Russia deploys nuclear capable missile system in Kaliningrad: reports

The Kremlin has stressed it has the sovereign right to deploy missiles on its own territory after reports Russia deployed the Iskander nuclear capable missile system in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea.

Loading a quasi ballistic missile into an Iskander-M missile launcher during a military exercise held by missile and artillery units of the Russian Eastern Military District's 5th army at a firing range in Ussuriysk.

Russia said on Tuesday that it had the right to put weapons anywhere it chose on its own territory after reports that Moscow had deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad drew criticism from its neighbors and NATO,

Kaliningrad is a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, and the missiles would be able to reach large parts of territory in NATO-members Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

The president of Lithuania, which neighbors Kaliningrad, and a senior Russian lawmaker, both said the missile systems had been deployed to the region. Russia has not confirmed the deployment.

Read more: Russia mulls boosting missile capabilities on NATO border

While on a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked about reports of the deployment. “The deployment of one weapon or another, the deployment of military units and so forth on Russian territory, is exclusively a sovereign issue for the Russian Federation,” said Peskov.

“Russia has never threatened anyone and is not threatening anyone. Naturally, Russia has this sovereign right (to deploy weapons on its own territory). It should hardly be cause for anyone to worry.”

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry on deployment of Iskander missile system in Russia’s Kaliningrad region: Russia has never threatened anyone, and I would like to remind that Russia naturally has the sovereign right to deploy hardware and military units on the Russian territory

Read more: Escalation threat high as US-Russia INF anti-missile treaty falters

Watch video02:27

A view of Germany from Kaliningrad

NATO concern over missiles

In Latvia, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said the deployment adds fresh impetus to discussions already underway inside NATO about improving the alliance’s capabilities.

“It means that what we have been talking about — the necessity to discuss strengthening air-defense elements during the NATO summit in July; strengthening the chain of command, to talk about many questions that affect defense of our region and Latvia specifically — it all has been confirmed by the practical actions of Russia,” said Rinkevics.

Reports of the Kaliningrad deployment so close to NATO territory are perceived by some alliance members as a threat at a time when tensions between Russia and its Western neighbors are running high over Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

“This again makes the situation even more serious because Iskanders in Kaliningrad means dangers for half of European capitals,” said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite on Monday.

Read more: Russia slams new US nuclear weapons proposal

The Kremlin has often said it would station Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad to counter the US missile shield being developed in eastern Europe. Washington says the purpose of that shield is designed to counter possible missile attacks by Iran. However, Moscow says it is directed against Russia.

A NATO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “Any deployment close to our borders of missiles that can carry nuclear warheads does not help to lower tensions. In the spirit of transparency, we look forward to hearing more from Russia on this.”

av/aw (Reuters, Interfax, ap)

Watch video04:33

Lithuania’s fence on Kaliningrad border

COURTESY: DW

Pentagon announces plan to expand nuclear arsenal in face of Russian threat

The Pentagon plans to develop two “low-yield” nuclear warheads to be launched from ballistic-missile submarines and warships, to send a message to Moscow — which the Trump administration accuses of amassing a stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons.

The new plan is outlined in Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s Nuclear Posture Review, released Friday afternoon.

“Expanding U.S. tailored response options will raise the nuclear threshold and help ensure that potential adversaries perceive no possible advantage in limited nuclear escalation, making nuclear weapons employment less likely,” the new review said.

The Pentagon says Russia’s buildup of similar “low-yield” nukes is the reason it must match the threat.

“The United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances,” said Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan.  “Extreme circumstances could include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks,” he added without offering specifics.

Russian and Chinese officials were briefed by State Department officials Friday morning about the nuclear posture review.

It’s the first such review in seven years, but much has changed since 2010, when the U.S. unilaterally reduced portions of its nuclear arsenal.

“Over the past decade, while the United States led the world in these reductions every one of our potential nuclear adversaries has been pursuing the exact opposite strategy,” said Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.  “These powers are increasing the numbers and types of nuclear weapons in their arsenal.”

After Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, it deployed nuclear-capable intermediate range missiles to Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the border with Poland, leaving NATO leaders feeling helpless.

“Russia’s nuclear saber-rattling is unjustified, destabilizing and dangerous,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in 2015.  Any deployment of nuclear forces to Crimea would “fundamentally change the balance of security in Europe,” he added.

