Friday, July 17, 2015

US Pacific Fleet Commander: We Are Ready to Act in South China Sea

An AV-8B Harrier, assigned to the Marine Attack Squadron 231(VMA), takes off from the flight deck of forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.

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Amid ongoing tensions over Beijing’s construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea, the new US commander of the Pacific Fleet has reassured allies that Washington is prepared to act against an alleged Chinese threat.
Despite the fact that the United States lies over 8,000 miles away from the waters of the South China Sea, the US Navy currently has four coastal combat ships operating in the contested waterway. Over the past few months, Washington has also increased military exercises with a number of Pacific allies, including Japan, Australia, and the Philippines.
According to Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, the Navy is “very interested” in increasing both drills and America’s presence in the region, largely in response to perceived threat from China.
U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott
U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott
"The reason that people continue to ask about the long-term commitment and intentions of the Pacific Fleet is reflective really of all the uncertainty that has generated in the theatre now," Swift told journalists in Manila on Friday, according to the Associated Press.
"If we had the entire United States Navy here in the region, I think people would still be asking, 'Can you bring more?'"
Yet, even without a military buildup in the region, Admiral Swift remains confident that the US is prepared to meet any conflict that should arise.
"[I am] very satisfied with the resources that I have available to me as the Pacific Fleet commander," Swift said, adding "we are ready and prepared to respond to any contingency that the president may suggest would be necessary."
A highly contested waterway, nearly $5 trillion in trade passes through the South China Sea each year. While China lays claim to most of the sea, there are overlapping claims by Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, and Taiwan.
Beijing’s construction of artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago has left the US and many of its allies concerned, even though China has repeatedly stated that the islands will largely serve humanitarian purposes, and any military installations are only there for defensive purposes.
In the last few months, Washington has conducted a number of military exercises with regional allies, moves seen as provocative by the Chinese government. Earlier this month, the US began joint naval exercises with Singapore close to the South China Sea.
Only one week prior, the US also engaged in war games with Japan and Australia in the Northern Territory and Queensland.
Despite these demonstrations of military might, Swift reiterated that "the United States has been very clear that it does not support the use of coercion and force."
On Thursday, Navy spokesman Lt. Tim Hawkins addressed rumors about a possible reduced presence in the Middle East, where US aircraft carriers play a role in combatting the self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorist group. While the Navy expects the “global presence of aircraft carriers to increase,” that will still come at the expense of certain regions, according to
On Friday, Swift stressed that any number of the upcoming 52 high-tech combat ships could be deployed to the South China Sea, suggesting that the Pentagon views China as a greater threat than the Islamic State.

Tsipras announces cabinet reshuffle, 10 ministerial posts to change hands

First entry: 17 July 2015 - 21:30 Athens, 18:30 GMT
Last update: 17 July 2015 21:30 Athens, 18:30 GMTPolitics
Tsipras announces cabinet reshuffle, 10 ministerial posts to change hands
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday announced a cabinet reshuffle, replacing ministers that have either resigned or are leaving the government.
Panos Skourletis, until now minister of labour, will become Productive Reconstruction, Energy and Environment Minister in the place of Panagiotis Lafazanis, who is leaving the government.
The labour ministry, which will also now incorporate the social insurance portfolio, will be transferred to George Katrougalos, until now the alternate minister for administrative reform. ANEL MP Pavlos Haikalis will join the government as deputy minister for social insurance.
The administrative reform portfolio will in turn be taken over by Christoforos Bernardakis, formerly the general secretary for coordinating government operations. While Hania MP Pavlos Polakis is to become deputy interior minister for administrative reorganisation.
The posts left empty at the foreign ministry - following the departure of Euclid Tsakalotos  and Nikos Chountis (who joins the European Parliament) - will be filled by Syriza MP Yiannis Amanatidis as deputy minister and Sia Anagnostopoulou as alternate minister for European affairs.
Replacing former Alternate Finance Minister Nadia Valavani, who has resigned, is the vice-president of the tax office employees federation Tryfon Alexiadis.
Kostas Isichos will be replaced as alternate defence minister by Dimitris Vitsas.
Syriza MP for Arta Olga Gerovasili will take over as Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister and government spokesperson.
 The new cabinet members will not be sworn in on Friday, as originally planned, due to the emergency situation caused by the fires.
The composition of the new government is as follows:
Prime Minister: Alexis Tsipras
Government Vice-President: Yiannis Dragasakis
Interior - Administration Reconstruction Minister: Nikos Voutsis
Alternate Minister for Administrative Reform: Christoforos Bernardakis
Alternate Minister for Civil Protection: Yiannis Panousis
Alternate Minister for Migration Policy: Tasia Christodoulopoulou
Deputy Minister for Interior and Administrative Reorganisation: Pavlos Polakis
Deputy Minister for Macedonia-Thrace: Maria Kollia-Tsarouha
Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister: George Stathakis
Alternate Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Networks: Christos Spirtzis
Alternate Shipping Minister: Thodoris Dritsas
Alternate Tourism Minister: Elena Kountoura
Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister: Panos Skourletis
Alternate Minister for the Environment: Yiannis Tsironis
Alternate Minister for Rural Development: Vangelis Apostolou
Deputy Minister for Rural Development: Panagiotis Sgouridis
Finance Minister: Euclid Tsakalotos
Alternate Minister for General Accounting Office issues: Costas Mardas
Alternate Minister for Revenues: Tryfon Alexiadis
Education, Culture and Religious Affairs Minister: Aristidis Baltas
Alternate Minister for Culture: Nikos Xydakis
Alternate Minister for Education: Tasos Kourakis
Alternate Minister for Research and Innovation: Costas Fotakis
Deputy Minister for Sports: Stavros Kontonis
Labour Minister: George Katrougalos
Alternate Minister for Social Solidarity: Theano Fotiou
Deputy Minister for Social Insurance: Pavlos Haikalis
Deputy Minister for Combatting Unemployment: Rania Antonopoulou
Health and Social Insurance Minister: Panagiotis Kouroumblis
Alternate Minister for Health: Andreas Xanthos
Foreign Minister: Nikos Kotzias
Alternate Minister for European Affairs: Sia Anagnostopoulou
Deputy Minister: Yiannis Amanatidis
National Defence Minister: Panos Kammenos
Alternate Minister: Dimitris Vitsas
Deputy Minister: Nikos Toskas
Justice Minister: Nikos Paraskevopoulos
Minister of State for Combatting Corruption: Panagiotis Nikoloudis
Minister of State for Coordinating Government Operations: Alekos Flambouraris
Deputy Minister: Terens Quick
Minister of State: Nikos Pappas
Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister and Government spokesman: Olga Gerovasili
Parliament spokesmen: Gavriil Sakellaridis
                                                Nikos Fylis
                                                Alexandros Triantafyllidis

