See “FBI, Interpol Host Critical Infrastructure Symposium”

“FBI Director James Comey was in Miami yesterday July 7, where he spoke at the opening of the four-day International Law Enforcement Critical Infrastructure Symposium. The event, co-hosted by the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate and Interpol, has drawn senior law enforcement officials from more than 90 countries to explore and share best practices for managing WMD and counterterrorism threats targeted against critical infrastructure and to identify common approaches to protect infrastructure and key resources.

Also participating in the symposium are domestic first responders, corporate security officers, and other U.S. federal partners.

“Today, critical infrastructure is all encompassing,” said Director Comey. “It is everything to our country and our world—our dams, our bridges, our highways, our networks,” he added, explaining that the threats we face to our interconnected systems—such as bioterrorism, agroterrorism, and sabotage—are as diverse as our infrastructure itself.

Comey cited examples of threats to infrastructure, to include the armed assault last April on a California power station, the 2008 attack in Mumbai in which gunmen opened fire at a number of locations, and last year’s deadly shootings at a Kenyan shopping mall. He also noted the ninth anniversary of the July 7, 2013 strikes by terrorists who bombed the London Underground and a double-decker bus in a series of coordinated suicide attacks.

“We know these threats are real,” Comey told the audience. “We must together figure out ways to protect our infrastructure, to work together to strengthen our response to a terrorist attack, a tragic accident, or a natural disaster.”

While touching on topics ranging from terrorism, cyber, and WMD threats to training, partnerships, and intelligence, Comey’s theme throughout underscored the importance of open communication and information sharing with our partners in the U.S. and abroad.

Interpol, as an international police organization, is an important partner on which the Bureau relies heavily to help combat threats of all types. The FBI, through its liaison with Interpol, is able to leverage 190 member countries to address challenges around the globe—a very important ability in a constantly evolving global threat environment.

Comey also highlighted the work of the FBI’s WMD Directorate, each FBI field office’s WMD coordinator, and of the agency’s two regional WMD assistant legal attachés in Tbilisi and Singapore. “They integrate our counterterrorism, intelligence, counter-intelligence, scientific, and technological components and provide timely analysis of the threat and response,” Comey said. “The goal is to shrink the world to respond to the threat.”

The symposium provides the opportunity for participants to help work toward that goal. Through networking and discussions on how to coordinate and cooperate on critical infrastructure preparedness and protection efforts, attendees will strengthen existing partnerships and develop new ones. By rallying the international community around defeating a common threat, our collective chances of success increase.

Director Comey said that the US’s greatest weapon in this fight is unity, which is developed through intelligence sharing and interagency cooperation. “It is built on the idea that standing together, we are smarter and stronger than when we are standing alone,” he said. “Because no one person—no FBI agent, no police officer, no agency, and no country—can prevent or respond to an attack on critical infrastructure alone.””

http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2014/july/fbi-interpol-host-critical-infrastructure-symposium/fbi-interpol-host-critical-infrastructure-symposium?utm_campaign=email-Immediate&utm_medium=email&utm_source=fbi-top-stories&utm_content=334495

Results of the intervention in Iraq?

What are the consequences of the U.S. interventionist policies in the Middle East? The bad ones are about these: the destabilization of Iraq a few years after the withdrawal of troops, the rise of Islamic fundamentalist rhetoric, the emergence of a group of which it appears even “Al-Qaeda” wants to desist and the spread of the influence of these groups (ISIS, newer IS), that influence the civil war in Syria.

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism and Islamist terrorist is not the direct consequence of US intervention in the Middle East. Modern Islamic fundamentalism is a type of political-religious ideology that emerged in the 1920s, at a time the US was virtually absent from the Middle East scene. The main Islamic fundamentalist movement which appeared at the end of the 1920s is of course the Muslim Brotherhood which was founded in Egypt by Hassan Al Banna. It was founded as a pan-Islamist, political-religious and social movement. Though it did see itself as an international movement, its political action was very much limited to Egypt, though by the late 1940s, the group had an estimated 500,000 members in Egypt while its ideas had spread across the Arab world. From around 1936 it resorted to terrorism, opposing British rule and those it believed cooperated with it, but with strictly Egyptian goals and renounced violence for a time in 1949. The MB welcomed the overthrow of the Egyptian monarchy in 1952 but quickly fell out with the Free Officers whom they accused of secularism.

After a failed attempt to assassinate President Gamal Abdul Nasser in 1954, the Ikhwan were blamed, banned, and thousands of members imprisoned and often tortured. The group continued, however, to grow underground. This clash with the authorities prompted an important shift in the ideology of the Ikhwan, evident in the writing of one prominent member, Sayyid Qutb, who became posthumously one of Al-Qaeda’s favorite ideologues.

Qutb’s work advocated the use of jihad (struggle) against Jahili (religiously ignorant) societies, both Western and so-called Islamic ones, which he argued were in need of radical transformation.

His writings – particularly the 1964 work “Milestones” – inspired the founders of many radical Islamist groups, including Ayman Al-Zawahiri’s Tanzim Al-Jihad, Gemaa al-Islamiya and Osama bin Laden’s mentor, Abdullah Azzam.

In 1965, the Egyptian government again cracked down on the Ikhwan, executing Qutb for terrorist actions in 1966 and transforming him into a martyr for Islamists across the region. In the early 1970s the MB renounced again terrorism but continued to oppose both authoritarian regimes and the principles of democracy. This when those who were not ready to forsake terrorism founded Gemaa Islamiya and Tanzim Al-Jihad. Gemaa (or Jemaa) Islamiya has now renounced terrorism while Tanzim al Jihad (or Islamic Jihad) joined in its majority Al-Qaeda. During the 1980s, the Ikhwan attempted to rejoin the political mainstream.

Al-Qaeda was founded by Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam,and others in late 1989 on the basis of the Maktab al-Khidamat (services bureau) which had been set up to coordinate logistics for Arab fighters against the Soviet occupation or Afghanistan and which indirectly probably received US money distributed by Pakistan’s ISIS according to its own criteria. Al-Qaeda was not initially particularly anti-American and anti-Western and the US and the organization found themselves on the same side. Differences however emerged however between Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian. The latter defended the view that the main objectives of Islamists was to overthrow the “apostate” regimes in the Muslim and in particular the Arab Muslim world, while bin laden and his supporters believed that these “apostate” regimes survived only as a result of Western support and that the “far enemy”, initially designated as the US and the West in general, later “the Christians and the Jews”, should be defeated before the “near enemy” -the apostate regimes- could be overthrown. Egyptian supporters of bin Laden murdered Azzam, apparently without his permission, though he did not punish them. Al-Qaeda adheres to a version of Islamic fundamentalism known as Salafism, according to which Muslims started to go astray about two centuries after the death of the Prophet of Islam, and that Islamic societies should return to this Golden Age of Islam represented by theses first two centuries. But their representation of Muslim societies after the death of the Prophet has little to do with historical reality: it is an artificial reconstruction of this period based on today’s Salafist concept of Islam, which opposes nation states (it wants a return to the Umma, the non-national community of Moslems) an democracy, which they describe as the rule of man as opposed to the rule of God. The Umma should be ruled by a Caliph as after the death of the Prophet (the first four Caliphs, known as the Rashidoun) are honored by all Muslims except Shiites who honor only the last of the four, Ali, as a descendent of the Prophet.

Osama bin Laden’s switch to global terrorism against the West and regimes it considered as supported by the West dates from Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. He asked the Saudi authorities permission to create an army of Mujaheddin to fight Iraq but was told that this was no guerilla Afghanistan and that bin Laden’s fighters would not stand a chance against Iraq’s 2,500 tanks. bin Laden was adamantly opposed to any non-Muslim military presence in the Kingdom. He soon went to Sudan where he was for a time supported by the authorities there and Islamist ideologue Hassan Al-Tourabi, who has since changed his political-religious views and strongly opposed Islamist terrorism. He later found refuge and support in the Taleban’s Afghanistan.

Until Operation Desert Shield the US had little to do with Islamist terrorism, though Islamists have always criticized the West for their support for the existence of Israel, which they consider illegitimate, and for their alleged and sometimes real support during the Cold War for authoritarian regimes in the Muslim world. The US had little to do with the creation of Israel but recognized her almost immediately -though the administration was divided on the subject with president Truman however adamant on the issue-, followed just as immediately by the Soviet Union. Israel’s hard-won independence was made possible by Czech arms rather than Western ones, supplied on orders from Stalin who wanted to exploit animosity between Israel and Britain.

Al-Qaeda and similar ideologies need their causes promoted. One of the first ones after Afghanistan was Bosnia, which hit by an arms embargo (which also applied to Serbia and all other members of the former Yugoslav federation, but Serbia was awash with weapons including heavy ones -the JNA was an apt fighting force) did not know where to turn to -at least until president Clinton was persuaded to act to stop the genocide that had started, with NATO following as usual- in desperation welcomed AQ-linked Jihadists. The Bosniaks were to regret this later and became a strong ally of the US in the fight against AQ terrorism, extraditing expeditiously a number of Jihadists to the US.

The second cause célèbre was Iraq. There was no love lost between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden, and though the Iraqi dictator once sent former senior intelligence officer Farooq Al-Hijazi to meet with bin laden in Sudan, almost nothing came out of it. But the Jihadists were strongly opposed to any type of Western military intervention in the Muslim world. The Iraqi version of AQ -Al-Qaeda in the land of the two rivers, the Islamic State of Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and now the Islamic State- differentiate themselves from the main AQ ideology is that they are determined not only to oppose democracy but to destroy Shiismi, its holy sites and even many of the faithful themselves. Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian who was killed in a targeted US air strike, is the father of this ferocious anti-Shiism, which was too harsh for bin laden and Zawahiri. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi shares this ferocious anti-Shiism. He no longer obeys Zawahiri’s edicts and believes a non-national Islamic State can be created right now which would expand to the rest of the Muslim world, abolishing national borders, and ruled by himself, Caliph Ibrahim. He is over-extending himself and will pay the price.

US interventions in the Muslim world did not create Islamic fundamentalism and international Islamist terrorism, but they create focal points for it, helping recruitment by giving like-minded Muslims a cause célèbre. Islamic fundamentalism, including its violent Salafist-Jihadist form, was not created by the US or the West in general. It is the product of the very rapid evolution of Muslim-majority societies, where some cannot accept many aspects of modernity which collide with their own, narrow and backward-looking conception of Islam. Ironically, it is a by-product of an evolution which created them but which will eventually destroy them. The fight against AQ ideology will not be won with drones, though this fight has a military aspect and drones are a most useful weapon in this military dimension. It will be won ideologically and religiously by the Muslims themselves, but they do need our support, particularly in the military aspects.

Saying that the Saddam Hussein regime, which killed 650,000 Iraqis in judicial and extrajudicial executions, generalized torture even against whole families, started two major wars and lesser ones, was after all preferable to the Islamic State, is comparable to saying that we should have left Hitler and the Nazi regime in place as the best defense against Communism. Supporting the Iraqi state is most urgent.

Collect Open Data is hacking?

M-am oprit la un articol publicat pe defenseone.com, zilele acestea: “The Military Is Already Using Facebook to Track Your Mood”, scris de Patrick Tucker.

As spune doar ca directorul DIA afirma ceva destul de diferit: acesta nu este un experiment, ci o practica – prelucrarea datelor publice. În cazul în care cineva nu-și vrea datele cu caracter personal prelucrate, el sau ea nu ar trebui să posteze pe internet! Acest lucru este, desigur, valabil si pentru LinkedIn, sau alte rețele de socializare: nu este nevoie de hacking a site-ului pentru colectarea datelor.

Bogăția de date Open Source este enorma și a explodat odată cu creșterea internetului. Dar chiar și înainte agențiile, s-au folosit de mulțimea de date Open Source. Cine nu a auzit de dumbfounding? De asemenea, sursele deschise de date sunt actualizate în mod frecvent printr-un singur “Search”.

Interesant:

“Critics have targeted a recent study on how emotions spread on the popular social network site Facebook, complaining that some 600,000 Facebook users did not know that they were taking part in an experiment. Somewhat more disturbing, the researchers deliberately manipulated users’ feelings to measure an effect called emotional contagion.

Defense One recently caught up with Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency who said the U.S. military has “completely revamped” the way it collects intelligence around the existence of large, openly available data sources and especially social media like Facebook. “The information that we’re able to extract form social media — it’s giving us insights that frankly we never had before,” he said.

In other words, the head of one of the biggest U.S. military intelligence agencies needs you on Facebook.

“Just over a decade ago, when I was a senior intelligence officer, I spent most of my time in the world of ‘ints’ — signals intelligence imagery, human intelligence — and used just a little bit of open-source information to enrich the assessments that we made. Fast forward to 2014 and the explosion of the information environment in just the last few years alone. Open-source now is a place I spend most of my time. The open world of information provides us most of what we need and the ‘ints’ of old, they enrich the assessments that we’re able to make from open-source information.”

http://cdn.defenseone.com/defenseone/interstitial.html?v=2.1.1&rf=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.defenseone.com%2Ftechnology%2F2014%2F07%2Fmilitary-already-using-facebook-track-moods%2F87793%2F

O privire spre Statul Islamic

In această etapă, ambițiile IS (Islamic State – Statul Islamic) sunt destul de modeste. Ei încearcă să desființeze granița dintre Siria și Irak, și se vor extinde doar în cazul în care pot lupta cu alte țări musulman-majoritare.

Ar trebui să ne amintim că Jihadiștii au luptat si în Europa, mai exact în Bosnia, când Alija Izetbegović era disperat ca nu primea niciun ajutor din alta parte, pentru a lupta împotriva JNA și cu sârbii bosniaci. Astfel, el i-a acceptat; promițându-le naționalitate bosniacă, dacă lupta pentru el. Dar aceștia au intrat rapid în conflict cu armata bosniacă și populația. După ce războiul s-a terminat – ca rezultat al intervenției SUA și a NATO – unii dintre acești Jihadiști, au luptat în Afganistan, alții au plecat, în timp ce ceilalți, fie și-au reluat activitățile lor jihadiste, criminale sau infracționale, ori doar dus o viață normală. Politica în Bosnia s-a schimbat și Jihadiștii au fost expulzați.

Al Qaeda și statul islamic cred că toate țările care au fost odată cucerite de către arabii musulmani fac parte din Umma și ar trebui să fie re-cucerite, dar în acest moment acest lucru este doar teorie.

Exista de fapt mai mult forțe: islamiste, grupurile de non-AQ, etc,.

Administrația Obama și-a sporit ajutorul “letal” oferit opoziției în Siria, dar acest lucru nu este încă suficient pentru a inversa echilibrul militar de putere și să facă fata IS și lui Al-Nusrah. Această politică incrementala poate fi descrisă ca “prea puțin, prea târziu”. Acesta este motivul pentru ambasadorul Ford a demisionat.

Unii spun ca mărirea sprijinului letal acordat de SUA a fost, de fapt, mai mult retorica decât reala: suma de 500 milioane dolari promiși de Președintele Obama este supusă aprobării Congresului. Chiar și în cazul aprobării, virările nu vor avea loc înainte de șase până la opt luni. Totuși, s-ar părea ca anumite sume vor fi luate din alte fonduri, dar va fi acest lucru suficient pentru a inversa echilibrul militar de putere?

Probabil, singurul lucru care ar putea mișca administrația Obama este avansarea Statului Islamic în Irak. Situația din Irak ii v-a putea schimba calculele lui Barak Obama și l-ar putea obliga să facă mai mult. În Irak el trebuie să ofere atât sprijin militar rapid cât și să colaboreze cu partidele irakiene, pentru a forma un guvern non-sectarian.

The Killing of Palestinian

The three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered in an area that remains fully under Israeli control, ie in a scene in Area C, where Palestinian intelligence cannot freely investigate.

