Sunday to whip up support for possible military action in Ukraine, as state media and ruling party officials claimed armed marauders were terrorising the ex-Soviet nation.

Kremlin-controlled media launched a full-scale operation with footage aimed at discrediting the new Kiev authorities and rousing anger at alleged outrages perpetrated against the Russian-speaking population.

"Our propaganda on state channels is really running wild," commented former economy minister Andrei Nechayev on Twitter.

Fanning suspicions of international involvement in the Kiev protests, news channel Russia 24 aired an apparent confession from a young Russian who claimed he was paid to serve as a sniper with opposition forces.

"There are mercenaries there... they come from very different countries: the United States and Germany, they come wearing identical military uniforms," he alleged.

He said he feared violent reprisals for his revelations, alleging that the protest leaders in Kiev would "just put people in a cellar and kill them".

Named only as Vladislav, he was filmed being grilled by investigators after being caught in the Bryansk region bordering Ukraine.

A Russia 24 anchor added a warning that "mercenaries are now going to Crimea. Their aims are clear enough: to provoke a new wave of the crisis and rob people on the sly".

The same channel interviewed the governor of the Belgorod region bordering Ukraine, Yevgeny Savchenko, who warned that "crowds of armed people" were on the move and on Saturday tried to block a highway to Crimea.

Russian news agencies also issued simultaneous reports that Ukrainian armed forces were deserting en masse and going over to the side of the breakaway Crimean authorities.

The reports were first attributed to correspondents, and then to the region's self-proclaimed prime minister.

The unspecific but threatening reports seemed principally aimed at stirring fears.

- 'Courageous and timely decision' -

Meanwhile top Russian lawmakers spoke out reassuringly on the situation, stressing a mood of national unity rallying around Putin.

"The situation in Ukraine consolidates all Russian civil society," said lawmaker Leonid Slutsky of the ruling United Russia party, who heads the lower house's committee on links with ex-Soviet states.

"Everyone is unambiguously in support of protecting our people in Ukraine, so as not to allow the Russian language and Russians to be pushed out of Ukraine," he said, cited by RIA Novosti news agency.

He said that the crisis acted to "strengthen even further the authority of the Russian president, who is taking a courageous and timely decision."

United Russia called for a popular march in central Moscow on Sunday, calling Ukraine's people a "brother" nation that "needs our protection and support".

The march, hastily organised and sanctioned by city authorities, was set to start at 1300 GMT at Pushkin Square and cover a route across central Moscow.

Under Russian law, rallies have to be agreed with authorities 10 days in advance, something strictly enforced for opposition protests.

United Russia warned that ethnic Russians in Ukraine were "suffering persecution and violence because they speak Russian, remain friendly towards Russia and do not recognise the nationalist Bandera supporters who have seized power".

Stepan Bandera was a controversial guerilla leader of Ukrainian nationalists during and after World War II, whose forces fought against both the Nazis and the Soviets.

Influential United Russia lawmaker Irina Yarovaya appealed to "all people who care, which I am sure is the absolute majority", to turn out.

Opposition media reported that state employees such as teachers had been told to attend the rally, a common practise by the authorities.


Ukraine navy officers reject plea to defect to Russian-backed Crimea

Navy commander Denis Berezovsky – facing treason charges in Kiev – fails to persuade others to join him in switching sides

Shaun Walker in Simferopol and Graham Stack in Sevastopol, Monday 3 March 2014 11.56 GMT       

Ukrainian navy officers have rejected pleas for them to defect to the self-declared Crimean government at an extraordinary meeting at their headquarters in Sevastopol.

On Sunday the recently appointed navy commander-in-chief, Rear Admiral Denis Berezovsky, appeared on television to announce he was defecting to the Russian-supported Crimean authorities. But despite his appeals to officers on Monday, they said they would remain loyal to their oaths to serve Ukraine. Berezovsky has been accused of state treason by the new authorities in Kiev.

Elsewhere in Crimea, Russia continued in its attempts to intimidate Ukrainian forces into submission as troop manoeuvres against bases across the peninsula continued.

At Ukraine's naval command on Monday morning, officers lined up in the yard of their Sevastopol headquarters to be addressed by both Berezovsky and the newly appointed navy chief commander, Serhiy Haiduk.

The officers broke into applause as Haiduk read them an order from Kiev removing Berezovsky from his position, and told them that Berezovsky was facing treason charges. When Haiduk had finished his dry but compelling address, the officers spontaneously broke into the national anthem, and some were seen to cry. Berezovsky showed no visible sign of emotion.

"I know my men will stay loyal to their oaths," Haiduk said before the address. "What Berezovsky has done is a matter for him alone. When he brought intruders in here, we did not offer armed resistance as would have been our right, in order to avoid any provocations the other side would like."

Officers at the HQ said Berezovsky had committed treachery twice – the first time when he broke his oath, and the second time on Monday morning when he requested permission to enter the headquarters and let several Russian special forces officers slip in behind him.

The officers listened sullenly as Berezovsky tried to entice them over to the newly proclaimed Crimean fleet he now heads – assuring them they would retain their ranks and there would be no interruption of salary payments.

"Viktor Yanukovych is the legitimately elected president of Ukraine," he told them, arguing there would be no breach of oath if they served Crimea. "The seizure of power in Kiev was orchestrated from abroad."

When Berezovsky requested questions from the officers, a chorus of criticism broke from the ranks. "In what way exactly did foreign powers intervene in Kiev, compared to the way they are intervening now in Crimea?" asked an officer to applause from those assembled. "Don't ask provocative questions," Berezovsky barked back.

"We are resolving the matter by peaceful means, but we will never surrender our weapons," Haiduk said. Berezovsky refused to comment to press. In the end, he left the building accompanied only by his guards.

Ukrainian officers alleged that Russians had installed a sniper point on a boiler house on the perimeter overlooking the yard of the naval HQ. On approaching, armed and masked troops identifiable by their camouflage pattern as Russian warned to keep away.

Timur, a Ukrainian frigate captain who declined to give his last name for fear of threats to his family, said: "I will stay true to my oath and I am sure this is also true of my fellow officers."

Alexei Mazepa, a spokesman for the Ukrainian ministry of defence, said that Russian forces continued to surround bases around Crimea, in an attempt to force Ukrainians to give up weapons and defect to the self-proclaimed Crimean authorities, who want to hold a referendum on the territory's status on 30 March. So far, Berezovsky appears to be the only high-profile defection.

Mazepa also said that Russian naval vessels were attempting to block Ukrainian vessels, and feared that attempts could be made to storm them soon.

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Ukraine crisis: The Pig has lost the plot, says German chancellor

Angela Merkel describes Russian president as 'out of touch with reality' after urging him to back down from Crimea occupation
Ian Traynor in Brussels and Patrick Wintour, Monday 3 March 2014 09.54 GMT   

The Pig has lost the plot over Ukraine, according to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

US reports said Merkel phoned Barack Obama on Sunday evening after speaking to the Russian president to press him to back down from his invasion of Ukraine and occupation of the Crimean peninsula.

"She was not sure he was in touch with reality, people briefed on the call said. 'In another world,' she said," the New York Times reported.

The vast gap between the Pig and the west's perceptions of what is taking place in Ukraine is adding to the pressure on the White House to take the lead in what US experts are calling the defining international crisis of Barack Obama's two terms. Senior US administration officials concede that the Pig has taken total control of Crimea.

EU foreign ministers gather in Brussels for an emergency meeting on Monday. Nato, also in Brussels, is expected to issue a damning statement on Russia. But the Europeans and the Americans already appear divided and there are also splits among European allies, encouraging the Kremlin to believe that the response from the west will be less than overwhelming.

While Washington is threatening to kick Russia out of the G8 group of leading world economies, Berlin is opposed to this move. The EU foreign ministers are unlikely to get very far in agreeing on economic sanctions against Russia, while John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has spoken of a punitive package aimed at Russia's economic isolation.

Kerry is expected in Kiev on Monday where the foreign secretary, William Hague, described Ukraine as "certainly the biggest crisis in Europe in the 21st century".

Speaking to the BBC from Kiev, Hague said Russia could face "significant diplomatic and economic costs" unless it stops threatening the integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. The Pig needs to return his forces to their barracks in Crimea, he added.

He also urged Russia and Ukraine to start a direct dialogue. Similar calls have come from Washington and it may be that the EU meeting offers to mediate between the two sides, although the Pig will be wary of Europe playing the peacebroker, as it has been an integral factor in the conflict since the Ukrainian crisis erupted in November when the toppled president Viktor Yanukovych ditched trade and political pacts with Brussels.

Merkel suggested to the Pig that the EU send a fact-finding mission to Ukraine. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which was also meeting to discuss Ukraine on Monday in Vienna, could also be charged with the mission, diplomats said.

Hague, who had been meeting Ukrainian leaders in an act of solidarity before attending a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, urged restraint on all sides, saying there were constant risks of miscalculation or a flashpoint. He commended the Ukrainian authorities for "refusing to rise to provocation" and urged them "to stick to that course".

Hague was reluctant to detail the economic sanctions Russia may face, but diplomatic sources pointed out that the Russian economy is more integrated with the west than during the cold war and may suffer reverses on the Russian stock exchange.

Russian shares were tumbling in Moscow by more than 11% at the time Hague was meeting the new Ukrainian leadership in Kiev. He stressed he could not foresee a satisfactory outcome that left Crimea annexed once again by Russia.

He added: "Be in no doubt, there will be consequences. The world cannot say it is OK to violate the sovereignty of other nations." The costs would be imposed unless the Russians respect the sovereignty of Ukraine, he said.

"This clearly is a violation of the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine. If Russia continues on this course we have to be clear this is not an acceptable way to conduct international relations."

Sanctions on Russia could rebound on Europe in a tit-for-tat contest. Russia is a big export market for the EU, which is also highly dependent on Russian energy exports, with about a quarter of its oil and gas originating in Siberia.

Hague denied that western condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine was weakened by the allied invasion of Iraq in 2003, saying Ukraine had never represented a threat to Russia or any other nation. Hague claimed the truth was that Putin had "suffered a major diplomatic reverse and was reacting to that".

He suggested the temporary suspension of preparations for the G8 summit due to be hosted by the Pig in Sochi in June might become permanent, although the Germans are reluctant to close down one of the chief avenues of dialogue between Russia and the west.

Hague said the G7 – the main western economies – were entirely capable of co-operating among themselves without Russia and would move speedily in that direction if this crisis could not be resolved.

Hague acknowledged the relationship between Ukraine and Russia, but said that at the same time the country could have closer links than at present with the EU.


In Crimea’s Phantom War, Armed Men Face Unseen Foe

MARCH 2, 2014

BALAKLAVA, Ukraine — Oleg and Irina Shevtsov, a proudly patriotic Russian couple, took their three young children on an outing Sunday morning to admire a long column of Russian troops and armor that, a day earlier, had secured their Crimean town’s dusty main street. By the time the family got there, however, the Russians had all vanished, disappearing as quickly and mysteriously as they had appeared.

“The children were very disappointed,” said Mr. Shevtsov, a computer expert who, like many others in this nominally Ukrainian but zealously pro-Russian region, was delighted when he first learned of what the Ukrainian government in Kiev and much of the world has condemned as an illegal military occupation.   

A day after what seemed to be the start of a full-scale Russian offensive, however, Mr. Shevtsov and just about everyone else are trying to figure out what it is exactly the Pig of Russia is up to. The swirling drama in Crimea has produced not so much a phony war — as the early and almost entirely peaceful phase of World War II was known — but a strange phantom war in which heavily armed men come and go, mostly in masks and in uniforms shorn of all markings, to confront an enemy nobody has actually seen, except in imaginations agitated by Russian television.

At the headquarters of a newly established pro-Russian self-defense force in the city of Sevastopol on Sunday, would-be recruits gathered beneath a Russian flag and frothed with fury at the “fascists” who they believe have seized power in Kiev and are now preparing to flood into Crimea to plunder and kill anybody who speaks Russian instead of Ukrainian.

“We haven’t seen any of them here yet, but we have seen them on TV,” said Stanislav Nagorny, an aide to the leader of the self-defense force, whose name he said he could not reveal. The mystery commander, he added, “is very, very busy preparing to defend the city.”

On the other side, Ukrainian government officials and their supporters in Kiev have added to the phantasmagoria with claims of Russian troops bursting into the barracks of Ukrainian forces and, in one imaginary instance, shooting up the headquarters of Ukraine’s naval command in Sevastopol.

A visit to the command center, next to a shopping mall, revealed only a few dozen unarmed “self-defense” volunteers pushing packets of cigarettes, candy and bottles of water through a locked gate to glum Ukrainian soldiers standing guard with automatic rifles on the other side.

“The fascists don’t even give them food or water,” said Vadim Bonderenko, a truck driver who signed up to join the resistance movement against a Ukrainian government made up of “the grandchildren of traitors who killed Russian soldiers during World War II.”

By late afternoon, the only action undertaken by either side at the naval command was a modest operation by a small group of pro-Russian activists, each dressed in mismatching ensembles of military clothing from Russia, Germany and even the United States. They hoisted a banner and two flags on the Ukrainian military’s front gate, each emblazoned with the same message: “Sevastopol Without Fascism.”

A few hours later, the Russian news agency RIA-Novostia reported that Ukraine’s naval chief in Sevastopol, Rear Adm. Denis Berezovsky, had jumped ship and sworn allegiance to the people of Crimea.

Without a shot being fired, Russia and its allies in Crimea have already secured what would seem to be a prime objective: a thorough purge of Ukrainian authority from a region that Russia considers its own, having conquered it in the late 18th century and lost it only in 1954 when the Soviet leader at the time, Nikita Khrushchev, himself partly of Ukrainian origin, gave it to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic as a gift.

Home to the Black Sea Fleet and with a long tradition of Russian military valor stretching back to the Crimean War, Sevastopol has in recent days severed nearly all its already tenuous links to Ukraine.

The police and the state security service, which used to take orders from Kiev, are now under the control of Anatoly Chaly, a Russian businessman who became mayor by proclamation last week after his predecessor, a Kiev appointee, resigned under pressure from a throng of pro-Russia protesters.

“They have all come over to the people,” said Sergei Nepran, an assistant to the new mayor, speaking outside the Balaklava headquarters of the Ukrainian Coast Guard, whose officers Mr. Nepran said had not formally surrendered but have agreed to stay inside their barracks.

Russian media, a potent weapon in a battle to demoralize and divide what remains of Ukrainian state authority in Crimea, has announced a string of defections, some true, some not, and kept up a drumbeat with accounts of how Ukraine has slipped into the hands of extremists, terrorists and even Nazis.

As happened during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, rival ethnic and cultural narratives are being stoked by local and national media, and also opportunistic politicians like Gennady Basov, the leader of Russian Bloc, a Crimean political party that is organizing its own self-defense squads and claims to have about 2,000 volunteers ready to fight.

At a rundown Ukrainian military base perched amid barren hills at Perevalnoye, years of peaceful coexistence between ethnic Russians, Ukrainians and an indigenous population of Tatars, a Turkic people, had degenerated by Sunday into a tense standoff between armed soldiers of uncertain affiliations and increasingly unbridgeable quarrels between residents who argue that only their side can protect them.

According to Col. Sergei Starozhenko, commander of the small Ukrainian base, scores of well-armed, Russian-speaking troops had moved in around 5 a.m. and taken up positions around the perimeter.

“They came from Sevastopol,” the colonel said, “How they got there, I don’t know.”

He described them as Russian troops but the gunmen had no insignia on their uniforms and most of their vehicles had no license plates.

A few, however, had the black plates used by Russian forces based in Crimea under an agreement between Kiev and Moscow that was first reached in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union left Russian forces marooned in suddenly foreign land.

After a meeting with his Russian counterpart, the colonel said, “There won’t be war.” He declined to elaborate.

So far, as far as anyone can tell, the closest Crimea has come to any weapons being fired in anger in the current crisis was an episode early on Thursday in Simferopol.

A group of journalists tried to approach the regional Parliament building, which had been seized overnight by yet another group of unidentified masked gunmen, and received a blunt reply when they inquired about the intruders’ identities: the loud bang of a percussion grenade tossed in their direction.

“They were less than communicative,” said Dalton Bennett, a video journalist with The Associated Press who was present.