Russia is bound by a decades-long arms treaty, known as the INF, from deploying ground-launched intermediate-range missiles.  The Pentagon has accused Russia of violating the treaty, noting that Russia is also developing nuclear depth charges, torpedoes and anti-aircraft missiles among its 2,000 tactical nukes.

“Russia is also developing at least two new intercontinental range systems, a hypersonic glide vehicle, and a new intercontinental, nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo,” according to the review.

The United States has possessed hundreds of tactical “low-yield” nuclear warheads for decades, but they can only be delivered from planes, including B61 gravity bombs, but are vulnerable because the jets must fly over the target to use them making them susceptible to anti-aircraft missiles and guns.

Currently, only the B-2 stealth bomber can penetrate sophisticated air defenses.

The Trump administration wants to build off the previous administration’s concern that the nuclear force needs to be modernized. It has mapped out plans for the U.S. to spend more than $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years.

In 1982, B-52 bombers were equipped with air-launched cruise missiles, but those weapons are now “more than 25 years past its design life,” according to the review. The newest B-52 is also more than 50 years old, one of the reasons the Pentagon wants a replacement bomber as well replacement for the aging air-launched cruise missile.

The Air Force has 46 nuclear capable B-52H and 20 nuclear-capable B-2A stealth bombers.

Its bomber fleet is not the only aging portion of America’s “nuclear triad.”

The 400 Minuteman-III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) currently deployed across three Air Force bases in the Midwest were first deployed in 1970 with a planned 10-year service life.  They are now expected to last until 2030.

The Navy has 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines capable of carrying 24 Trident D-5 intercontinental ballistic missiles, but are roughly 30 years old.

The new posture review calls for each of these submarines to carry a small number of “low-yield” nuclear  warheads, modified from more powerful ones currently inside the Trident missile.

The new missiles could be deployed in the next few years, officials say.

The Pentagon is worried Russia thinks it can use its smaller nukes against NATO in a limited war without a U.S. response.

“Effective U.S. deterrence of Russian nuclear attack … now requires ensuring that the Russian leadership does not miscalculate regarding the consequences of limited nuclear first use,” the review states.

The last nuclear posture review came out just months after President Obama set as a policy goal a world without nuclear weapons in a 2009 speech in Prague.

“Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous legacies of the Cold War,” Obama said in the Czech Republic capital. “The U.S. will take concrete steps … [to] begin the work of reducing our arsenals and stockpiles.”

Obama got rid of nuclear-tipped, sea-launched cruise missiles in 2011.

The Pentagon now wants to bring some of those weapons back.

“Every U.S. administration over the past six decades has called for a flexible and limited U.S. nuclear response options,” said the review.  “Potential adversaries do not stand still. On the contrary, they seek to identify and exploit weaknesses in U.S. capabilities and strategy.”  The U.S. nuclear arsenal cannot remain “fixed.”

Mattis spoke to reporters Friday morning, hours before the release of the Nuclear Posture Review.

“What we’re trying to do is ensure that our diplomats and our negotiators are in a position to be listened to when we say we want to go forward on nonproliferation and arms control. At the same time, you do so by having an effective, safe deterrent,” said Mattis.

While not mentioning cyberattack directly, the Pentagon makes clear in this document that the U.S. reserves the right to use nuclear weapons to respond to any attack on infrastructure or population centers, even if that attack uses a conventional weapon.

It also addresses the nuclear threat from China, Iran and North Korea, in addition to Russia.

Any nuclear attack by Kim Jong Un would “result in the end of that regime,” the report says.

Greg Weaver, deputy director of strategic capabilities on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff said “there’s evidence the Russians think that their coercive nuclear use strategy has some prospect of success. We want to make sure that we disabuse them of that idea.”

The two new “low-yield” nuclear weapons are designed to do just that, Weaver said.

A sea-launched nuclear cruise missile could be fired from a warship or a submarine, but is still seven to 10 years from being fielded, said Dr. Robert Soofer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear policy, in a briefing with reporters ahead of the review’s release.

If Russia returns to compliance with its arms control obligation and reduces its tactical nukes, the U.S. “may reconsider the pursuit” of the sea-launched cruise missile, according to the report.