The bodies of Naftali Frenkel (16, from Nof Ayalon, who is also a US citizen), Gilad Shaer (16, from Talmon), and Eyal Yifrah (19, from Elad), were found in a field north-west of Hebron.

The identities of two suspects in the kidnapping, Hamas militants Marwan Qawasmeh (29) and Amar Abu-Isa (32), were released by Shin Beth. They have not yet been found. A senior Palestinian intelligence official said off the record that their disappearance constituted clear evidence the two suspects have links with the abduction.

Another suspect, Husam Dufish, has been arrested. The kidnappings and murders seem to have been perpetrated by members of the Qawasmeh clan, possibly linked to Hamas, as we earlier reported. Hamas has refused to condemn these kidnappings. Lebanon Hezbollah has castigated Arab silence on the situation and attacked Mahmou Abbas’s statements that Palestinian security was prepared to help.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/07/world/middleeast/israel-palestinians-muhammad-abu-khdeir.html?_r=2

Caracteristici prezente din perspectiva unor percepții

Făcând un tur al analizelor și previziunilor unor organisme de referință în domeniu , putem enumera toate provocările geopolitice și economice viitoare. Cum va fi lumea peste un deceniu, sau două sau mai multe?

Am mai scris despre BRICS și chiar am dezbătut unele teorii care explică modul în care “permisele actualei crizei economice sunt o reproiectare a noii ordini mondiale, deoarece a luat prin surprindere o mulțime de state și le-a permis unora să speculeze punctele slabe ale altora, pentru a se repoziționa ele însele la un alt nivel geopolitic” . Am atras atenția atât asupra obiectivului presupus strategic, cât și asupra caracteristicii premeditate a crizei economice. În opinia mea, importanța acestor mesaje își găsește eco-ul în faptul că această criză a subminat economia statelor emergente.

Este tendința principală declinul Occidentului? Pentru prima dată din secolul al XV-lea și pana acum, țările occidentale își puteau pierde puterea în fata noilor puteri emergente. Acesta era începutul ultimei faze a unui ciclu de cinci secole de dominație occidentală în lume. Chiar dacă Statele Unite vor rămâne una dintre cele mai mari puteri la nivel mondial, își vor pierde ele hegemonia economică în fata Chinei? Nu vor mai urmări ele “hegemonia militară”, așa cum au făcut-o la sfârșitul Războiului Rece (în 1989)? Unele cercetări arată că ne îndreptăm spre o lume multipolară în care noi actori – China, India, Brazilia, Rusia, Africa de Sud – vor deveni poli regionali solizi și își vor disputa supremația internațională cu Washington-ul și aliații săi – Marea Britanie, Franța, Germania, Japonia. Cifrele arată o tendință de declin a Vestului și se prefigurează că țările occidentale vor merge de la 56% cât au în prezent, la 25% în mai puțin de un deceniu. În mai puțin de două decenii, Occidentul va pierde mai mult de jumătate din predominanță sa economică și una dintre principalele consecințe este că SUA și aliații săi nu vor avea mijloacele financiare să-și asume rolul de jandarm mondial.

Pe de altă parte, se confirmă oare faptul că, China, este o locomotivă mai puternică decât Statele Unite și Europa la un loc, în termeni de populație, PIB, cheltuielile militare și investițiile tehnologice? China se poate baza pe independența sa energetică datorită petrolului și a gazelor de șist. Dar, Statele Unite ale Americii ar putea deveni liderul mondial în producția de petrol pană în 2020, depășind Arabia Saudită,care este liderul mondial actual ceea ce va produce o răsturnare a relațiilor de putere, fără precedent.
Poate părea ciudat, atunci când unii sugerează că, China ar putea intra în recesiune în curând. Cu toate acestea, Jim Walker susține că acest lucru este posibil: “suntem, probabil, pe cale sa vedem China intrând mai degrabă în recesiune decât într-o încetinire a creșterii economice” . În ceea ce privește gândirea scenariului, o astfel de afirmație ridică două întrebări importante. În primul rând, care ar putea fi cauzele unei recesiuni în China? O criză bancară? În al doilea rând, care ar putea fi consecințele unei astfel de recesiuni? Schimbări de politică economică, tulburări sociale și / sau o politică externă mai agresivă? Jim Walker prezice un soc (recesiune și inflație – mai rău decât stagflație). Eu aș înclina mai degrabă pentru o încetinire puternică a creșterii, nu pentru o recesiune, care în cazul în care politicienii vor influenta politica băncii centrale, s-ar putea înrăutăți. Este într-adevăr un risc serios datorat faptului că banca centrală a Chinei continuă să se supună influentelor politice. Zhou Xiaochuan, a fost un guvernator foarte capabil al Băncii Naționale a Chinei, dar a trebuit să se supună politicului: el nu se numără printre cei câțiva, cei mai puternici oficiali chinezi. Nu există semne încă, că noua conducere va acorda mai multă autonomie băncii. Acest lucru privează China de un instrument independent sau autonom de reglementare a ofertei de bani.

Rusia este activă în Organizația de Cooperare de la Shanghai, care este atât o organizație de securitate cât și una economică. Desigur, în Asia Centrală, Moscova și Beijing-ul sunt concurente atât pe plan economic, cât și pe planurile politic și de securitate, dar niciun conflict major nu se prefigurează intre aceștia doi. Naționaliștii ruși promovează “Eurasia”, sub conducerea Rusiei, dar este mai degrabă doar o ideologie decât orice altceva. Normalizarea relațiilor dintre China și India elimina orice potențial dezacord. In cadrul Consiliului de Securitate al ONU, China, aproape invariabil, votează cu Rusia.

Criza din Europa va dura cel putin un deceniu, până în 2023 și nu este sigur dacă UE va fi capabilă să susțină coeziunea. Între timp, China este a doua cea mai mare economie din lume și va deveni, în curând, prima.

Alte țări dintre țările BRICS (Brazilia, Rusia, India și Africa de Sud) se vor instala pe linia a doua și vor intra în concurență directă cu fosta dominantă ca grup – JAFRU (Japonia, Germania, Franța, Marea Britanie). Pe linia a treia sunt o serie de puteri intermediare, cu puternice date demografice și creșteri ale ratei de creștere economică, și ele pot deveni poli hegemonici și regionali, deoarece tind să fie un grup de influență la nivel mondial, CINETV – Columbia, Indonezia, Nigeria, Etiopia, Turcia, Vietnam.

Un raport al Ramses si alte surse similare spun că, în noul sistem internațional, cei mai mari actori din lume nu vor mai fi țări, ci comunități unite și interconectate, cel puțin prin intermediul internetului și a rețelelor sociale. Influenta Facebook, care va avea peste un miliard de utilizatori sau a Twitter – 800 de milioane – în jocul politic din lume, ar putea fi decisivă. Structurile de putere se vor risipi, datorită accesului universal la astfel de rețele și utilizării de noi tehnologii digitale. Chiar dacă amenințările militare nu se vor agrava, cu un singur click, pericolele vor veni de la entități non-militare.

In acest context, mai trebuie menționat și riscul crescut de conflict în țările în care resursele naturale, cum ar fi apă și sol, sunt foarte limitate și în care populația este foarte tânăra (în timp ce UE are o populație în curs de îmbătrânire).

Eu nu pot să spun cum va fi organizată lumea peste patru secole de acum înainte, dar astăzi și pentru o lungă perioadă de timp, statele-națiune vor rămâne principala formă de organizare socială la scară mondială. Noi forme de comunicare se va dezvolta într-adevăr mai mult și pot să devină mai importante, acum însă, Facebook și Twitter, deși creează legături intre oamenii din toată lumea, nu pot slăbi statele-națiune (acestea pot fi folosite împotriva guvernelor naționale autoritare, dar asta e altă discuție). Tehnologia va continua să fie cel mai important criteriu de diferențiere între state, dar viitoarele state nu vor fi pe Internet, pe Google sau Facebook, chiar dacă acestea vor deține munți de date în timp real și vor avea mai multe informații decât statele-națiune.

Viitorul este rareori previzibil.

Europa între Parlamentul European și Comisia Europeană

Am urmărit campania electorală pentru Parlamentul European, în diferite țări europene. Prea puțin s-a discutat despre unitatea Uniunii, despre rolul acesteia și, prea puțin s-a dat dovadă de cunoașterea rolului instituțiilor europene.

Nici candidații, nici prezentatorii talk-show-urilor, nu au arătat că observă când ceilalți lansează enunțuri care nu au niciun fundament legal nici nu au spus că, pur și simplu, anumite reguli nu se pot impune la nivelul Uniunii, deoarece ar încălca principiul fundamental al liberei circulații a capitalurilor, persoanelor, etc. în întreaga UE. De exemplu, normele UE care reglementează ratele de impozitare – acestea variază de la o țară la alta, iar în afara de federaliști, nimeni nu vrea armonizarea ratelor de impozitare. Astfel, ar trebui să se aleagă: fie rate de impozitare diferite și companiile o vor alege în mod natural pe cea mai mică, fie armonizarea. (Rata de impozitare nu este singurul factor, dar este unul puternic).

O altă critică unanimă, folosită ca temă de campanie, a fost multiplicarea legislației privind standardele. În mod normal, acest lucru nu ar trebui să se întâmple, dar anumite țări continuă să devieze concurența prin impunerea de noi standarde, forțând Comisia Europeană să elaboreze directive de armonizare, care sunt ulterior aprobate de Parlamentul European și de Consiliu. Comisia Europeană poate propune, dar ea nu legiferează: Consiliul o face, sub rezerva că, după Tratatul de la Lisabona, cu aprobarea Parlamentului European.

Rar candidații au arătat ca dețin cunoștințe minime ale legislației UE și a competențelor diferitelor instituții ale UE: cum se așteptă cineva ca cetățenii de rând să înțeleagă ceva?

Eu cred că José Manuel Barroso nu a fost un președinte al Comisiei Europene rău. Cu ceva ani în urmă, Jacques Delors a avut o sarcină mai ușoară, în aceeași postură, el având de-a face cu 15 și nu 28 de țări, și venea din partea unuia dintre cei doi piloni ai UE, Franța, în timp ce Barroso provine dintr-o țară „mai mică”. Acesta s-a înțeles bine cu cei mai multi, dar nu și cu Margaret Thatcher, care credea că acesta are intenții federaliste și dorește crearea unui superstat european, punând astfel în pericol puterile Parlamentului britanic (în condițiile în care nicio țară din Europa nu are o tradiție parlamentară mai veche decât Marea Britanie).

Un președinte puternic la Președinția Comisiei Europene va trebui să se înțeleagă bine cu Germania și Franța (uneori aceste două țări nu sunt de acord, dar, din motive istorice, Germania nu va fi prea agresivă la adresa Franței niciodată), și nu prea prost cu Marea Britanie. Toate statele membre sunt egale cu privire la aspectele importante din UE, dar Germania și Franța sunt mai egale decât alții. În orice caz, nici un președinte al Comisiei nu va fi mult mai puternic decât Consiliul. De obicei, candidații care provin din alte țări decât cele trei menționate mai sus, pot, uneori, să devină mai importanți decât țara din care provin. Paul-Henri Spaak din Belgia este un exemplu interesant: el a fost succesiv de trei ori prim-ministru al Belgiei (1938-1939, 1946 și 1947-1949), primul președinte al Adunării Generale a Organizației Națiunilor Unite (1946-1947), primul președinte al Adunării Comune a Comunității Europene a Cărbunelui și Oțelului (1952-1954), strămoșul EEC/EC/EU-, primul președinte al Adunării Parlamentare a Consiliului Europei (1949-1950), și al doilea secretar general al NATO (1957-1961). Deși nu fără adversari, Jean-Claude Juncker de Luxemburg poate fi, de asemenea, un astfel de exemplu. În acest sens, Judy Dempsey[1] avea dreptate când spunea că personalitatea președintelui Comisiei este un factor important pentru alegerea lui in functie. În același timp, nici un președinte al Comisiei Europene nu-si poate impune voința în fata Germaniei și a Franței, atunci când acestea nu sunt de acord.

In ultima perioadă a avut loc o întreagă discuție pe marginea unei preluări in presa a unei interpretări greșite a ceea ce ar fi declarat David Cameron, cum că acesta ar fi amenintat cu posibila ieșire a tării pe care o reprezintă din Uniunea Europeană – menționez în acest sens articolul cu titlul „Un oficial din Marea Britanie neagă că Cameron a amenințat că Marea Britanie va ieși din UE dacă Juncker este ales”, de Andreas Rinke și Andrew Osborn, pentru The Sun, în iunie 2014[2]. Ceea ce a spus în realitate David Cameron a fost că ar fi nevoie de mai multe  discuții înainte de a-i susține candidatura lui Juncker. Cu alte cuvinte, el vrea niște asigurări că Juncker va lua în considerare cererile Marii Britanii referitoare la anumite modificări în cadrul UE. Dar președintele Comisiei nu are nici o putere pentru a le aproba: acest lucru depinde în totalitate de Consiliul, și concesiile nu vor merge foarte departe. Cameron încearcă doar să-i convingă pe euro-scepticii din partidul său (nu cei din UKIP) de importanta pe care o are.

Juncker s-ar putea să fie ales sau nu, dar (nu l-am auzit pe William Hague discutând foarte mult despre asta) perspectiva lui David Cameron despre ceea ce ar trebui să fie UE nu este sigur că va avea câștigat de cauză. Germania și Franța, fără de care Consiliul nu face nimic, se vor opune oricărei propuneri care ar conduce la slăbirea instituțiilor UE. Tot ceea ce Cameron poate spera este că acestea nu vor fi întărite și mai mult în direcția de centralizare.

S-a vehiculat în ultima perioada și un zvon cum ca Chrisitine Lagarde ar fi fost o opțiune pentru președinția Comisiei Europene. Au existat voci care spun că Angela Merkel, Cancelarul Germaniei ar prefera-o pe directorul general al FMI, Christine Lagarde, pe această poziție, în conditiile în care aceasta ar accepta. Deși este de centru-dreapta – ea a fost Ministru de Finanțe, în guvernarea Nicolas Sarkozy – Christine Lagarde, ar avea sprijinul francez pentru simplul motiv că este franțuzoaică, și cel mai probabil sprijinul britanic pentru opiniile sale despre piața liberă. Nu se știe dacă toți membrii Consiliului UE s-ar opune candidaturii ei și dacă ea ar fi aprobată de Parlamentul European. Socialiștii Europeni, cu toate acestea, ar fi puțin probabil să se opună unui candidat susținut de către socialiștii francezi, precum și de către grupul PPE de centru-dreapta. Cu toate acestea, este posibil ca atât extrema dreaptă cât și extrema stângă sau Verzii sa se opună candidaturii ei. Aparent, Christine Lagarde nu este interesată de poziția de Președinte al Comisiei Europene sau, cel puțin o preferă pe cea de la FMI, iar cancelarul Angela Merkel îl susține acum pe Jean-Claude Juncker al Luxemburgului, al cărui punct forte este o experiență vastă în UE, inclusiv în calitate de președinte al Euro-grupului. Competitia va fi, în acest caz, între Juncker și Martin Schulz, din Germania.

Extrema dreaptă este de așteptat să il ajute pe Schulz să câștige, deoarece Juncker reprezintă pentru ei tot ceea ce urăsc mai mult: integrarea europeană și euro. Schulz, ale cărui puncte de vedere europene sunt departe de cele ale Juncker, este susținut de Alianța Progresistă a Socialiștilor și Democraților în timp ce Juncker ar trebui să obțină votul Conservatorilor și al Reformiștilor Europeni. Alianța Liberalilor și Democraților pentru Europa (ALDE) il va sprijini Guy Verhofstadt din Belgia, dar poate trece la Juncker în turul doi sau a trei, în timp ce Alianța Verzilor-Liberă Europeană (Greens-EFA), ar trebui să-l sprijine în cele din urmă pe Schulz.