EU Ministers Seek Joint Response on Ukraine at Crisis Talks

by Naharnet Newsdesk
03 March 2014, 14:06

European Union foreign ministers met Monday for crisis talks on Ukraine seeking to gather hawkish nations and those favoring dialogue behind a common stand on Russia's threat of military incursion.

"It is vital that Europeans speak with a single voice," said France's Laurent Fabius on arriving for the talks that formally begin at 12:00 GMT.

Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt, who along with colleagues from ex Soviet satellites is a proponent of tough action against Russia, said he was "not very optimistic" of a quick fix to the escalating crisis in Europe's backyard.

"Some in Russia are still impressed by their military might," he said. "That is not the way to make friends in Europe, in the world."

The talks, the second such emergency EU get-together on Ukraine in less than two weeks, is expected to see the 28-nation bloc firmly condemn Russia's action while taking a conciliatory tack, seeking a peaceful solution possibly with the help of outside mediation.

That is the line proposed by powerhouse Germany, whose Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived saying it was time for diplomacy.

"Europe is without doubt in the worst crisis since the fall of the (Berlin) wall" 25 years ago, he said.

"The threat of a division of Europe is real again," he added. "Now is the time for diplomacy."

"Diplomacy does not mean weakness but is more needed than ever to prevent us from being drawn into the abyss of military escalation."

On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to the Pig and said he was violating a 1994 accord in which Moscow committed to respect the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine.

But she also suggested, and the Pig agreed, to set up a contact group on Ukraine, reflecting Berlin's desire to keep contacts open with Moscow rather than risk an open breach.

"We need to talk to the Pig, who has his own good reasons for doing bad things," a senior diplomat told Agence France Presse. "The situation is extremely dangerous. We need a way out of this 'us' and 'them' Cold War syndrome."

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders too warned against hawkish talk, siding with Merkel in calling for the door to be left open to dialogue.

Russia faces 'significant costs'

Since the Pig  won the Russian parliament's blessing for a military incursion Saturday, outraged Western powers have threatened to kick Russia out of the G8 club it joined with great fanfare in 1997 as it returned to global respectability after years lost in post-Soviet chaos.

On Sunday the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the presidents of the European Council and European Commission condemned Russia's "clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine."

They said that as a result they could not take part in preparatory talks for June's G8 summit in Sochi, site of the just completed Winter Olympic Games.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in Kiev, where he is meeting the interim Ukrainian government, that Russia faced "significant costs" if it did not change course.

"I don't want to anticipate at the moment what those will be, those will be discussed among my fellow EU foreign ministers today," he said

"But be in no doubt that there would be such costs. The world cannot just allow this to happen. The world cannot say it's okay in effect to violate the sovereignty of another nation in this way."

Hague said Russia was entitled to have forces in Crimea under treaties it had signed.

"But when they are outside their bases they are meant to operate with the agreement of the Ukrainian authorities. Russia needs to return to that situation," he said.


Lavrov Accuses Ukraine's New Leaders of Threatening Minorities

by Naharnet Newsdesk
03 March 2014, 13:59

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday accused Ukraine's new leaders of attacking minority rights and said that ultra-nationalists control many areas of the ex-Soviet country.

"The victors intend to make use of the fruits of their victory to attack human rights and fundamental freedoms... of minorities," Lavrov told the opening of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

"The radicals continue to control the cities" and "limit the rights of linguistic minorities."

"Violence of ultra-nationalists threatens the lives and the regional interests of Russians and the Russian speaking population," he said.

"This is a question of defending our citizens and compatriots and ensuring human rights and the right to life."

The Russian foreign minister also slammed warnings of sanctions and boycotts, as Britain and the US spoke of "consequences and costs" if the Kremlin did not pull back its troops.

"Those who try to interpret the situation as a type of aggression and threaten sanctions and boycotts, are the same who consistently have encouraged (Ukrainians to) refuse dialogue and have ultimately polarized Ukrainian society," he told the opening of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

* PIG THE AGREESOR.jpg (36.66 KB, 460x314 - viewed 67 times.)

* Propagandis Lavrov.jpg (26.49 KB, 340x331 - viewed 66 times.)
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« Reply #12261 on: Mar 03, 2014, 09:32 AM »

In the USA...United Surveillance America

George W. Bush Saw Putin's Soul While Conservatives Said Nothing

By John Amato
March 3, 2014 5:00 am

Conservatives have been bashing President Obama for telling Pig Putin to stay out of the Ukraine or consequences would follow. Funny how quiet they were when George Bush had a man-crush on him

Conservatives have been getting their freak on over the Russian/Ukraine conflict and attacking President Obama vociferously since he told the Pig that there would be consequences if he invaded.

Marco Rubio offered a ghostwritten eight-point plan that the president should implement immediately.

John McCain described Obama as “naïve” about Pig Putin’s ambitions “to restore the Russian empire”.

Charles "I have not taken a shit in five years" Krauthammer claimed that Obama fails to understand that American inaction creates a vacuum.

Rep. Mike Rogers says Putin is playing chess, Obama playing marbles. That's just to name a few of the many attacks that are flying at Obama just minutes after Pig Putin moved into Crimea.

But when George Bush was in office and waxed poetically about Putin, they said nothing. What a shock, right?

    Q: As president you met and dealt with many foreign write, "I've always been able to read people." The Pig, when you first met him you said you got a sense of his soul...

    Bush: I looked in his eyes and saw his soul.

Click to watch:


Ukraine: What a Difference Partisanship Makes

Mar 2, 2014
Military Affairs Columnist

As Russian troops entered neighboring territory the president of the United States, in an address to the nation, expressed his deep concern at reports that Russian troops have “invaded a sovereign neighboring state.” “Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century,” the President said.

Referring to how Russia’s actions have raised serious questions about its intentions in the region, the President said, “These actions have substantially damaged Russia’s standing in the world. And these actions jeopardize Russians’ relations — Russia’s relations with the United States and Europe. It is time for Russia to be true to its word and to act to end this crisis.”

NBC News reported that, while waiting for the results of a European Union initiative, the administration and its allies are debating ways to punish Russia for its invasion, including expelling Moscow from an exclusive club of wealthy nations and canceling an upcoming joint NATO-Russia military exercise and that the President “and his top aides are engaged in urgent consultations with European and other nations over how best to demonstrate their fierce condemnation of the Russian operation.”

NBC also reported that “In the medium term, the United States and its partners in the Group of Seven, or G-7, the club of the world’s leading industrialized nations that also includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, are debating whether to effectively disband what is known as the G-8, which incorporates Russia, by throwing Moscow out, the officials said.” Officials also said, “Russia’s pending membership in the World Trade Organization might also be affected.” However, “the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because no decisions have yet been made and consultations with other countries involved were still under way.”

Meanwhile, as fellow blogger Janet Shan points out, Conservative pundits are wasting no time in slamming President Obama’s handling of the Ukraine crisis.

They are bashing the president for being “all talk and no action,” and are ridiculing his statements of “deep concern” and of “unacceptability” of the Russian actions that “jeopardize” Russians’ relations with the United States and Europe.

On Special Report, Charles "I have not taken a shit in five years" Krauthammer explains that when the president says that the United States will stand with the international community he really means that “we are going to negotiate with a dozen other countries who will water down the statement” and that when the president affirms that there will be costs: “meaning in making a statement not even imposing a cost, but in making a statement about imposing a cost — for any military intervention” — whatever that means.

“What the president is saying is we’re not really going to do anything and we’re telling the world,” "I have not taken a shit in five years" Krauthammer says.

At this point I have to disclose that the president making the remarks, above, about the Russian invasion is not President Obama but rather President Bush in August 2008, during the Russian invasion of Georgia.

However, "I have not taken a shit in five years" Krauthammer’s remarks are indeed "I have not taken a shit in five years" Krauthammer’s and are directed not at his ideological idol, President Bush, but rather at his favorite punching bag, President Obama, and the comments are in reference to the present Russian military intervention in Ukraine.

I really don’t know what "I have not taken a shit in five years" Krauthammer had to say about President Bush’s “deep concern,” “fierce condemnation” and his desire to consult, confer and negotiate “with a dozen other countries” while Russian tanks were rumbling into the city of Gori and thrusting deep into Georgian territory and while, according to Georgian officials, “Gori was looted and bombed by the Russians.”

I don’t know what "I have not taken a shit in five years" Krauthammer had to say about Bush debating with allies on “ways to punish Russia for its invasion of Georgia, including expelling Moscow from an exclusive club of wealthy nations and canceling an upcoming joint NATO-Russia military exercise” while “waiting for the results of a European Union initiative led by French President Nicholas Sarkozy” and while Georgia was being trampled by Russian tanks and soldiers.

Today, nearly six years later, Russian troops remain in Georgia.

Mind you, all the presidential “deep concern” and cautionary statements were after “five days of fierce fighting that may have already killed 2,000 people” in Georgia. Not — as we are now — at the beginning of a Russian military intervention, where the Obama administration has already discussed a broad range of costs to the Russians — costs and measures that "I have not taken a shit in five years" Krauthammer and his colleagues are berating in advance.

Finally, it has just been reported that Secretary of State John F. Kerry will visit Kiev on Tuesday to show support for the new leadership there in the face of Russian military intervention.

One wonders how "I have not taken a shit in five years" Krauthammer will (mis)characterize this latest Obama administration action.

Edited to correct number of years since Russian invasion of Georgia

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Russia Warns Could 'Reduce to Zero' Economic Dependency on U.S.

by Naharnet Newsdesk
04 March 2014, 11:29

Russia could reduce to zero its economic dependency on the United States if Washington agreed sanctions against Moscow over Ukraine, a Kremlin aide said on Tuesday, warning that the American financial system faced a "crash" if this happened.

"We would find a way not just to reduce our dependency on the United States to zero but to emerge from those sanctions with great benefits for ourselves," said Kremlin economic aide Sergei Glazyev.

He told the RIA Novosti news agency Russia could stop using dollars for international transactions and create its own payment system using its "wonderful trade and economic relations with our partners in the East and South."

Russian firms and banks would also not return loans from American financial institutions, he said.

"An attempt to announce sanctions would end in a crash for the financial system of the United States, which would cause the end of the domination of the United States in the global financial system," he added.

He said that economic sanctions imposed by the European Union would be a "catastrophe" for Europe, saying that Russia could halt gas supplies "which would be beneficial for the Americans" and give the Russian economy a useful "impulse".

Glazyev has long been seen as among the most hawkish of the advisors to President Vladimir Putin but many observers have seen his hand in the apparent radicalization of policy on Ukraine since the overthrow of president Viktor Yanukovych.

Economists have long mocked his apocalyptic and confrontational vision of global economics but also expressed concern that he appears to have grown in authority in recent months.

A high ranking Kremlin source told RIA Novosti that Glazyev was speaking in the capacity of an "academic" and his personal opinion did not reflect the official Kremlin policy.

Glazyev described the new Ukrainian authorities as "illegitimate and Russophobic", saying some members of the government were on lists of "terrorist organizations, they are criminals".

"If the authorities remain criminal then I think the people of Ukraine will get rid of them soon," he added.


Top Russians Face Sanctions by U.S. for Crimea Crisis

MARCH 3, 2014

WASHINGTON — The United States prepared Monday to impose sanctions on high-level Russian officials involved in the military occupation of Crimea, as the escalating crisis in Ukraine prompted turmoil in global markets, pounding the Russian ruble and driving up energy prices.

The Obama administration suspended military ties to Russia, including exercises, port visits and planning meetings, just a day after calling off trade talks. If Moscow does not reverse course, officials said they would ban visas and freeze assets of select Russian officials in the chain of command as well as target state-run financial institutions. Congressional leaders signaled that they would follow with sanctions of their own, and quickly approve economic aid for the fragile, new pro-Western government in Ukraine.    

The besieged Kiev government said Monday that the Russians had deployed 16,000 troops in the region over the past week and had demanded that Ukrainian forces there surrender within hours or face armed assault. While Russia denied it had issued any ultimatums, it was clearly moving to strengthen its control over Crimea, the largely Russian-speaking peninsula in southern Ukraine where Moscow has long maintained a military base.

In response to the Russian moves, European leaders indicated Monday that they would go along with limited action like suspending unrelated talks with Moscow and halting arms sales, but they resisted more sweeping efforts to curb commercial activity and investment in Russia.

German officials emphasized the need for diplomacy, while Dutch diplomats ruled out sanctions for now. A British document photographed by a journalist said the government of Prime Minister David Cameron would not support trade sanctions or block Russian money from the British market.

Without European backing, American officials worry that economic sanctions may not carry enough bite to persuade President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to reverse course in Ukraine. By itself, the United States is not even among Russia’s top 10 trading partners, with no more than $40 billion in exports and imports exchanged between the two each year. By contrast, Europe does about $460 billion in business with Russia, giving it far more potential clout, but also exposing it to far more potential risk.

“It’s particularly important for the United States to bring Europe along,” said Julianne Smith, a former national security aide to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. “To the extent that the United States tries to put economic pressure on Russian industry, they won’t feel the impact as much as they would if we had Europe standing with us. That’s easier said than done.”

Even without taking action, Western officials hoped the immediate and unscripted reaction of world markets would give Moscow pause. Russia’s benchmark stock index dropped 9.4 percent, and the ruble fell to a record low against the dollar. The Russian central bank took the extraordinary step of raising interest rates by 1.5 percentage points, spending an estimated $20 billion to support the currency.

In his first public comments on the confrontation in three days, President Obama said Monday that he was focused on assembling an economic aid package to shore up the Ukrainian government and asked that Congress make it “the first order of business,” drawing quick endorsements on Capitol Hill.

“What we are also indicating to the Russians,” Mr. Obama added, “is that if, in fact, they continue on the current trajectory that they’re on, that we are examining a whole series of steps — economic, diplomatic — that will isolate Russia and will have a negative impact on Russia’s economy and its standing in the world.”

Secretary of State John Kerry’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, went even further: “At this point, we’re not just considering sanctions, given the actions Russia is taking.”

Russia responded that it was only protecting its interests and those of Russians in Ukraine. “Those who try to interpret the situation as an act of aggression, threaten us with sanctions and boycotts, are the same partners who have been consistently and vigorously encouraging the political powers close to them to declare ultimatums and renounce dialogue,” Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said in a speech in Geneva.

The Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said in a statement: “Although the Department of Defense finds value in the military-to-military relationship with the Russian Federation we have developed over the past few years to increase transparency, build understanding and reduce the risk of military miscalculation, we have, in light of recent events in Ukraine, put on hold all military-to-military engagements between the United States and Russia.”

The crisis prompted tense meetings at the United Nations, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. NATO called its second emergency meeting on Ukraine in response to a request from Poland under Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty relating to threats to a member state’s security and independence.

Meeting in Brussels, European Union foreign ministers called on Moscow to return its troops to their bases. They also threatened to freeze visa liberalization and economic cooperation talks and skip a Group of 8 summit meeting to be hosted by Russia in June. Heads of the European Union governments will meet in emergency session on Thursday to discuss the measures.

But the Europeans made clear they were not yet willing to go as far as the United States in terms of economic strictures at this point. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, said that “crisis diplomacy is not a weakness, but it will be more important than ever to not fall into the abyss of military escalation.”

Frans Timmermans, the foreign minister for the Netherlands, the largest Russian export market, told reporters that “sanctions are not in order today but sanctions will become inevitable” if there is no change in Russia’s position.

Visiting Kiev, Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, urged Russia to pull back its forces or face “significant costs,” echoing comments made by Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry, who was to arrive in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, on Tuesday.

But a British government document carried by an official near 10 Downing Street in London and photographed by a journalist indicated a resistance to tougher measures. The document, shown on the BBC, said that Britain should support ways of providing energy to Ukraine “if Russia cuts them off” but that European ministers should “discourage any discussion” of military preparations. “The U.K. should not support for now trade sanctions or close London’s financial center to Russians,” the document said.

Russia is effectively the world’s biggest energy supplier, exporting more natural gas than any other country and more oil than any other nation after Saudi Arabia. Russia is also the biggest exporter of industrial metals and the fifth-biggest consumer market globally.

“The biggest argument for severe economic sanctions not being imposed is that the European countries don’t have much of an alternative to Russian energy supplies,” said Jens Nordvig, the New York-based managing director of currency research at Nomura Holdings Inc.

Several of the biggest Western energy companies have major investments in Russia, including B.P. and Royal Dutch Shell.

