Category Archives: NATO

(Independent) Spain to review permission for Russian warships to refuel en route to bomb Aleppo amid anger from Nato and allies

(Independent) Russian carriers were expected to take on fuel at the Spanish port of Ceuta.

Spain is reviewing its decision to allow Russian warships to refuel at one of its ports on their way to bomb the Syrian city of Aleppoamid international outrage.

A naval fleet headed by the Admiral Kuznetzov aircraft carrier, which passed through the English Channel last week, was expected to dock this morning in the North African enclave of Ceuta to take on supplies.

Nato, the British government and EU politicians voiced their shock at the move just days after Spain signed a European Council statement saying it was “appalled” at the escalating violence in Aleppo and calling on the Syrian government and its Russian allies to stop its “excessive and disproportionate” attacks on civilian areas.

The Russian ships are on their way to the eastern Mediterranean to boost Vladimir Putin’s campaign in support of Bashar al-Assad, loaded with fighter jets, reconnaissance and combat helicopters and cruise missiles.

Russian warships move through English Channel under Royal Navy watch

Asked about Spain’s role in supplying the fleet, Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato Secretary-General, said he was “concerned”.

“I have expressed that very clearly about potential use of this battle group to increase Russia’s ability and to be a platform for airstrikes against Syria,” he added.

“I repeat those concerns today and I believe that all Nato allies are aware that this battle group can be used to conduct airstrikes against Aleppo and Syria.”

Guy Verhofstadt, president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament, called Spain’s decision “scandalous”.

He wrote on Twitter: “Spain signed EU statement on Russian war crimes in Aleppo last week – today [Tuesday] helps refuel fleet on way to commit more atrocities. Seriously?”

The UK said that although access to Spanish ports was a matter for local authorities, concerns had been raised.

“Her Majesty’s government has previously expressed concerns to the Spanish government about its hospitality to the Russian navy when we have concerns about Russia’s military activity,” a British Government spokesperson said.

Spain, a Nato member, regularly allows Russian war ships to stop in its enclave of Ceuta, which borders Morocco at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea.

A spokesperson for the foreign ministry told El Pais permission was granted on a case-by-case basis depending on the ship in question and possibly security risks.

“We are looking at the latest [supply] stops requested based on information requested by Russian authorities,” he added.

Intense international media coverage has followed the fleet’s progress from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean, with Royal Navy ships tracking it through the Channel.

Keir Giles, an expert on Russian security issues, told The Independent that bolstering the country’s firepower in the Syrian conflict may not be the deployment’s only objective.

“The biggest thing that worries me is that while there is all of this intense media focus not just in the UK but in  Europe on this one action in one place, what are they [Russia] doing somewhere else?” he asked.

“They have achieved complete media and public opinion focus on one bright, shiny object that is being held up to potentially distract from more important things happening elsewhere.”

The deployment includes the Admiral Kuznetsov, Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great) battlecruiser, the Vice Admiral Kulakov destroyer, Severomorsk destroyers and several supply vessels.

(DN) Marinha divulga fotos de porta-aviões russo em águas portuguesas

(DNFrota russa está a ser vigiada por uma fragata da Marinha Portuguesa e por um avião C-3.

O porta-aviões Almirante Kuznetsov, que lidera uma frota de nove navios russos que vai a caminho da Síria, deverá ficar em águas de jurisdição portuguesa até às 19.00 desta terça-feira, a manterem-se os rumos e velocidades a que seguiam hoje, segundo o Ministério da Defesa Nacional.

Os navios estão a ser vigiados à passagem por Portugal por uma fragata da Marinha portuguesa e por um avião C-3.

Hoje, ao meio-dia, o primeiro grupo de quatro navios (porta-aviões incluído) estava frente a Aveiro, a cerca de 83 milhas da costa, dentro da Zona Económica Exclusiva portuguesa, de acordo com a mesma fonte. Um segundo grupo de navios (os restantes cinco) encontrava-se em frente a Viana do Castelo, a cerca de 70 milhas da costa.

Para os analistas, o envio desta frota para a Síria é uma demonstração de força por parte da Rússia, numa altura em que é crescente a tensão entre Moscovo e o Ocidente.

(Independent) Britain will veto EU army, says Defence Secretary

(Independent) For as long as the UK is a member of the EU, it will block plans for an EU army, says Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.

The UK would exercise its power of veto to block the creation of an EU army while it remains a member of the European Union, according to Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has spoken of the possibility of a “common military force” at a meeting of EU leaders in Bratislava, to which Britain was not invited.

Sir Michael told The Times newspaper. “That is not going to happen. We are full members of the EU and we will go on resisting any attempt to set up a rival to Nato.”

A document discussed at the Bratislava summit indicates the European Commission will put forward proposals in December for a common military force, for which agreement will be sought in the summer.

France and Germany are understood to be behind the proposals. Europe’s defence ministers are due to meet next week and are expected to discuss the issue.