The Pentagon is hoping history will repeat itself. After the U.S. deployed intermediate-range missiles to Europe, the Soviet Union signed the 1987 INF treaty with the United States.  President Reagan’s secretary of state, George P. Shultz, said if not for the deployment of the American missiles, “there would be no incentive for the Soviets to negotiate seriously for nuclear weapons reductions.”

Asked how the Russians were likely to respond to the Pentagon calling for “low-yield” nukes, Soofer replied, “I am sure they won’t respond well.”

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

Jennifer Griffin currently serves as a national security correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) and is based out of the Washington D.C. bureau. She joined the network in October 1999 as a Jerusalem-based correspondent. You can follow her on Twitter at @JenGriffinFNC.

Courtesy: Fox News

States hosting expanded NATO forces reduce own level of security – top Russian diplomat

States hosting expanded NATO forces reduce own level of security – top Russian diplomat
NATO’s military buildup near Russia’s borders dramatically worsens the security situations in countries where troops and equipment of the alliance are being stationed, First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov warns.

“[I am] sure that the negative consequences of NATO’s military preparations should spark serious concern among all [sides], as they worsen the security situation with regard to those states whose territories are being used to deploy NATO forces and assets,” Titov said in an interview with Interfax.

On Russia’s national security policies, the official said that Moscow’s military doctrine ranks the NATO build-up “among the top military threats to the country.” This includes military contingents being moved to nations bordering Russia, as well as “creating and deploying strategic missile defense systems,” Titov said.

“These very steps have been undertaken by the alliance year after year in the framework of its policy of ‘restraining’ our country. In Europe, a bridgehead is currently being formed to deploy, should the need arise, an offensive grouping.”

Moscow is also concerned about “the expansion of the alliance’s naval and air-activities” close to Russia’s borders, as well as the creation of “new military infrastructure” and the increase in “the scale and intensity of the exercises,” he said.

“According to further plans to develop the US / NATO missile defense system in Europe, in addition to the already functioning facility in Romania, a similar missile defense base is set to be put into operation in Redzikowo, Poland, in 2018,” Titov added. Earlier this month, Washington reportedly earmarked a whopping $214 million to build airfields, training sites, ranges, and other military installations in an unprecedented military buildup in eastern and northern Europe, targeting what the US has repeatedly called “Russian aggression.”

The planned modernization of air bases located predominantly in eastern Europe near Russia’s borders, as well as in Iceland and Norway, is a part of the $4.6 billion European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) aimed at “reassuring” NATO’s European allies.

The funds will be distributed among nine bases in Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Luxembourg, Iceland, and Norway to enable them to house top-of-the line US warplanes, the Air Force Times reported.

NATO has tripled its military presence on Russia’s western borders over the past five years, forcing Moscow to take retaliatory steps, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said last week.

“Four tactical groups of battalion level are a US armored brigade deployed in the Baltics and Poland, the staffs of international NATO divisions in Poland and Romania,” Shoigu said, adding that the number of engagement-ready troops has grown from 10 to 40 thousand. The military bloc has also bolstered its aerial and naval surveillance activities.  Over 30 drills are held each year near Russia’s western borders, the Russian defense chief said, adding that their “scenarios are based on a military confrontation with our country.”

While NATO continues its buildup in Europe, the US has violated the 1987 treaty on the elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently said.

“Formally,” America’s missile-defense launchers now based in Poland are meant to counter threats, the Russian leader said. “The point is, and specialists know about it very well, those launchers are all-purpose. They can also be used with existing sea-launched cruise missiles with the flight range of up to 2,500 km [1,550 miles]. And in this case, these missiles are no longer sea-launched missiles, they can be easily moved to land,” Putin said.

The Russian Defense Ministry “should take into account” Western military strategies, he said, noting that Russia has “a sovereign right and all possibilities to adequately and in due time react to such potential threats.”

In November, Russia’s envoy to NATO, Aleksandr Grushko, pointed out that NATO’s plans to reform its command structure were modeled on schemes used during the Cold War.

Courtesy: RT

Russian lawmakers blast new US national security program as attempt to secure global domination

An arm patch on the uniform of a NATO's multinational battalion serviceman
Russian MPs have stated that the recently-unveiled US national security strategy resists positive change, and attempts to restore the world to the old version of ‘Pax Americana.’