Kammenos warns Syriza rebels: Either you support government or face elections

First entry: 17 July 2015 - 10:07 Athens, 07:07 GMT
Last update: 17 July 2015 22:30 Athens, 19:30 GMTPolitics
Kammenos warns Syriza rebels: Either you support government or face elections
The leader of Independent Greeks and junior government partner Panos Kammenos has warned Syriza hardliners that they may be face snap elections if they continue to refuse support to Alexis Tsipras on the bailout negotiations.
Kammenos said that they are faced with a choice:  Either they decide to support the Government or face elections that can be held in September or October.
The nationalist leader claimed that, although the agreement with Greece’s lenders was a product of blackmail, “things have start to normalize”.

U.S. embassy: Referendum violation of Dayton, provocation

The U.S. embassy in Bosnia is "alarmed at the direction in which this planned referendum is taking the Republika Srpska (Serb Republic; RS) as an entity."
Source: Tanjug
The embassy said it saw the referendum as "a threat to the security, stability, and prosperity of Bosnia-Herzegovina."
"We oppose this referendum and any preparation for it as as a violation of the Dayton Peace Accords, and because we fear the repercussions it will have for the people in the RS and for Bosnia-Herzegovina as a whole. We are engaging relevant U.S. government departments and agencies to determine an appropriate response to those responsible for creating this political provocation. We are in close coordination with the EU Mission and OHR on next steps," said a statement.

The RS Assembly in Banja Luka on Wednesday passed a proposal to organize a referendum on the state-level justice system, and plans to hold it within six months.

The U.S. embassy also said they were "encouraged to see legitimate debate emerge within the RS on the roots of this political maneuver and the motivations that underlie it," and added:

"This honest discourse on the disconnect between the corrupt forces driving decision-making in the RS and what is truly in the best interest of its people is indicative of the vibrant, transparent democracy Bosnia-Herzegovina could and should be."

"Nothing good can come of this referendum," said the embassy, and concluded:

"The future of this country and all of its citizens lies with continued integration with the European Union. That objective is clearly attainable, and we want to work with the people of the RS to improve their quality of life by making it a reality. It is now up to the entity's leadership to choose between progress, or political and economic isolation."

The Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia on Wednesday also reacted, quoting High Representative Valentin Inzko as "regretting that a majority of delegates in the RS National assembly adopted a proposal to organize a referendum on the state level judiciary" and his authorities, saying it "goes beyond the competences of the assembly."

"To ask citizens to vote against essential parts of the Dayton Peace Agreement is irresponsible and shows the readiness of a powerful elite to continue to drive the RS and Bosnia-Herzegovina into an ever deeper crisis," said the statement.

"Entity authorities should desist in their pursuit of a referendum which is in violation of the GFAP (the General Framework Agreement for Peace) and outside their jurisdiction and focus instead on delivering the promises they have made to voters to improve conditions within the RS," the OHR concluded.

Meanwhile, representatives of the Serb people in Bosnia believe that decisions of Bosnia's Court and Prosecution are aimed against the Serb population.

RS President Milorad Dodik said the Prosecution of Bosnia-Herzegovina was "under the direct influence of the Bosniak (Muslim) Party of Democratic Action (SDA)," and that the high representative, with the imposed laws, has created "a new justice system in Bosnia that is functioning contrary to the rule of law."

Vucic says he asked Dodik to "reconsider referendum"

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic says he has asked RS Presidnt Milorad Dodik to "once again consider the decision to hold a referendum."
Source: Tanjug
Vucic also stated that he "pointed out to the wider context of this problem."
"Although I have not openly raised this issue, it is about a sovereign decision of the RS. I asked, on behalf of Serbia, that they once again consider that decision. I am grateful that this point of view of Serbia is respected - which I think is at this moment comprehensive, all-encompassing, and serious," Vucic told a joint news conference with Dodik on Friday in Belgrade.

Vucic added that he was prepared to, if Dodik asks, "help in presenting additional arguments that could contribute to easier consider the overall situation."

"I am ready to do that if need be also in front of the RS deputies," he said.