It may also be difficult for Mr. Obama to sell sanctions to the American business community if it is being cut off while competitors still have access to Russian markets. Russia is Pepsi’s second-largest market and a significant market, too, for companies like Boeing, General Motors, John Deere and Procter & Gamble.

ExxonMobil, the largest American oil company, has a joint venture deal with the state-controlled oil company, Rosneft, to explore what may be a very rich Arctic area called the Kara Sea. ExxonMobil is also working with Rosneft on drilling in the Baltic Sea and on other projects.

But congressional leaders said they would move forward with sanctions as well as aid to Ukraine. A Senate Foreign Relations Committee bill would use $200 million in aid and loan guarantees to leverage $1 billion in international economic assistance. An additional $50 million would be steered from existing State Department accounts for electoral administration.

Beyond that, lawmakers are drafting legislation focused on denying visas to members of Mr. Putin’s inner circle and denying Russia assistance through the International Monetary Fund. Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the majority leader, said House leaders were reviewing measures aimed at “Russian officials, oligarchs and other individuals complicit in Russia’s efforts to invade and interfere with Ukraine’s sovereign affairs.”


Ukraine crisis: US-Europe rifts surfacing as Putin tightens Crimea grip

Barack Obama threatens to 'isolate Russia' as EU ministers resist trade sanctions

Ian Traynor in Brussels, Shaun Walker in Bakhchisarai, Paul Lewis in Washington, Ed Pilkington in New York and Nicholas Watt   
the Guardian, Tuesday 4 March 2014   
A rift appeared to be opening up on Monday night between the US and Europe on how to punish Vladimir Putin for his occupation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, with European capitals resisting Washington's push towards tough sanctions.

With the Americans, supported by parts of eastern Europe and Sweden, pushing for punitive measures against Moscow, EU foreign ministers divided into hawks and doves, preferring instead to pursue mediation and monitoring of the situation in Ukraine and to resist a strong sanctions package against Russia.

On Monday night the White House announced it was suspending military ties and co-ordination with Russia, covering bilateral activities such as exercises and port visits. Barack Obama said the White House was "examining a whole series of steps – economic, diplomatic – that will isolate Russia and will have a negative impact on Russia's economy and status in the world".

On the ground in Crimea, Russian forces continued to tightentheir stranglehold, intimidating and surrounding Ukrainian marines in an attempt to force them to surrender without shots being fired. There were further ominous developments in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian crowds forced their way into a number of government buildings.

Obama said the US state department was reviewing its entire portfolio of trade and co-operation with Moscow, including preparing a raft of possible measures targeting senior government and military officials implicated in the invasion of the peninsula. Obama said the condemnation from other countries aimed at Russia "indicates the degree to which Russia's on the wrong side of history on this".

The president is expected to use his executive authority to bypass Congress to quickly target senior Russian officials. But Washington is clearly aware it may struggle to rally support for punitive measures from Europe.

"The most important thing is for us – the United States – to make sure that we don't go off without the European community," the majority leader in the Senate, Democrat Harry Reid, told Politico. "Their interests are really paramount if we are going to do sanctions of some kind. We have to have them on board with us."

But at an emergency meeting in Brussels the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Italy and Spain resisted calls for trade sanctions, instead limiting discussion to freezing long-running talks with Russia on visa liberalisation that would have made it easier for Russians to visit Europe. Washington is also threatening to kick Russia out of the G8 group of leading economies, but Berlin opposes that.
THe secret document carried by an official The secret government document, which reveals Britain's attempts to ensure any EU action against Russia over Ukraine would exempt the City of London

Britain's attempts to ensure any EU action against Russia over Ukraine would exempt the City of London were embarrassingly revealed when a secret government document detailing the plan was photographed in Downing Street. The document said Britain should "not support, for now, trade sanctions … or close London's financial centre to Russians".

Like other EU countries, and especially Germany, which obtains almost 40% of its gas and oil from Russia, the UK is reluctant to adopt measures that could damage its still fragile economic recovery.

In any event, further discussion of EU sanctions are likely to have to wait until an emergency leaders summit in Brussels on Thursday.

Rather than stronger sanctions Berlin is pushing the idea of a "contact group", under the auspices of the democracy watchdog the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, to go to Ukraine and monitor the grievances of both sides following the Russian seizure of Crimea, achieving its aims without a shot being fired. But no decision was taken on an OSCE "factfinding mission".

As the Russians consolidated their hold on Crimea and the US administration conceded the peninsula was under complete Russian control, there were contradictory reports of an ultimatum to remaining Ukrainian forces to surrender their weapons by early on Tuesday .

Senior Russian government figures insisted they wanted to avoid a war in Ukraine, but also demanded a new and "more inclusive" government in Kiev and that the policies of the country would have to take account of Russian interests.

The costs of the conflict to Putin became quickly apparent. The rouble fell 2% against the dollar and $55bn (£33bn) was wiped off the Russian stock exchange on Monday as the instability shattered investors' confidence. The value of Gazprom, Russia's energy giant, whose exports to Europe go via Ukraine, fell by $12bn.

As the US secretary of state, John Kerry, headed for Kiev, the Russian foreign ministry accused him of being a cold warrior and demanded the reinstatement of the toppled president, Viktor Yanukovych, who fled Kiev for Russia on 21 February. Moscow said that an agreement that would have kept him in office for the rest of the year, negotiated last Friday, should be reactivated.

But at the Kiev negotiations Russia was the sole party not to support the deal and refused to sign it. It was signed by the German, Polish, and French foreign ministers.

Senior US officials dismissed claims that Washington was incapable of exerting influence on the Russian president, but were forced to admit Crimea had been successfully invaded by 6,000 airborne and ground troops in what could be the start of a wider invasion. "They are flying in reinforcements and they are settling in," said one senior official. Another said: "Russian forces now have complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula."

On Monday morning, Russian soldiers were reported to have further cemented their control of the region overnight, having seized a ferry terminal in the Ukrainian port city of Kerch, about 12 miles from Russia.

The soldiers were reported to be Russian-speaking, driving vehicles with Russian number plates, but refused to confirm their identity. Residents of the neighbouring port town Nikolayev reported Russian troops had arrived overnight, intensifying fears Moscow will send further soldiers beyond Russian-speaking Crimea into eastern Ukraine.

Russia's Interfax news agency reported that Russian fighter jets twice violated Ukraine's air space over the Black Sea during the night. It said Ukraine's air force had scrambled a Sukhoi Su-27 interceptor aircraft and prevented any "provocative actions".

Ukrainian border guards reported a buildup of armoured vehicles near a ferry port on the Russian side of the Kerch channel – a narrow sea lane dividing Russia and Ukraine.
Ukrainian soldiers guard the entrance of a military base in the Crimean city of Bakhchisaray. Ukrainian soldiers guard the entrance of a military base in the Crimean city of Bakhchisaray. Photograph: Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

A statement from the guard spokesperson said Russian ships had also been moving in and around the city of Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea fleet has a base, and that Russian forces had blocked telephone services in some areas.

German officials denied US reports that the chancellor, Angela Merkel, following a phone conversation with Putin, had told Obama that the Russian leader had lost touch with reality.

While the alarm is high, there is also relief in western capitals that the crisis has not yet turned into a shooting war.

"The real danger is that someone just loses their nerves, not out of political reasons, but because it's so tense," said Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister.

Hopes of a possible way out of the crisis were raised in New York on Monday when Russia called an emergency session of the UN security council, prompting speculation among Western governments that Moscow was preparing to compromise.

In the event, however, the two-hour meeting descended into a verbal slanging match between the Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin and his counterparts for the US, UK and France.

In highly undiplomatic language rarely heard in the august security council chamber, a succession of ambassadors accused Russia of flagrantly violating international law and its own duties as a permanent member of the UN body. Several members also accused Churkin of fabricating claims of violence against Russian speakers in Crimea to justify Moscow's military intervention.

"So many of the assertions made this afternoon are without basis in reality," said Samantha Power, the US representative. "Is Russia justified in invading parts of Ukraine? The answer of course is no. Russian mobilisation is a response to an imaginary threat."

The French ambassador, Gerard Araud, said the Crimea action reminded him of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia when he was 15. "Russia seems to be coming back to its old ghosts playing an old fashioned role in an outdated setting."

In comments after the meeting ended, Araud said the outcome was "very disappointing. We are 50 years back."

The UK ambassador, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, said hopes for the meeting had been dashed. "We saw nothing about any openness to try and find a political path to de-escalate the situation," he said.

For his part, the Russian ambassador was unapologetic and unbending. Churkin said that Viktor Yanukovich, the ousted president of Ukraine, remained the legitimate head of state, and he described the leaders of the new government in Kiev as "radical nationalists" and anti-Russians.

He asked other council members to imagine that the US Congress had impeached President Obama while he was out of the White House and on a trip to California. "Would that be democratic?" he said.

He also reminded the French that they had imposed measures to prevent peaceful protesters from wearing masks in the street, and the Americans that their former president Ronald Reagan had invaded Grenada in 1983 to protect 1,000 Americans. "We have millions living there [Russian speakers in Crimea] and we are protecting their concerns."

Former US presidential candidate Senator John McCain said he was "disappointed" by the UK's position and said European countries were "ignoring the lessons of history". Asked if it was right to avoid such sanctions, he said: "Of course not. I am not astonished, to be very frank with you. Disappointed but not astonished."

The present situation was "the result of five years of naive relations with Russia, not the beginning of it", he said.

"If the Europeans decide that the economic considerations are too important to impose severe sanctions on Vladimir Putin - which you get from the statement by Angela Merkel today - then they are ignoring the lessons of history," he added - comparing Mr Putin's actions with those of Hitler in 1938.


From Russia, ‘Tourists’ Stir the Protests

MARCH 3, 2014

DONETSK, Ukraine — Around the south and east of Ukraine, in vital cities in the country’s industrial heartland, ethnic Russians have staged demonstrations and stormed buildings demanding a wider invasion of their country by Moscow.

But some of the people here calling for Russian intervention are themselves Russian — “protest tourists” from across the border.

They have included passport-carrying Russians, like Aleksey Khudyakov, a pro-Kremlin Muscovite who said he traveled here “to watch and maybe to give some advice.” In Kharkiv, another Russian scaled a government building to dramatically plant his country’s flag — offering at least the image that President Vladimir V. Putin’s forces were being invited in.  

It is clear that in this part of Ukraine, many ethnic Russians distrust the fledgling government, and some would indeed welcome Russian troops. But the events unfolding in major Ukrainian cities in recent days appear to match a pattern played by the Kremlin in Crimea, where pro-Moscow forces paving the way for Russia to seize control were neither altogether spontaneous, nor entirely local.

As pro-Russia demonstrations in 11 cities have suddenly erupted where significant populations of ethnic Russians live, the apparent organization of the demonstrators, appearances of Russian citizens and reports of busloads of activists arriving from Russia itself suggest a high degree of coordination with Moscow. At a minimum, Russians are instigating protests by Ukrainians sympathetic to Moscow, helping to create a pretext for a broader intervention if Mr. Putin decides to push things that far.

In Donetsk, when the crowd took control of the Parliament building on Monday, the Soviet-era ballad “Russians Don’t Surrender” blasted from loudspeakers and Mr. Khudyakov huddled in conversation with the leader of Donetsk Republic, a local organization demanding greater autonomy from Kiev. Back home, Mr. Khudyakov is better known for having founded several nationalist vigilante groups with the tacit blessing of the Russian government.

The most dramatic expressions of the new pro-Russia fervor have taken place here, the former political base of Viktor F. Yanukovych, the country’s deposed president, and in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second most populous city, just 20 miles from the Russian border.

When a crowd of thousands of pro-Russia demonstrators in Kharkiv stormed an administration building occupied by pro-Kiev demonstrators on Saturday in a melee that left two dead and 100 hospitalized, a 25-year-old Muscovite, who was staying in a hotel just off the square, scaled the building, lowered the Ukrainian flag and hoisted the Russian banner in its place.

“I am proud that I was able to take part in defeating the fighters who came to ‘protest peacefully’ with knives in Kharkiv and raise the Russian tricolor on the building of the liberated administration,” wrote Mikhail Chuprikov, who hotel employees confirmed checked in under a Russian passport, in a blog post under a pseudonym.

The protests have served as grist for Russian state television networks, which hailed the footage of the Russian flag being raised across Ukraine as evidence of a rejection of the new government in Kiev by ethnic Russians. Russia’s permanent mission to NATO posted on Twitter a map of Ukraine with superimposed images of Russian flags in 11 Ukrainian cities where the protests took place on Saturday, including the Black Sea port of Odessa, as well as Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv and Donetsk.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has condemned Kiev for allowing what it called armed bandits to raise havoc in the country’s east, citing the shooting of a Russian tourist and an unconfirmed nighttime assault on a police station in Crimea, which security personnel defending the station denied happened.

Amid the rumors and rising anxiety, self-declared municipal self-defense groups have emerged, saying they are ready to fight the spread of fascism — Mr. Putin’s description of the new leadership and its supporters — from the country’s west with Russia’s help.

Monday’s seizure of the Parliament building here was led by Pavel Gubarev, the founder of the People’s Militia of Donbass, the coal-mining region where Donetsk is. In a speech from the dais of the captured Parliament chamber, he rejected Kiev’s authority and called on Mr. Putin to bring troops to the city.

The sudden uprisings have shocked many in the region, where there was strong sentiment against the pro-West demonstrators in Kiev, but few calls to draw closer to Russia until very recently.

“I am sure that they are paid,” said Valentina Azarova, 55, a former seamstress, pointing at a dozen young men spitting sunflower seed shells in a pro-Russia protest camp in central Kharkiv on Sunday.

“I am Russian, and I am embarrassed for my country,” she said, discussing the possibility that Russian troops could come to the city. “Russia is here just as much as Russia is in the Crimea.”

In Donetsk, the movement for greater ties with Moscow seems to have gained a foothold. The City Council on Saturday called for a referendum on greater autonomy for the region, which the Ukrainian government has called illegal. At the Parliament building, Roman Romanov, the head of the police for the Donetsk region, told protesters that he “obeys the people,” but urged restraint from them, saying the “police are here to help you.”

Mr. Gubarev, the militia leader, has demanded that he be made the head of Donetsk’s regional government. When his supporters took the Parliament building, he collected identification cards to identify members barricaded on the upper floors of the building in case they tried to leave.

Many of the Parliament members had scratched their faces off the cards with pens in an apparent attempt to avoid identification.

Pro-Russia protesters caught one man who dashed out of the building before it was seized, beat him on a busy downtown street and covered his face with a green liquid.

In general, however, protest leaders tried to prevent outright violence.

At 4:45 p.m., protesters agreed to allow Parliament employees to leave the building. One member of Parliament who asked not to be named called the situation “a black hole.”

“This is the hand of Russia,” he said.

On the streets, protesters chased those leaving the building in suits and demanded to see their passports to determine whether they were elected officials. They pushed the members of Parliament back into the building, chanting, “Work!”

“Don’t hit anyone, and don’t break anything,” called out a buzz-cut protest organizer who gave his name as Viktor, who said he was a supporter of Mr. Gubarev. “If there is violence, it will make problems for the Pig.”


03/03/2014 05:23 PM

The New Ukraine: Inside Kiev's House of Cards

By Christian Neef, Wladimir Pyljow and Matthias Schepp

In the days after Yanukovych's fall, the Ukrainian president's lavish lifestyle spurred outrage around the world. Now the provisional government is struggling to avoid the corruption and clientelism that plagued its predecessors.

It was 11:37 a.m. last Wednesday when Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's wealthiest and most powerful oligarch, released a statement: "Like all Ukrainians, we want to create a new country in which democracy and the rule of law are supreme. We will participate in the blossoming of Ukraine."

Akhmetov, who controls more than 100 companies with 300,000 employees, was a close confidant of toppled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. In contrast to many others of his standing, he remained in the country and his statement was a clear indication that he had switched allegiances to the new government in Ukraine. It was received with a sigh of relief in Kiev.

By then, many other rich and powerful Ukrainians had long since left, including the top Ukrainian official sitting sitting in a café near Pushkin Square in the center of Moscow last week. He too had served the Yanukovych government in recent years. "Only God knows when I will be able to return to Kiev," he says. Afraid that the country's new leaders might take revenge, he adds, "please just call me Oleg."