The US national security strategy is aimed exclusively at the restoration of American hegemony and the line for building a monopolar world,” the head of the lower house committee for international relations, MP Leonid Slutsky (LDPR), was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

Slutsky added that it was hardly surprising that the new edition of the document named Russia and China among major challengers and threats to US security, but he noted that charges of Russia’s interference in other nations’ internal affairs lacked any proof whatsoever.

They are using hollow accusations of Russia meddling with western countries’ internal affairs, putting Russia on one axis with North Korea. In essence, all of this is just a continuation of the course seeking to demonize Russia, started by Obama’s administration,” the Russian MP concluded.

The head of the upper house foreign affairs committee, Senator Konstantin Kosachev, expressed similar views in a Facebook post.

The tone of this document leaves no doubt about the fact that the United States is not content with the changes that have taken place in the world over the past years and that it intends to reverse these changes and restore the latest version of Pax Americana as a supposedly-just new world order,” Kosachev wrote.

What the US means by stability is its control over the domestic and foreign policy of other nations,” he added.

The Russian senator noted that if one takes a look at the latest edition of the US national security strategy together with the promises to reinforce the eastern flank of NATO it becomes obvious that the United States is getting ready to violate the restrictions on placing substantial military forces and medium- and short-range missiles in Europe.

The situation looks quite worrying. The USA obviously places its bets on force in all spheres, from economy to defense, and the ‘America first’ principle would mean ‘America is the strongest and therefore it is right’” Kosachev stated.

On Monday US President Donald Trump released a new national security strategy for the US with plans to preserve US military and economic dominance as key factors of global peace and prosperity. In his speech on the subject Trump named “revisionist powers, such as China and Russia,” as a primary threat to the US and as forces that seek to shape a world antithetical to America’s interests and values.

At the same time, the US leader said that he planned to continue working with rival powers while putting American interests first.

Courtesy: RT

Slave markets in ‘liberated’ Libya and the silence of the humanitarian hawks

Neil Clark
Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at http://www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66
Slave markets in ‘liberated’ Libya and the silence of the humanitarian hawks
The reports that black Africans are being sold at slave markets in ‘liberated’ Libya for as little as $400 is a terrible indictment of the so-called ‘humanitarian intervention’ carried out by NATO to topple the government of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

In March 2011 virtue-signaling Western ‘liberal’ hipsters teamed up with hardcore neocon warmongers to demand action to ‘save’ the Libyan people from the ‘despotic’ leader who had ruled the country since the late 1960s. “Something has to be done!” they cried in unison.

Something was done. Libya was transformed by NATO from the country with the highest Human Development Index in the whole of Africa in 2009 into a lawless hell-hole, with rival governments, warlords and terror groups fighting for control of the country.

Under Gaddafi, Libyans enjoyed free health care and education. Literacy rates went up from around 25 percent to almost 90 percent. A UN Human Rights Council report on Libya from January 2011, in which member states praised welfare provision, can be read here.

It was clear that while there were still areas of concern the country was continuing to make progress on a number of fronts.

In the Daily Telegraph – hardly a paper which could be accused of being an ideological supporter of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya – Libya was hailed as one of the top six exotic cruise ship destinations in June 2010.

Cruise ships don’t have Libya on their itineraries today. It’s far too dangerous.

The only surprising thing about the return of slave markets (and it’s worth pointing out that before the CNN report, the UN agency, IOM also reported on their existence in Libya earlier this year) is that anyone should be surprised by it. Human rights and social progress usually go back hundreds of years whenever a NATO ‘humanitarian’ intervention takes place. And that’s not accidental. The ‘interventions,’ which purposely involve heavy bombing of the country’s infrastructure and the subsequent dismantling of the state apparatus are designed to reverse decades of social progress. The ‘failure to plan’ is actually the most important part of the plan, as my fellow OpEdger Dan Glazebrook details in his book Divide and Destroy – The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis.

‘Three countries, three continents: One imperial Western project’ (Op-Edge by @NeilClark66http://on.rt.com/8hbx 

Three countries, three continents: One imperial Western project — RT Op-Edge

A resource-rich, socialist-led, multi-ethnic secular state, with an economic system characterized by a high level of public/social ownership and generous provision of welfare, education and social…

rt.com

Libya was targeted, like Yugoslavia and Iraq before it, not because of genuine concerns that ‘another Srebrenica’ was about to take place, (note the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee report of September 2016 held that ‘the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence’) but because it was a resource-rich country with an independently-minded government which operated a predominantly state-owned socialistic economy in a strategically important part of the world.