Un aspect particular este acela ca Schulz nu este iubit in cadrul alianței euro-atlantice datorită eforturilor sale din trecut pentru a sprijini un organism european de apărare separat de NATO. Dar cu evenimentele din Ucraina este puțin probabil să se ridice subiectul în viitorul apropiat și, în orice caz, Parlamentul European are puțină putere în acest sens el, în comparație cu Consiliul UE.

Deocamdată, as spune că principalul învingător în alegerile pentru PE nu a fost extrema dreapta, ci absenteismul. În alegerile naționale extrema-dreapta nu va mai avea asa un scor, chiar dacă această dimensiune va fi un pic mai mare decât înainte. Ceea ce va învinge extrema dreaptă (și extrema stângă, care a câștigat în Grecia) este redresarea economică a UE. Dar partidele pro-UE ar trebui să explice mai bine beneficiul unității UE și să se oprească din a da vina pe Bruxelles pentru propriile decizii.

Se pare că David Cameron este acum izolat, iar JC Juncker va primi postul. PPE îl susține pe Juncker, și este puțin probabil ca Angela Merkel sa meargă împotriva lor. S-ar putea spune că Martin Schultz iese din cursă căci, in 20 iunie, Angela Merkel a ajuns la un acord cu partenerii săi de coaliție. Susținătorii de centru-dreapta ai lui Merkel vor vota în Parlament pentru ca Schulz să rămână președinte al PE pentru un al doilea mandat, în timp ce Juncker va primi postul de la Comisia Europeană.

Social-democrații germani o vor sprijini pe Angela Merkel să-l numească Guenther Oettinger, un creștin-democrat, în calitate de comisar.

Angela Merkel a spus clar că-l va sprijini pe Juncker în fața opoziției feroce britanice.

“Cu siguranță nu vom ajunge la o decizie unanimă cu privire la acest subiect”, a spus Angela Merkel, “dar vrem să se opereze în spirit european și asta înseamnă că vom fi atenți la ceea ce spune Marea Britanie, în special cu privire in cadrul… programului de lucru al Comisiei. În cazul în care grupul Socialist din Parlamentul European îl nominalizează pe Martin Schulz pentru președinție, secțiunea germană a PPE îl va sprijini pe Schulz pentru această poziție. Pentru prima dată în acest an, PE va putea să-și propună candidatul la președinția Comisiei, dar Consiliul nu este obligat să accepte această alegere și ei vor să-și propună propriul candidat, probabil pe Juncker. Acesta din urmă va trebui ulterior să primească aprobarea Parlamentului European.”[3] 

Săptămâna trecută a fost făcut un sondaj pan-european, de către Ipsos-Mori, care a arătat ca 60% dintre europenii cu vârsta de vot nu au auzit nici de Juncker nici de Schultz.[4] 

Asa cum Yogi Berra spunea, “Nu s-a terminat, până nu s-a terminat.”

“US Treasury Sanctions Additional Individuals For Threatening The Territorial Integrity Of Ukraine”

“The U.S. Department of the Treasury on June 20 sanctioned seven separatists in Ukraine responsible for or complicit in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, and/or asserting governmental authority over a part or region of Ukraine without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine. These actions were taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13660. 

“The United States will continue to take action to hold accountable those persons engaged in efforts to destabilize Crimea and eastern Ukraine,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. “These individuals have all contributed to attempts to illegally undermine the legitimate government in Kyiv, notably by falsely proclaiming leadership positions and fomenting violent unrest.” 

Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, a separatist leader, has declared that the rebels have adopted a “take-no-prisoners” approach with future clashes with the Ukrainian security forces, claiming his men will “kill them all.” He also publically claimed his men would take all necessary measures to disrupt the Ukrainian elections in May. Ponomaryov is the former self-proclaimed “people’s mayor” of Slovyansk who declared himself mayor after leading a group of armed separatists in an assault on the Slovyansk mayor’s office in April. The town of Slovyansk has since become one of the centers of the separatist movement, and has been taken over by armed pro-Russia rebels. 

Denis Pushilin is a leader of a group calling itself the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” which has seized government buildings across eastern Ukraine, declared itself to be a sovereign state, and requested that it be allowed to join the Russian Federation. Pushilin has overseen an uprising that has seized town halls, police stations, and other buildings in towns across Ukraine’s Donetsk region. Pushilin stated that he and his followers would not release the buildings they seized until the Ukrainian government vacated its government buildings and the Donetsk region got an independence referendum. At a May press conference, Pushilin also stated that civilian and military authorities independent of Kyiv would be formed in the Donetsk region following the results of the illegitimate referendum on the region’s status in May. He further stated that the presence of any Ukrainian military remaining in the Donetsk region after the announcement of the referendum’s results would be considered illegal. 

Andrey Purgin describes himself as the co-head of a council running the separatist government in Donetsk. He advocated for the illegitimate May referendum and the federalization of Ukraine and took part in the storming of the Donetsk regional administration building earlier this year. Purgin founded the pro-Russian “Republic of Donetsk” organization in December 2005. The group’s activities were forbidden by a Ukrainian court, which considered them to be directed at the territorial disintegration of Ukraine. 

Igor Girkin (who is also known as Igor Strelkov) is the self-described “commander-in-chief of the Donetsk People’s Republic” who controls a group of armed separatists in Slovyansk. Girkin is responsible for the abduction of military observers in Ukraine, and an attack on the Slovyansk Internal Affairs Administration and the 25th Air Mobile Brigade from whom he stole a large cache of weapons. [He is a Russain -GRM]. 

Valery Bolotov has proclaimed himself governor of the separatist-controlled Luhansk region and has publically declared war on the government in Kyiv. Bolotov took direction from Girkin to hold a sham referendum in Luhansk in May.

Sergei Menyailo is the de facto “acting governor” of Sevastopol. He assisted in the formation of Sevastopol’s self-defense squads, which played a key role in facilitating Russia’s occupation of the Crimea region of Ukraine and were later entered into the ranks of the Russian military. Menyailo is part of a commission established to ensure the effectiveness of Russian federal executive bodies in Crimea.

Valery Kaurov is the self-described “president of Novorossiya” and has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to deploy troops to the territory described as Novorossiya. He has supported separatist activities in Ukraine’s Donetsk andLugansk territories.

As a result of these June 20 actions, any assets of the individuals designated here that are within U.S. jurisdiction must be frozen. Additionally, transactions by U.S. persons or within the United States involving the individuals designated today are generally prohibited.

Identifying Information

Name: Vyacheslav Ponomaryov 

AKA: Vyacheslav Ponomarev 
AKA: Vachislav Ponomaryov 
DOB: 2 May 1965

Name: Denis Pushilin 
AKA: Denis Pushylin 
AKA: Denys Pushylin 
AKA: Denis Volodymyrovych Pushylin 
POB: Makeevka, Ukraine 
DOB: 9 May 1981

Name: Andrey Yevgenyevich Purgin 
AKA: Andrei Purgin 
AKA: Andrej Purgin 
AKA: Andriy Purgin 
AKA: Andriy Purgyn 
AKA: Andriy Purhin 
DOB: 26 Jan, 1972

Name: Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin 
AKA: Igor Strelok 
AKA: Igor Ivanovich Strelkov 
AKA: Ihor Strelkov 
DOB: 17 Dec 1970 
Citizenship: Russian 
Passport: 4506460961 
Address: Shenkurskiy Passage (Proyezd), House 8-6, Apartment 136, Moscow, Russia

Name: Valery Bolotov 
AKA: Valeriy Bolotov 
AKA: Valeri Bolotov 
DOB: 1970 
Alt DOB: 1971

Name: Sergei Ivanovich Menyailo 
AKA: Sergei Menyailo 
AKA: Sergey Menyailo 
DOB: 22 Aug 1960 
POB: Alagir, North Ossetia, Russia 
Title: Acting Governor of Sevastopol

Name: Valery Vladimirovich Kaurov 
AKA: Valerii Volodymyrovych Kaurov 
AKA: Valery Kaurov 
AKA: Valeriy Kaurov 
DOB: 2 Apr 1956 
POB: Odessa, Ukraine”

 

See it here: http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2438.aspx

Fracking Europe

The availability of American shale gas and if and when it happens a settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue, of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Turkey’s (the most convenient point of transit) entry into the EU would of course change the situation, but the prospect of supplies of American shale gas is the only one to be almost immediate. Observers are also closely following progress in talks for an association agreement between Ukraine (another major point of transit) and the EU. Yes, there is a question of costs, but the infrastructure could have been developed, not to replace Russian gas, but to avoid Gasprom to be build a quasi-monopoly.

US shale gas will be transported to Europe by gas tankers, a technology that was developed long ago and allowed Algeria to sell large quantities of LNG to the US and France, which is also used by Qatar. Though some countries like France have prohibited shale gas and oil exploration, their companies, like GDF Suez of France (GDF Suez is Europe’s largest LNG importer and the world’s third-largest seller of LNG with a portfolio of 16m tones a year), are busy exploring for shale gas in the US and have already prepared plans for the port infrastructure in France and at least another European country. The US is expected by the International Energy Agency to be the world’s largest natural gas exporter by 2020 (and the largest oil exporter too), though it expects these exports to plateau soon after.

“The US is poised to overtake Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas this year, a startling shift that is reshaping energy markets and eroding the clout of traditional petroleum-rich nations”, wrote The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 2, 2013.

Shale-rock formations of oil and natural gas have fueled a comeback for the US that was unimaginable a decade ago. Russia meanwhile has struggled to maintain its energy output and has yet to embrace the technologies such as hydraulic fracturing that have boosted US reserves.

The US ascendance comes as Russia has struggled to maintain its energy output and has yet to embrace technologies such as hydraulic fracturing that have boosted American reserves.

In May, 2013 the Department of Energy authorized the Freeport LNG project in Texas to export to countries that do not have a trade agreement with the US, including Japan and the members of the EU. It was the first such approval to be granted for two years and only the second ever.

Twenty-six proposed US LNG plants have applied to the Department of Energy for export permits, but only one – Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass development in Louisiana – had been granted permission to sell to countries that do not have a trade agreement with the US. The US energy department said it would work through the remaining applications in order. Japan is already the world’s largest importer of LNG, and the crippling of its nuclear industry by the 2011 meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi atomic power station has only increased its demand.

Freeport has signed deals to sell its gas to Osaka Gas and Chubu Electric of Japan, and BP of the UK. The export project is owned by a consortium including Osaka Gas and Michael Smith, Freeport’s founder and chief executive. Separately, Japanese and European companies said they would invest billions of dollars in another proposed gas export project, the $10bn Cameron LNG plant in Louisiana. Mitsui, Mitsubishi and Nippon Yusen of Japan, and GDF Suez of France which had already agreed to buy LNG from Cameron, will offer construction financing in return for equity stakes totaling 49.8 per cent.

In June, 2013 representatives from the Azerbaijan-based consortium, Shah Deniz II, approved the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) over the U.S.-backed Nabucco West proposal. The 870-kilometer TAP will connect with the previously approved Trans-Anatolian pipeline (TANAP), crossing Greece, Albania, and the Adriatic Sea to deliver 10 billion cubic meters (extendable to 20 billion cubic meters) of Azerbaijani natural gas to Italy, and subsequently, other countries in the European Union. In light of American and European policy goals to diversify the sources of natural gas to Europe, TANAP and TAP must be seen as successes.

Europe’s and other countries’ dependence on Russian gas are about to be reduced, though there is no doubt the Gasprom will remain a major player.

Poland could also become an important producer of shale gas without running afoul of EU environmental legislation.
To answer questions about costs: they are quite high, but thanks to shale gas world natural gas prices have gone down and some countries could be priced out. Natural gas prices have started stopping being linked to oil prices, and US gas export gas could go down by another 35 percent within 4 year, but the price differential will certainly be absorbed by infrastructure investments though part of those will be met by governments (roads, etc) when needed. Countries like France which has been importing LNG for 40 years (from Algeria) have an advantage in this respect, though they will have to expand and overhaul their facilities.

The US lags far behind Europe in terms of LNG use, but European LNG prices are still aligned with oil there – which is of course in the interest of Qatar, Russia, Algeria, etc, as long term oil prices can only rise (even though they might go down temporarily as a result of the economic slowdown in Europe, China, India, etc).

One wouldn’t bet so much on shale gas developments in Europe, at least in the short term, as environmental concerns are an impediment. Europe should accelerate the diversification of her natural gas sources towards US, Canadian and even when available Ukrainian and Polish shale gas, LNG from Qatar and Algeria, perhaps more from Norway, etc., but that won’t be achieved overnight even with the new sense of urgency – the crisis in Ukraine. The share of natural gas in the manufacturing industry’s energy purchases is significantly higher in Europe than in the US. Algeria has significant traditional LNG supplier to certain south European countries. Algeria has been exporting LNG to Europe for decades but exports to the US floundered after a dispute on prices. The latest good news is that Algeria’s probable natural gas reserves have almost doubled since the beginning of this year. Ukraine herself has a potential major shale gas producer.

While a country like France is adamantly opposed to fracking – even shale oil and gas exploration is banned – nuclear power electricity plays a larger role than in any other country in the world, with the nuclear power industry providing over 80 percent of the country’s total electricity consumption. Last but not least, reversing the flow of gas from Germany and other countries to Ukraine is easier said than done, as the pipelines and their compression stations have not been designed for a reversal of the flow – but it is of course possible.

On the issue of dependence on Russian gas, everyone knows that the US won’t be able to export LNG from shale gas in large quantities before 2016.

The Analyst and The Intelligence Officer

I thought I had it clear that an Intelligence Analyst is a civilian or a military in charge of analyzing intelligence, while an Intelligence Officer is an officer, working in Intelligence. Although, the definitions should be clear and well known to anybody interested or working in the field of Intelligence, I’ve stumbled some days ago on a debate upon what these notions means, they differing from field to field, from country to country, from one perspective to another, from language to language. Today, remembering how, a few years ago I had to research the definitions of the words “Intelligence”, “security” and “safety”, I believe it is right to summarize a few perspectives the debaters had on the two notions mentioned above.

Apparently, an intelligence officer could be either enlisted, commissioned, or civilian. The term “officer” in this case refers to the duty (while in my language, officer means anybody with a higher military rank than lieutenant). The definitions depend on the nature of the agency and are by rank or by job type. In DoD/military intelligence organizations, an “intelligence officer” normally refers to a commissioned officer or civilian whose specialty is Intel, like logistics or personnel officer. In non-DoD (non-military), “officer” vs. “analyst” depends on type of job. Officers plan, conduct, and lead operations. In many countries, an intelligence officer is either a case officer (recruiting HUMINT), a desk officer (steering the intelligence cycle) or an intelligence analyst (analyses HUMINT, SIGINT, DIGINT, OSINT, all-INT and reporting based on all the collected information), when only a very few intelligence officers are actively conducting HUMINT or CI operations.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) is a 235-page Act of Congress, signed by President George W. Bush, that broadly affects United States federal terrorism laws, and it says:

“The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 were designed, among other goals, to break down obstacles to information sharing and to facilitate collaboration and “all-source analysis” of the wide and expanding range of national security issues. To meet the challenges of the 21st century, we can no longer tolerate false distinctions between “all-source”  and “single-INT” analysts or agencies. Stated another way, providing high-quality analysis and enhancing policymaker understanding of complex developments require utilizing all types of information and the insights of everyone who can contribute. Information sharing and collaboration are now essential attributes of intelligence analysis. For example, imagery analysts need (and have) access to SIGINT and HUMINT that could help them to determine the purpose of a construction project. Diplomatic reporting and SIGINT are useful to determine the veracity or biases of a clandestine HUMINT source. Freely available unclassified materials (Open Source Intelligence or OSINT) provides context for all kinds of other reporting. In other words, all analysts are—and must be—all-source analysts.”