"Serbia has never and in no way interfered in the internal affairs of Bosnia-Herzegovina, nor in the internal affairs of the RS. But today I am grateful to Dodik for accepting, on my initiative, to have this kind of conversation," he said, noting that "Serbia would find it difficult to exist without the RS, while the RS would find it no less difficult without Serbia."

The final decision, Vucic repeated, was up to the RS.

He and Dodik today discussed "the event in Srebrenica," and agreed that what happened there was "an attempt to destabilize the region," but also that it was "necessary to establish and maintain peace as well as achieve full stabilization in the region and in Bosnia-Herzegovina."

Vucic and Dodik also discussed the start of works on the Bratunac-Ljubovija bridge, trade loans, and models of infrastructural connections.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

4 Marines dead in shooting attack at Tennessee Navy facility

Now Playing Officials: 5 victims in Chattanooga shootings
BREAKING NEWS: Four Marines were killed Thursday at a Chattanooga, Tenn., Navy training center, in what authorities called a possible "act of domestic terrorism" that consisted of two attacks carried out by a lone gunman at military facilities just seven miles apart, officials said.
The unidentified gunman shot up a recruiting center before driving to the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center and killing four Marines before he was shot, authorities said. Sources told Fox News police chased the gunman from the recruiting center to the Center, where the killings took place. The FBI and military police were investigating the attack, but authorities could not rule out the possibility of terrorism.
“We are treating this as an act of domestic terrorism,” said Bill Killian, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.
The names of the Marines who were reportedly shot were not immediately released pending notification of their families. The Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center lies along a bend in the Tennessee River, northeast of downtown Chattanooga.
Despite Killian's statement, an FBI Special Agent Ed Reinhold told reporters that it may have been a criminal act. The gunman was killed, but authorities did not comment on his identity, motivation or the circumstances of his death. Authorities said the gunman did not work at either military facility.
Reinhold said all the dead were killed at the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center Chattanooga. It sits between Amnicola Highway and a pathway that runs through Tennessee RiverPark, a popular park at a bend in the Tennessee River northeast of downtown Chattanooga. It's in a light industrial area that includes a Coca-Cola bottling plant and Binswanger Glass.
The two entrances to the fenced facility have unmanned gates and concrete barriers that require approaching cars to slow down to drive around them.
Marilyn Hutcheson, who works at Binswanger Glass just across the street from the center on Amnicola Highway, said she heard a barrage of gunfire around 11 a.m.
"It was rapid fire, like pow pow pow pow pow, so quickly"
- Marilyn Hutcheson, a witness
"I couldn't even begin to tell you how many," she said. "It was rapid fire, like pow pow pow pow pow, so quickly. The next thing I knew, there were police cars coming from every direction."
President Obama was briefed by his national security team on the shooting involving two military sites, according to White House spokesman Eric Schultz.
In the first incident, the gunman, in a silver Mustang, drove up to the Armed Forces Career Center in a strip mall on Lee's Highway and sprayed the facade with gunfire before driving off, officials said. An unidentified police officer was shot in the ankle, but not seriously injured, according to reports.
A federal law enforcement official told Fox News that officers from FBI's Knoxville field office responded to the scene.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that there is a heavy police presence at the scene, along with five ambulances.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it was holding departing flights at their gates in Chattanooga, with delays projected to last 15 minutes or less.

Greek decision not to recognize Kosovo remains unchanged

Greek Ambassador to Serbia Constantine Economides has said that his country does not recognize the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo.
Source: Danas
He made this statement for the Belgrade-based daily Danas.
Asked whether the Greek foreign minister's recent statements

in Pristina about Athens supporting Kosovo's membership in international organizations "meant a step in the direction of recognizing Kosovo," the diplomat said that his country's position on this issue "remains unchanged."

Economides added that Minister Nikolaos Kotzias' statements made in Pristina were "very clear."

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on Thursday he was aware of the pressure Greece is under to recognize Kosovo, but that he believes it would not happen.

US Military Coup for Euro Meltdown?

A US soldier takes part in an exercise called Saber Junction at the military area in Hohenfels near Regensburg, southern Germany, Monday, Sept. 8, 2014