Neither Libya, Iraq or Yugoslavia did the bidding of the West’s endless war lobby, which is why they were earmarked for destruction. The chaos which routinely follows a NATO regime change op is a ghastly experience for the locals, who see their living standards plummet and their risk of violent death in a terrorist attack greatly increase, but great for rapacious Western corporations who then move in to the ‘liberated’ country en masse, taking advantage of the lack of a strong central authority.

Of course, this is never mentioned in NATO-friendly media. The role of the Western elites in turning previously functioning welfare states into failed states is missing from most mainstream reports on the countries post ‘liberation.’

In his recent piece for FAIR, journalist Ben Norton noted how reports “overwhelmingly spoke of slavery in Libya as an apolitical and timeless human rights issue, not as a political problem rooted in very recent history.

The dominant narrative is that slave markets have re-emerged in Libya ‘as if by magic,’just like Mr. Benn’s shopkeeper. The country’s ’instability’ is mentioned, but not the cause of that instability, namely the violent overthrow of the country’s government in 2011 and the Western backing of extremist, and in some cases blatantly racist, death squads. Everyone is blamed for the mess except the powerful, protected people and lobbyists who are ultimately responsible.

The French government played a leading role in the destruction of Libya in 2011, yet today the French president, the ‘progressive’ Emmanuel Macron blames ‘Africans’ for the country’s slavery problem. “Who are the traffickers? Ask yourselves – being the African youth – that question. You are unbelievable. Who are the traffickers? They are Africans, my friends. They are Africans.

Macron, like other Western leaders, wants us to see the slavery issue in close-up, and not in long-shot. Because if we do, NATO comes into the picture.

There is similar whitewashing over Iraq and the rise of ISIS. Again, we are supposed to regard the group’s emergence as “just one of those things.” But ISIS was not a force when the secular Baathist Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq; it only grew following his ousting and the chaos which followed the occupiers’ dismantling of the entire state apparatus.

The result of intervening in Libya has been “disappointing at the very least”, says Observer leader, arguing against action in Syria. Balls.

Six-and-a-half years on, it’s revealing to look back at the things the cheerleaders for the ‘humanitarian intervention’ in Libya were saying in early 2011 and what actually happened as a result of NATO’s 26,500 sorties.

The price of inaction is too high” was the title of one piece by David Aaronovitch in The Times, dated March 18, 2011. “If we don’t bomb Gadaffi’s tanks, Europe is likely to face a wave of refugees and a new generation of jihadis,” was the synopsis.

Guess what? The West’s military alliance did bomb Gaddafi’s tanks (and a lot more besides) and we got “a wave of refugees” of Biblical proportions and “a new generation of jihadis,” including the Manchester Arena bomber, Salman Abedi.

But there’s been no mea culpa from Aaronovitch, nor from his Times colleague Oliver Kamm – who attacked me after I had penned an article in the Daily Express calling for NATO to halt its action.

In the Telegraph, Matthew d’Ancona wrote a piece entitled ‘Libya is Cameron’s chance to exorcise the ghost of Iraq.’

In fact, the experience of Iraq should have led all genuine humanitarians to oppose the NATO assault. In many ways, as John Wight argues here,

Libya was an even worse crime than the invasion of Iraq because it came afterward. There was really no excuse for anyone seeing how the ‘regime change’ operation of 2003 had turned out, supporting a similar venture in North Africa.

Unsurprisingly the politicians and pundits who couldn’t stop talking about Libya in 2011 and the West’s ‘responsibility to protect’ civilians seem less keen to talk about the country today.

Libya and its problems have vanished from the comment pages. It’s the same after every Western ‘intervention’: saturation coverage before and during the ‘liberation,’ bellicose calls from the totally unaccountable neocon/liberal punditocracy for military action to ‘save the people’ from the latest ‘New Hitler,’ and then silence afterwards as the country hurtles back in time to the Dark Ages.

The ‘liberators’ of Libya have moved on to other more important things in 2017, with Russophobia the current obsession. Anything, in fact, to distract us from the disastrous consequences of their actions.