That while the roles and activities performed within intelligence organizations are similar between military, civilian, and police organizations. There are significant semantic differences in what the term “officer” means within these different organizations. Some define the Intelligence Officer as a person employed to deliver all kind of intelligence activities such as collection of information (from Open Sources, Human Sources, etc.), undercover operations and analysis. Analysis is a highly specialized role. An intelligence officer is a more generic term and generally involves more generic and more flexible type of work in the intelligence arena. Those who specialize in the different INTs (HUMINT, SIGINT, MASINT, IMINT, etc) collect the raw data and the analyst puts it all together to turn it into intelligence, if (s)he’s an all source analyst. An analyst may have contact with a source depending on the assignment (in most cases no), but it is very little and mostly for screening/vetting purposes, not interrogation or interviewing because that is up to the HUMINT collector to do. Contractors aren’t allowed to recruit and run sources because of laws on intelligence collection, it has to be done by a government entity (i.e. an agency person or member of the military).

Therefore, an Intelligence Analyst is an official skilled in understanding and interpreting intelligence reports received from field agents. By being able to place specific reports in a broader context, an intelligence agent can help evaluate the importance of reports. Intelligence analysts most often work with government agencies, although some positions in the private sector do exist as well. Analysts analyze, Officers operate. The difference is between the analysis and collection objectives of the intelligence cycle. Interestingly, the analysts are the catalyst for action as they produce the product, intelligence. Sometimes a field analyst has to make immediate decisions that impact an ongoing or developing situation and can involve life/safety of others. The analysts’ role is crucial and requires the sharpest and most interesting minds. The analyst can have the best circumstances to process information and still be wrong some of the time. The intelligence officer has to perform with a unique set of decision making skills that must ensure success and survival in an environment of pressure, uncertainty, and more eminent result.

There is also the term Intelligence Operative, meaning any higher level engaged in intelligence work, which may include running HUMINT assets, using technical tools to gather information, whereas the Intelligence Analysts are the people making sense of the gathered information or one can say turning the Information into Intelligence. Reports Officer (or Program Manager in other agencies) may be found as the link between analysts and collectors. Collectors rarely have the opportunity to communicate directly with their customer, the analyst. The Program Manager could also personally meet with the analysts who are being serviced to get follow-up on a timely basis. Successfully completed collection operations need to be brought to the attention of command so that the lonely collector gets positive feedback and appropriate comments on their performance reports. Intelligence Officers in the military are the supervisors of enlisted analysts, HUMINT/SIGINT/IMINT collectors and counterintelligence agents, which refers specifically to the commissioned officer rank. In the civilian world, Intelligence Officer is a working title to refer to all in the intelligence profession; it isn’t limited to CI/HUMINT trades nor is it limited to rank.   Intelligence Officers manage and usually are in charge of programs, analytic groups, or CIs. It is their job to offer guidance and direction and make sure that all are focused on the mission. Both functions are critical in today’s intelligence environment. In some ways, intelligence agents are the Sherlock Holmes of the intelligence community, looking at all the gathered pieces in the hopes of reaching some conclusion.

The work of an intelligence analyst can be vital to the security, both national and foreign, of citizens and military personnel. Army analysts, for instance, may prepare reports for combat commanders that can influence troop movement or strategy. They may also be in charge of interpreting enemy movements, actions, and intercepted communications. Good intelligence analysis can save lives, while a mistake in gathering or analyzing can lead to serious consequences.

Nowadays, private sector intelligence analysts tend to work with defense contractors or large corporations that use intelligence-gathering techniques to predict the behavior of their rivals.

Most government agencies want to hire a person who can do it all.

The internet crime and its cost to society

There is not such thing as privacy anymore. There is no privacy on the Internet for sure! Privacy on Internet is just a notion that was introduced to keep the “political correct” appearance. The loss of self-identity into the masses led to the need of being noticed and discovered. Therefore, there are new generations that feel they need to share, follow, show, talk, say their existence. In the past we knew that privacy means safety, today the need to be heard or to be seen is bigger than the self preservation one.

More international bodies centralizing information on cyber crime is not probably a useful idea, while exchanging best practises, views and intelligence is always useful, not only between governmental bodies but with private bodies as well. There is no perfect method to evaluate the cost of cyber crime. I do believe in international cooperation and am not opposed to such bodies as clearing houses for intelligence that need to be shared. But certainly a state body is not going to share its technologies with a number of states who spy on its country: the technology to intercept communications between criminal organizations or to defeat hackers is the same as that which allow interception of foreign government communications and security against foreign state-sponsored hackers. As to “lawful interception” of communications, does everybody agree on that? No country will ever recognize as lawful intercepts made by another country. Part of those roles are already assumed at least in theory by Interpol, NATO and other civilian and military regional organizations. NATO remains weak on the issue and its capabilities need to be augmented. I am not sure new international bodies will not simply add a new layer of bureaucracy. Agencies are most often cooperating on ad hoc basis with other national agencies and probably don’t need an international body to further this cooperation. Such international bodies would also increase the likeliness of leaks.

I have a question: is the individuals’ pursuit of happiness the governments’ job?

B-2 Stealth Bombers

Two B-2 Spirit stealth bombers will be based for a “short-term deployment” at Fairford, a Royal Air Force base in England 90 miles west of London.

B-2 stealth bombers have been employed in Europe during the 1999 operation against Serbia, but they were operating at the time from Whiteman Air Force Base, in the continental U.S., on round-trip missions that averaged 30 hours in duration.

B-2s have been sent in the past to the U.S. base on the Pacific island of Guam. They have also operated during Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the U.S. Air Force, from an undisclosed “forward operating location,” possibly the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. They have also taken part in operation Enduring Freedom, bombing targets in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has 20 B-2As Spirit, made by Northrop Grumman Corporation. With a crew of two, they have a range of about 6,000 miles or 10,000 kilometers without in-flight refueling and can carry up to 50,000 lbs (23 metric tons) of bombs and missiles, both conventional and nuclear. The entire fleet is based permanently at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

Some interpret the temporary basing of two B-2 Spirit in England as a message to Russia.

Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, Mario Costeja González

The full text of the ruling isn’t available yet, but the Court has posted a lenghty press release that says:

“Judgment in Case C-131/12, Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, Mario Costeja González

“An internet search engine operator is responsible for the processing that it carries out of personal data which appear on web pages published by third parties.

“Thus, if, following a search made on the basis of a person’s name, the list of results displays a link to a web page which contains information on the person in question, that data subject may approach the operator directly and, where the operator does not grant his request, bring the matter before the competent authorities in order to obtain, under certain conditions, the removal of that link from the list of results

“An EU directive (1) has the objective of protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons (in particular the right to privacy) when personal data are processed, while removing obstacles to the free flow of such data.

“In 2010 Mario Costeja González, a Spanish national, lodged with the Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (Spanish Data Protection Agency, the AEPD) a complaint against La Vanguardia Ediciones SL (the publisher of a daily newspaper with a large circulation in Spain, in particular in Catalonia) and against Google Spain and Google Inc. Mr Costeja González contended that, when an internet user entered his name in the search engine of the Google group (‘Google Search’), the list of results would display links to two pages of La Vanguardia’s newspaper, of January and March 1998. Those pages in particular contained an announcement for a real-estate auction organised following attachment proceedings for the recovery of social security debts owed by Mr Costeja González.

“With that complaint, Mr Costeja González requested, first, that La Vanguardia be required either to remove or alter the pages in question (so that the personal data relating to him no longer appeared) or to use certain tools made available by search engines in order to protect the data. Second, he requested that Google Spain or Google Inc. be required to remove or conceal the personal data relating to him so that the data no longer appeared in the search results and in the links to La Vanguardia. In this context, Mr Costeja González stated that the attachment proceedings concerning him had been fully resolved for a number of years and that reference to them was now entirely irrelevant.

“The AEPD rejected the complaint against La Vanguardia, taking the view that the information in question had been lawfully published by it. On the other hand, the complaint was upheld as regards Google Spain and Google Inc. The AEPD requested those two companies to take the necessary measures to withdraw the data from their index and to render access to the data impossible in the future. Google Spain and Google Inc. brought two actions before the Audiencia Nacional (National High Court, Spain), claiming that the AEPD’s decision should be annulled. It is in this context that the Spanish court referred a series of questions to the Court of Justice.

“In today’s judgment, the Court of Justice finds, first of all, that by searching automatically, constantly and systematically for information published on the internet, the operator of a search engine ‘collects’ data within the meaning of the directive. The Court considers, furthermore, that the operator, within the framework of its indexing programmes, ‘retrieves’, ‘records’ and ‘organises’ this balance may however depend, in specific cases, on the nature of the information in question and its sensitivity for the data subject’s private life and on the interest of the public in having that information, an interest which may vary, in particular, according to the role played by the data subject in public life.

“Finally, in response to the question whether the directive enables the data subject to request that links to web pages be removed from such a list of results on the grounds that he wishes the information appearing on those pages relating to him personally to be ‘forgotten’ after a certain time, the Court holds that, if it is found, following a request by the data subject, that the inclusion of those links in the list is, at this point in time, incompatible with the directive, the links and information in the list of results must be erased. The Court observes in this regard that even initially lawful processing of accurate data may, in the course of time, become incompatible with the directive where, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, the data appear to be inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed and in the light of the time that has elapsed. The Court adds that, when appraising such a request made by the data subject in order to oppose the processing carried out by the operator of a search engine, it should in particular be examined whether the data subject has a right that the information in question relating to him personally should, at this point in time, no longer be linked to his name by a list of results that is displayed following a search made on the basis of his name. If that is the case, the links to web pages containing that information must be removed from that list of results, unless there are particular reasons, such as the role played by the data subject in public life, justifying a preponderant interest of the public in having access to the information when such a search is made.

“The Court points out that the data subject may address such a request directly to the operator of the search engine (the controller) which must then duly examine its merits. Where the controller does not grant the request, the data subject may bring the matter before the supervisory authority or the judicial authority so that it carries out the necessary checks and orders the controller to take specific measures accordingly.” 
__________________________ 
(1) Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (OJ 1995 L 281, p. 31).

http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2014-05/cp140070en.pdf

When Does Privacy Become Censorship?: VOA

When Does Privacy Become Censorship?: VOA

“The ruling in recent days by the European Court fo Justice in Luxembourg that individuals have the right to ask search engines to remove links with personal information is about as big – and unclear – as they come, writes VOA. What VOA and most other media don’t say is that this is a preliminary ruling issued for the guidance of the national court that referred the case to tthe ECJ: it is not directly applicable as such but gives the national court very little leeway, except through its imprecision.

Industry analysts and executives on both sides of the Atlantic say the decision could fundamentally alter how search engines work and how people find and access information online.

In ruling that individuals have a “Right to be Forgotten,” the European Court of Justice posited a new fundamental right that some worry will trump others’ rights to free expression.

I’ll comment that such a right exists neither in the EU Treaties, directives or regulations nor in European case law. This is judicial activist at its worse, government by judges without any failing on the part of the executive or the legislative to act.

Left unanswered are the many questions about who, how and on what basis can people limit their exposure on the Internet, and when limiting personal information may slide into censorship. The court’s ruling is short on details in this respect, but again I’ll underscore that it is only a response to a series of questions referred to the ECJ by the Audiencia Nacional (National High Court, Spain).

And even more, says VOA, the decision now seemingly puts the European Union and the United States at political loggerheads, threatening the foundational principles governing the Internet. Please note that the ruling does not give a right to plaintiffs to ask for removal of information which is public, only to ask search engines not to index it.

But I’ll put it that it violates the 1st amendment rights of US citizens because in a majority of cases they won’t know where to find the information or whether it simply exists, as search engines are the only way to find it if you don’t know where it is. This is not about the “right to know” a vague concept used by Google, but (1) the right of the source of the information not to be censored by a search engine, and (2) the right of the user of the search engine not to be denied access to information that is online but is most difficult to find without recourse to a search engine.

I will also stress that there has been comments in the US media that the application of the ruling was limited to the EU. Not so: most search engines starting with Google are international and their indexing is available worldwide. Only countries that strictly filter the internet can block the information nationally. VOA got that right, however.

The case is as follows. In 1998, the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia published two brief stories concerning Spanish citizen Costeja González. González owed back taxes and as a result his house was put up for auction and sold. The stories cited local public notices and their accuracy is uncontested.

More than a decade later, González said he was “embarrassed” that a Google search of his name resulted in links to the archived stories. He petitioned to have both the stories and the links taken down.

Over four years the case worked its way first through the Spanish, and then through the European court systems, finally ending up at the European Court of Justice, the highest tribunal governing all member states of the European Union.

On May 13, the 13 judges hearing the case ruled that while the two news stories could be maintained online as long as La Vanguardia liked, Google could not show those links to any search concerning González. 

In effect, while the articles were still out there online, Google would have to pretend its search engine didn’t see them. 

Some online privacy advocates hailed the decision. 

“People like to be able to control information themselves,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the online civil liberties group the Electronic Privacy Information Center. 

“Privacy is one of those issues people care very strongly about. They do like the services that are offered such as Google. But I think they also have the sense that not enough has been done to safeguard privacy.” 

He told VOA he considers the decision “significant” and “a good starting point.” 

Google views the matter very differently. 

“A simple way of understanding what happened here is that you have a collision between a right to be forgotten and a right to know,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt told a shareholders meeting this week. “From Google’s perspective that’s a balance. Google believes, having looked at the decision which is binding, that the balance that was struck was wrong.” 

The so-called “Right to be Forgotten” has been debated in Europe for over a decade. But with this ruling it seems the debate may be closing and the “Right” is becoming policy. 

One of its principal advocates is European Commission Vice President Viviane Reding, who is pushing for the right to be enshrined in newly proposed data protection laws. 

“Today’s Court Judgement [sic] is a clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans!” Ms. Reding posted on her Facebook page after the ruling. “Today’s judgment is strong tailwind for the data protection reform that the European Commission proposed in January 2012 as it confirms the main pillars of what we have inscribed in the data protection Regulation.” 

Others aren’t so sure. 

Writing in 2012 in the Stanford Law Review, George Washington University Law Professor Jeffrey Rosen took a dismal view of the proposed “Right to be Forgotten”, warning that it would put the EU, with its emphasis on privacy, and the US, which highly prizes free expression, in conflict 

“It could precipitate a dramatic clash between European and American conceptions of the proper balance between privacy and free speech, leading to a far less open Internet,” he wrote. 

“It’s sensible to say in light of this ruling that something has to give. So the question is: on which side of the ocean will that give happen?” asked University of Michigan Law Professor in Practice Len Niehoff. 

Niehoff’s concentrations are media law and the First Amendment. He says the ruling rests on a “dangerous and deeply flawed approach.” 

With U.S. and EU law regarding speech and privacy protections increasingly in opposition, he speculates this ruling will make itself felt for a long time to come. 

“There’s an argument to be made that it will be experienced here with increased tensions between privacy and free expression interests, and I think it may be experienced there with greater pressure on various states to pass laws that are more accommodating of free expression,” he said. 

Among his primary concerns, Niehoff told VOA he’s focusing on two aspects of the ruling. 

“The first is that it finds search engines to be data controllers for purposes of European privacy law,” Niehof said. He calls this finding very significant, because search engines don’t control third-party content, but rather connects materials. 

Just as importantly, he said the ruling leaves many questions about just how and when such link removal requests should occur unanswered. 

“It is spectacularly vague, and it is extraordinarily difficult to apply, and it is unthinkable that it can be applied in a consistent manner,” he said. 

In the end, Niehoff said, the ruling transforms search engines like Google or Yahoo into “censorship engines” while at the same time applying standards that are “dramatically vague.” 

Privacy advocate Marc Rotenberg said he understands the concerns about this ruling slouching toward something like censorship, but counters that the decision actually protects free expression. 

“You have to consider the ability of individuals to control the dissemination of information about themselves,” he said. “This is in many respects the core of freedom of expression: how we chose to express ourselves or not to say things or do things.” 