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Finian Cunningham
The capitulation of the Greek government to Berlin-led finance capital is a daunting watershed moment. It marks the “disciplining” of the wider European electorate under corporatist financier rule. What is happening in Greece is a forerunner for other European Union states.
In that event, widespread social unrest can be expected.
The rapid expansion of American military forces across Europe over the past year has invoked the pretext of “defending” NATO allies from alleged Russian aggression. But an altogether different contingency is that Washington is preparing for a military coup in Europe – in the wake of economic collapse stemming from the Greek debt crisis. Just last week, American army general Ray Odierno – a member of the US Joint Chiefs of staff – outlined plans for a new battalion of troops in Germany, along with heavy armour and other equipment. Odierno told the Wall Street Journal that the new military installations were to counter “the rising Russian threat”.
Germany is already under de facto US military occupation, since the end of the Second World War, with tens of thousands of American troops and a slew of garrisons. Why the need for more American military, and not in peripheral European states close to Russia, but right in the heart of Europe – Germany?
Similar increasing deployment of American troops, artillery, armour, warplanes and helicopters has taken place in other European NATO members over the past year under the guise of conducting war games.
The result is that US military presence across Europe has never been greater at any time since the Cold War ended with the Soviet Union 25 years ago.
General Odierno said the “prepositioning” of troops and equipment in Germany and neighbouring states, including Poland and the Baltic countries, would allow for the rapid scale-up of American military in Europe “in the event of a crisis”. By “crisis” he was apparently alluding to a possible war with Russia.
But Washington planners may have another crisis in mind – the economic and social meltdown of the European Union. In that event, the American military would be deployed to shore up fragile, discredited governments amid widespread social turmoil. These “care taker” governments may be similar in personnel to the parties already in power in European capitals. But their administrations will be increasingly autocratic and imposed without popular mandates, as is being evidenced in Greece. If a social crisis of full-blown poverty, soaring unemployment, public protests and industrial disruption were to culminate, then the American military forces in Europe will be in place to enforce the rule of these technocratic “governments”.
American political analyst Randy Martin, who writes at, reckons that US rulers have anticipated the current turmoil in Europe over Greece.
“The Greek crisis has been going on for five years and more,” says Martin. “You can bet that Washington has already drawn up plans on how to administer Europe politically and financially if the situation demands that intervention. And that situation is becoming more and more apparent almost by the day.”
He added: “Don’t forget that the NATO military alliance of 28 members is really just American military power outsourced in various European disguises. NATO formations across Europe are therefore tantamount to US military occupation of Europe,” says Martin. “This is exactly what Russian government figures have perceptively been saying for a long time.”
Since the Ukraine crisis erupted due to the US-sponsored coup in that country in February 2014, the Western media has been saturated with American claims of Russian aggression toward Europe. But, as Randy Martin points out, the narrative of a Russian threat is becoming increasingly threadbare. There is no evidence of Russian infiltration in Ukraine, no evidence of Russian military aggression toward Europe, and, moreover, Moscow has consistently refuted the allegations as “fantasy”.
Which leads one to conjecture: is the American militarisation across Europe for another purpose – the containment of the European Union as it comes under increasing social pressure from within due to economic collapse?
What is called the “Greek debt crisis” is in reality a symptom of a systemic breakdown in Western capitalism. Many other countries across the European Union also find themselves in similar condition of chronic fiscal arrears and drowning indebtedness.
Italy, Spain and Portugal come to mind as having precarious debt loads that outstrip their respective economies. France, the second biggest economy in Europe, is also submerged with a total debt exceeding its national economic output.
The austerity measures that EU governments have been imposing on their populations are felt most acutely in Greece, manifested in the scenes of mass queues outside banks for a subsistence daily allowance, or desperate crowds at food stores and pharmacies searching for dwindling supplies of basic essential commodities. With the Greek government of Alexis Tsipras showing itself as a willing instrument of Europe’s banker-oligarchy to apply more austerity, the atmosphere among many ordinary Greeks is increasingly volatile and brooding.
But this scenario of economic collapse and social mayhem seen most vividly in Greece will likely be repeated in other EU countries because of the systemic nature of the crisis. The EU institutional creditors, led by Germany, want to teach the rest of Europe a lesson by disciplining Greece over its national finances.
However, austerity pushed to extreme will result in social revolt, not just in Greece, but across Europe.
Washington is alarmed by the potential meltdown in Europe. Last week, President Barack Obama urged Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras to come up with a solution to the debt crisis. Obama’s Treasury Secretary Jack Lew echoed the concerns and
warned: “There’s a lot of unknowns if this goes to a place that completely melts down in Greece.”
What we are witnessing in Europe is the emergence of autocratic centralised “government” serving the dictate of finance capital, which imposes austerity on the general population regardless of democratic mandate. The administrative, technocratic centre for this rule-by-banker-oligarchy in Europe is Berlin, which is, in turn, answerable to the technocratic administration in Washington under the control of Wall Street. What we have known up to now as sovereign national governments will henceforth be mere functionaries for the global banker elite. The control of government by private corporate interests, with no democratic accountability, attests to the definition of fascism. As analyst Randy Martin comments: “What is taking shape in Europe and more so in the United States is the complete subjugation of government by finance capital. It is not an exaggeration or empty jargon to say that we in the West are succumbing to the rule of financial fascism.”
Banker-led technocratic administrations across Europe will engender rising popular protest and civil unrest. When American politicians talk about “meltdown” and their army generals talk about “securing Europe” what they really mean is securing Europe from its own angry people. Russia is but the bogeyman to justify American military occupation of Europe and the imperative of finance capital administered from Berlin.
The irony is that 70 years after the defeat of fascism in Europe, Europe is coming full circle under the same phenomenon. This time instead of Nazi jackboots, we have American ones.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

France encourages Albania to continue reforms

The French Secretary of State for European Affairs Harlem Desir visited Albania on Wednesday and praised the country's role in the region, encouraging it to continue strengthening peace, stability and prosperity in the Western Balkan.
Albanian President Bujar Nishani on Wednesday held a special meeting with Desir. Nishani expressed gratitude for the special friendship, assistance and partnership offered by France, emphasizing that "even during the most difficult periods of Communist dictatorship, France has been a symbol of encouragement for Albanians and has kept their dream of freedom alive."
Desir said he valued Albania's up-to-date progress and stressed the need to show progress in judiciary reform and fight against organized crime.
Desir also met with Albania's Parliament Speaker Ilir Meta and both underlined the close inter-parliamentary cooperation between Albania and France.
Meta said he considered France a very important partner for Albania's development and encouraged an increase in multilateral cooperation.
Moreover, Desir met with Albanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ditmir Bushati and Minister of European Integration Klajda Gjosha.
Praising Albania's efforts to strengthen the rule of law, Desir underlined the importance of judicial reform and the fight against corruption and organized crime, which would have a positive impact on Albania's further advancement towards integration. (Cihan/Xinhua)