Oleg can effortlessly recite the names of section heads responsible for issues pertaining to Russia and Ukraine in the foreign ministries of Western European capitals. He knows them all. He soberly recounts how Europe rebuffed him and his delegation while the Kremlin ratcheted up the economic pressure on Ukraine in recent years. "The EU should have gotten involved," he says.

Then Oleg explains the preparations made by Yanukovych to storm Independence Square, the location of the mass protests that ultimately brought down his government. Oleg says he knows that fighters from the elite ALFA unit were responsible for setting fire to opposition headquarters and that ALFA snipers opened fire on demonstrators from the rooftops of surrounding buildings. "Everything went according to plan. But then Yanukovych suddenly flinched and ordered the offensive to be stopped," Oleg says.

He says that when foreign ministers Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Laurent Fabius and Radoslaw Sikorski spent the night negotiating with Yanukovych on February 20-21, the Ukrainian president's aides were busily preparing his escape. "They packed up suitcases and boxes. In the end, the helicopters were so heavy that they could hardly take off," Oleg says.

Top League of Eastern Oligarchs

Last week, several additional members of Yanukovych's entourage arrived in Moscow. Many of them consider their former head of state to be a traitor who plunged his country into chaos through his indecision. Even some of Yanukovych's closest allies have headed abroad, such as Sergei Kurchenko, a 28-year-old billionaire. Kurchenko is said to have fled to the Belorussian capital of Minsk after Yanukovych was toppled. Then, eyewitnesses claim to have seen him in the bar of the Radisson Royal in Moscow a week ago.

Kurchenko is considered the financier of the Yanukovych clan -- he is referred to in Ukraine as the "billfold." His VETEK Group most recently reported annual turnover of some €7.3 billion ($10 billion). One year ago, with Ukraine stuck in a deep economic crisis, the company invested in a service station chain in Germany focusing on liquefied natural gas. Kurchenko also purchased a refinery in the Ukrainian Black Sea city of Odessa from the Russian oil giant Lukoil. In December 2012, he bought the football club FC Metalist Kharkiv, along with the stadium.

He had, in short, become part of the top-league of eastern oligarchs, despite his modest origins. With an estimated worth of $2.4 billion, he had climbed up to seventh place in the list of the country's richest people published by the Ukrainian magazine Korrespondent. He is not, however, mentioned in the list published by the Ukrainian edition of Forbes. Because the magazine had published several critical articles about his fairy-tale rise to riches and his friendship with Yanukovych's oldest son Alexander, Kurchenko simply bought the publication.

It was, however, a former journalist at his new paper who discovered 30 sacks in an underground garage in Kiev early last week. They contained shredded documents from Kurchenko's collection of companies. Prior to the discovery, VETEK employees had removed computers from the holding company's offices and destroyed their hard drives. The bags of shredded documents revealed contracts, legal proceedings and bank remittances, including the purchase of a motorboat for €2 million. Insiders have begun reporting about the wasteful and eccentric lifestyle led by the up-and-comer. The oligarch allegedly hired a celebrity chef from the West and paid him €100,000 for just one day's work. When Kurchenko didn't like what he was served, he fired the cook.

The oligarch was married, but also is said to have maintained a relationship with a Moscow television personality. He flew with his mistress across Europe in his private jet and they would meet for dinner in the Russian capital in a private section of Turandot, the famous gourmet restaurant.

His ties with Yanukovych were close right up until the end. Just two weeks ago, the National Bank of Ukraine propped up Kurchenko's Brokbusinessbank with a billion hryvnia, roughly equivalent to €84 million. The loan came at a time when Ukraine was facing bankruptcy.

Changed Lives

Yanukovych remained loyal to the young businessman because Kurchenko was an important building block of his regime. Last summer, when Ukraine was still flirting with Europe, Kurchenko made preparations to purchase natural gas on European markets via foreign subsidiaries. It was clear to the leadership in Kiev that were Ukraine to sign an Association Agreement with Brussels, the Kremlin would likely respond by curbing natural gas deliveries. That would have been a problem for Yanukovych the president, but not Yanukovych the businessman -- Kurchenko would have resold the natural gas to Ukraine at a hefty mark-up, and the president's clan would likely have profited as well.

The collapse of the Yanukovych regime has changed the lives of many in Ukraine. Kurchenko isn't the only one who has disappeared. The judge who once sentenced Yulia Timoshenko is also missing as is the ex-interior minister who referred to the Maidan activists in Kiev as fascists and the former commander of the Berkut special police force, which was disbanded last week.

But in Kiev, anarchy has been making inroads. Ukrainians speak of "Makhnovshchina," a reference to the anarchist-Communist partisan movement under the leadership of Nestor Makhno during the civil war that started in 1917. Makhnovshchina is a term applied to anything that smells of capriciousness and chaos.

Revenge taken against the rich and prominent is part of that chaos. In the Kiev suburb of Gostomel, 20 assailants burned down an estate belonging to Communist Party head Petro Symonenko. A Toyota Land Cruiser and an Aston Martin Vantage -- a €129,000 vehicle allegedly driven by his wife -- were found in the garage.

Parliament has seen its share of audacity too. Last week, laws were being rapidly pushed through -- including some of with doubtful legal underpinnings and seemingly questionable adherence to the constitution. But revolution is in the air and everything has to go quickly. On occasion, Speaker of Parliament Oleksander Turchinov introduces appointments and then signs them immediately, as acting president of Ukraine.

Tuchinov was long the éminence grise of Yulia Timoshenko's Fatherland alliance, but has now become the country's most important figurehead. He is head of parliament, acting president and is simultaneously coordinating the establishment of a new government. "Yanukovych couldn't have dreamed of having so much power," commented the editor-in-chief of one Kiev newspaper.

Skepticism of Timoshenko

The biggest loser thus far has been Vitali Klitschko's UDAR party, which has been unable to keep up with Turchinov's fast pace. When it came time to appoint a new governor of Ukraine's national bank last Monday, UDAR was still trying to agree on a candidate of its own. Undeterred, Turchinov simply called a vote and had his own favorite installed -- a candidate who hadn't even been part of previous discussions. The Fatherland alliance, with its experienced apparatchik Turchinov, is handing out portfolios and cabinet positions as it sees fit. Last Wednesday, its party head Arseniy Yatsenyuk was named acting prime minister.

Early on, the protesters on Independence Square could only stand by and watch, basically forgotten as power was divvied up. It is the fate of many revolutionaries: The new power brokers seek to do away with those who brought them to power. But last Tuesday, the Maidan, as the movement is known, forced parliament to delay the establishment of a transitional government and won a promise that a third of all government posts would go to activists instrumental to Yanukovych's overthrow. Only the radical Right Sector militant group was dissatisfied. The group had sought to get its leader, Dmitry Jarosh, appointed deputy prime minister, a post which also includes responsibility for the police and secret services.

And Yulia Timoshenko? Her arrival on Independence Square a week ago as part of a convoy of Mercedes and Lexus sedans was not well received. It shows, wrote one Kiev newspaper, that she "still doesn't understand what is happening in the country." Half of the emotions she displayed in her Maidan speech, it argued, were feigned. "Ukraine needs reforms, not emotional outpourings."

Timoshenko, one of the heroes of the 2004 Orange Revolution, seems to have understood. When it came to divvying up government posts, she too made a plea on behalf of the Maidan activists.

Still, the skepticism activists have for Timoshenko remains difficult to ignore. They are afraid that the political profiteering of recent years will carry on, just with different beneficiaries. And Timoshenko herself was long part of the Ukrainian establishment.

Their concern appears to be justified. Last Monday, a high-ranking officer from Ukraine's customs administration contacted a newspaper to inform editors of a new deal pertaining to the "internal" allocation of unexpected customs revenues. No longer would confiscated money and valuables be given to Yanukovych's Party of Regions as they had been previously. Rather, they would go to the Fatherland alliance. Timoshenko, the man said, had personally approved the deal. Furthermore, the Communist Party, he said, had been handed the leadership of the customs administration so that it would support Timoshenko in the future. The impression was that the struggles for influence which characterized the years following the Orange Revolution had returned.

Still, Kiev-based publicist Valery Kalnysh says she remains hopeful that the political system will be able to clean itself up. She notes that many parliamentarians now support a move to make police archives public as well as those from the defense ministry, the secret services and the public prosecutor's office. Nowhere in the former Soviet Union has such a step been taken.

Recent documents have already begun coming to light. Last week, papers emerged showing that the SBU secret service had sought to recruit people on Independence Square to provoke a military response. The papers also showed that the Ukrainian army had been tapped with the crushing of the protests. According to order number 313, issued on Feb. 18, 30 trucks, two helicopters and 2,500 troops from the airborne forces were to be made available. The soldiers were to be deputized as military police and allowed to arrest civilians and raid homes and apartments. The use of weapons was expressly permitted.

Translated from the German by Charles Hawley


Russia Troops Continue to Flow into Crimea amid Conflicting Reports on Surrender Ultimatum to Ukraine Forces

by Naharnet Newsdesk
03 March 2014, 17:33

Russian troops and military planes were flowing into Crimea on Monday in violation of accords between the two countries, Ukrainian border guards said, as Moscow reportedly warned Ukrainian forces in Crimea to surrender or face a confrontation.

The Interfax news agency quoted a Ukrainian defense ministry source as saying that “the Russian fleet has given Ukrainian forces in Crimea a 12-hour ultimatum to surrender or face a storm."

A Ukrainian defense ministry spokesman told Agence France Presse that Russian forces have given Ukrainian soldiers an ultimatum to surrender their positions in Crimea or face an assault.

"The ultimatum is to recognize the new Crimean authorities, lay down our weapons and leave, or be ready for an assault," said Vladyslav Seleznyov, the regional ministry spokesman for the Crimea. He said base commanders had informed the ministry of "different times" for the ultimatum to expire.

However, the Russian Black Sea fleet based in Crimea swiftly denied there were plans to storm Ukrainian military positions on the peninsula, calling reports of an ultimatum "nonsense," Interfax said.

"That is complete nonsense," a representative of the fleet was quoted as saying after Ukraine's regional military said it had received an ultimatum to surrender early Tuesday or face attack.

"We are used to daily accusations about using force against our Ukrainian colleagues," he said. "Efforts to make us clash won't work."

Over the last 24 hours, 10 Russian combat helicopters and eight military cargo planes have landed on the flashpoint Black Sea peninsula, the guards said in a statement, while four Russian warships have been in the port of Sevastopol since Saturday.

Kiev received no warning regarding the troop movements, even though that is required by the international laws regarding the stationing of Russia's Black Sea navy in Crimea.

Under these agreements, Ukraine should receive notice of any troop movements 72 hours in advance.

Crimea, which has housed Russian navies since the 18th century, has come under control of Russian forces and local pro-Kremlin militia, who have surrounded several Ukrainian military bases.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Igor Tenyukh has accused Russia of sending 6,000 additional troops into Crimea.

On Saturday, Russia's parliament gave President Vladimir Putin the green light to send troops to Ukraine, in a crisis that threatens to escalate into the worst since the Cold War.

Also on Monday, some 300 pro-Russian demonstrators occupied the regional government building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, stronghold of former president Viktor Yanukovych, an Agence France Presse reporter witnessed.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 protesters had gathered earlier in front of the building brandishing Russian flags and chanting "Russia, Russia!", before a smaller group broke into it, smashing windows and occupying several floors.


THE PIG Denies Russian Forces Operating in Crimea: Yanukovych has No Political Future

by Naharnet Newsdesk
04 March 2014, 14:13

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday denied that Russian forces were operating in Crimea, saying that only "local forces of self-defense" were surrounding Ukrainian military bases in the region.

He pointed out that deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych had no political future but asserted he was legally still head of state.

"I think that he has no political future. And I told him this," Putin said in comments broadcast on state television, adding that Russia had offered sanctuary to Yanukovych for humanitarian reasons. He said earlier that Yanukovych was, however, still the "sole legitimate president of Ukraine".

Asked if Russian forces took part in operations in Crimea he said, "No, they did not participate," adding: "There are lots of uniforms that look similar."

Ukraine's new authorities have said that several thousand Russian troops have poured into Crimea over the last days, in claims backed by Western officials.

However Putin portrayed the events that has seen armed men in unmarked uniforms seize several Ukrainian army bases in Crimea as an uprising by locals worried about the new authorities in Kiev.

Asked why the men are so well-equipped, Putin said that protesters in Kiev were also well equipped and worked "like clockwork".

"They worked... like special forces," he said. "Why should they not work as well in Crimea?"

"The Crimeans are very worried. For this reason they formed committees of self-defense and taken all armed forces under control."

"Thank God that this was done without a single shot and everything is in the hands of the Crimean people."


03/04/2014 12:56 PM

Crimean Crisis: All Eyes on Merkel

By Philipp Wittrock and Gregor Peter Schmitz

As the conflict with Russia over Crimea intensifies, Germany is playing a central role in communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But the international community has doubts that Chancellor Angela Merkel can pull it off.

Germany had only recently announced the end of its era of restraint. German President Joachim Gauck, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen of the Christian Democrats and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the Social Democrats have all argued that it's time for Germany to play a greater role in the world.

Steinmeier couldn't have expected that he would need to follow-through on his push for an "aggressive foreign policy" so quickly. But the dramatic escalation in Crimea needs quick answers and it has become a focus of Chancellor Angela Merkel's government in Berlin.

"Europe is, without a doubt, in its most serious crisis since the fall of the Berlin Wall," Steinmeier said on Monday. "Twenty-five years after the end of the conflict between the blocs, there's a new, real danger that Europe will split once again."

Partly as a result of Steinmeier's key role in Kiev in February -- in which he, together with his French and Polish counterparts, helped forge a last-minute agreement to ward off a bloodbath in Kiev -- but also because of Germany's traditional role as a go-between with Russia, many are now looking to Merkel as a potentially vital intermediary with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It is a tremendous challenge. And it isn't just the Europeans who will be watching Berlin closely. The US too is hoping Germany will live up to its new desire to wield influence. According to Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institution, Washington's currently troubled relationship with Russia means that it cannot do much -- and that Germany must therefore play a more important role.

Merkel Dives Into Diplomacy

Ties between Berlin and Moscow have traditionally been constructive. even if Putin and Merkel have a difficult personal relationship. Still, the two continue to talk, with the chancellor phoning Putin several times in recent days to express her view that the "unacceptable Russian intervention in Crimea" is a violation of international law. In parallel, she has also tried to open a channel of communication between Moscow and Kiev. Putin said he was willing to talk about the formation of a "contact group" and a fact-finding mission is supposed to determine the situation on the ground.

Like Merkel, her foreign minister has also spend almost all of his time engaged in crisis diplomacy, including a dinner meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Monday night. Steinmeier has been widely praised for his work, particularly for his role in hammering out a peace plan in Kiev, while people were dying on Independence Square.

But therevolutionary dynamic flushed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych away almost as soon as Steinmeier had boarded his plane for Berlin. The West was almost surely aware that such an eventuality might occur. But Moscow -- not entirely unjustly -- has accused Steinmeier et. al. of not pressuring the opposition in Kiev to stick to its side of the agreement. As a result, Steinmeier now has even more responsibility: If violence breaks out in Crimea, his efforts in Kiev will have been rendered worthless.

International Doubts

In the US, there are now doubts that Germany can fulfill its planned role. CNN's security expert tweeted on Sunday that the German silence about cancelling a preparatory meeting for the June G-8 summit in Sochi is "deafening." The US, Britain, France and Canada cancelled first. Germany only joined later to give the impression of unity. A former US top diplomat in Washington said on Sunday: "The EU is dysfunctional, but Berlin is the real problem." It doesn't help, she argued, that Merkel is a hesitant leader.

In Berlin, such accusations are largely considered to be hackneyed and tired. Of course European crisis diplomacy is difficult, they argue, when a giant country like Russia is creating facts on the ground in Crimea. But while Ukraine is located across the world from the United States, it only takes three hours to fly from Frankfurt to Simferopol.

And then there's Europe's dependency on Russian natural gas. Germany receives 35 percent of its natural gas imports from Russia, and a similar proportion of its oil. The Europeans would be well-advised, the Merkel camp argues, not to fan the flames with Cold War rhetoric.

The United States, of course, has moved forward, taking steps on Monday to impose sanctions on high-level Russian officials and suspending military ties to the country.