Follow Neil Clark on Twitter @NeilClark66

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Courtesy: RT

PESCO: EU paves way to defense union

The majority of EU nations have committed to a joint defense cooperation, focusing on military operations and investments. Europe is looking to cement unity, especially since Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.

Defense and foreign ministers from 23 European Union countries signed up to a plan to establish the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), which will allow countries to cooperate more closely on security operations and building up military capability.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini described the signing of PESCO as a “historic moment in European defense.”

“This is the beginning of a common work – 23 member states engaging both on capabilities and on operational steps, that’s something big,” Mogherini said.

The decision to launch PESCO indicates Europe’s move towards self-sufficiency in defense matters instead of relying solely on NATO. The EU, however, also stressed that PESCO is complimentary to NATO, in which 22 of the EU’s 28 countries are members.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the launch, saying that he saw it as an opportunity to “strengthen the European pillar within NATO.” Stoltenberg had previously urged European nations to increase their defense budget.

“I’m a firm believer of stronger European defense, so I welcome PESCO because I believe that it can strengthen European defense, which is good for Europe but also good for NATO,” Stoltenberg said.

Who is involved?

Under the scheme, EU member states will be able to develop greater military capabilities, invest in joint projects and increase the readiness of their troops.

  • Participation in PESCO is voluntary for all of the EU’s 28 member states
  • 23 countries have signed up to the plan
  • Ireland, Portugal and Malta are still undecided whether or not to join
  • Denmark, which has a special opt-out status, is not expected to participate
  • The United Kingdom, which is scheduled to leave the EU in 2019, is not part of PESCO either but can still choose to take part in certain aspects even after Brexit – if that participation is of benefit to the entire EU.
  • Those who didn’t sign initially can still join at a later date and countries not living up to their expected commitments could be kicked out of the group.

With the notification signed, a final decision to launch the defense cooperation framework is expected in December.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (Reuters/I. Kalnins)EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (pictured left) and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the launch of PESCO

The reaction from Germany

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said it was important for Europe to stand on its own feet when it comes to security and defense – “especially after the election of the US President,” referring to President Donald Trump’s dismissive attitude towards NATO.

“If there is a crisis in our neighborhood, we have to be able to act,” she said.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel meanwhile also lauded the agreement as “a great step toward self-sufficiency and strengthening the European Union’s security and defense policy – really a milestone in European development.”

Gabriel said that working together under the framework of PESCO was “more economical than if everyone does the same. I think that European cooperation on defense questions will rather contribute to saving money – we have about 50 percent of the United States’ defense spending in Europe, but only 15 percent of the efficiency.”

Watch video01:07

Pence: ‘Europe’s defense requires Europe’s commitment’

ss/rt (AP, dpa)

Courtesy: DW

West eyes recolonization of Africa by endless war; removing Gaddafi was just first step

Dan Glazebrook
Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and ‘austerity’. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.
West eyes recolonization of Africa by endless war; removing Gaddafi was just first step
Exactly six years ago, on October 20th, 2011, Muammar Gaddafi was murdered, joining a long list of African revolutionaries martyred by the West for daring to dream of continental independence.

Earlier that day, Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte had been occupied by Western-backed militias, following a month-long battle during which NATO and its ‘rebel’ allies pounded the city’s hospitals and homes with artillery, cut off its water and electricity, and publicly proclaimed their desire to ‘starve [the city] into submission’. The last defenders of the city, including Gaddafi, fled Sirte that morning, but their convoy was tracked and strafed by NATO jets, killing 95 people. Gaddafi escaped the wreckage but was captured shortly afterward. I will spare you the gruesome details, which the Western media gloatingly broadcast across the world as a triumphant snuff movie, suffice to say that he was tortured and eventually shot dead.

We now know, if testimony from NATO’s key Libyan ally Mahmoud Jibril is to be believed, it was a foreign agent, likely French, who delivered the fatal bullet. His death was the culmination of not only seven months of NATO aggression, but of a campaign against Gaddafi and his movement, the West had been waging for over three decades.

Yet it was also the opening salvo in a new war – a war for the militarily recolonization of Africa.

The year 2009, two years before Gaddafi’s murder, was a pivotal one for US-African relations. First, because China overtook the US as the continent’s largest trading partner; and second because Gaddafi was elected president of the African Union.