New Elections in Greece Possible in September or October

A general view of the Greek parliament

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Greece's Gordian Knot: Syriza Tackles Austerity (314)
Greeks might be again invited to cast their ballots in September or October, Greek Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis said Thursday.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The interior minister was quoted as saying by local media while speaking to radio station Kokkino:
"If it is not in September, it will be in October. It's very possible there will be elections, but this will be the result of the overall — not only from the government — insight as to the general developments."
On Wednesday night, the Greek parliament voted in support of a new package of bailout measures, paving the way for more financial aid from its international creditors. Of the 300 Greek lawmakers, 229 voted in support of the bill, 64 voted against it, including Parliamentary Speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou and the country’s former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, while six abstained.
There is "a matter of political and institutional commitment in relation to the recovery of economic stability. The prime minister signed an agreement by which we disagree, and it should be put into practice in our presence," Voutis stressed.
On Monday, Eurozone leaders reached an agreement on a third bailout package for Greece, estimated at $95 billion over the next three years, which stipulated the Greek parliament to approve unpopular austerity measures – including pension reforms and VAT increases – by the end of Wednesday.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called on his fellow parliamentarians to adopt the new package of measures even if they lack belief in it. The left-wing Syriza party, led by Alexis Tsipras, came to power after winning the January parliamentary elections, promising to free the country of unpopular austerity measures.
On Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he was forced to choose between the tough terms proposed by the international lenders and bankruptcy that would be followed by Greece's exit from the Eurozone.

NATO Members to Ditch Each Other in Case of War - Poll

Turns out, the majority of Europeans don’t really want to fulfill their NATO duties, according to which all members of the alliance should collectively defend each other in case one of them is attacked, the Philadelphia Trumpet reported, citing a Pew Research Center poll.

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Turns out, the majority of Europeans don’t really want to fulfill their NATO duties, according to which all members of the alliance should collectively defend each other in case one of them is attacked, a Pew Research Center poll revealed.
NATO seems to be struggling with its existential raison d'etre, after the alliance lost its original enemy, the Soviet Union, and has yet to find a new role to fulfill.
Some say the United States wants to portray Russia as a new enemy to generate fear among Europeans, but according to the poll it looks like most Europeans aren't buying that nonsense, the Philadelphia Trumpet reported.
The survey asked: "If Russia got into a serious military conflict with one of its neighboring countries that is our NATO ally, do you think our country should or should not use military force to defend that country?"
Despite NATO's Article V, which establishes the idea of collective defense as the first and foremost concern of the alliance, only in two out of the eight surveyed countries the majority of citizens said their countries should use military force to defend their allies (only Americans and Canadians said they were ready to go to war if their NATO allies were attacked).
Western European countries, in particular, were against interfering on behalf of their allies. 53 percent of Frenchmen said "No" to defending an ally; in Italy, it was 51 percent against and 40 percent in favor, while 9 percent abstained; the Germans were the most decisive — 58 percent said they shouldn't defend an ally and only 38 percent said they should. The poll results were "devastating," according to Judy Dempsey, editor-in-chief of Strategic Europe at Carnegie Europe.
"The longer the Europeans refuse to even consider the use of military force to protect their allies, the more NATO's sense of collective defense and solidarity will weaken. The inexorable outcome is the demise of Article V. What the is NATO for?" — Dempsey said, as quoted by the Philadelphia Trumpet.
So there, the idea of United Europe quickly goes out of the window. At the end of the day, every nation stands only for itself and the Hobbessian concept of the state of nature prevails.
While Europeans are scratching their heads over whether they will defend each other if Russia got into a serious military conflict with one if their NATO allies, Russia repeatedly stated that it has never had any interest in attacking its neighbors.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

"RS police told not to provide security for Vucic"

Bosnian Council of Ministers chair Denis Zvizdic "instructed members of the RS Interior Ministry (MUP) not to protect the Serbian prime minister in Potocari."
Source: Tanjug
The incident in Potocari (Beta/AP)
The incident in Potocari (Beta/AP)
This is what Bosnian Interior Minister Dragan Mektic has said. He specified that the order to the police of the Serb entity in Bosnia, the Serb Republic (RS), came a day before the Srebrenica anniversary commemoration, during which Aleksandar Vucic was attacked.
Mektic "confirmed he has information that one day before the commemoration in Potocari, Zvizdic told the head of the Directorate for Coordination of Police Bodies, Mirsad Vilic, that it would not be good if members of the RS MUP were present inside the memorial center complex, and protecting Premier Aleksandar Vucic."

"I think Vilic told me that," Mektic has been quoted as saying by the Sarajevo-based daily Dnevni Avaz.

The decision was made based on this suggestion, while Zvizdic - although having no jurisdiction over police agencies - with his conversation with Vilic influenced Vucic's security to become "drastically weakened," said the paper on its website, adding that "the same applied to other guests and esteemed invitees."

The public broadcaster of the Muslim-Croat Federation (FBiH) entity, FTV, reported that the RS police said "the Directorate security left the entrance at he beginning of the commemoration, jeopardizing the entire system of protection."

FTV noted late on Tuesday in its main news program that Vucic and the Turkish prime minister were accompanied to the memorial center "by only two RS MUP policemen each."

Wednesday was the fifth day since the brutal attack and an attempt to lynch the Serbian prime minister in Potocari, where he traveled to bow to the Bosniak victims - but there has been no hint as to who may have ordered and carried out the attack.