European Reluctance

European leaders have been more cautious: Dutch diplomats have stated that they will not impose sanctions, and British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he wouldn't lend his support to punitive trade measures or prevent the flow of Russian money into the UK. And the chancellor, first and foremost, is playing for time, hoping that emotions will cool. She believes that Putin will react heatedly to punitive measures, which is why she is opposed to sanctions or to excluding Russia from the G-8.

The New York Times reported on Monday what Merkel really thinks of the Russian president: The paper wrote that she told Barack Obama via telephone that she is not sure if Putin is "in touch with reality." Berlin did not officially confirm the quote, expressing it in more diplomatic terms -- that Putin and the West have a "very different perception" of the events in Crimea.

The Americans, of course, would rather she had expressed herself a bit more forcefully. And the world is watching to see if she ultimately will.


Is Europe's gas supply threatened by the Ukraine crisis?

Russia supplies about 30% of Europe's gas – should we be worried? John Henley reports

Jon Henley   
The Guardian, Monday 3 March 2014 23.44 GMT   
Last December, Ukraine's now-deposed, pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych abandoned a trade deal with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia. One of the sweeteners in the $20bn support package that helped persuade him was a steep discount – around 30% – on the price that Russia's gas giant, Gazprom, was then charging Ukraine for the natural gas on which it relies. This weekend, as relations between the two countries descended to an alarming new low, Moscow warned that the cut-price deal was unlikely to last much longer.

Gazprom, which controls nearly one-fifth of the world's gas reserves and supplies more than half of the gas Ukraine uses each year, insisted the threatened price rise merely reflected cash-strapped Ukraine's inability to meet its contractual obligations. The state-owned company said that Kiev owes it $1.55bn for gas supplied in 2013 and so far in 2014, and shows little evidence of paying up. But this is not the first time Russia has used gas exports to put pressure on its neighbour – and "gas wars" between the two countries tend to be felt far beyond their borders. Russia, after all, still supplies around 30% of Europe's gas.

In late 2005, Gazprom said it planned to hike the price it charged Ukraine for natural gas from $50 per 1,000 cubic metres, to $230. The company, so important to Russia that it used to be a ministry and was once headed by the former president (and current prime minister) Dmitry Medvedev, said it simply wanted a fair market price; the move had nothing to do with Ukraine's increasingly strong ties with the European Union and Nato. Kiev, unsurprisingly, said it would not pay, and on 1 January 2006 – the two countries having spectacularly failed to reach an agreement – Gazprom turned off the taps.

The impact was immediate – and not just in Ukraine. The country is crossed by a network of Soviet-era pipelines that carry Russian natural gas to many European Union member states and beyond; more than a quarter of the EU's total gas needs were met by Russian gas, and some 80% of it came via Ukrainian pipelines. Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Poland soon reported gas pressure in their own pipelines was down by as much as 30%.

While it was eventually resolved through a complex deal that saw Ukraine buying gas from Russia (at full price) and Turkmenistan (at cut price) via a Swiss-registered Gazprom subsidiary, the dispute gave the EU a fit of the jitters: a compelling demonstration, Brussels said, of the dangers of becoming overdependent on one source of supply. But three years later, the same row erupted again: Gazprom demanded a price hike to $400-plus from $250, Kiev flatly refused, and on New Year's day 2009, Gazprom began pumping only enough gas to meet the needs of its customers beyond Ukraine.

Again, the consequences were marked. Inevitably, Russia accused Ukraine of siphoning off supplies meant for European customers to meet its own needs, and cut supplies completely. As sub-zero temperatures gripped the continent, several countries – particularly in south-eastern Europe, almost completely dependent on supplies from Ukraine – simply ran out of gas. Some closed schools and public buildings; Bulgaria shut down production in its main industrial plants; Slovakia declared a state of emergency. North-western Europe, which had built up stores of gas since 2006, was less affected – but wholesale gas prices soared, a shock that was declared "utterly unacceptable" by Brussels.

So last weekend's news that Gazprom intends to start charging Ukraine around $400 per 1,000 cubic metres for its gas, as opposed to the $270-odd it has been paying since Yanukovych spurned Brussels for Moscow – sparking the demonstrations that led to his downfall – might seem alarming. Many industry experts, though, point out that the world has changed since 2009, and that there are any number of reasons why Moscow's natural gas supplies may not prove quite the potent economic and diplomatic weapon they once were.

For starters, we are not now in early January but in March, considered the final month of the continental European heating season, when demand is likely to be highest. Moreover, this has been a particularly mild winter – the mildest since 2008 – and higher than normal temperatures are forecast to continue for several weeks yet, significantly reducing demand for gas and leaving prices at their lowest for two years. Energy market analysts at the French bank Société Générale said in a briefing note last month that European gas demand in 2013 was at its lowest level since 1999. In the UK, gas consumption is currently approaching a 12-year low.

Partly as a result of weaker demand, but also because since the first "gas war" of 2006, many European countries have made huge efforts to increase their gas storage capacity and stocks are high. Some countries, such as Bulgaria, Slovakia and Moldova, which lack large storage capacity and depend heavily on gas supplies via Ukraine, would certainly suffer from any disruption in supplies. But Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE), which represents the gas infrastucture industry, estimated that in late February European gas storage was 10 percentage points higher than this time last year and about half full; the National Grid puts Britain's stocks at about 25 percentage points above the average for the time of year.

"The conflict won't have any impact at all" on prices, a Frankfurt-based analyst told Bloomberg News. "The gas price is currently influenced by temperatures and storage levels, and both don't favour demand right now." Prices of gas for delivery next month have risen around 10%, but that reflects insecurities in the market about a possible military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine rather than worries about fundamental shortages of supply were Gazprom to turn off the taps, the analyst told the agency.

Other, structural changes have lessened the potential impact on Europe of a disruption to Russian gas supplies through Ukraine. New Gazprom pipelines via Belarus and the Baltic Sea to Germany (Nord Stream) have cut the proportion of Gazprom's Europe-bound exports that transit via Ukraine to around half the total, meaning only about 15% of Europe's gas now relies on Ukraine's pipelines. Gazprom is also planning to start work in 2015 on a Black Sea pipeline (South Stream), meaning its exports to Europe will eventually bypass Ukraine completely. Ukraine itself has cut its domestic gas consumption by nearly 40% over the past few years, halving its imports from Russia in the process.

Moreover, a boom in sales of US shale gas means longstanding gas exporters such as Russia now have to fight for their share of the market. Europe is increasingly installing specialist terminals that will allow gas to be imported from countries such as Qatar in the form of liquefied natural gas – while Norway's Statoil sold more gas to European countries in 2012 than Gazprom did. "Since the Russian supply cuts of 2006 and 2009, the tables have totally turned," Anders åslund, an energy advisor to both the Russian and Ukrainian governments, told the Washington Post.

Gazprom has no wish to see sales to Europe disrupted. At its annual meeting with investors in London on Monday, company officials were optimistic about its prospects despite a 13% fall in its share price triggered by recent events in Ukraine. Indeed, they predicted Russia's share of Europe's total gas supply would actually increase in future as overall consumption – and Britain and Norway's gas production – declines.

Europe accounts for around a third of Gazprom's total gas sales, and around half of Russia's total budget revenue comes from oil and gas. Moscow needs that source of revenue, and whatever Vladimir Putin's geo-political ambitions, most energy analysts seem to agree he will think twice about jeopardising it. Short of an actual war, the consensus appears to be, Europe's gas supplies are unlikely to be seriously threatened.

• This article was amended on 4 March 2015. An error during the editing process led to an earlier version suggesting that the South Stream pipeline would be operational in 2015. Work is expected to start then.

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« Reply #12263 on: Mar 04, 2014, 07:22 AM »


Pro-Russia groups take over government buildings across Ukraine

Activists break into buidlings in Donetsk, Odessa and Luhansk as poll finds many in those areas would like reunification

Oksana Grytsenko   
The Guardian, Monday 3 March 2014 19.51 GMT   

Pro-Russian forces in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk have overrun a government building and proclaimed they have taken over the regional administration, locals have told the Guardian. In an ominous sign of the spread of anti-Ukrainian sentiment among Russian-majority parts of the country, similar actions were reported in Odessa on the Black Sea and Luhansk, near the border with Russia.

At about midday on Monday100 people broke into the Donetsk regional administration building via the back door, secured the ground floor and meeting room of the administration office, and hoisted a Russian flag atop the building. Several hundred people were also waving Russian flags and shouting slogans in a nearby square.

"The separatists announced the creation of their own regional administration headed by Pavel Hubarev," Oleksiy Matsuka, editor of the Novosti Donbassa local newspaper, told the Guardian. "Their authority isn't recognized by anybody." He added that the local police had launched a criminal investigation into the incident.

The attack may have been prompted by the appointment by the new authorities in Kiev of a new governor for the region, oligarch Sergiy Taruta.

There were similar scenes in Luhansk overnight after 400 people broke into the local administration waving Russian flags and the flags of Russkoye Edinstvo pro-Russian block. The invaders claimed they did not recognise Kiev's authority and called on Putin to bring Russian troops to Ukraine.

A further 3,000 pro-Russians rallied outside the regional administration in Odessa, chanting "referendum". Later they faced off against Ukrainian nationalists who demanded they remove the Russian flag. The police separated the two groups and the governor of the Odessa region, Mykola Syrotiok, started negotiations with representatives of both sides behind closed doors.

The residents of Donetsk, Luhansk and Odessa, together with Crimea, have the highest pro-Russian aspirations of any of the Ukrainian regions. A poll by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation and the Kiev International Institute of Sociology presented on Monday found that when asked if they wanted Ukraine to reunify with Russia, 33% from Donetsk approved, as did 24% in Luhansk and Odessa and 41% in Crimea.

"But in Ukraine as a whole, the number of people who would like to have one state with Russia is no more than 13%," said Volodymyr Paniotto, head of the Kiev International Institute of Sociology. He added that only 16% of Russians wanted unification.

"I don't think Russia aims with its current aggression to annex Ukraine east and south, or even Crimea – they don't need it," said Valery Chaly, deputy head of the Razumkov thinktank. "Russia only wants to keep Ukraine on a lead … Putin wishes to prevent the final decay of Soviet Union."


Frayed Nerves in Crimea as Rumors of War Spread

MARCH 3, 2014

As Ukraine is tugged by the East and the West, many in Crimea welcome Russia’s aggressive stance, hoping Moscow will secure their place in a fractured future.

SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine — Rumors and raw nerves over Russia’s intentions reverberated on Monday throughout Crimea and especially this Black Sea port, where dozens of Ukrainian sailors donned orange construction helmets and draped mattresses over the side of their ship in response to what they feared was a Russian ultimatum to vacate the vessel.

Across Crimea, the talk turned more to war, even as actual fighting remained hearsay and imaginary for a peninsula of two million inhabitants with little history of open ethnic conflict, particularly between Russians and Ukrainians — brother Slavs who share centuries of culture.

In Sevastopol, which carpets the hills surrounding Black Sea bays and inlets, a sunny, almost summery day provided an unlikely backdrop for a day jangled by worry over whether blood would actually be spilled.

The ship — the Slavutych — was one of two vessels accorded the Ukrainian Navy at the Russian naval port here after tortuous negotiations following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Earlier Monday, a Russian minesweeper, the 912, patrolled nearby, supposedly keeping the Slavutych and a smaller vessel, the Ternopil, from departing.

As darkness fell, the mattresses, apparently meant to help repel an attack, appeared on both ships amid widespread talk of a 5 a.m. Tuesday ultimatum issued by the Russians to clear the vessel. Russia’s official news agency denied any such ultimatum had been issued, but residents of the nearby Severnaya district of Sevastopol clustered near the vessel nonetheless, worried that hostilities would erupt. But about 90 minutes after the supposed ultimatum had expired, there were no reports of a Russian attack or Ukrainian resistance.

Five miles away, Rear Adm. Sergei I. Gaichuk took over earlier Monday as the new commander of Ukraine’s slender fleet — a naval force carved out of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet and far inferior to that of the Russians, who have a lease on Sevastopol until 2042.

Clearly apprehensive after his predecessor Denys Berezovsky lasted barely a day in office before joining the Russians, the admiral declared himself “on the side of the Ukrainian people” and loyal to acting President Oleksandr V. Turchynov.

Local reporters and a handful of foreigners were admitted into the command headquarters of the Ukrainian Navy, a collection of white and blue buildings on the outskirts of Sevastopol. The reporters had to pass a cordon of six armed men dressed in khaki who spoke Russian and seemed torn by their guard duty, turning to avoid cameras and casting their eyes low beneath their helmets.

Inside, Capt. Andrei A. Ryzhenko, 45, expressed the agony of Ukrainians now facing potential conflict with their more powerful Russian counterparts, recalling that they had cooperated perfectly in several exercises and projects involving all nations bordering the Black Sea.

“We are a little bit shocked,” the captain said. “We worked next to each other, we studied together.” It was barely credible that such closeness could fall apart in the space of a week, he said.

That feeling was widespread in Sevastopol and the surrounding region, as what largely seemed like a phantom war fueled both dread and disbelief.

One woman who had no doubt that the appearance of mysterious armed forces in her town was nothing but bad news was Elmira Ablyalimova, 39, who confronted camouflage-clad soldiers surrounding the Ukrainian military base in her hometown Bakhchysaray.

She sought out their commander after a cluster of his soldiers, their guns draped over flak jackets or propped against trees, drank water just a few feet away from local children playing in a primitive playground on the edge of the small base.

“Please, I am begging you,” she beseeched the commander, a silent man who had descended from a military transport truck. “You’re a handsome young man, you must have a wife and children and parents, a family of your own. We don’t need you here in our town to protect us.”

He listened for several minutes then moved away, she said. Ms. Ablyalimova, who said she worked in the local administrative government, was furious. “We all know each other here” in the town of 27,000, she said.

Self-defense forces who were also patrolling outside the small base — from which the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag still waved — consisted mostly of men from different towns, she said. “I never saw them before — and they are the ones who think this is good,” Ms. Ablyalimova said.

“This is just Putin who decided to grab our country,” she said, referring to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who got authorization from Parliament late Saturday to deploy Russian forces to Ukraine, an addition to the thousands of Russian forces who are already allowed to be in Crimea under the 1990s arrangement to preserve the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.

“But it is our country and our motherland,” the woman insisted, identifying herself as a Crimean Tatar, one of tens of thousands who returned here after Stalin exiled them to Central Asia.

Indignant, she marched off to complain again to the soldiers, and chat to friends. All said they were suffering sleepless nights.

The same kind of tired nerves were on display at a small base in Lubimovka, near Sevastopol, where about 200 Ukrainian soldiers had dug in behind sandbags on the manicured lawns of the base. Many smoked; some did not appear to have weapons to resist what they insisted was an expected Russian assault. Power had been cut, the men said.

A group of their wives and daughters blocked the gate, kissing their husbands and looking with hostility and apprehension at a small group of pro-Russia women nearby.

Oleg Podavlovy is the deputy commander of the base, which houses the pilots who fly from the nearby military airfield of Belbek, where access was blocked Monday afternoon by a self-defense roadblock. He was unequivocal about an impending Russian assault, even as he hoped to avoid bloodshed in defending his post.

“Our task is not to protect the authorities, nor deputies, but the state. We protect Ukraine — no matter whether it’s Crimea, Lviv, Donetsk — it makes no difference,” he said.

“The armed forces of another state have entered our territory,” he said. “It’s aggression, pure and simple. What Russia is saying, that ‘they’re not our units, it’s self-defense militia,’ it’s nonsense. I’ve seen them, I’ve spoken with them, they’re special forces.”

At other military bases throughout the peninsula, tight-lipped soldiers presumed to be Russian special forces, without identifying insignia and carrying large automatic weapons, stood at the gates, preventing anyone from coming in or out. Self-proclaimed defense militias, in plainclothes but wearing red or black and orange armbands, stood in a line, creating a barrier in front of the soldiers.

In some cases, crowds gathered with Russian flags and signs denouncing the new provisional government in Kiev as fascist. Many also expressed strong anti-American views.

Ksenia Kaluzhnaya, 40, who stood in one such crowd outside the headquarters of Ukrainian Naval Base A-0225 in downtown Sevastopol, said there was no desire for violence, but that Crimeans were defending their identity. “We don’t want a war,” Ms. Kaluzhnaya said. “We want Sevastopol as it is, as it was and always will be: a Russian city.”