But the ruling may have very tangible effects. 

“This [ruling] results not only in legal tensions but political tensions now” Niehoff said. “A number of commentators are already observing that this really escalates political tensions between countries and is creating a legal morass.” 

“This decision is a step backwards in terms of innovation,” said Daniel Castro, a senior analyst with the International Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank and lobbying group associated with Internet industry giants. 

“And it could have very real effects in terms of slowing investment and innovation,” he said. 

Castro worries that the inverted priorities for the EU – privacy rights – and the U.S. – free expression – will limit cooperative ventures and new innovations between the two regions. 

“I think resolving this is going to be very difficult,” Castro said. “To what extent will the EU try to impose its view on companies operating outside of Europe? 

“A company like Google has a presence,” he said. “But other companies are clearly outside the EU jurisdiction. They don’t have a physical presence, they don’t have personnel or even computers, but the EU will still want to impose these kinds of rules.” 

Analysts say one reason that the court has stepped up its privacy protections is something some are calling “the Snowden effect.” 

Bennett Kelly, founder of the Internet Law Center, told VOA that there’s always been some skepticism in Europe of U.S. electronic espionage. 

“There’s already skepticism in Europe because of that, and then you throw in Snowden, it creates more distrust. Having one more element of differentiation between the U.S. and EU is just not helpful,” he said. 

Just as La Vanguardia can keep its articles available online for as long as it likes, the thousands of an individual’s data points of semi-personal information will likely continue to exist on the Internet, assuming you can find them. 

Or what if one person requests Google to stop linking to a story that mentions him, but another person wants Google to link to the very same story that mentions them? 

Will convicted felons be able to petition to virtually erase links to their past misconduct? Will the wealthy who can afford robust legal teams have more luck removing personal links than those less fortunate? The answers are uncertain. I’ll note that one of the first request under this “right to be forgotten” was filed three days ago by a convicted paedophile. Though he probably won’t win his case, the criteria in the ECJ ruling are frightfully vague. 

While European Court of Justice rulings cannot be appealed to any higher authority, the EU itself can also enact legislation that expands, limits or modifies the exact parameters of what personal information individuals can control, and where the public’s right to free information trumps the right to be forgotten. 

Which leads, in the end, to what must be one of the most ironic twists to a legal decision in recent memory. 

“Although Costeja González won his suit to have Google remove its links to those two “embarrassing” stories about him, this decision – replete with personal information – ensures that nobody will be able to forget about his tax and financial troubles ever again”, says VOA. Actually he did not actually win his suit, at least not directly. But the Spanish court will have to rule in accordance with the answers given by the ECJ’s decision. 

VOA does not discuss the technical nightmare the González ruling could be for Google and other search engines. They can be expected to be flooded with requests. The court however ruled its decision did not apply to public personalities such as politicians.”

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ‘spiteful, tit-for-tat politics’ hurting citizens, UN Security Council told

There is a lot of unfinnished business in the Balcans that could become explosive at any time, althought the risk of an all-out war is limited.

Ahead of hotly contested elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, the UN’s High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, today May 15 warned the Security Council that the country is politically heading in the wrong direction and that politicians might try to raise inter-ethnic tensions to divert attention from real problems.

“I am increasingly concerned that the country is in danger of falling into a vicious downward cycle of spiteful tit-for-tat politics that it will be difficult to emerge from,” Inzko told the 15-member Council at a meeting on the situation in the country.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47801#%2EU3VLJPmSzIs

“The same old mistake – putting the interests of a privileged class before those of the country and its citizens – continues to be made,” he observed.

Ever since the April package of constitutional changes was narrowly rejected in 2006, it has set the country on a downward trajectory, said the High Representative: “Eight years is a long time for a country to be going the wrong way.”

Stressing that the political fighting has led to work just for a chosen few while ignoring the average citizen who is scaling mounting economic and social problems and rampant corruption, Inzko highlighted large scale protests throughout the country in February.

He called these a “wake up call” for local politicians and the international community, and added that “the country could not continue to go on this way indefinitely without serious consequences.”

On the other hand, peaceful protests continued thereafter, representing a “positive step forward to strengthen Bosnia and Herzegovina’s democracy” despite the mixed response from politicians.

In this context, the country is scheduled to hold general elections on 12 October in what will be “the most hotly contested elections since the Dayton/Paris Peace Agreement,” Inzko said.

In particular, he expressed concern that in the coming months, the ongoing controversy over residence and voting rights could lead to disputes on the ground, particularly in municipalities across Republika Srpska.

“This is a scenario that all involved must do everything within their power to avoid. It is especially important that no one is discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity or because they are a returnee,” he stressed to the Council.

What Bosnia and Herzegovina badly needs to see in the forthcoming election campaign is a “frank, robust and action-oriented public debate” on how the incoming government plans to address rampant corruption, exceedingly high unemployment, and the lack of progress on Euro-Atlantic integration.

“We need to hear more about plans to reform the economy and create jobs, which is in the vital interest of all citizens of the country regardless of ethnic group,” Inzko concluded.”

EU April 14, 2014 Council conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina

The EU Council has condemned secessionist ideas and attempts at redrawing the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has also severly criticized the inaction of the BiH autorities. This is the adopted text: 

“The Council adopted the following conclusions: 

“1. The Council reaffirms its unequivocal commitment to the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a sovereign and united country. The Council also reiterates its unequivocal commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU perspective. In this regard, it condemns as unacceptable secessionist and divisive rhetoric and ideas. 

“2. In line with its conclusions of December 2013, the Council recalls its serious concern that the EU integration process in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has stalled due to the lack of political will on the part of the BiH politicians and the continued use of divisive rhetoric. As other countries of the region make progress, Bosnia and Herzegovina is lagging behind. 

“3. The Council heard the public protests and calls by BiH citizens to improve the social and economic situation in the country. All BiH citizens, including the younger generation, need to be given new opportunities. It strongly urges the BiH institutions and elected leaders to reach out to the people, engage with civil society and provide responsible and immediate answers to their legitimate concerns. The Council emphasizes that it is the collective responsibility of all BiH political leaders. Ahead of the general elections in October 2014, more needs to be done, not less. 

“4. The Council welcomes the visits of the HR/VP to Bosnia and Herzegovina on 12 March 2014 and of Commissioner Füle on 17 of February 2014 and supports the continuous EU high level engagement in BiH. In line with previous Council conclusions, it reaffirms that the key requirements and criteria for BiH progress towards the EU need to be fully met. The Council supports the broadening of the EU agenda and engagement towards the country. In the short term, the Council urges the BiH institutions and leadership to focus as a matter of immediate priority on the following areas: to reach out actively to civil society and youth and take into account the needs of the citizens; to focus on socio-economic issues, in particular to tackle the very high unemployment, improve the co-ordination on economic and fiscal policies, and create a better environment for business; and to translate the legitimate concerns of the BiH people into legislative and fully implemented initiatives, including strengthening the rule of law, anticorruption and financial accountability measures, and protecting human rights. 

“5. The Council underlines the EU’s readiness to support these immediate efforts now. It welcomes Commission initiatives to improve economic governance and strengthen competitiveness as well as stimulate economic growth. As an immediate action, it supports the launch on the ground of a “Compact for Growth”, aimed at assisting the BiH institutions in identifying concrete socio-economic structural reforms in order to reinvigorate the economy and spur the creation of jobs in the short to mid-term. It welcomes and supports the central role of the EUSR/HoD in assisting BiH in these efforts, which need to be conducted in close coordination with our key international partners, in particular international financial institutions to ensure complementarity, efficient allocation of resources and building synergies. The Council also supports broadening the Structured Dialogue on Justice to other rule of law issues, and in particular to anticorruption issues. It also underlines the need to accelerate the implementation of previously agreed EU-funded projects through IPA 2007-2013 and welcomes the establishment of a joint EU-BiH working group to that effect. The establishment of an efficient coordination mechanism on EU matters is crucial both for IPA and implementation of the Interim Agreement. The Council regrets that the inability of the Bosnian authorities to meet this EU requirement has already led to a loss of IPA funds. The Council expresses its concern that the last five subcommittees under this agreement could not take place so far due to BiH internal disagreements and urges the BiH Council of Ministers to agree on a way forward. The Council calls on BiH to constructively engage on the adaptation of the Interim Agreement/Stabilisation and Association Agreement, on the basis of traditional trade. The Council expects the BiH authorities to engage constructively in these initiatives.

“6. Beyond these areas of immediate attention, the Council calls on the BiH leadership to engage as soon as possible after the October elections on a broader set of issues in order to address the challenges the country continues to face as it progresses towards the EU. In particular, it remains crucial that the BiH leaders undertake reforms aimed at improving the efficiency and functionality of BiH institutions at all levels. Implementation of the Sejdic-Finci judgment of the European Court of Human Rights also remains to be addressed. The Council reaffirms its determination to actively and intensively engage in support of this process, in close coordination and cooperation with its main international partners.”

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/142215.pdf

“The European Union takes note of this commitment and welcomes it.

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/en/cfsp/142300.pdf

The above decisions said:

Article 1
“1. Member States shall take the necessary measures to prevent the entry into, or transit through, their territories of those persons whose activities:

“(a) undermine the sovereignty, territorial integrity, constitutional order and international personality of Bosnia and Herzegovina;
“(b) seriously threaten the security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina; or
“(c) undermine the Dayton/Paris General Framework Agreement for Peace and the Annexes thereto, including measures established in the implementation of the said Agreement;”

China today

China has ratified UNCLOS on June 7, 1996, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, someting the US senate has yet to do. But in her ratification statement she has excluded that the arbitration procedures in the Convetnion could apply to such disputes:

“In accordance with the decision of the Standing Committee of the Eighth National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China at its nineteenth session, the President of the People’s Republic of China has hereby ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 and at the same time made the following statement:

“1. In accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the People’s Republic of China shall enjoy sovereign rights and jurisdiction over an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles and the continental shelf.


“2. The People’s Republic of China will effect, through consultations, the delimitation of the boundary of the maritime jurisdiction with the States with coasts opposite or adjacent to China respectively on the basis of international law and in accordance with the principle of equitability.

“3. The People’s Republic of China reaffirms its sovereignty over all its archipelagos and islands as listed in article 2 of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, which was promulgated on 25 February 1992. 

“4. The People’s Republic of China reaffirms that the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea concerning innocent passage through the territorial sea shall not prejudice the right of a coastal State to request, in accordance with its laws and regulations, a foreign State to obtain advance approval from or give prior notification to the coastal State for the passage of its warships through the territorial sea of the coastal State. 

“Declaration made after ratification (25 August 2006) 

“Declaration under article 298: 

“The Government of the People’s Republic of China does not accept any of the procedures provided for in Section 2 of Part XV of the Convention with respect to all the categories of disputes referred to in paragraph 1 (a) (b) and (c) of Article 298 of the Convention.” 

In other words China says differences should be solved by bi-lateral negotiations, not through UNCLOS arbitration. But her positions are totally inflexibe. 

(2) Of course the only solution is through negotiation, bi-lateral (as a big power she prefers that) or multilateral (ASEAN, an international conference, etc). The US is not a party to the disputes over the delineation of the continental shelf: it can only advise caution and rejection of force. But in the case of Japan and the Senkaku islands, which were taken control of by the US at the end of WW II and were subsequently handed back to Japan as the earlier administrative power, without taking a stand on who is right, the US is treaty-obligated to run to the rescue of Japan if the islands were invaded. 

The US is however concerned with navigational and overflight freedom over the South and East China Seas, which are international waters. 

http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/historical-fiction-china%E2%80%99s-south-china-sea-claims

The inner sea of China

Since China has declared most of the South and East China seas internal China seas, disputes have flared with Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, Malysia and Brunei.

Western reaction against China’s unilateral action was stronger. The US condemns unilateral action but takes no position on sovereignty over disputed areas and islands.

Vietnam is making great efforts for a further rapporchement with the United States. The Human rights situation in Vietnam is however an obstacle to closer ties, though this is addressed in the US-Vietnam dialogue on the issue.

Vietnam has been keen to enroll US support in its continuous disputes with China. As early as the 15th anniversary of the Paris agreement on ending the war in Vietnam it had through a former US official poposed that the US make again use of the Cam Ranh Bay naval base. Cam Ranh Bay is an inlet in the South China Sea.

On May 9, it was announced that “the 18th session of the U.S.-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue will be held May 12-13, 2014, in Washington DC. Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski and Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General for International Organizations Hoang Chi Trung will lead their respective delegations in the Dialogue. Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns will provide opening remarks. Freedom of expression, rule of law, disability rights, freedom of religion, labor rights, and other human rights issues will be raised over the course of the two days.

“Promoting greater respect for human rights remains a key component of U.S. foreign policy, including in our relations with Vietnam, and we are committed to continuing a frank and productive discussion with the Vietnamese government on these issues. The Dialogue is a critical tool to reinforce the messages that we deliver consistently – including on specific cases — at the highest levels on the importance of respecting and protecting universal rights.”

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/05/225916.htm

Energy Russia

As the article says this is in case Russia cuts off supplies, which I believe is unlikely unless the situation dramatically deteriorates.
The longer term plan is about reducing Europes dependency on Russian supplies to around 15 percent froém the current 30 percent.. Support would indeed be given to build several new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals across Europe, while the US would lift restrictions on the export of shale gas and also support export terminals. <br />At the same time, the EU will invest in new pipelines to move gas from West to East and increase supply routes from North Africa -essentially Algeria, I will add. Algerias proven natural gas resources hqd diminished recently, but new discoveries have changed the situation. Algeria has been mastering LNG technology for 45 years with the help of US, British and French companies notably.
The US is also prepared to support the development of shale gas resources in Ukraine and Poland.

“US and Europe planning to ‘cut off’ Russia’s gas supply”
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/exclusive-west-draws-up-plan-to-disarm-russias-energy-supply-threat-9341096.html

Arms and influence in the Gulf

Syria has a modest arms industry. The UAE started setting up an arms industry (also a civil aviation one) some time ago by having technology transfer provisions in some of its arms purchase contracts and, as the article says, invstment in local industrial projects. The technology is of course mostly foreign, but even the US is not 100 percent technology-sufficient (it buys technology from Israel, the UK, France, etc), though NATO countries use far more US technology than the reverse. The defense industries of the Gulf are however not self-sufficient in engineers and hire them from other Arab countries, Pakistan, etc.

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141391/bilal-y-saab/arms-and-influence-in-the-gulf?cid=soc-facebook-snapshots-arms_and_influence_in_the_gulf-050914

“Chinese Oil Rig Operations Near the Paracel Islands: Press Statement by Jen Psaki, US State Department Spokesperson  May 7, 2014″

“China’s decision to introduce an oil rig accompanied by numerous government vessels for the first time in waters disputed with Vietnam is provocative and raises tensions. This unilateral action appears to be part of a broader pattern of Chinese behavior to advance its claims over disputed territory in a manner that undermines peace and stability in the region.

“We are also very concerned about dangerous conduct and intimidation by vessels operating in this area. We call on all parties to conduct themselves in a safe and professional manner, preserve freedom of navigation, exercise restraint, and address competing sovereignty claims peacefully and in accordance with international law. Sovereignty over the Paracel Islands is disputed; this incident is occurring in waters claimed by Vietnam and China near those islands. These events highlight the need for claimants to clarify their claims in accordance with international law, and to reach agreement on appropriate behavior and activities in disputed areas.”


http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/05/225750.htm

Proiectul de lege privind securitatea cibernetica, aprobata de Guvern

“Proiectul a fost prezentat in dezbatere publica de catre Ministerul pentru Societate Informationala.

“Proiectul de lege adoptat de Guvern va permite operationalizarea Sistemului National de Securitate Cibernetica – SNSC, care va facilita adoptarea de masuri proactive si reactive privind informarea, monitorizarea, diseminarea, analizarea, avertizarea, coordonarea, decizia, reactia, refacerea si constientizarea. De asemenea, actul normativ defineste o terminologie unitara in domeniul securitatii cibernetice si a unui cadru armonizat de actiune a autoritatilor si institutiilor publice”, se arata in comunicat.