The Council of Ministers tasked the Security Ministry, headed by Mektic, to urgently submit an analysis of the events in Potocari.

Although one person was said to be arrested on the day of the incident, no official has since confirmed this, nor is the identity of the person reportedly held by the police "which could be seen in one of the recordings" - known.

"Greece to help Kosovo join international organizations"

Greek Foreign Minister Nikolaos Kotzias has said that his country "will support Kosovo's membership in international bodies and security organizations."
Source: Beta, Tanjug
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According to the announcement, Mustafa with and the Greek minister spoke about "relations between the two countries" and the possibilities of deepening cooperation.

The statement said that Mustafa thanked Kotzias "for the support that Greece has given in the process of Kosovo's membership in international organizations and integration processes in the EU."

Mustafa was further quoted as saying that "the conditions are ripe for further promotion of relations between Greece and Kosovo."

After meeting with his Kosovo counterpart in Pristina, the Greek foreign minister said that that this "does not mean that Greece could recognize Kosovo, but represents an effort to establish better relations between Athens and Pristina."

Greece is one of five EU member-countries that have not recognized the ethnic Albanians' unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo made in early 2008 - but reports said it was "the only one among the five that recognizes documents issued by Kosovo."

"I invited (Hashim) Thaci to come to Athens. We are waiting for him. We have decided to open an office of Kosovo. Our proposal is that the office can be located wherever you want, in Thessaloniki or in Athens. But I think that Thaci prefers Athens," said Kotzias.

In addition, he promised that within the existing framework of cooperation Greece will support "Kosovo's membership in the EU and NATO, as well as membership in other international organizations such as Interpol and UNESCO."

Asked by reporters "whether Greece will recognize Kosovo" he, according to the Pristina media, "remained vague" - saying that Greece will help Kosovo to join some international organizations and announcing that Greece will open a cooperation office in Kosovo.

In its statement, Kosovo's Minsitry of Foreign Affairs stressed this was "the first visit of a Greek chief of diplomacy to Kosovo."

According to the RTK2 broadcaster, Thaci said that the meeting covered many topics - including the establishment of a special court - that should deal with KLA crimes.

"This issue should not be delayed, but it will not be put up for a vote (in the assembly) before it's determined that there is a sufficient number of votes of MPs," said Thaci.

Thaci "thanked his Greek counterpart for his contribution to his country provides in maintaining peace and stability in the region, as well as the support that Kosovo receives from Greece in the Euro-Atlantic path."

"We expect investors from Greece to come to Kosovo, invest and feel good here. I take this opportunity to once again invite others to invest in Kosovo. We live in the same region and have the same values,"said Thaci.

Kotzias did not wish to comment on the economic crisis in Greece, saying that "MPs will decide on that."

Albania 1990 -- Embassy Storm

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Special Advisor, Human Rights Watch

Posted: Updated:
From the new book Modern Albania (NYU Press, 2015). A version of this oist first appeared in Spiegel Online.
More than 5,000 Albanians stormed foreign embassies in Tirana in July 1990. Here a women enters the West German compound. © Lothar Parzeller
Ervis Gega was 16 years old in summer 1990 when hundreds of frustrated Albanians, craving to rejoin the world, began storming foreign embassies in their capital. Gega and her relatives watched the news on Italian television from their hometown and quickly made up their minds. A family of musicians, they had long suffered under Communist rule.
The Berlin Wall had fallen eight months before but Albania's Communist party was holding on. Statues of Stalin and the long-time dictator Enver Hoxha, who died in 1985, still stood in this closed and repressive Balkan state.
Gega grabbed her Chinese-made violin and boarded a train for Tirana with her parents, uncle and aunt. When they arrived, security forces had surrounded the diplomatic quarter but the family slipped the police some money and clambered over the wall into the West German embassy.
Within a few days, more than 3,000 Albanians had joined Gega and her family, especially after an asylum-seeker rammed the embassy's wall with a truck. Hundreds of other Albanians had occupied the embassies of the Greeks, Italians and French. Four people jumped into the Cuban embassy but the Cubans threw them back.
A man drove a truck through the wall of the West German embassy on July 3, 1990. Three people also entered the East German compound. © Lothar Parzeller
Police Want to Flee
For the most part, the police showed restraint. Even if ordered to shoot, low morale would have likely prevented security forces from opening fire. The police and soldiers also wanted to leave.
Some western diplomats encouraged Albanians to scale the embassy walls. "I did it because I knew a massive exodus would make the regime collapse," said Werner Daum, the senior West German diplomat in Albania at the time, who turned on the embassy lights and opened the gate.