People in the crowd angrily demanded that journalists on the scene show credentials, while one man, listening to an interpreter assisting a French journalist, shouted that only Russian should be spoken. When reporters tried to question the soldiers standing at the gate, members of the self-defense militia closed ranks and pushed the journalists away.

A woman nearby who would give her name only as Tamara said: “Russians never started a war. Russians always ended wars.”


Ukraine PM Yatsenyuk to Meet EU Leaders Thursday in Brussels

by Naharnet Newsdesk
04 March 2014, 12:26

Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk will meet EU leaders Thursday ahead of an emergency summit the same day on the crisis in his country, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said.

EU leaders "will discuss situation in Ukraine with PM Yatsenyuk in Brussels Thursday prior to extraordinary summit," Van Rompuy said in a Tweeted message Tuesday.

EU foreign ministers on Monday condemned Russia's "acts of aggression" in the Ukraine and warned that ties were at risk unless Moscow reversed course and took steps to de-escalate the crisis by Thursday's summit.

"In the absence of de-escalating steps by Russia, the EU shall decide about consequences for bilateral relations between the EU and Russia," the foreign ministers said in a statement after their emergency meeting.

The EU was also ready to "consider further targeted measures" against Russia, it said.

The crisis, seen as the worst in Europe since the Cold War, has sparked a flurry of diplomatic activity in response to Russia's move into the Crimean peninsular, a largely Russian-speaking area and home to its Black Sea fleet.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is due to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Madrid Tuesday and then go on to Kiev on Wednesday.


Don't listen to Obama's Ukraine critics: he's not 'losing' – and it's not his fight

The ‘do something’ pundits rear their heads. Just like they did on Iraq, Afghanistan and every other crisis of US ‘credibility’

Michael Cohen, Monday 3 March 2014 17.19 GMT   

In the days since Pig Putin sent Russian troops into the Crimea, it has been amateur hour back in Washington.

I don’t mean Barack Obama. He’s doing pretty much everything he can, with what are a very limited set of policy options at his disposal. No, I’m talking about the people who won’t stop weighing in on Obama’s lack of “action” in the Ukraine. Indeed, the sea of foreign policy punditry – already shark-infested – has reached new lows in fear-mongering, exaggerated doom-saying and a stunning inability to place global events in any rational historical context.

This would be a useful moment for Americans to have informed reporters, scholars and leaders explaining a crisis rapidly unfolding half a world away. Instead, we’ve already got all the usual suspect arguments:
Personality-driven Analysis

Let’s start here with Julia Ioffe of the New Republic, a popular former reporter in Moscow who now tells us that Putin has sent troops into Crimea “because he can. That’s it, that’s all you need to know”. It’s as if things like regional interests, spheres of influence, geopolitics, coercive diplomacy and the potential loss of a key ally in Kiev (as well as miscalculation) are alien concepts for Russian leaders.
Overstated Rhetoric Shorn of Political Context

David Kramer, president of Freedom House, hit the ball out of the park on this front when he hyperbolically declared that Obama’s response to Putin’s actions “will define his two terms in office” and “the future of U.S. standing in the world”.

Honorable mention goes to Ian Bremmer of Eurasia Group for calling this crisis “the most seismic geopolitical events since 9/11”. Putting aside the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Arab Spring, Syria’s civil war and tensions in the South China Sea, Bremmer might have a point.
Unhelpful Policy Recommendations

Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Commander of Nato, deserves a shout-out for calling on Nato to send maritime forces into the Black Sea, among other inflammatory steps. No danger of miscalculation or unnecessary provocation there. No, none at all.
Inappropriate Historical Analogies

So many to choose from here, but when you compare seizing Crimea to the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938, as Leonid Bershidsky did at Bloomberg View, you pretty much blow away the competition.
Making It All About Us

As in practically every international crisis, the pundit class seems able to view events solely through the prism of US actions, which best explains Edward Luce in the Financial Times writing that Obama needs to convince Putin “he will not be outfoxed”, or Scott Wilson at the Washington Post intimating that this is all a result of America pulling back from military adventurism. Shocking as it may seem, sometimes countries take actions based on how they view their interests, irrespective of who the US did or did not bomb.

Missing from this “analysis” about how Obama should respond is why Obama should respond. After all, the US has few strategic interests in the former Soviet Union and little ability to affect Russian decision-making.

Our interests lie in a stable Europe, and that’s why the US and its European allies created a containment structure that will ensure Russia’s territorial ambitions will remain quite limited. (It’s called Nato.) Even if the Russian military wasn’t a hollow shell of the once formidable Red Army, it’s not about to mess with a Nato country.

The US concerns vis-à-vis Russia are the concerns that affect actual US interests. Concerns like nuclear non-proliferation, or containing the Syrian civil war, or stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Those are all areas where Moscow has played an occasionally useful role.

So while Obama may utilize political capital to ratify the Start treaty with Russia, he’s not going to extend it so save the Crimea. The territorial integrity of Ukraine is not nothing, but it’s hardly in the top tier of US policy concerns.

What is America’s problem is ensuring that Russia pays a price for violating international law and the global norm against inter-state war. The formal suspension of a G8 summit in Sochi is a good first step. If Putin’s recalcitrance grows – and if he further escalates the crisis – then that pressure can be ratcheted up.

But this crisis is Putin’s Waterloo, not ours.

Which brings us to perhaps the most bizarre element of watching the Crimean situation unfold through a US-centric lens: the iron-clad certainty of the pundit class that Putin is winning and Obama is losing. The exact opposite is true.

Putin has initiated a conflict that will, quite obviously, result in greater diplomatic and political isolation as well as the potential for economic sanction. He’s compounded his loss of a key ally in Kiev by further enflaming Ukrainian nationalism, and his provocations could have a cascading effect in Europe by pushing countries that rely on Russia’s natural gas exports to look elsewhere for their energy needs. Putin is the leader of a country with a weak military, an under-performing economy and a host of social, environmental and health-related challenges. Seizing the Crimea will only make the problems facing Russia that much greater.

For Obama and the US, sure, there might be less Russian help on Syria going forward – not that there was much to begin with – and it could perhaps affect negotiations on Iran. But those issues are manageable. Meanwhile, Twitter and the opinion pages and the Sunday shows and too many blog posts that could be informative have been filled with an over-the-top notion: that failure to respond to Russia’s action will weaken America’s credibility with its key allies. To which I would ask: where are they gonna go? If anything, America’s key European allies are likely to fold the quickest, because, you know, gas. And why would any US ally in the Far East want Obama wasting his time on the Crimea anyway?

You don’t have to listen to the “do something” crowd. These are the same people who brought you the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other greatest hits. These are armchair “experts” convinced that every international problem is a vital interest of the US; that the maintenance of “credibility” and “strength” is essential, and that any demonstration of “weakness” is a slippery slope to global anarchy and American obsolescence; and that being wrong and/or needlessly alarmist never loses one a seat at the table.

The funny thing is, these are often the same people who bemoan the lack of public support for a more muscular American foreign policy. Gee, I wonder why.


Russian opinion divided over seizure of Crimea but majority likely to back THE PIG

Polls suggest most Russians believe upheaval in Kiev was a western-sponsored coup and that Crimea was never Ukrainian

Alec Luhn in Moscow, Monday 3 March 2014 16.32 GMT    

Ordinary Russians are sharply divided over Vladimir Putin's military manoeuvres in Crimea in recent days, with competing rallies in Moscow and furious arguments on social media.

But experts say most people will probably support the government line, since a majority views Crimea as part of Russia – and the transfer of power in Ukraine as a western-backed coup.

Denis Volkov, of the independent polling organisation Levada Centre, said that although in the past most Russians opposed military intervention in other countries, the fact that no open conflict had broken out in Crimea thus far made the Russian move easier to justify.

"Many see the Pig as the one who returned some of Russia's strengths [after the Soviet breakup], and I think he will use this idea of the loss of the Soviet Union to drum up support with Crimea," Volkov said.

While Angela Merkel said at the weekend that the Pig was not in touch with reality, many Russians would disagree. The latest Levada poll conducted from 21-25 February found that most Russians regard the new government in Kiev negatively: 43% called the political upheaval in Ukraine a "violent coup" and 23% called it a civil war.

Moreover, 45% blamed western influence for bringing people on to the streets of Kiev, where the "Euromaidan" protests that were originally in favour of further European integration later turned into a general condemnation of the corrupt regime.

A September poll by the state-run survey centre VTsIOM found that 56% of Russians considered Crimea, which Russia seized from the Tatars in the 18th century, to be a part of Russia. The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave the territory to Ukraine in 1954, but ethnic Russians still make up 59% of Crimea's population of 2 million, while 12% are Tatars, according to 2001 census data.

An informal Facebook poll this weekend asking whether the Russian military should be intervening in Crimea drew heated arguments from both sides and descended into debaters accusing each other of illiteracy and treason.

"If soldiers hadn't showed up in Crimea, things could have escalated into Russian-Tatar pogroms," Alexander Zheleznyak, a Moscow-based travel journalist who grew up in the Crimea, told the Guardian.

"No matter what you think of the Pig, right now he's taken the responsibility on himself and stopped senseless beatings in Crimea," Zheleznyak said, referring to reports that two people died in clashes between rival pro-Russian and Tatar activists outside the Crimean parliament last week.

Masha Lipman, of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, said that for most Russians, the perception that "anti-Russian nationalists and fascists took power leads to the feeling that we need to save and protect our own."

Few people were thinking of the geopolitical implications as Putin struggles against the integration of Ukraine, a key ally, with the European Union and the possible eastwards expansion of Nato, she said.

"We assume that the Pig wants revenge for this, that he's not ready to make peace with this move, and achieving superiority is extremely important for him," she said.

Hundreds gathered on Sunday in central Moscow under the slogan "No to war!" but were overshadowed by a larger protest to support "the brother people of Ukraine", where some attendees were accused of being paid to participate. Police broke up the peace rally and detained 361 people

"We need to protect people from fascism, from evil. We support the Pig," Dmitry Enteo, a Russian Orthodox activist, told people at the pro-government rally, the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported.

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« Reply #12264 on: Mar 04, 2014, 07:24 AM »

Kerry Accuses Russia of Exerting 'Pressure on Moldova'

by Naharnet Newsdesk
03 March 2014, 22:08

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry took another swipe at Russia on Monday, saying that Moscow "has put pressure on Moldova," as he backed the former Soviet state in seeking closer ties with the West.

Kerry, who has lambasted Russia over its military actions in Ukraine, another former Soviet state and neighbor, was speaking after meeting in Washington Moldovan Prime Minister Lurie Leanca, who is seeking closer ties with the European Union.

"I regret to say that Russia, in some of the challenges we're seeing right now in Ukraine, has put pressure on Moldova," said Kerry.

"There are challenges with respect to their energy sources and also their ability to trade. We are committed firmly to the direction that Moldova has chosen for itself."

Russia has strong ties with separatist movements in Moldova's Russian-speaking region of Transdniestr and has not met long-standing pledges to withdraw its soldiers from the country, which it committed to do in 1999. Russia also keeps a large amount of armaments there.

Pledging additional funding to Moldova, the top U.S. diplomat added: "The prime minister is leading a transformation effort in Moldova. We are very pleased with the fact that they continue their efforts to move towards their association agreement with Europe."

Leanca said: "Moldova is keen to build an energy interconnection with the European Union and American support is critical in this perspective."

"Same about the security cooperation. We see right now in the region some very negative developments unfolding," Leanca added, referring to Ukraine, which has accused Russia of pouring troops into Crimea, in Europe's worst standoff since the Cold War.

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« Reply #12265 on: Mar 04, 2014, 07:31 AM »

03/03/2014 01:01 PM

Ukraine Conflict: Putin Strengthens His True Enemies

A Commentary by Benjamin Bidder  in Moscow

Although Russia has espoused moral justifications for its invasion of Crimea, President Pig Putin's move is all about geopolitics. His short-sighted logic, however, could bring Ukrainian nationalists to power -- and create a whole new set of problems.

Whenever Russia pursues its own interest against the will of the international community, a dictum by Czar Alexander III springs to mind. Russia, he said, has only two allies: its army and its navy. If you can believe the Kremlin's propagandists, however, a new, unexpected ally has come to Moscow's defense: the Western press. According to the website "Sputnik and Pogrom," the Western media have "begun to support the Russian Federation's course of action in the Crimean crisis."

The statement has little basis in reality, but it has nevertheless been shared thousands of times on Russian social media networks. European reporters, it is said, have finally figured out that hardboiled neo-fascists and not freedom fighters were behind the takeover of Independence Square.

This has been the Russian propaganda line for months -- that the West is ignoring the hordes of neo-Nazis bullying valiant Ukrainian policemen. The role of the violent nationalists, however, has been widely covered in the international press, and it was police brutality -- and Yanukovych's attempts, supported by Moscow, to outlast the protests -- that actually radicalized Independence Square. When students were beaten down on the night of November 30, they had neither helmets, nor batons, nor firearms.

Russia's Ridiculous Justification

Russia's justifications for its Crimean military intervention are outrageous. Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told the UN that masked irregular troops from Kiev had raided Crimea's ministry of the interior. Valentina Matviyenko -- the current Chairman of the Federal Council of the Russian Federation who quickly gave President Pig Putin a blank check for his march into Ukraine -- has mentioned that there were multiple dead during a raid.

But this attack never seems to have happened. Thus far, neither photographic evidence of the attack nor an official body count has been produced. On the contrary: The Crimean militia -- which is still overseen by the allegedly attacked ministry -- didn't want to confirm the attempted attack. Even the head of the Crimean parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov, has said that he doesn't have data about any victims.

There are indications Moscow is exaggerating the far-right's influence on Independence Square in order to give Russia an easy justification for the invasion and so it can sell it to the Russian public as a rescue mission. On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov seemed to acknowledge as much on Monday with his claim that the occupation of Crimea was about protecting Russians and human rights.

But the invasion is very clearly the product of geopolitical calculations: Moscow is regaining control of the Crimea and with it, its strategically important Black Sea port, Sevastopol.

New Government on the Ropes

To be sure, members of the Right Sector -- the Ukrainian right-wing militant group -- have in fact anointed themselves the new keepers of order and are intimidating officials, police officers and state attorneys. In such circumstances, the transitional government in Kiev needs as much help as it can get to prevent Ukraine from descending into anarchy.

But the Kremlin has scoffed at the new cabinet. Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev said it would be difficult to work with "people who stroll through Kiev in black masks with Klaschnikov assault rifles." That's ludicrous. The cabinet is headed by transitional President Alexander Turchinov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, both veteran politicians. They are about as radical as the head of a German bank.

Thanks to Russia, the transitional government in Kiev already has its back against the wall. Former President Viktor Yanukovych and his confidants plundered the state, leaving behind a country on the verge of bankruptcy. Now Turchinov and Yatsenyuk have to forestall economic collapse while, at the same time, preparing for war.

The Kremlin has maneuvered them into a lose-lose situation. Ukraine needs reforms -- but their painful consequences will be blamed the transitional government. If Yatsenyuk and Turchinov send the Ukrainian army up against the vastly superior Russian military, a bloodbath looms. But if they submit to the Russians, the radical nationalists will accuse them of betraying the country.

All signs point to Russia annexing Crimea and possibly eastern parts of Ukraine, which will have dire consequences. In the long run, it will weaken moderate powers in Ukraine and could pave the way for the nationalists to take power. And if they do, revenge will be on their minds.

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« Reply #12266 on: Mar 04, 2014, 07:34 AM »

From Greece to Ukraine: welcome to the new age of resistance

The left can learn from recent popular uprisings – the Arab spring, Greece or Turkey – that have no leaders, parties or common ideology, then build on the energy and imagination these movements have created

Costas Douzinas for Open Democracy, part of the Guardian Comment Network, Tuesday 4 March 2014 11.43 GMT          

On 17 June 2011, I was invited to address the Syntagma Square occupation in Athens. After the talks, following the usual procedure, members of the occupation who had their number drawn came to the front to speak to the 10,000 people present. One man in particular was shaking and trembling with evident symptoms of stagefright before his address. He then proceeded to give a beautiful talk in perfectly formed sentences and paragraphs, presenting a complete and persuasive plan for the future of the movement.

"How did you do it?" I asked him later. "I thought you were going to collapse."

"When I started speaking," he replied nonchalantly, "I was mouthing the words but someone else was speaking. A stranger inside me was dictating what to say."