The significance of both for the decline of US influence on the continent could not be clearer. While Gaddafi was spearheading attempts to unite Africa politically, committing serious amounts of Libyan oil wealth to make this dream a reality, China was quietly smashing the West’s monopoly over export markets and investment finance. Africa no longer had to go cap-in-hand to the IMF for loans, agreeing to whatever self-defeating terms were on offer, but could turn to China – or indeed Libya – for investment. And if the US threatened to cut them off from their markets, China would happily buy up whatever was on offer. Western economic domination of Africa was under threat as never before.

The response from the West, of course, was a military one. Economic dependence on the West – rapidly being shattered by Libya and China – would be replaced by a new military dependence. If African countries would no longer come begging for Western loans, export markets, and investment finance, they would have to be put in a position where they would come begging for Western military aid.

To this end, AFRICOM – the US army’s new ‘African command’ – had been launched the previous year, but humiliatingly for George W. Bush, not a single African country would agree to host its HQ; instead, it was forced to open shop in Stuttgart, Germany. Gaddafi had led African opposition to AFRICOM, as exasperated US diplomatic memos later revealed by WikiLeaks made clear. And US pleas to African leaders to embrace AFRICOM in the ‘fight against terrorism’ fell on deaf ears.

After all, as Mutassim Gaddafi, head of Libyan security, had explained to Hillary Clinton in 2009, North Africa already had an effective security system in place, through the African Union’s ‘standby forces,’ on the one hand, and CEN-SAD on the other. CEN-SAD was a regional security organization of Sahel and Saharan states, with a well-functioning security system, with Libya as the lynchpin. The sophisticated Libyan-led counter-terror structure meant there was simply no need for a US military presence. The job of Western planners, then, was to create such a need.

NATO’s destruction of Libya simultaneously achieved three strategic goals for the West’s plans for military expansion in Africa. Most obviously, it removed the biggest obstacle and opponent of such expansion, Gaddafi himself. With Gaddafi gone, and with a quiescent pro-NATO puppet government in charge of Libya, there was no longer any chance that Libya would act as a powerful force against Western militarism. Quite the contrary – Libya’s new government was utterly dependent on such militarism and knew it.
Secondly, NATO’s aggression served to bring about a total collapse of the delicate but effective North African security system, which had been underpinned by Libya. And finally, NATO’s annihilation of the Libyan state effectively turned the country over to the region’s death squads and terror groups. These groups were then able to loot Libya’s military arsenals and set up training camps at their leisure, using these to expand operations right across the region.

It is no coincidence that almost all of the recent terror attacks in North Africa – not to mention Manchester – have been either prepared in Libya or perpetrated by fighters trained in Libya. Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, ISIS, Mali’s Ansar Dine, and literally dozens of others, have all greatly benefited from the destruction of Libya.

By ensuring the spread of terror groups across the region, the Western powers had magically created a demand for their military assistance which hitherto did not exist. They had literally created a protection racket for Africa.

In an excellent piece of research published last year, Nick Turse wrote how the increase in AFRICOM operations across the continent has correlated precisely with the rise in terror threats. Its growth, he said, has been accompanied by “increasing numbers of lethal terror attacks across the continent including those in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Tunisia.

In fact, data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland shows that attacks have spiked over the last decade, roughly coinciding with AFRICOM’s establishment. In 2007, just before it became an independent command, there were fewer than 400 such incidents annually in sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, the number reached nearly 2,000. By AFRICOM’s own official standards, of course, this is a demonstration of a massive failure. Viewed from the perspective of the protection racket, however, it is a resounding success, with US military power smoothly reproducing the conditions for its own expansion.

This is the Africa policy Trump has now inherited. But because this policy has rarely been understood as the protection racket it really is, many commentators have, as with so many of Trump’s policies, mistakenly believed he is somehow ‘ignoring’ or ‘reversing’ the approach of his predecessors. In fact, far from abandoning this approach, Trump is escalating it with relish.

What the Trump administration is doing, as it is doing in pretty much every policy area, is stripping the previous policy of its ‘soft power’ niceties to reveal and extend the iron fist which has in fact been in the driving seat all along. Trump, with his open disdain for Africa, has effectively ended US development aid for Africa – slashing overall African aid levels by one third, and transferring responsibility for much of the rest from the Agency for International Development to the Pentagon – while openly tying aid to the advancement of “US national security objectives.”