Albanian Politburo members and intelligence agents from that time later said they had gathered information about foreign support for subversive plots to topple the government, pointing the finger at Germany, Italy, France, Yugoslavia, and Greece.
"This looked like something spontaneous," the communist president at the time, Ramiz Alia, told me. "But for sure there were hands behind it."
By July 7, the West German compound housed 3,199 people, who slept in the garden and relieved themselves in a hand-dug latrine. A woman gave birth to a baby girl she named Germana. Eight hundred and seventy people slept in the Italian embassy, and about five hundred stayed with the French.
"It was so full but the people were happy," Gega recalled 25 years later from her home in Bonn, Germany. "We watched the soccer World Cup every night and at that time Germany won - it was a party."
Albanians atop a water tank in the West German embassy.
© Lothar Parzeller
The Albanian government denied the embassies' requests for food and tents. Either take them out of the country or give them to the police, the government said. Instead, the authorities cut the water supply and spies infiltrated the crowds to learn why people had left.
A Scooter and Jeans
"The reason was the lack of trust in the rules in force," one person told an agent who had slipped into the German embassy, according to an Albanian intelligence report.
"The reason is to be dressed like the people of my age abroad (blue jeans or other clothes like this) and to have a scooter," another person told a spy. "I have never thought to have these things without working, but I don't know how to buy a scooter in Albania or the clothes."
For Gega's family, it was the relentless persecution by Enver Hoxha and the party. Her relatives had been imprisoned and sentenced to death. The talented Ervis was forbidden to study music or join the choir.
On July 8, a United Nations envoy arrived for talks and the government announced it would allow the asylum-seekers to leave the country. Alia realized that they were not going to return home, even with a promise of immunity.
Two days later, the plane of the new Czechoslovak president Václav Havel picked up fifty-one Albanians who were in his country's embassy. "Long live Havel," they yelled upon landing in Prague.
Tossing Watches and Money

At 4:00 a.m. on July 12, the authorities herded the remaining people onto buses and drove them in a convoy to the port city of Durres, where ferries waited to take them across the Adriatic to Italy. Villagers lined the road to wave good-bye. The passengers threw their watches and money out the bus windows, as if they wanted to leave it all behind.
Trains took the asylum-seekers from Italy to Germany, France and beyond, escorted by the Red Cross. After they left, the end of Communist rule was a matter of time. That December, student protests pushed the Central Committee to legalize pluralism. Two months later, a crowd toppled Hoxha's bronze statue in Tirana's Skanderbeg Square. The Albanian Party of Labor won the first multi-party elections on March 31, 1991 and Alia remained president but he held the post for less than one year.
Today Gega is a professor at Johannes Guttenberg University in Mainz, plays for the Bonn Classical Orchestra and performs worldwide. "I'm an Albanian and Albania is my homeland," she said. "But Germany is my home."
Ervis Gega in July 1990. © Ervis Gega
Ervis Gega is now a master violinist at the
Bonn Classical Philharmonic. © Ervis Gega

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

An Empire Strikes Back: Germany and the Greek Crisis

By George Friedman
A desperate battle was fought last week. It pitted Germany and Greece against each other. Each country had everything at stake. Based on the deal that was agreed to, Germany forced a Greek capitulation. But it is far from clear that Greece can allow the agreement reached to be implemented, or that it has the national political will to do so. It is also not clear what its options are, especially given that the Greek people had backed Germany into a corner, where its only choice was to risk everything. It was not a good place for Greece to put the Germans. They struck back with vengeance.
The key event was the Greek referendum on the European Union's demand for further austerity in exchange for infusions of cash to save the Greek banking system. The Syriza party had called the vote to strengthen its hand in dealing with the European demands. The Greek government's view was that the European terms would save Greece from immediate disaster but at the cost of impoverishing the country in the long term. The austerity measures demanded would, in their view, make any sort of recovery impossible. Facing a choice between a short-term catastrophe in the banking system and long-term misery, the Greeks saw themselves in an impossible position.
In chess, when your position is hopeless, one solution is to knock over the chessboard. That is what the Greeks tried to do with the referendum. If the vote was lost, then the government could capitulate to German demands and claim it was the will of the people. But if the vote went the way it did, the Greek leaders could go to the European Union and argue that broad relaxation of austerity was not merely the position of the government, but also the sovereign will of the Greek people.
The European Union is founded on the dual principles of an irrevocable community of nations that have joined together but have retained their national sovereignty. The Greeks were demonstrating the national will, which the government thought would create a new chess game. Instead, the Germans chose to directly demand a cession of a significant portion of Greece's sovereignty by creating a cadre of European bureaucrats who would oversee the implementation of the agreement and take control of Greek national assets for sale to raise money. The specifics are less important than the fact that Greece invoked its sovereign right, and Germany responded by enforcing an agreement that compelled the Greeks to cede those rights.

Germany's Motivations

I've discussed the German fear extensively. Germany is a massive exporting power that depends on the European free trade zone to purchase a substantial part of its output. The Germans had a record positive balance of trade last month, of which its trade both in the eurozone as well as in the rest of the European Union was an indispensible part. For Germany, the unraveling of the European Union would directly threaten its national interest. The Greek position — particularly in the face of the Greek vote — could, in the not too distant future, result in that unraveling.
There were two sides of the Greek position that frightened the Germans. The first was that Athens was trying to use its national sovereignty to compel the European Union to allow Greece to avoid the pain of austerity. This would, in effect, shift the burden of the Greek debt from the Greeks to the European Union, which meant Germany. For the Germans, the bloc was an instrument of economic growth. If Germany accepted the principle that it had to assume responsibility for national financial problems, the European Union — which has more than a few countries with national financial problems — could drain German resources and undermine a core reason for the bloc, at least from the German point of view. If Greece demonstrated it could compel Germany to assume responsibility for the debt in the long term, it is not clear where it would have ended — and that is precisely what the Greek vote intended.
On the other hand, if the Greeks left the European Union, it would have created a precedent that would in the end shatter the bloc. If the European Union was an elective affinity, in Goethe's words, something you could enter and then leave, then the long-term viability of the bloc was in serious doubt. And there was no reason those doubts couldn't be extended to the free trade zone. If nations could withdraw from the European Union and create trade barriers, then Germany would be living in a world of tariffs, European and other. And that was the nightmare scenario for Germany.
The vote backed the Germans into a corner, as I said last week. Germany could not accept the Greek demand. It could not risk a Greek exit from the European Union. It could not appear to be frightened by an exit, and it could not be flexible. During the week, the Germans floated the idea of a temporary Greek exit from the euro. Greece owes a huge debt and needs to build its economy. What all this has to do with being in the euro or using the drachma is not clear. It is certainly not clear how it would have helped Europe or solved the immediate banking problem. The Greeks are broke, and don't have the euros to pay back loans or liquefy the banking system. The same would have been true if they left the European Union. Suggesting a temporary Grexit was a fairly meaningless act — a bravura performance by the Germans. When you desperately fear something in a negotiation, there is no better strategy than to demand that it happen.