Many participants in the recent insurrections and revolts make similar statements. My recent work addresses this stranger in me (a usual description of the unconscious), this miraculous transubstantiation shared by people in different parts of the world. [1]

The new world order announced in 1989 was the shortest in history, coming to an abrupt end in 2008. Protests, riots and uprisings have erupted all over the world. Neither the mainstream nor the radicals had predicted the wave and this led to a frantic search for historical precedents. A former director of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service thought it, "a revolutionary wave, like 1848". Paul Mason agrees: "There are strong parallels – above all with 1848, and with the wave of discontent that preceded 1914.' [2] Alain Badiou suspects a possible "rebirth of history" in a new age of "riots and uprisings" after a long revolutionary "interval".[3] Eventually, however, history is miscarried or stillborn and Badiou strongly disagrees with my statement that we have entered an age or resistance.

At a conference in Paris in January 2013, I was on the same panel as Badiou. After my presentation, Alain started: "I certainly admire the eloquence of my friend and comrade Costas Douzinas, who has buttressed his avowed optimism with precise references to what he takes to be the political novelties of the people's resistance in Greece, where he has even discerned the emergence of a new political subject." When I heard the next point I thought I had misunderstood: While the courage and inventiveness of the resistance is a cause of enthusiasm, it is neither novel nor effective. The same things happened in May '68, in Tahrir Square and even "in the times of Spartacus or Thomas Munzer". [4]

I plead guilty to the indictment of avowed optimism. We have entered an age of resistance. New forms, strategies and subjects of resistance and insurrection appear regularly without knowledge of or guidance from Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek or Antonio Negri. Their timing is unpredictable, but their occurrence certain. As resistances spread around the world, from the austerity-hit countries to Turkey and Brazil, the former poster boys of neo-liberalism, to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Ukraine, philosophy has the responsibility to explore the contemporary return of resistance and to develop an analytics of resistance.

In a more strategic sense, it is importance to follow Kant's advice in his late political essays, something of a vote of confidence for philosophical public relations avant la lettre. In Kant's philosophy of history, nature guarantees the eventual civil union of humanity in a cosmopolitan future. But given the chance of a public hearing, the philosopher must keep preaching the inevitability of cosmopolitanism, offering a helping hand to providence. In a similar fashion and after the repeated claims about the "end of history", the "end of ideology" and the new world order, it is important for the left to proclaim that radical change has become possible again.

In the 20th century, the left collected a long list of prophets and groupuscules promising the re-foundation of the one and only or the correct communist organisation. In earlier interventions, Badiou explained that the "resistance" (in ironic quotation marks) of the anti-globalisation movement was a creation of power. The movement is "a wild operator" of globalisation and "seeks to sketch out, for the imminent future, the forms of comfort to be enjoyed by our planet's idle petite bourgeoisie". [5]

Warming to the theme, Badiou proceeded to attack Negri ("a backward romantic") who is fascinated by capital's "flexibility and violence". He called the multitude a "dreamy hallucination", which claims the right for our "planet's idle … to enjoy without doing anything, while taking special care to avoid any form of discipline, whereas we know that discipline, in all fields, is the key to truths".

Finally, he dismissed the category of the "movement" because it is "coupled to the logic of the state"; politics must construct "new forms of discipline to replace the discipline of political parties".[6]

According to this version, the communist resistance should stay away from the state, adopt the idea of communism and create a highly disciplined organisation which acts towards the people in a directive and authoritarian manner. It "wants to celebrate its own dictatorial authority, dictatorial because democratic ad infinitum".[7]

This is the type of organisation that recent resistances rejected and with good cause: both because of the history of the left and, more importantly, because the socio-economic changes of late capitalism have made the concept of a Leninist organisation not just redundant but undesirable and counterproductive.

From a totally different if not opposed perspective and with greater interest in the pleasure principle than the death drive (and in parties than in the party), Howard Caygill's recent book seems to share the pessimism.[8] Its last lines refer to contemporary resistances and conclude: "Resistance is engaged in defiant delegitimisation of existing and potential domination but without any prospect of a final outcome in the guise of a revolutionary or reformist result or solution … The politics of resistance is disillusioned and without end."

But despite the reservations of the pessimists, resistance and revolution are in the air. It looks however as if Hegel's "owl of Minerva" has not left its nest. Is this because we are not at "dusk" yet? In other words, the philosophers cannot respond to the political and social upheaval because the epoch of resistance is not close to ending, as Hegel thought? Or, is it the result of a certain theoretical and political sclerosis on the part of theoretical radicals?

Failure, defeat, persecution and the attendant paranoia are marks of the left. The left has learned to be under attack, to fail, to lose and wallow in the defeat. An enduring masochism lurks in the best leftist books: many are stories of failure and variable rationalisation. It is true that the left has lost a lot: a united analysis and movement, the working class as political subject, the inexorable forward movement of history, planned economy as an alternative to capitalism.

It is also true that the falling masonry of the Berlin wall hit western socialists more than the old Stalinists. Using Freud's terms, the necessary and liberating mourning for the love object of revolution has turned into permanent melancholy. In mourning, the libido finally withdraws from the lost object and is displaced on to another. In melancholy, it "withdraws into the ego". This withdrawal serves to "establish an identification of the ego with the abandoned object".[9]

Walter Benjamin has called this "left melancholy": the attitude of the militant who is attached more to a particular political analysis or ideal – and to the failure of that ideal – than to seizing possibilities for radical change in the present.[10] For his part, Benjamin calls upon the left to grasp the "time of the now", while for the melancholic, history is an "empty time" of repetition. Part of the left is narcissistically fixed to its lost object with no obvious desire to abandon it. Left melancholy leads inexorably to the fetishism of small differences: politically, it appears in the interminable conflicts, splits and vituperation among erstwhile comrades. Attacks on the closest, the threatening double, are more vicious than those on the enemy. Theoretically, according to Benjamin, left melancholy betrays the world for the sake of knowledge. In our contemporary setting, we have a return to a particular type of grand theory, which combines an obsession with the explanation of life, the universe and everything with the anxiety of influence. The shadows and ghosts of the previous generation of greats weigh down on the latest missionaries of the encyclopaedia.

The most important reason why radical theory has been unable to fully comprehend recent resistances is perhaps the "anxiety of the grand narrative". A previous generation of radical intellectuals – such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Bertrand Russell, Edward Thompson and Louis Althusser – had close links with the movements of their time. Contemporary radical philosophers are found more often in lecture rooms than street corners.

The wider "academisation" of radical theory and its close proximity with "interdisciplinary" and cultural studies departments has changed its character. These academic fields have been developed as a result of university funding priorities. They happily welcome the appeal of radical philosophers contributing to their celebrity value. But this weakening of the link between practice and theory has an adverse effect on theory construction. The desire for a "radical theory of everything" caused by the "anxiety of influence" created by the previous generation of philosophical greats does not help overcome the limitations of disembodied abstraction.

It is no surprise that many European leftists are happy to celebrate the late Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales or Rafael Correa and to carry out radical politics by proxy, while ready to dismiss what happens in our part of the world as irrelevant or misguided. It may feel better to lose gloriously than to win, even with a few compromises.

Repeated defeats do not help the millions whose lives have been devastated by neoliberal capitalism and post-democratic governance. What the left needs is not a new model party or an all-encompassing brilliant theory. It needs to learn from the popular resistances that broke out without leaders, parties or common ideology and to build on the energy, imagination and novel institutions created. The left needs a few successes after a long interval of failures.

Greece is perhaps the best chance for the European left. The persistent and militant resistances sank two austerity governments and currently Syriza, the radical left coalition, is likely to be the first elected radical government in Europe. The historical chance has been created not by party or theory but by ordinary people who are well ahead of both and adopted this small protest party as the vehicle that would complement in parliament the fights in the streets. The political and intellectual responsibility of radical intellectuals everywhere is to stand in solidarity with the Greek left.

For an older generation of militants, theory is a weapon in politics. From this perspective, I have argued in my recent book that forms, subjects and strategies of resistance emerge within and against the circuits of power, reacting and rearranging its operations. To explain their multiplication and intensification, we must start with an exploration of the state of affairs they stand up to, the disastrous combination of neoliberal capitalism and the almost terminal decay of parliamentary democracy. All recent resistances from Tahrir, to Syntagma, Taksim and Sarajevo seem to respond to one or the other and usually both. It is therefore important to start the analysis of the age of resistance with an examination of certain common trends. Let me summarise them.

First, the economic and social landscape of immaterial neoliberal capitalism. Its logic is privatising and anti-state, de-territorialising. But at the same time, however, as profit becomes rent and interest, capitalism calls for increased regulation and policing.

Second, we must explore the global bio-political organisation with its two sides: in a period of fake growth, personal libertarianism, hedonism and consumerism, the injunction to mandatory pleasure. Every "I desire X" has become "I have a right to X". When austerity inescapably arrives, the emphasis flips on to its reverse side, the controlling of populations. Individual happiness and choice, all the rage in the previous period, disappears. The individual is abandoned, mandatory pleasure becomes the prohibition of pleasure in order to save the DNA of the nation.

These developments have serious effects for the politics of law. Legality is used by the elites in order to prevent and criminalise disobedience and resistance. The previous emphasis on controlled freedom turns into a limited state of exception, police repression and widespread exclusion.

Global analysis must always be adjusted to the local context. Resistances are always locally situated. Each case, therefore, must be examined in the context of local histories, conditions, the spatially and temporally located balance of power. The explosion, multiplication and condensation of different struggles and campaigns depends crucially on the kairos, the timely moment and often a random catalyst, such as the death of Alexis Grigoropoulos in Athens in 2008, Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia in 2010, or Mark Duggan in London, 2011.

A spontaneous insurrection is the point where the complementarity or coupling of promised freedom of consumer choice with behavioural control and police repression unravels. The first site of conflict is, therefore, de- and resubjectification, the disarticulation of people from the position of desiring and consuming machines and their emergence as resisting subjectivities (the "stranger in me"). The stake in most struggles is the repoliticisation of politics by introducing an active element of direct democracy into our ailing and ageing constitutional arrangements.

Three new forms of politics have emerged, responding to the tendencies and subjectivities of late capitalism. First, the expendable, redundant humans, the homines sacri of our world. Such are the undocumented or sans papiers immigrants, those for whom the Mediterranean has become a floating graveyard. Here, resisting subjectivity often takes the form of martyrdom – witnessing and sacrifice – and of exodus.

Second, the bio-politically excluded: the unemployed and unemployable, young and old, people who exist socially but are invisible to the political system. Resistance takes the form of insurrection, occasionally rioting. Subjectivity takes the form of violent acting out. What they demand is not this or that right, so much as the "right to have rights", to be considered part of the social contract.

Finally, democratic disenfranchisement. Here the dominant form is the occupation of squares and other public spaces by multitudes of men and women of all ideologies, ages, occupations and the many unemployed. Immaterial production promotes networking but not political co-operation, communication but not ideological identities, collaboration based on atomisation and self-interest. The occupied squares are the place where the dissidents put into political practice the skills of networking and collaboration we have learnt for work. Young people were told for 30 years that they would get a good life, if they study, get degrees, keep learning new skills. Over 60% of European youth have post-secondary education and exactly the same skills as their rulers. They are now the precariat. One thousand unemployed lawyers, engineers and doctors are more revolutionary than one thousand unemployed workers. These are the indignados of Tahrir Squre, Puerta del Sol, Syntagma and Taksim.

Elaborate working groups provide essential services in the occupied squares. In Athens, for example, food, health, cultural and educational activities and media presence were provided by professionals, many with higher degrees but permanently unemployed. The daily and thematic assemblies, as well as the working groups, organise themselves under a strict axiom of equality. Whoever is in the square, everyone and anyone, is entitled to an equal share of time to put across his views. The views of the unemployed and the university professor are given equal time, discussed with equal vigour and put to the vote for adoption. Here the right to resistance joins equality, the second great revolutionary right, and changes it from a conditioned norm into an unconditional axiom: people are free and equal; each counts as one in all relevant groups.[11]

The occupied squares create a constituent counter-power, which splits the social space between "us" and "them". Their direct democracy both parodies representative institutions by providing efficiently the services currently privatised and also prefigures a new constitutional and institutional architecture.

Let me conclude by offering seven theses towards an analytics of resistance:

1. Resistance is a law of being. It is internal to its object. From the moment being takes form, or a power asymmetry is established, it encounters resistances which irreversibly twist and fissure it.

2. Resistance is always situated. Resistances are local and multiple: they emerge concretely in specific conditions, responding to a situation, state of affairs or event.

3. Resistance is a mixture of reaction and action, negation and affirmation. Reactive resistance conserves and restores the state of things. The active borrows, mimics and subverts the adversary's arms in order to invent new rules, institutions, situations.

4. Resistance is a process or experience of subjectivisation. We become new subjects, the "stranger in me emerges" when we experience a split in identity. Because my particular existence has failed, because identity is split and cannot be completed, I pass from daily routine identity to the universality of resistance. It involves risk and perseverance: resistance is the courage of freedom.

5. Resistance is first a fact, not an obligation. It is not the idea or the theory of justice or communism that leads to resistance, but the sense of injustice, the bodily reaction to hurt, hunger, despair. The idea of justice and equality are maintained or lost as a result of the existence and extent of resistance, not the other way around.

6. Resistance becomes political and may succeed in radically changing the balance of forces, if it becomes collective and condenses, temporarily or permanently, a number of causes, a multiplicity of struggles and local and regional grievances, bringing them all together in a common central place and time.

Persistence, encampment, staying on in a public place and turning it into the agora or the forum may help to create the demos in its opposition to the elites. At that (unpredictable) point, resistance may become the hegemonic force. This has happened in a few places in the last few years. The possible betrayal of the revolution later does not change the fact that people in the streets have learned that they may overthrow the strongest of rulers.

7. While resistance is a fact not an obligation, the subject of resistance emerges through the exercise of the right to resist, the oldest, indeed the only natural right. Right has two metaphysical sources. As recognised will, right accepts the order of things and dresses the dominant particular with the mantle of the universal. But as a will that wills what does not exist, right finds its force in itself and its effect in an open cosmos that cannot be fully determined by (financial, political or military) might. The resisting will forms an agonistic universality created by a diagonal division of the social world, which separates rulers from the ruled and the excluded.


[1] Costas Douzinas, Philosophy and Resistance in the Crisis (Polity, 2013).

[2] Paul Mason, Why it's Kicking off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions (London, Verso, 2012), 65.

[3] Alain Badiou, The Rebirth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings (London, Verso, 2012), 38.

[4] Alain Badiou, 'Our Contemporary Impotence', 181 Radical Philosophy, September-October 2013, 43.

[5] Alain Badiou, 'Beyond Formalisation', An Interview conducted by Pater Hallward and Bruno Bosteels (Paris, July, 2 2002) in Bruno Bosteels, Badiou and Politics (Durham, Duke University Press, 2011), 318-350.

[6] id., 336, 337.

[7] The rebirth of history, 97.

[8] Howard Caygill, On Resistance: A Philosophy of Defiance' (Bloomsbury, 2013), 208.

[9] Sigmund Freud, 'Mourning and Melancholia', in Vol. 14, The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud, (Hogarth, 1957), 249.

[10] Walter Benjamin, "Left-Wing Melancholy," in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, ed. Anton Kaes, Martin Jay and Edward Dimendberg (University of California Press, 1994), 305.

[11] Costas Douzinas, 'Philosophy and the Right to Resistance' in Douzinas and Gearty, The Meanings of Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

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« Reply #12267 on: Mar 04, 2014, 07:36 AM »

No 10's Ukraine gaffe shows City profits come before principled diplomacy

News that Britain will not enforce sanctions against Russia is no surprise: the government defaults to protecting the money men

Jonathan Freedland, Tuesday 4 March 2014 10.58 GMT   
So yet another UK government official didn't get the memo – the one that says when you're going to a high-level, top secret meeting in Downing Street, try not to arrive carrying papers that can be snapped by waiting photographers. As deputy national security adviser Hugh Powell is the latest to discover, in the age of the zoom lens, they can be read easily. (It turns out there's a freelance photographer who hangs around outside No 10, one Steve Back, who specialises in just such pictures.)