‘US has enough roles’:  not interested in  nation-building

Read more: https://on.rt.com/89ft 

In other words, the US has made a strategic decision to drop the carrot in favor of the stick. Given the overwhelming superiority of Chinese development assistance, this is unsurprising. The US has decided to stop trying to compete in this area, and instead to ruthlessly and unambiguously pursue the military approach which the Bush and Obama administrations had already mapped out.

To this end, Trump has stepped up drone attacks, removing the (limited) restrictions that had been in place during the Obama era. The result has been a ramping up of civilian casualties, and consequently of the resentment and hatred which fuels militant recruitment. It is unlikely to be a coincidence, for example, that the al Shabaab truck bombing that killed over 300 people in Mogadishu last weekend was carried out by a man from a town in which had suffered a major drone attack on civilians, including women and children, in August.

Indeed, a detailed study by the United Nations recently concluded that in “a majority of cases, state action appears to be the primary factor finally pushing individuals into violent extremism in Africa.” Of more than 500 former members of militant organizations interviewed for the report, 71 percent pointed to “government action,” including “killing of a family member or friend” or “arrest of a family member or friend” as the incident that prompted them to join a group. And so the cycle continues: drone attacks breed recruitment, which produces further terror attacks, which leaves the states involved more dependent on US military support. Thus does the West create the demand for its own ‘products.’

It does so in another way as well. Alexander Cockburn, in his book ‘Kill Chain,’ explains how the policy of ‘targeted killings’ – another Obama policy ramped up under Trump – also increases the militancy of insurgent groups. Cockburn, reporting on a discussion with US soldiers about the efficacy of targeted killings, wrote that: “When the topic of conversation came round to ways of defeating the [roadside] bombs, everyone was in agreement. They would have charts up on the wall showing the insurgent cells they were facing, often with the names and pictures of the guys running them,” Rivolo remembers. “When we asked about going after the high-value individuals and what effect it was having, they’d say, ‘Oh yeah, we killed that guy last month, and we’re getting more IEDs than ever.’ They all said the same thing, point blank: ‘[O]nce you knock them off, a day later you have a new guy who’s smarter, younger, more aggressive and is out for revenge.”’

Alex de Waal has written how this is certainly true in Somalia, where, he says, “each dead leader is followed by a more radical deputy. After a failed attempt in January 2007, the US killed Al Shabaab’s commander, Aden Hashi Farah Ayro, in a May 2008 air strike. Ayro’s successor, Ahmed Abdi Godane (alias Mukhtar Abu Zubair), was worse, affiliating the organization with Al-Qaeda. The US succeeded in assassinating Godane in September 2014. In turn, Godane was succeeded by an even more determined extremist, Ahmad Omar (Abu Ubaidah). It was presumably Omar who ordered the recent attack in Mogadishu, the worst in the country’s recent history. If targeted killing remains a central strategy of the War on Terror”, De Waal wrote, “it is set to be an endless war.”

But endless war is the whole point. For not only does it force African countries, finally freeing themselves from dependence on the IMF, into dependence on AFRICOM; it also undermines China’s blossoming relationship with Africa.

Chinese trade and investment in Africa continues to grow apace. According to the China-Africa Research Initiative at John Hopkins University, Chinese FDI stocks in Africa had risen from just two percent of the value of US stocks in 2003 to 55 percent in 2015, when they totaled $35 billion. This proportion is likely to rapidly increase, given that “Between 2009 and 2012, China’s direct investment in Africa grew at an annual rate of 20.5 percent, while levels of US FDI flows to Africa declined by $8 billion in the wake of the global financial crisis”. Chinese-African trade, meanwhile, topped $200 billion in 2015.

China’s signature ‘One Belt One Road’ policy – to which President Xi Jinping has pledged $124 billion to create global trade routes designed to facilitate $2 trillion worth of annual trade – will also help to improve African links with China. Trump’s policy toward the project was summarised by Steve Bannon, his ideological mentor, and former chief strategist in just eight words: “Let’s go screw up One Belt One Road.” The West’s deeply destabilizing Africa policy – of simultaneously creating the conditions for armed groups to thrive while offering protection against them – goes some way toward realizing this ambitious goal. Removing Gaddafi was just the first step.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Courtesy: RT

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