La inceputul lunii aprilie, Consiliul Suprem de Aparare a Tarii a decis luarea unor masuri care sa permita contracararea amenintarilor cibernetice la adresa Romaniei, in conditiile in care in ultima perioada acestea s-au diversificat.

“S-a apreciat ca in ultima perioada aceste amenintari s-au diversificat, devenind o optiune tot mai atractiva pentru actorii statali sau nonstatali intrucat nu implica resurse foarte mari. Membrii CSAT au decis luarea unor masuri care sa permita urgentarea adoptarii cadrului normativ si operationalizarii Agendei Digitale 2020 ca parte integranta a efortului european de dezvoltare a societatii informationale si implicit a actiunilor subsecvente ce sunt dedicate securitatii cibernetice”, informa un comunicat al Administratiei Prezidentiale.”

“NATO’s Biggest Mistake: The Alliance Drifted From Its Core Mission – And the World Is Paying the Price”, by Michael E. Brown in Foreign Affairs

Easy to write with the benefit of hindsight, though the signs have been there for some time, even before the invasion of Georgia.

As to out of area missions, fine, but who else could have done it?

NATO expansion: The principle is that European countries that meet the criteria can join, and now just as before no external power must be given a right of veto on who joins. NATO in the Founding act of its partnership with Russia had agreed not to station additional substantial combat troops in Eastern Europe, but Russia has just broken her side of the bargain. Renouncing the expansion of NATO would have fitted Putin`s policies of surrounding Russia with a string of compliant buffer states, and would have let him win without a fight. What about the right of the people of Eastern Europe to determine their own destiny rather than having it dictated by the conjunction of Russia and NATO? Why did the people of Ukraine revolt when Yanukovich under pressure from Moscow renounced the association agreement with the EU? The EU and NATO are different. The first is an economic and political grouping, the second a political-military organization. But they have common values and cover almost the same geographical area. But some EU members are not in NATO and this poses no major problems to either organization.

All said and done, however, Michael Brown`s five final prescriptions are hardly objectionable.

Brown’d FA piece seems to be flawed on some points. I do agree that the war against Serbia in 1999 was a mistake, though, although I do not see Putin as a product of this. 

First of all, NATO did lack a mission post-Cold War, and one might argue that the 20-odd years it has expanded and remained in existence 1991-2014 is, at least in part, due to the “out of area” missions undertaken. So not a waste and not a mistake in itself. 

Second, NATO did not play a role in Iraq. Just saying. 

Third, if enlarging NATO was a mistake because it “provoked” Russia, then how can we achieve a “Europe, whole, free and at peace” as Brown writes? It is contradictory – either we achieve this through instruments like NATO, or trying to achieve it undermines it – makes no sense, unless Russia is what Brown says it isn’t, i.e. amicable. 

It seems to me the real mistake was the change in the mindsets of Western leaders vis-a-vis Russia, and international relations in general, Fukuyama, triumphalism and so on. But the right way to mend this is not to assume that we should go back to Cold War thinking – if for no other reason than because we are much stronger than is Russia.

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/138432/michael-e-brown/natos-biggest-mistake

Obama Aides Tell Executives to Skip Forum

Obama Aides Tell Executives to Skip Forum

Some decisions have a cost, whichever way these decisions go. Perhaps the article exaggerates the cost: massive retaliation would not be in Russia`s interests, even as understood by Putin:

Christophe de Margerie, chairman and CEO of the French oil company Total, who is under multiple indictments in France and the US, is touted as one of the main speakers. 

America’s policy

There is indeed this aspect of the presidents rhetoric which I find somewhat disingenuous. Either you approve of his policies or you are a warmonger or a reckless adventurist, as if, in Syria for instance, the choice was between denying serious weapons to the opposition coalition and sending boots on the ground. The real choice is between the presidents policy and arming those who are outgunned by both the regime and the Jihadists. Not seriously arming and training the opposition on the pretext that it would seek then a military solution is in fact laying the ground for a military solution: the military victory of the regime, as well as a major strategic victory for Iran, Hezbollah and Russia.

What Americans don`t want is a policy that fails. A majority initially supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but many changed their mind when the going got tough, irrespective of whether these wars were necessary. There is also the tendency that is part of human nature, that of wanting the fruit without the labor. There is however no such thing as a free lunch. Americans are prepared to pay for their lunch if it is clearly demonstrated to them that they need that particular lunch and that the consequences of not having it are worse than those of paying for it.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-mcmanus-column-obama-foreign-policy-20140504,0,5187471.column#axzz30hOTdsFa

“What Americans really want in a foreign policy”, by Doyle McManus in The Los Angeles Times “

To understand how President Obama feels about the frustrations of foreign policy in an uncooperative world, just look at his testy response to a question from a Fox News reporter last week. “Are critics wrong, the reporter asked, to say that America’s global position is marked by “weakness”? “Most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures,” Obama replied. “Proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again,” he continued. “Instead, Obama argued, he is trying to “steadily advance the interests of the American people” without using force. “That may not always be sexy,” he said. “But it avoids errors. You hit singles, you hit doubles.

Every once in a while, we may be able to hit a home run.” “But there are two problems with what the president said. “The first is that most of his critics aren’t demanding that he go to war in Syria or Ukraine. Yes, many of them argue that the United States should send weapons to Ukraine’s army and Syria’s rebels, but that’s a long way from advocating a rush to war.

“The second problem is that the president ducked the critics’ chief complaint: that his aversion to all forms of military intervention, even indirect ones, has emboldened malefactors like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Syria’s Bashar Assad to test the limits. That’s a legitimate worry, and much of the public appears to share it, according to recent public opinion polls. “It’s true that after Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans have no appetite for more military adventures.

A Pew Research Center poll last year found that 52% said the United States should “mind its own business” overseas, the highest percentage to endorse that proposition since the question was first asked in 1964. “But as foreign policy scholar Robert Kagan noted recently, there’s a paradox in those polls: The same public that wants to stay out of foreign entanglements also thinks the president isn’t doing a very good job on international affairs. A recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll found that only 38% of those surveyed approved of Obama’s handling of foreign policy; that was fewer than approved of his handling of the economy. “Why the apparent contradiction? “Kagan suggests that Americans are psychologically conflicted. “They may want a narrowly self-interested American policy,” he wrote. “But they’re not proud of it, and they’re not grateful to [Obama] for giving them what they want.”

“I think the explanation is a little simpler: Yes, Americans want to stay out of foreign messes, but they also want to see their country’s foreign policy succeed. And at the moment, Obama is suffering from a shortage of successes. Whatever he’s doing, it isn’t working. Russia is still threatening Ukraine. Syria is still mired in bloodshed. Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s thankless mediation between Israelis and Palestinians seems doomed.

“Obama’s initial foreign policy of engagement fell short. The world turned out to be a harsher place than he’d hoped. But the problem now is that the president hasn’t laid out a clear new strategy in place of the outmoded old one. “Now that engagement has faltered, the strongest message of U.S. foreign policy is one of disengagement, and not only from Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama has been eloquent about the things he doesn’t want to do: get sucked into Syria, send troops or military supplies to Ukraine. But what does he want to do? That’s not as clear. “It’s still possible that, with lower expectations, Obama’s foreign policy can succeed — modestly, with singles and doubles. No swinging for the fences anymore — a focus, instead, on avoiding errors. “It’s even possible (to continue the president’s baseball metaphor) that he’s merely a hitter in a temporary slump.

If economic sanctions persuade Putin to keep Russian troops out of Ukraine, that will be a low-cost success. If talks with Iran produce a nuclear agreement, that will be a major success. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians? Nobody really thought that had a chance, which is why it was entrusted to Kerry, not Obama. “But if the president wants Americans to admire his less-ambitious foreign policy on the way to those not-yet-achieved successes, he’s going to have to explain it better. And not just in cranky outbursts when reporters ask him why nothing seems to be going right.”

Subversion

The fact that anti-Russian demonstrators started the fire uisng petrol bombs -this was fully televised- will be used by Russia, even though the anti-Russian demonstrators eventually saved some. This is the kind of incident that Moscow could invoke to invade.

“Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) accused former Prime Minister Sergiy Arbuzov and former Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Klymenko of financing the thugs who provoked riots in Odessa of May 2, which led to at least 46 deaths. Arbuzov and Klymenko served in the administration of disgraced former President Viktor Yanukovych, who was overthrown in the EuroMaidan Revolution on Feb. 22.

The Odessa clashes involved local EuroMaidan activists and football fans against pro-Russian activists, who reportedly fired weapons at the unarmed pro-Ukrainian side before the crowd started fighting back.

More than 200 people were wounded in the clashes and 144 were arrested by police.

Most of the people killed died from suffocation when being barricaded at the Trade Union House that was set on fire.

“Subversion in the Ukrainian city of Odessa that was financed by former top officials was targeted at disruption of stability on the south of Ukraine,” said Kateryna Kosareva, SBU press spokeswoman. “Its organizers were planning that it would be the beginning of full scale instability on the rest of southern regions of our country.”

Kosareva said the people who instigated the clashes came from the breakaway Moldovan region of Trasnistriaand were coordinated by Russian subversives.

Bordering with Odessa Oblast, Transnistria as been for years a stronghold of pro-Russian forces and have thousands of Russian troops on its territory.

Arbuzov and Klymenko, members of Yanukovych’s inner circle, headed the finance bloc of the former government, and escaped from the country along with Yanukovych in late February. Ukraine’s new authorities believe that both are now hiding in Russia.

Ukraine’s acting Prosecutor General Oleg Makhnitsky in an interview with the Financial Times on April 28 said that Yanukovych and his entourage took $32 billion in cash to Russia.””

http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/sbu-yanukovych-allies-arbuzov-and-klymenko-financed-riots-in-odessa-346099.html

Kerry in Congo

Kerry first spoke in French, the official language of the RD Congo, and as usual the State Department is unable to provide either a transcript or a translation of what he said. Perhaps the Secretary and the office of the spokesperson (I am not blaming the current spokesperson or her deputy, it has always been like that) should switch jobs. If you want to know most of what the Secretary said about RD Congo, you better buy yourself a Congolese newspaper. Also the State Department seems unaware of the fact that RD Congo Foreign minister Tshibanda has a first name, Raymond.

“Kery today May 3 in the RD Congo

“The United States condemns the violence that has been taking place by any side, and that includes the violence of anyone who lit a fire and caused the death of those 38 people or more in the building in Odessa. All of this violence is absolutely unacceptable, and Russia, the United States, Ukrainians, Europeans, the OSCE – all of us bear responsibility to do everything in our power to reduce the capacity of militants and extremists who are armed to be carrying out these terrorist and violent activities. They must end, and everybody with any influence on any party has an obligation to try to bring an end to this violence.”

Comment: This statement clearly indicate that the US doesn`t buy the thesis of some Ukrainian officials that pro-Russian extremists set fire to the building.

Kerry also said:

“And I’m going to speak in English because I want to make a few comments regarding some other issues (1). But let me say what a pleasure it is for me to be in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have wanted to be here for some period of time. As many people know, our special envoy, Senator Russ Feingold, has been here nine visits now working very hard to advance the peace process and the stability of the region. We’re very proud of the work that he has been doing and we’re very, very pleased with the leadership of President Kabila, of the accords that have been reached, and of the progress towards disarmament and reintegration and demobilization. These are critical, critical issues.

“We’ll talk about those more and I will have a chance to meet with the press here so I can answer a few questions and talk about the issues here. But I would like to comment on another issue of great importance to all of us, which is what is happening in Ukraine.
Obviously, we were very pleased that the seven OSCE inspectors were released today. It’s a step. But there are many other steps that have to be taken in order to be able to de-escalate the situation. And I talked this afternoon on my way here with Foreign Minister Lavrov. We discussed those additional steps that need to be taken. And in addition to that, we also talked about the meeting between President Obama and Chancellor Merkel. And I reiterated to him their conclusion that it is important for Russia to withdraw support from the separatists and to assist in removing people from the buildings and beginning to de-escalate the situation.

“The President has made clear and the chancellor has made clear that if those supported by Russia continue to interfere with the election, regrettably, there will have to be additional sanctions, including the possibility of – or the reality of sector sanctions. But Foreign Minister Lavrov and I did talk about how to proceed and perhaps how to find a way forward here. We both will be in touch with President Burkhalter of Switzerland and talk about the ability of the OSCE to play a larger role in perhaps facilitating the de-escalation. We will both advance ideas about how to do that, without any promises of what those possibilities may produce.

“In the end, we reaffirmed our support for the OSCE. I made clear that it is important to implement the constitutional process and that we need to have some kind of dialogue that is taking place between the government of Ukraine, people in the east, and those interested stakeholders in the region.

“We also discussed the ongoing removal of chemical weapons from Syria. And in that regard, I press that we must see the last removal of the 8 percent remaining in a site near Damascus. We agreed that we would work on certain things to try to see if it is possible to accelerate that process with an understanding that the government of Syria cannot delay. The regime must move immediately to prepare those remaining chemical weapons for removal, and that we need to meet that removal as fast as possible.

“So that is where we stand with respect to both Syria and Ukraine, and we’ll keep you up to date as any developments occur.”

http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2014/05/225579.htm

Federalization?

Though Russia may send her army in to ensure “federalization” a la Putin, I simply don`t believe this army will stay very long.

It is not that I “refuse” to see other point of view, its that I just dont share it:

Since the Russian army, if it does enter Ukraine (we`re not sure of that yet, and I believe Putin is not sure yet at this very moment, though he may decide at any moment, including tonight), saying that the South is more interesting than the East does not mean very much. Putin is gathering support from as many ethnic Russians he can, wherever they are, South or East.

Only the future will tell. I gave a short list of those who have an analysis close to mine, but of course we could all be wrong. Stationing troops permanently in Ukraine would for Russia be reaching a point of no return, which would exclude her from the community of nations -most of it. Read what Ban and Feltman said today. There is agreement between the US and the EU that if Russian troops enter Ukraine, Phase III sanctions will be implemented, as Merkel and Obama said today, and this include the most recalcitrant members of the EU and of course Norway. Considerable harm will be inflicted on the Russian economy, and if they cut off gas supplies they`ll run out of money, as Obama said today.

I accept that if Russia ever decided to annex another part of Ukraine it would be Odessa, on the pretext that it was part of “Novarossiya” and later. This would be very dangerous indeed.

“The crisis, he said, has also escalated in the Donetsk Oblast and in Donetsk itself, where yesterday May 1 self-declared separatists had seized the regional prosecutor’s office. “There have also been reports that the Ukrainian authorities have banned Russian passenger airplanes from flying to Donetsk and Kharkiv,” he said, adding that the UN had also seen reports of clashes during a pro-unity demonstration in the southern city of Odessa.

Against such a troubling backdrop, Feltman told the Council in closing that in his discussions with regional players next week, he will continue to reiterate the Secretary-General’s message of restraint and immediate return to dialogue, including direct and constructive dialogue between Moscow and Kyiv.”

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47708#.U2QU41V_svA

Amanpour snap

Comment: Churkin and other Russians must of course be quoted, but when what they say beqrs little relation to reality and is just propaganda, it is indeed better to point out that this is a point of view that is not supported by the facts as we know them.

Under these circumstances saying the South is more interesting than the East doesn`t have much meaning: This is also the analysis of the White House, the State Department, the British qnd German governments.

“Christiane Amanpour Snaps at Wolf Blitzer Over CNN Ukraine Coverage

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and Wolf Blitzer got into a heated on-air sparring match Monday 28 April over a controversial quote by Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Security Council Vitaly Churkin, who called pro-European Ukrainians “anti-Semites and fascists.”