The Resurrection of German Primacy

I have deliberately used Germany rather than the European Union as the negotiating partner with the Greeks. The Germans have long been visible as the controlling entity of the European Union. This time, they made no bones about it. Nor did they make any bones about their ferocity. In effect they raised the banner of German primacy, German national interest, and German willingness to crush the opposition. The French and the Italians, among others, questioned the German position publicly. In the end, it didn't matter. The Germans consulted with these other governments, but Berlin decided the negotiating position, because in the end it was Germany that would be most exposed by French or Italian moderation. This negotiation was in the context of the European Union, but it was a German negotiation.
And with this, the Germans did something they never wanted to do: resurrect fairly unambiguously the idea that Germany is the sovereign and dominant nation-state in Europe, and that it has the power and the will to unilaterally impose its will on another nation. Certainly the niceties of votes by finance ministers and prime ministers were adhered to, but it was the Germans who conducted the real negotiations and who imposed their will on Greece.
Germany's historical position was that it was one nation among many in the European Union. One of the prime purposes of European integration was to embed Germany in a multinational European entity so that it could develop economically but not play the role in Europe that it did between 1871 and 1945. The key to this was making certain that Germany and France were completely aligned. The fear was that German economic growth would create a unilateral German political power, and the assumption was that a multilateral organization in which France and Germany were intimately bound together would enable German growth without risking German unilateral power.
No one wanted this solution to work more than the Germans, and many of Germany's maneuvers were to save the multilateral entity. But in making these moves, Germany crossed two lines. The lesser line was that France and Germany were not linked on dealing with Greece, though they were not so far apart as to be even close to a breach. The second, and more serious, line was that the final negotiation was an exercise of unilateral German power. Several nations supported the German position from the beginning — particularly the Eastern European nations that, in addition to opposing Greece soaking up European money, do not trust Greece's relationship with Russia. Germany had allies. But it also had major powers as opponents, and these were brushed aside.
These powerful opponents were brushed aside particularly on two issues. One was any temporary infusion of cash into Greek banks. The other was the German demand, in a more extreme way than ever before, that the Greeks cede fundamental sovereignty over their national economy and, in effect, over Greece itself. Germany demanded that Greece place itself under the supervision of a foreign EU monitoring force that, as Germany demonstrated in these negotiations, ultimately would be under German control.
The Germans did not want to do this, but what a nation wants to do and what it will do are two different things. What Germany wanted was Greek submission to greater austerity in return for support for its banking system. It was not the government's position that troubled Germany the most, but the Greek referendum. If Germany forced the Greek government to capitulate, it was a conventional international negotiation.  If it forced the government to capitulate in the face of the electoral mandate of the Greek public, it was in many ways an attack on national sovereignty, forcing a settlement not in opposition to the government but a direct confrontation with the electorate. The Germans could not accommodate the vote. They had to respond by demanding concessions on Greek sovereignty.
This is not over, of course. It is now up to the Greek government to implement its agreements, and it does so in the face of the Greek referendum. The situation in Greece is desperate because of the condition of the banking system. It was the pressure point that the Germans used to force Greek capitulation. But Greece is now facing not only austerity, but also foreign governance. The Germans' position is they do not trust the Greeks. They do not mean the government now, but the Greek electorate. Therefore, they want monitoring and controls. This is reasonable from the German point of view, but it will be explosive to the Greeks.

The Potential for Continental Unease

In World War II, the Germans occupied Greece. As in much of the rest of Europe, the memory of that occupation is now in the country's DNA. This will be seen as the return of German occupation, and opponents of the deal will certainly use that argument. The manner in which the deal was made and extended by the Germans to provide outside control will resurrect historical memories of German occupation. It has already started. The aggressive inflexibility of the Germans can be understood as an attitude motivated by German fears, but then Germany has always been a frightened country responding with bravado and self-confidence.
The point of the matter is not going away, and not only because the Greek response is unpredictable; poverty versus sovereignty is a heady issue, especially when the Greeks will both remain poor and lose some sovereignty. The Germans made an example of Cyprus and now Greece. The leading power of Europe will not underwrite defaulting debtors. It will demand political submission for what help is given. This is not a message that will be lost in Europe, whatever the anti-Greek feeling is now.
This is as far from what Germany wanted as can be imagined. But Greece could not live with German demands, and Germany could not live with Greek demands. In the end, the banking crisis gave Germany an irresistible tool. Now the circumstances demand that the Greeks accept austerity and transfer key elements of sovereignty to institutions under the control or heavy influence of the Germans.
What else could Germany do? What else could Greece do? The tragedy of geopolitical reality is that what will happen has little to do with what statesmen wanted when they started out.