Still, we should be grateful to the unguarded Mr Powell. If he had popped his documents in a folder we would never know that, whatever other action the European Union has in mind on Ukraine, the British government is adamant that the City of London will be exempt. Or as the official text put it, Britain will "not support, for now, trade sanctions … or close London's financial centre to Russians." In other words, even if Russia is in the process of invading a sovereign state, Britain will still do nothing that might dent the profits of the money men in the City.

I say we would never know – but we could have taken a guess. For there is a rather consistent pattern here. In January, George Osborne set out one of the key demands Britain will be making of the EU in the lead-up to the planned in-or-out referendum of 2017, one of those existential needs that must be met if Britain is to stay inside. What was it? "Cast-iron legal protections for the City of London." The chancellor warned that the UK would leave the EU unless the Lisbon Treaty was changed to prevent the imposition of financial services legislation that might rein in the City.

And who can forget the heroic sight of Osborne heading to Brussels exactly a year ago to fight the good fight – hoping to stop our European partners from capping bankers' bonuses? If there is so much as a hint of a challenge to the City, Osborne is ready to pull on his armour and ward off all enemies. No matter if that means promising business-as-usual to Russia, whether or not it has invaded one of its neighbours, it's the City that must come first.

It's quite clear that with 60% of the EU's financial services industry located in the UK, the bankers and fund managers are seen as more than just big business. The British government regards their prosperity as a matter of national security, their interests to be weighed against other geopolitical considerations such as our membership of the EU and the principle that the violation of the borders of sovereign states demands punishment.

Not that Britain is alone in this. Germany is reluctant to come down hard on Russia, its No 1 trading partner, on whom it relies for its domestic energy. France enjoys a lucrative relationship with Moscow, too, and is contracted to build two valuable Mistral-class warships for the Russian navy. They're looking out for their "strategic" industries, just like Osborne.

The result is that Vladimir Putin knows he can scarcely be touched. That would be true of any state that is a nuclear-armed, permanent member of the UN Security Council. But it's truer still of a state whose money and resources the west needs. It makes Russia doubly untouchable.

The lesson for any regime watching the Ukraine crisis unfold is clear. Sending troops into the territory of a sovereign state is completely unacceptable and you will be pushed back – unless, that is, you are strong and hurting you hurts us. Then different rules apply.

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« Reply #12268 on: Mar 04, 2014, 07:38 AM »

Sarkozy rushes for a return match with Hollande at presidential elections

With more than three years before France goes to the polls, allies are worried that Sarkozy's comeback may be too hasty

Alexandre Lemarié and David Revault d'Allonnes
Guardian Weekly, Tuesday 4 March 2014 09.59 GMT   
Nicolas Sarkozy's inner circle may claim he is keeping a low profile, but his public appearances are steadily increasing. Though he once swore he would never dabble in "petty politics", he keeps doing just that.

On 10 February, for his first public meeting since leaving power, he turned up to support Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the centre-right UMP candidate for mayor of Paris. With more than three years to go before the next presidential election, he is so eager to take revenge on the incumbent, François Hollande, he can hardly conceal his impatience.

Many of his advisers and supporters think that it is too soon, and are afraid voters may tire early. "It's all too fast," one of them says, afraid that overexposure may damage Sarkozy's ratings. In fact, the "omnipresent president" has never really left the stage. "He hasn't ever spent any time in the [political] wilderness," says a former minister.

Officially his strategy is to slow down, says a member of his staff. Sarkozy himself agrees it would be the right choice. The problem is he cannot put it into practice. His loyal deputy, Brice Hortefeux, has learned to take it in his stride: "With Nicolas Sarkozy you say: 'We'll do as we said', but in the end he's the one who decides."

His opponents on the left realise the risk that such temperament poses for his plans to return to politics. "I don't think there's any tactics or strategy," says an aide to a top minister. "It's just psychological. He wants to be out on the campaign trail. He's addicted to elections."

The Socialists are delighted by Sarkozy's quest for revenge and only too happy to see him stirring up in-fighting on the right. Officially, of course, the government is above such things. "We must pay no attention whatsoever," says a presidential adviser. "We aren't going to pretend he's not there, but we have no means of acting on him. And the elections are such a long way off."

Sarkozy is eager to show off his popularity, to stifle any competition in his own camp but also to make it clear that his confrontation with Hollande is inevitable. "The return match is starting," says Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, deputy leader of the Socialist party.

The challenger seems to have already decided on his angle of attack, accusing Hollande of not keeping his campaign promises, particularly regarding "exemplary behaviour at all times". But some Sarkozy supporters are concerned his attacks may be too direct.

Is the former president likely to make the same mistake he did in the 2012 campaign and underestimate his opponent? His self-assurance still borders on arrogance. "He'll never change ... He is his own worst enemy," echo several of his loyal supporters.

Ironically, Sarkozy still lacks a real political platform, primarily driven by opposition to Hollande. The president himself came to power surfing on an anti-Sarkozy wave. Former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin endorses this view. "The executive is so unpopular that an opposition candidate could well be elected thanks to hostility to the present majority, which would come as a nasty reminder to François Hollande," he says.

Sarkozy's tactic happens to suit the president's staff, who point out that the former president has a record too, making him the best potential adversary for Hollande. As one adviser put it: "Sarkozy has lots of vitality, he shows it and he's supported by his side. On the other hand, he's the candidate who would prompt the greatest cohesion and unity on the left. He will stir up powerful hostility, unlike a candidate such as [Alain] Juppé."

This view is echoed by a top Socialist: "An incumbent president, with a possibly shaky record, would much rather run against an opponent with a poor record."

This article appeared in Guardian Weekly, which incorporates material from Le Monde

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« Reply #12269 on: Mar 04, 2014, 08:02 AM »

In the USA...United Surveillance America

Putin Unites Democrats and Republicans As Eric Cantor Will Work With Obama on Russia Sanctions

By: Jason Easley
Monday, March, 3rd, 2014, 8:33 pm      

Vladimir Putin has done the impossible. He has rallied Republicans to support Obama, as Majority Leader Eric Cantor has vowed to work with the president on sanctions against Russia.

In a statement, Majority Leader Cantor said:

    Russia’s invasion of Ukraine violates international law and its long-standing agreements. Russian aggression must cease, and Moscow must withdraw its military forces and cease interfering and undermining the sovereignty and domestic politics of its neighbor. Moscow’s flagrant disregard for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, in addition to its continuing support of some of the world’s most oppressive regimes, should spur a long overdue reassessment of our policy towards Russia.

    To deal with the crisis in Ukraine and respond to Russia’s provocation, I have asked our House committee Chairmen to develop plans to assist the government of Ukraine, put pressure on Russia, and reassure allies throughout the world that the United States will not stand idly by in the face of such aggression. Specifically, the House will review how we can expeditiously consider assistance to Ukraine in the form of loan guarantees. I believe there is bipartisan support for such assistance, but we must make sure it is done responsibly and any legislation is not delayed by adding divisive provisions. We should be focused on moving such a package as quickly as possible.

    We will also begin reviewing what authorities, similar to the Magnitsky Act, we may provide the Administration so that the President can take actions to impose sanctions on Russian officials, oligarchs, and other individuals complicit in Russia’s efforts to invade and interfere with Ukraine’s sovereign affairs. I have spoken to Administration officials to express our interest in working together to ensure that President Obama has the appropriate tools to impose real consequences on Russia for this aggression.

It appears that Vladimir Putin has done the impossible. He has broken the gridlock in Washington and bridged the partisan divide. Both parties agree that Russia’s actions in the Ukraine are unacceptable, and they are willing to work together to impose tough sanctions.

Rep. Cantor (R-VA) may not want word to get out about his willingness to work with President Obama, but the House Republican leadership is doing the right thing. It will be interesting to see how many Republicans in the House will be willing to put aside their Obama hate, and join them.

Many of the Republicans elected to the House in the last two elections won because of their promise to oppose the president on everything. Due to the radical nature of both the politicians serving in the House and the Republicans voters who elected them, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see some sort of attempt to attach the repeal of Obamacare to any sanctions legislation, tea party rebellion, or any other form of general insanity that has become common in the House.

If Putin was counting on Republican opposition to the president saving him from the consequences of his decision to invade another country, he is in for a big surprise. The price of his actions is increasing by the day, with Democrats and Republicans united in their desire to make the Russian leader pay a heavy price.


Netanyahu and Obama clash on prospects for peace with Palestinians

• PM: Israel has been doing its part, Palestinians have not
• President: ‘It is still possible to create two states’

Dan Roberts in Washington, Monday 3 March 2014 22.17 GMT      

Binyamin Netanyahu struck a defiant tone on Monday over US calls for a Palestinian peace deal, telling President Barack Obama that Israel was already doing all it could.

Amid mounting pressure from Washington to show progress in the US-led process by April, the Israeli prime minister blamed the continued impasse on a lack of Palestinian recognition of Israeli sovereignty.

“Israel has been doing its part and I regret to say that the Palestinians have not,” he said during a bilateral meeting with Obama at the White House.

“I know this flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but it’s the truth. What we all want fervently is peace. Not a piece [of] paper … but a real peace; a peace that is anchored in mutual recognition of two nation states that recognise and respect one another, and solid security arrangements on the ground.

“The Palestinians expect us to recognise a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people, a nation state for the Palestinian people. I think it’s about time they recognise a nation state for the Jewish people.”

Obama insisted a deal was still achievable, so long as Israel was also prepared to give ground.

“It is still possible to create two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a state of Palestine in which people are living side by side in peace and security. But it’s difficult and it requires compromise on all sides,” Obama said. “The timeframe that we have set up for completing these negotiations is coming near and some tough decisions are going to have to be made.”

During an earlier interview, published on Sunday, Obama was even more blunt, telling Israel “time was running out” and hinting that the US could not permanently protect it from punitive European sanctions if a deal was not reached.

“There comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices,” Obama told the Bloomberg View columnist Jeffrey Goldberg. “Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time?”

He added: “If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited.”

Netanyahu’s visit to Washington has not gone as well as might have been hoped. Israel had been keen to use the visit to focus on its concerns about US sanctions relief for Iran, not to face the veiled threat of sanctions itself. And the meeting was overshadowed by the international response against Russia for its aggression in Crimea.

The Ukrainian crisis has helped distract attention from what is proving a chilly meeting between Netanyahu and Obama but it has also emboldened Israel’s allies in Washington, who argue that US foreign policy should be tougher across the Middle East.

In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) in Washington on Monday the hawkish Republican senator John McCain said the “feckless foreign policy” of the Obama administration was a partial cause of events in Ukraine.

“What happens in Ukraine is directly related to what happens in the Middle East,” he said, pointing to Obama’s failure to take military action in Syria and the relaxation of sanctions against Iran.

McCain said Obama “believes the Cold War is over – that’s fine, it’s over – but Putin doesn’t believe it’s over”.

Both secretary of state John Kerry and Netanyahu are due to address the Aipac conference over the next 24 hours – in a break with tradition, Obama is not attending.

The White House insists its long-term alliance with Israel remains strong.

“We do not have a closer friend or ally than Israel and the bond between our two countries and our two peoples in unbreakable,” Obama said, at the start of his meeting with Netanyahu.


Don't listen to Obama's Ukraine critics: he's not 'losing' – and it's not his fight

The ‘do something’ pundits rear their heads. Just like they did on Iraq, Afghanistan and every other crisis of US ‘credibility’

Michael Cohen, Monday 3 March 2014 17.19 GMT          

In the days since Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops into the Crimea, it has been amateur hour back in Washington.

I don’t mean Barack Obama. He’s doing pretty much everything he can, with what are a very limited set of policy options at his disposal. No, I’m talking about the people who won’t stop weighing in on Obama’s lack of “action” in the Ukraine. Indeed, the sea of foreign policy punditry – already shark-infested – has reached new lows in fear-mongering, exaggerated doom-saying and a stunning inability to place global events in any rational historical context.

This would be a useful moment for Americans to have informed reporters, scholars and leaders explaining a crisis rapidly unfolding half a world away. Instead, we’ve already got all the usual suspect arguments:
Personality-driven Analysis

Let’s start here with Julia Ioffe of the New Republic, a popular former reporter in Moscow who now tells us that Putin has sent troops into Crimea “because he can. That’s it, that’s all you need to know”. It’s as if things like regional interests, spheres of influence, geopolitics, coercive diplomacy and the potential loss of a key ally in Kiev (as well as miscalculation) are alien concepts for Russian leaders.
Overstated Rhetoric Shorn of Political Context

David Kramer, president of Freedom House, hit the ball out of the park on this front when he hyperbolically declared that Obama’s response to Putin’s actions “will define his two terms in office” and “the future of U.S. standing in the world”.

Honorable mention goes to Ian Bremmer of Eurasia Group for calling this crisis “the most seismic geopolitical events since 9/11”. Putting aside the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Arab Spring, Syria’s civil war and tensions in the South China Sea, Bremmer might have a point.
Unhelpful Policy Recommendations

Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Commander of Nato, deserves a shout-out for calling on Nato to send maritime forces into the Black Sea, among other inflammatory steps. No danger of miscalculation or unnecessary provocation there. No, none at all.
Inappropriate Historical Analogies

So many to choose from here, but when you compare seizing Crimea to the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938, as Leonid Bershidsky did at Bloomberg View, you pretty much blow away the competition.
Making It All About Us

As in practically every international crisis, the pundit class seems able to view events solely through the prism of US actions, which best explains Edward Luce in the Financial Times writing that Obama needs to convince Putin “he will not be outfoxed”, or Scott Wilson at the Washington Post intimating that this is all a result of America pulling back from military adventurism. Shocking as it may seem, sometimes countries take actions based on how they view their interests, irrespective of who the US did or did not bomb.

Missing from this “analysis” about how Obama should respond is why Obama should respond. After all, the US has few strategic interests in the former Soviet Union and little ability to affect Russian decision-making.

Our interests lie in a stable Europe, and that’s why the US and its European allies created a containment structure that will ensure Russia’s territorial ambitions will remain quite limited. (It’s called Nato.) Even if the Russian military wasn’t a hollow shell of the once formidable Red Army, it’s not about to mess with a Nato country.

The US concerns vis-à-vis Russia are the concerns that affect actual US interests. Concerns like nuclear non-proliferation, or containing the Syrian civil war, or stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Those are all areas where Moscow has played an occasionally useful role.

So while Obama may utilize political capital to ratify the Start treaty with Russia, he’s not going to extend it so save the Crimea. The territorial integrity of Ukraine is not nothing, but it’s hardly in the top tier of US policy concerns.

What is America’s problem is ensuring that Russia pays a price for violating international law and the global norm against inter-state war. The formal suspension of a G8 summit in Sochi is a good first step. If Putin’s recalcitrance grows – and if he further escalates the crisis – then that pressure can be ratcheted up.

But this crisis is Putin’s Waterloo, not ours.

Which brings us to perhaps the most bizarre element of watching the Crimean situation unfold through a US-centric lens: the iron-clad certainty of the pundit class that Putin is winning and Obama is losing. The exact opposite is true.

Putin has initiated a conflict that will, quite obviously, result in greater diplomatic and political isolation as well as the potential for economic sanction. He’s compounded his loss of a key ally in Kiev by further enflaming Ukrainian nationalism, and his provocations could have a cascading effect in Europe by pushing countries that rely on Russia’s natural gas exports to look elsewhere for their energy needs. Putin is the leader of a country with a weak military, an under-performing economy and a host of social, environmental and health-related challenges. Seizing the Crimea will only make the problems facing Russia that much greater.

For Obama and the US, sure, there might be less Russian help on Syria going forward – not that there was much to begin with – and it could perhaps affect negotiations on Iran. But those issues are manageable. Meanwhile, Twitter and the opinion pages and the Sunday shows and too many blog posts that could be informative have been filled with an over-the-top notion: that failure to respond to Russia’s action will weaken America’s credibility with its key allies. To which I would ask: where are they gonna go? If anything, America’s key European allies are likely to fold the quickest, because, you know, gas. And why would any US ally in the Far East want Obama wasting his time on the Crimea anyway?

You don’t have to listen to the “do something” crowd. These are the same people who brought you the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other greatest hits. These are armchair “experts” convinced that every international problem is a vital interest of the US; that the maintenance of “credibility” and “strength” is essential, and that any demonstration of “weakness” is a slippery slope to global anarchy and American obsolescence; and that being wrong and/or needlessly alarmist never loses one a seat at the table.

The funny thing is, these are often the same people who bemoan the lack of public support for a more muscular American foreign policy. Gee, I wonder why.

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