“You know, you have to be really careful by putting that across as a fact!” Amanpour exclaimed.

The normally staid Blitzer fired back at Amanpour, defending his reporting. “That’s what he said!” Blitzer interjected. “That’s what Vitaly Churkin said!”

“That’s the Russian position, but are you telling me, are you saying that the entire pro-European, Ukrainians are anti-Semites?” Amanpour pressed.

“Of course not!” Blitzer shouted back.

“We just as a network have to be really careful not to lump the entire pro-European Ukrainians into what is some may well be, which are nationalistic and extremist,” Amanpour stressed. “Christiane, we’re not! I’m not! We’re not doing it all,” Blitzer argued.

“Nation” columnist Stephen Cohen attempted to break the tension with a joke.

“I’m an outsider, I’d hate to see a civil war breakout on CNN,” Cohen riffed.

“It’s not a civil war, it’s smart conversation, all right?!” Blitzer concluded

http://www.thewrap.com/wolf-blitzer-tangles-christiane-amanpour-ukraine/

McCain ‘s bill

McCain ‘s bill probably won’t pass and some aspects of it aren’t realistic but it offers the advantage of keeping up the pressure on both the Obama administration and indirectly the Europeans.

Let us be careful to avoid oversimplification when considering the prospects for the McCain bill and other legislative proposals which address the proper role for the US in regard to Ukraine and the larger, if less immediate threats to and pressures upon the Baltic republics and the front-line states at the center of NATO – Poland, Romania and most notably Bulgaria. Many Democrats in both House and Senate share some of McCain’s concerns if not all his policy proposals. Theirs is a difficult task most especially because they fear to lessen Obama’s shaky leadership profile. Key younger Republican Senators have to contend with widespread lingering isolationism among their constituents remaining from the less than satisfactory outcomes of the major American roles in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The situation in the House is yet more complicated. There exists something of a mutually shared outlook on America’s foreign military involvements between those Democrats most to the left and those Tea Party Republicans among the most doctrinaire of their breed. Yet the strong enmity between these currents endures and largely precludes any substantial likelihood of their making common cause. The exception to this remains limited to their similar approaches to funding of the preparedness needs of the Armed Forces. All of this is further complicated by undercurrents of distrust of Israeli military and diplomatic goals. This distrust will and must remain muted because of the strong position of AIPAC within both houses of the Congress.

So Giles is almost certainly correct in his prediction of failure for the McCain bill. I would amend this conclusion to read “ostensible failure” because the realistic aim of this legislation is to influence, first, policy and organizational decisions within the White House and the foreign policy agencies and, second, funding approaches within the spending committees on both sides of Capitol Hill. And there are signs that the McCain bill and similar, less-polished proposals are having a positive impact on both these aims.

Indeed prevention or sometimes preemption is eventually less costly than post facto reaction, not to mention the fact that some facts on the ground as they say in foggy bottom are particularly difficult to reverse.

“STATEMENT BY SENATOR JOHN McCAIN ON INTRODUCING THE RUSSIAN AGGRESSION PREVENTION ACT OF 2014
Apr 30 2014

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today released the following statement on joining 20 Senate colleagues in introducing the Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014 to advance a strategic U.S. response to deter Russian aggression in Europe:

“My colleagues and I are introducing this legislation today for one simple reason: The U.S. and European response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is failing. It is failing not because we are doing nothing, but because nothing we are doing has changed President Putin’s calculus. This weak response is not deterring Putin, and in fact, it is actually inviting further acts of aggression.

“We have been critics of the Administration’s approach, but we also believe that it is our responsibility to offer a better alternative. That is what this legislation does, with specific provisions to:

“Impose much tougher sanctions on Russia.
“Do more to expose and crack down on Russian corruption and its malign effects, including by requiring the U.S. government to issue a report on the personal net wealth of senior Russian officials, including the President of the Russian Federation.
“Authorize more robust military assistance, such as anti-air, anti-tank, and other defensive weapons, for Ukraine.
“Offer greater support for our allies in central Europe and push for a bolder strategic response from NATO to Putin’s aggression.
“Do more to shore up key partners such as Moldova and Georgia.
“Begin to get more U.S. energy into European markets.
“The Administration wants a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine. So do we. The Administration wants to prevent conflict with Russia. So do we. But unless our diplomacy is backed by greater pressure on Russia, diplomacy cannot be effective, and Putin’s aggression will continue to grow and may spread beyond Ukraine. The Administration is not imposing enough costs on Russia. Our legislation would.”

The Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014 is co-sponsored by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Bob Corker (R-TN) Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Hoeven (R-ND), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Cornyn (R-TX), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Mark Kirk (R-IL), John Barrasso (R-WY), Jim Risch (R-ID), Dan Coats (R-IN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), John Thune (R-SD) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

http://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=4d2bcb34-9b47-44e9-8678-a90bf6d589e3

STATEMENT BY SENATOR JOHN McCAIN ON INTRODUCING THE RUSSIAN AGGRESSION PREVENTION ACT OF 2014 -…
http://www.mccain.senate.gov

The US governme…

The US government isn’t, the Indian government is. Everyone knew that quantitative easing would be scaled down at about this time. Low interest rates and quantitative easing never had as a goal to help the BRICS. It was a response to US problems. In the medium term they introduced a risk of inflation for the US. Now nothing stopped the BRICS from taking advantage of low rates and quanitative easing, but they knew this was not to last but hoped against hope that it would.

The latest US economic figures tend to show that there won’t be an interest rate hike and a further scaling down of QE next time. But both trends are likely resume later unless output and consumer spending are again bad next time.

See the Foreigh Affairs’ article here: Why the United States is responsible for India’s economic problems:

http://fam.ag/1mhcL7p

The article is …

The article is obsolete (it is dated March 30): municipal elections have take place and Erdoğan won them.

Contrary to what Halil Karaveli writes, it is not “safe to say” that that the Gülenists are involved in the Erdoğan recordings. It does make sense, it would be logical, they have the means to do it but we don’t know for sure. Rational speculation is useful, but it is not the same as material evidence. Apart from this the article says nothing new compared to what we have written and isn’t even accurate on the Twitter saga.

Gülenists are not the only ones to have fallen with Erdoğan. President Gül also has and he has some following in the AKP. He clearly said he would not be party to a plan with an executive presidency under Erdoğan and he as prime minister. He described such a plan as undemocratic.

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141066/halil-karaveli/trial-by-twitter?cid=soc-facebook-in-snapshots-trial_by_twitter-043014

“Last week, after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to “wipe out” Twitter, state authorities quickly tried to block the social media website. The move, which was immediately — and rightly — decried as a sign of Erdogan’s creeping authoritarianism, was an attempt at damage control, an effort to contain the effects of incriminating recordings of telephone conversations between him, his cabinet ministers, family members, and newspaper editors that have started to leak out on the Internet.

For Erdogan, the timing could not be worse. On March 30, Turkey is holding municipal elections, in which the stakes are anything but local. Instead, they are a battle of wills between the prime minister and the Gülenists, followers of the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen who have been locked in a showdown with Erdogan, their onetime ally, since last December. The tapes are apparently meant to hurt Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the elections, laying the groundwork for his eventual downfall. But in addition to exposing the prime minister’s abuses of power, the tapes also reveal the Gülenists’ own dirty dealings.

The recordings offer proof positive that Erdogan instructed his minister of justice to order the courts to punish a businessman who had displeased him. The most damning revelations are about Erdogan’s apparent involvement in illicit financial activities, including instructions to his son to remove money from his house. The recordings are apparently the result of years of illegal wiretapping of the prime minister and his entourage. And it is safe to assume that the Gülenists are involved. For one, the earliest tapes date from around 2011, just after Erdogan started to grow uneasy with the group’s reach in the Turkish bureaucracy. In addition, Gülenist cadres within the state apparatus would have had access to the codes and equipment needed to hack his encrypted ….

“Nordic NATO W…

Sweden joining NATO would require a quantum-leap in Swedish self-understanding and paradigm; they have built most of it around a position of neutrality equating moral superiority. That said, both they and others are now taking a serious look at the assumptions underpinning post-Cold War security and finding them wanting. It’s not a a matter of “re-arming”, but of paying the insurance premium of peace.

I also don’t think it will happen, barring a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine which I still view as unlikely -same for Finland-, but the very fact that there is now a public debate with major figures weighing in is already a game changer. I’d rather think that they will strengthen NORDEFCO and increase cooperation of the latter with NATO. The talk of doctrinal change is the result of Russia putting into question the whole legal -and practical- architecture of peace as built since the 1975 Helsinki final act, in which both Finland and Sweden have a stake.

If Finland and Sweden are not yet ready to join NATO, a stronger partnership between NORDEFCO and NATO would help, though article V of the Washington Treaty is reserved solely for NATO members. Article V is the only ironclad guarantee NATO can give to a country.

Here is the “Nordic NATO – Why It’s Time For Finland and Sweden to Join the Alliance” article that inspired me:

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141377/jan-joel-andersson/nordic-nato?cid=soc-facebook-in-snapshots-nordic_nato-050114

“Apparently stunned by Russian belligerence, the United States and its European allies have been scrambling to find a way to deter further Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, including through warnings and limited economic sanctions. Few believe, however, that these will have any significant effect on Russian behavior. They will neither cause Putin and his government to withdraw from Crimea nor change Russia’s willingness to use military force to “protect fellow Russians abroad,” wherever they may be. In fact, the West’s befuddled response has only played into the Kremlin’s hands; the Kremlin looks powerful while Washington and Brussels appear impotent and divided.

With no good short-term options available for pushing the Russians out of Crimea or even preventing further incursions into Ukraine, the West would do well to consider a more robust long-term option to deter Russia from moving deeper into Europe. NATO should offer membership to Sweden and Finland, and Sweden and Finland should accept. These two countries are the most active members in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. Since the initiation of the program in 1994, both Sweden and Finland have participated in its full range of activities, including joint exercises, disaster management training, and cooperation on science and environmental issues. In the operational field, both countries have contributed troops and resources to several NATO-led missions, including in Afghanistan, the Balkans, and Libya. Both countries, too, have long been considered prime candidates for NATO membership, but historical and domestic factors — including long-standing policies of military nonalignment — have prevented them from taking the plunge, and NATO has not insisted.

Expanding NATO to Sweden and Finland would achieve several important aims. From a political standpoint, it would bring the NATO border ever closer to Russia, demonstrating that military aggression in Europe carries major geopolitical consequences. Sweden and Finland’s nonalignment has offered Russia a comforting buffer zone along its northwestern border ever since the end of World War II. If Sweden and Finland were to join NATO now, that buffer would be gone, and the alliance would gain two of the world’s most democratic, politically stable, and economically successful countries. NATO would also pick up two very active proponents of transatlanticism that have consistently argued for strong U.S. involvement in Europe.”

On terrorism

Country Reports on Terrorism – State Sponsors of Terrorism: Question Taken at the State Department’s April 30, 2014 Daily press briefing

Question: “What is the criteria for getting a country off the State sponsor terrorist list? Is there a trigger for a review?

Answer: “While there are no statutory triggers for review of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, the State Department can review such designations at its discretion. With respect to criteria for rescission, there are two possible pathways to rescission of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, in accordance with the relevant statutory criteria.

“The first path requires the President to submit a report to Congress, before the proposed rescission would take effect, certifying that: (1) there has been a fundamental change in the leadership and policies of the government of the country concerned; (2) the government is not supporting acts of international terrorism; and (3) the government has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.

“The second path requires the President to submit a report to Congress, at least 45 days before the proposed rescission would take effect, justifying the rescission and certifying that: (1) the government concerned has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six month period, and (2) the government concerned has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.”

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/04/225444.htm

The US Reports on Terrorism 2013

“On April 30, 2014, the State Department submitted Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 to the U.S. Congress as required by law. This report, available on www.state.gov/j/ct, provides the Department of State’s annual assessment of trends and events in international terrorism that occurred from January 1 to December 31, 2013. It includes a strategic assessment, country-by-country breakdowns of counterterrorism efforts, and sections on state sponsors of terrorism, terrorist safe havens, and foreign terrorist organizations.

The following were among the most noteworthy counterterrorism developments in 2013:

• The terrorist threat continued to evolve rapidly in 2013, with an increasing number of groups around the world – including both al-Qa’ida (AQ) affiliates and other terrorist organizations – posing a threat to the United States, our allies, and our interests.

• As a result of ongoing worldwide efforts against the organization and leadership losses, AQ’s core leadership has been degraded, limiting its ability to conduct attacks and direct its followers. Subsequently, 2013 saw the rise of increasingly aggressive and autonomous AQ affiliates and like-minded groups in the Middle East and Africa who took advantage of the weak governance and instability in the region to broaden and deepen their operations.

• The AQ core’s vastly reduced influence became far more evident in 2013. AQ leader Zawahiri was rebuffed in his attempts to mediate a dispute among AQ affiliates operating in Syria, with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant publicly dissociating their group from al-Qa’ida. AQ affiliates routinely disobeyed Zawahiri’s 2013 tactical guidance to avoid collateral damage, seen in increasingly violent attacks against civilian religious pilgrims in Iraq, hospital staff and convalescing patients in Yemen, and families at a shopping mall in Kenya, for example.

• Terrorist groups engaged in a range of criminal activity to raise needed funds, with kidnapping for ransom remaining the most frequent and profitable source of illicit financing. Private donations from the Gulf also remained a major source of funding for Sunni terrorist groups, particularly for those operating in Syria.

• In 2013, violent extremists increased their use of new media platforms and social media, with mixed results. Social media platforms allowed violent extremist groups to circulate messages more quickly, but confusion and contradictions among the various voices within the movement are growing more common.

• Syria continued to be a major battleground for terrorism on both sides of the conflict and remains a key area of longer-term concern. Thousands of foreign fighters traveled to Syria to join the fight against the Asad regime – with some joining violent extremist groups – while Iran, Hizballah, and other Shia militias provided a broad range of critical support to the regime. The Syrian conflict also empowered the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to expand its cross-border operations in Syria, resulting in a dramatic increase in attacks against Iraqi civilians and government targets in 2013.

• Since 2012, the United States has also seen a resurgence of activity by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force (IRGC-QF), the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), and Tehran’s ally Hizballah. On January 23, 2013, the Yemeni Coast Guard interdicted an Iranian dhow carrying weapons and explosives likely destined for Houthi rebels. On February 5, 2013, the Bulgarian government publically implicated Hizballah in the July 2012 Burgas bombing that killed five Israelis and one Bulgarian citizen, and injured 32 others. On March 21, 2013, a Cyprus court found a Hizballah operative guilty of charges stemming from his surveillance activities of Israeli tourist targets in 2012. On September 18, Thailand convicted Atris Hussein, a Hizballah operative detained by Thai authorities in January 2012. And on December 30, 2013, the Bahraini Coast Guard interdicted a speedboat attempting to smuggle arms and Iranian explosives likely destined for armed Shia opposition groups in Bahrain. During an interrogation, the suspects admitted to receiving paramilitary training in Iran.

• “Lone offender” violent extremists also continued to pose a serious threat, as illustrated by the April 15, 2013 attacks near the Boston Marathon finish line, which killed three and injured approximately 264 others.

• The Statistical Annex to Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 was prepared by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland. The Statistical Annex data set includes violent acts carried out by non-state actors that meet all of START’s Global Terrorism Database (GTD) inclusion criteria; further information about GTD can be found at www.start.umd.edu/gtd.”

See:
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/04/225406.htm

and

http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/225045.pdf

China overtakes the US?

China’s GDP may indeed exceed shortly the US’s, but her per capita income is very low and a large section of her population remains outside modern life. In spite of remarkable progress China still lags far behind the US in science and technology. After a period of stupendous growth China is now experiencing bottlenecks that may slow her growth, and she has major structural problems to solve. Further, it is not known how long will the present political arrangement that mixes Communist party control with robber baron capitalism can survive.

Some decades ago pundits were predicting that Japan would soon overtake the US, but things developed differently. It is not clear whether China will not soon face economic, social and political problems that will slow down her growth. Her industries will have to switch from a labor intensive organization to a higher productivity one, considering that Chinese workers will not forever accept low wages and inadequate working conditions. The upside will of course be a growth of the domestic market and the downside less competitive exports. The cost of labor has already increased and some Western companies which had moved plants to China are repatriating them, though this is not expected to become a major phenomenon. It remains that China is by far the most populous country in the world, with the advantages and disadvantages this comprises.

http://blogs.ft.com/money-supply/2014/04/30/china-overtakes-the-us-your-questions-answered/?Authorised=false

“Why East Asia Alienates Intellectuals”

“Why East Asia Alienates Intellectuals”

First capitalism does not automatically breed democracy, though no one has ever seen democracy outside a free market system. You can have relative economic freedom without democracy, but not democracy without economic freedom. Second the disputes over maritime borders mixes nationalism with a wish to secure as many mineral resources as possible. China does not see herself as expansionist, her leaders only want to secure what they believe is rightfully theirs, and hasn’t fully got rid of her complex about having been under foreign domination for a long time. Those two seas play a role similar to that of the compliant buffer states Russia wants to have around her, though they’re only water with some mineral resources under. 

North Korea is a different case altogether, a fruit of the Cold War gone mad.

“Americans Want to Pull Back From World Stage, Poll Finds”

I have read this article today: “Americans Want to Pull Back From World Stage, Poll Finds”, in the World Street Journal.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304163604579532050055966782?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702304163604579532050055966782.html&fpid=2%2C7%2C121%2C122%2C201%2C401%2C641%2C1009

The Obama administration has largely itself to blame for this worrying trend. Too many Americans fail to establish the link between what the US does in the world as the sole superpower and what happens at home. Neo-isolationism is infecting part of the Republican party while in the Democratic party there has always been a strong but minority contingent that simplistically oppose concern for what happens abroad and what takes place in the US.

The Obama has failed to make its case, though it can be said the trend had manifested itself earlier in reaction to the long and not-so-successful wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not so much a problem of having the right rhetoric but of having something to show for current foreign policy, and here the record of the Obama administration is at best mixed. Even possible successes such as Iran hopefully verifiably abandoning her nuclear weapon program do not yet register as such. The policy on Syria is an abysmal failure and that on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has for the moment gone nowhere, not for lack of efforts but for that of a more forceful action such as presenting a US peace plan. The pivot to Asia is welcome to the extent that its does not translate into neglect of other regions, but is hampered by the lack of funds.

The Republican-dominated House has not been exactly constructive, being more interested in scoring points than in pushing for a more determined US foreign policy. In the Senate Senatior Ted Cruz rarely knows what he’s talking about: his latest initiative has been to demand John Kerry’s resignation over the Secretary’s remarks at a Trilateral Commission meeting. Outside Congress critics like John Bolton have gone overboard: for them the main enemy is not Russia, the Assad regime, Iran or Hezbollah but the president himself. While the administration’s foreign policy must be criticized, one should not misidentify the US’s actual adversaries. Rand Paul is his isolationist self. Only Sen. McCain and Graham, sometimes Corker, are able to eschew partisanship when the administration must be supported.

It is high time responsible Americans of both parties speak up for an internationalist US role. Of course this would be easier in a steadier economic environment: the cost of the 2008 crisis is not yet fully paid. But it must be shown that economic recovery also need a propitious international environment and that as the sole global power the US must take the lead in fostering free trade, free markets and democracy.

Bucharest is interested in increasing the NATO and the US presence on the Romanian territory

Bucharest is interested in increasing the NATO and the US presence on the Romanian territory

US troops would necessarily come as a NATO force. Gen. Philip M. Breedlove USAF, who is Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and his staff are developing new deployment plans, but of course the decision will be political and may depend on further Russian moves -or lack thereof on the Geneva Joint Statement. Romania is of course a prime candidate as is Moldova because of the common border with Ukraine, and for Romania her Black Sea maritime border, as well as calls from pro-Russian forces in Transistria for annexation by Russia which are echoed in the Russian media and have been quoted by Russian officials.

On the other hand, “Countries in Central and Eastern Europe, including Romania, need to be able to withstand the oligarchs and companies, who in the absence of strong institutions can buy the press and politicians to use them to control the state”, said in an AFP interview, Hoyt Yee.

HSBC Exposed US Financial System to Money Laundering by Mexican Cartels and Illegal Transactions Involving Iran

HSBC Exposed US Financial System to Money Laundering by Mexican Cartels and Illegal Transactions Involving Iran

Following an agreement between Iraqi v-p Tareq Aziz and Jacques Chirac of France the NY branch of BNP Paribas was the sole bank handling transactions under the UN Oil-for-food program. An investigation by the US House Committee on International Relations investigating the UN Oil-for-food scam found that BNP Paribas made payments without proof that goods were delivered and sanctioned payments to third parties not identified as authorized recipients. Investigators estimate that the bank received more than $700 million in fees under the UN program that began in 1996 and ended after the ousting of Saddam Hussein in March 2003. BNP Paribas had written to some customers warning them not to disclose kickbacks to the Iraqi regime. The demise of NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer came just at the right time for the bank.

U.K. Charges Former Barclays Employees, Two American and One British, Over Libor

U.K. Charges Former Barclays Employees, Two American and One British, Over Libor

‘The U.K. Serious Fraud Office said it has issued criminal proceedings against three former Barclays employees for alleged conspiracy to defraud in connection with its investigation into the manipulation of the London interbank offered rate, or Libor.

The indictees are Jay Merchant, a British citizen, and two Americans, Alex Pabon and Ryan Reich, whio are charged with conspiracy to defraud for their alleged roles in manipulating the London interbank offered rate, or Libor.

The Wall Street Journal reported last June that Reich and Merchant, former interest-rate traders, were being investigated by the Justice Department, amid a tussle between U.S. and U.K. authorities over where individuals should be prosecuted in connection with alleged activities spanning both sides of the Atlantic.

Both men left Barclays following allegations that they “engaged in communications involving inappropriate requests relating to Libor,” according to filings with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a Wall Street self-regulatory group. Reich was fired from Barclays in March 2010. Merchant resigned in September 2009 and took a job at UBS AG. He left UBS in August 2012.

On April 28’s action by the U.K. fraud office comes two months after similar charges for the period between June 2005 and August 2007 were brought against three other men who worked for Barclays: Peter Johnson, Jonathan Mathew and Stylianos Contogoulas. According to testimony by the agency, Johnson was director of dollar money markets, responsible for the bank’s dollar Libor submission. Mathew handled submissions in Johnson’s absence, and Contogoulas was the “London end” of Barclays’s New York-based dollar derivatives trading team.

So far, recalls the Journal, 10 institutions have settled Libor-rigging allegations or been fined by authorities, while U.S. and British prosecutors have filed criminal charges against more than a dozen individuals. The probe has centered around two main allegations: that traders manipulated interest rates to benefit their trading positions, and that banks submitted artificially low rates in the rate-setting process to conceal their problems during the financial crisis.”

“Ending Asia Trip, Obama Defends His Foreign Policy”

“Ending Asia Trip, Obama Defends His Foreign Policy”

What lessons of the Iraq war? Who is asking the US to send groud troops in Syria? President Obama is sidestepping any serious criticism of his policies, preferrring to go after nonexistent critics who play the role of straw men or women in the discussion Obama has with himself and no one else. Who on Earth believes “that each and every time a country violates one of those norms the United States should go to war”? Has anyone asked president Obama to declare war on Russia or even send troops into Ukraine? At this moment – but Europe is as much if not more responsible for that than Obama – has the policy that is pursued made Russia take one step backward? The only achievement is a Geneva Joint Statement. It is true that supplying Ukraine with the weapons and training she requested would not make Russia leave Crimea or stop inciting ethnic Russians, but it would have helped Ukraine military morale in the face of a possible Russian foray into Eastern Ukraine as well as in the face of continued attacks by por-Russian militias. Refusing those weapons to Ukraine creates a feeling of half-hearted support in Kiev. 

It is a fact that little can be done in the face of naked Russian aggression if Europe is not on board. The Obama administration is doing a little better than the latter on sanctions, but as long as sectoral sanctions are not applied existing ones will do little to roll back Russia. Diplomacy needs also to be backed by signs that NATO does not shrink from its responsibilities as an alliance to defend peace and order in Europe. Further, though not massive, deployments of troops in Eastern Europe would give more weight to such diplomacy. 

Another factor is the appearance of disengagement from Europe and the Middle East, which is not helping Europe and Arab morale. 

Now take Syria. President Obama has consistently declined seriously arming the opposition coalition, while the regime is receiving a continuous flow of arms from Russia and Iran, and benefits from the intervention of Hezbollah, and while Jihadists are taking an ever growing role as they have their own sources of money and weapons. The president claims the chemical disarmament of Syria as a major victory, while most Syrians consider this from their point of view as a minor issue, with less than 2,000 Syrians killed in chemical attacks and 140,000 in conventional ones. Obama says the only possible solution in Syria is a political one, while his policies do nothing to prevent a military victory by the regime. He never accepted that the condition for a successful political solution was a reversal of the military balance of power: the regime has no incentive whatsoever to accept handing over power to a transitional executive while it is winning on the ground. The military balance will never be reversed by an outgunned opposition coalition whose political weakness is increased by the refusal to arm her. Obama’s legacy in Syria is abysmal. Iran, Hezbollah and Russia are being handed out a major strategic victory. 

On Iran the jury is still out, but I accept the progress made on the nuclear issue is significant. The issue remains whether, in the event Iran failed to accept a comprehensive settlement of the issue and resumed her military nuclear effort, the crossing Obama’s red line would trigger military action as would probably be necessary. Based on the experience with Syria Iran has stopped believing in Obama’s red lines, but Tehran seems to have realized that the cost of her nuclear effort in economic and social terms is just too high. Iran is not negotiating out of fear of military action but to obtain much needed sanction relief.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kerry’s strenuous efforts are widely recognized, but it is only now that he is hinting that a US peace plan is needed as the parties, left to themselves, carry to much historical baggage to move towards the goal by themselves.

The pivot to Asia is hardly materializing, but this is because the means are lacking, and there Congress is just as responsible for this situation. Sequestration has had a massive deletrious effect there.

As to the TTIP it isn’t progressing very much, but the fault is probably more with some European countries.

 

Ban names deputy heads of new UN Central African Republic mission

Ban names deputy heads of new UN Central African Republic mission

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today 25 April appointed Laurence D. Wohlers of the United States as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-Genera for the newly-created United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

On 10 April, the UN Security Council approved the establishment of MINUSCA, which will be a nearly 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping operation focusing on the protection of civilians and facilitating humanitarian access in the CAR.

The new mission will take over the responsibilities of the African-led International Support Mission, known as MISCA, and, as from 15 September 2014, will initially comprise up to 10,000 military personnel, including 240 military observers and 200 staff officers, as well as 1,800 police personnel, including 1,400 formed police unit personnel and 400 individual police officers, and 20 corrections officers.

Strongly concerned about the situation in the country, the Security Council agreed to deploy a peacekeeping mission there, although the military and police components of the mission will not be operational until mid-September.

On Support for Israel

On Support for Israel

“Contrary to Jimmy Carter who believes that Israel is becoming an apartheid state, Kerry said that it would be a risk if Israeli leaders chose a unitary state solution -if they annexed the occupied territories-, not that it is one now.”

Some have described Kerry’s statement as an apology. I believe it is a clarification of what he really meant about the dangers of a unitary state. 

Sen. Ted Cruz said Kerry should resign, but John McCain said Kerry should clarify his comments immediately -which he has done now- and apologize, but laughed at the suggestion the top US diplomat should step down.

The US position is that it won’t talk to Hamas as long as the latter has not recognized Israel and renounced terrorism. It looks like this is isn’t going to happen, which isn’t very much of a surprise. The US cannot ask Israel to act differently. Mahmoud Abbas has repeated that the commitments any Palestinian government should make include recognition of Israel, non-violence, and adherence to previous agreements. The conclusion seems to be that Hamas will not be associated with the government.

Remarks by John Kerry, US Secretary of State, at the Atlantic Council’s “Toward a Europe Whole and Free” Conference April 29, 2014

Remarks by John Kerry, US Secretary of State, at the Atlantic Council’s “Toward a Europe Whole and Free” Conference April 29, 2014

“The Russians claim the government in Kyiv is illegitimate, but it’s a government that came to power with the vast supermajority of the Rada voting for it, including President Yanukovych’s own party, who deserted him because he deserted his country. And if your fear is illegitimacy, then you would step out of the way and encourage an election, which is set for about three and a half weeks from now, on the 25th of May, and you would encourage that election to take place in order to provide the legitimacy. 

“But instead, they’re doing everything in their power to undermine free and fair elections. They claim eastern Ukraine is too violent for monitors from the OSCE to be there; but when it comes to the armed, pro-Russian separatists – the ones who are actually perpetrating the violence – they do absolutely nothing to prevent them from taking those prisoners and hostages they’ve taken, in order to free them, and they allow them to be paraded in front of the press. And we see no evidence – no evidence at all – that Russia has actually pressured any of these groups in order to release any of these people or change course. 

“I say this with a certain element of sorrow, because of all of the effort and energy that has been expended to try to create a structure by which we would behave – all of us – differently, representing the best hopes and aspirations of all people on the face of this planet. That’s what all of our predecessors worked so hard to achieve, setting up a structure of rule of law and international law and multilateral mechanisms by which we try to resolve these kinds of differences. 

“So as a result, for all of these reasons, yesterday the United States announced again – President Obama announced – additional sanctions on more Russian individuals and entities. And we’ve also restricted export licenses for high-tech items that could be used to bolster Russia’s military capabilities. 

So my friends, I’ll just close by saying to all of you that this moment – without reaching for any hyperbole because the moment is serious enough that it doesn’t require that – this moment is about more than just ourselves. The fact is that our entire model of global leadership is at stake. And if we stand together, if we draw strength from the example of the past and refuse to be complacent in the present, then I am confident that NATO, the planet’s strongest alliance, can meet the challenges, can absolutely take advantage of the opportunities that are presented by crisis, and that we can move closer to a Europe that is whole and prosperous, at peace, and free and strong.

“That’s our goal, and we look forward to working with our fellow ministers and with each of these countries to achieve it.

Hagel Steps Up Consultations With Eastern European Allies

Hagel Steps Up Consultations With Eastern European Allies

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has stepped up his consultations with Eastern European NATO allies in light of Russia’s activities along its border with Ukraine, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today 29 April. 

Hagel met at the Pentagon today with Estonian Defense Minister Sven Mikser, and this afternoon he was to meet with Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky. 

The Estonian leader “thanked the secretary for the United States response for events in Ukraine, to include strengthening the NATO Baltic Air Policing rotation and sending soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team to Estonia for bilateral training and exercises,” Kirby said during a news conference. 

Hagel told Mikser that the United States will look for other ways to maintain a U.S. presence in the region. The two men spoke about two upcoming exercises – BaltOps and Exercise Saber Strike as possible vehicles to demonstrate the alliance commitment to the region. Both exercises will have about a dozen NATO nations participating, Kirby said. 
The United States has sent jets to Poland, and to the Baltic Air Policing effort. It has also sent company sized units to Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to exercise with those nations in what defense officials have called a direct response to Russia’s intervention in neighboring Ukraine. Hagel is committed the defense of NATO allies and has also directed U.S. European Command Commander Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove to consult with allies to update defense plans as the security situation in Europe evolves. 

“These forces are clearly military trained personnel, the admiral said, but Russian leaders say they are not. “I think it’s safe to say that Minister Shoigu held a different view about who those individuals are and who they’re working for,” Kirby said. “But, look, I mean, I grew up in Florida. If it looks like an alligator, it’s an alligator.”