“We have always been concerned about unnecessarily duplicating what we already have in Nato,” Sir Michael said. The veto threat will further poison British relations with Brussels after the Brexit vote and harden attitudes in Germany and France against giving Theresa May concessions on access to Europe’s single market.

Diplomatic relations between the UK and the EU are already fraught. The UK vetoing significant EU policy while it simultaneously negotiates its exit from the union could have significant consequences.

All previous steps toward creating a common EU military force have been vetoed by Britain.

The most recent proposals, drafted by President Juncker, call on the EU to “establish permanent, structured co-operation in defence, including the creation of common battle groups to carry out military intervention in crises”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the UK’s input on the issue would be sought via talks between Theresa May and European Council President Donald Tusk. “We need more co-operation, particularly in the area of defence, and a lot more needs to be done on the Franco-German plan,” she said. “The UK remains a member of the EU and all of these issues have to be discussed.”

At a press conference with Mrs Merkel, President Hollande of France said: “The UK still has responsibilities.”

The Baltic states, where Nato battalions are currently in operation, are uneasy about the possibilty of an EU army that could replace Nato. Sir Michael has pledged extra troops for Nato battalions in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and eastern Poland.

“We will go on being committed to the security of the European continent,” he said. “We are not going to back out of our commitment to keeping Europe secure but we don’t want to see unnecessary bureaucracy at the EU level when we have got it in Nato.”

(P-S) Taking Trump Seriously About NATO – Jacek Rostowski

(P-S) WARSAW – A Donald Trump presidency would be a catastrophe for NATO and the West. Aside from threatening to withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement and to start a trade war with China, Trump praisesRussian President Vladimir Putin and suggests that America should not honor its commitment to defend its NATO allies unless they pay more for that protection.

Although Trump’s chances are slipping away by the day, the European Union should consider his candidacy a wake-up call regarding its own defense. The EU’s total GDP is slightly higher than America’s, yet it contributes only 25% of NATO’s defense budget, while the US accounts for 72%, and Canada and Turkey supply the rest.

If Russia attempted a conventional incursion into NATO territory, and was defeated, it might consider launching a nuclear first strike in Europe. After all, unlike the Soviet Union, Russia has not ruled out the offensive use of nuclear weapons. In such a scenario, America’s nuclear umbrella would amount to Europe’s only credible protection. But if the US retaliated against a Russian nuclear strike, it would risk facing a Russian counterstrike on its own territories or forces. Such is the grim logic of mutually assured destruction.

Why should the US risk so much for a continent that gives short shrift to its own conventional defense capabilities? This is not an unreasonable question to ask, and where previous US presidents have feared to tread, a populist demagogue has rushed in.

One problem is that NATO members’ commitment to spend at least 2% of its GDP on defense is not nearly enough. The US spends 3.5% of its GDP on defense, and there is no reason why the EU should be spending less than the US, given the manifold threats it faces, from Russia to terrorist incitement by the Islamic State.

Moreover, most European NATO countries’ defense spending falls short of the obligatory 2% of GDP, with only the United Kingdom, Poland, Greece, and Estonia maintaining defense spending at or above that level. This complacency has become so entrenched that an agreement at the 2014 NATO summit in Newport, Wales, that no member would cut defense spending any further – and another agreement this year to meet the 2% target – was seen as a major breakthrough.

The problem is not that EU countries are inherently unreliable. It’s that they have tied their hands with fiscal austerity. I experienced this firsthand as Poland’s finance minister during and after the 2008 financial crisis. On two occasions when I suddenly had to cut spending to comply with the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), a 1997 agreement among EU member states to enforce fiscal responsibility, I had few options other than to cut the defense budget.

Fortunately, Poland’s 1998 Public Finance Act requires that 1.95% of GDP be spent on defense. So, after the immediate crisis was over, Polish defense spending returned to its NATO-mandated level.

This points to a possible solution: the US should restructure the NATO collective-defense commitment so that it is self-policing – what economists call “incentive-compatible.”

For starters, EU countries’ defense spending should be excluded from the SGP. France has long pushed for this, but Germany – which spends a meager 1.2% of its GDP on defense – opposes it, claiming that it would open a Pandora’s box of other demands and exclusions.

In 2015, then-Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz proposed that if the full defense budget could not be excluded from the SGP, at least increases in defense spending up to the 2%-of-GDP NATO commitment should be exempted for one year. Poland would not have benefited, because it had already fulfilled the NATO requirement; but the change would have made it easier for other European members to meet their commitments.

Germany rejected the Polish proposal – again on the grounds of Pandora’s box. But, if anything, Kopacz’s proposal was too modest. Global politics has become even more precarious since last year. With the US looking more toward Asia, where China’s unilateral assertion of territorial claims in the South China Sea has jeopardized regional stability, it may become stretched too thin to provide a credible deterrent to Russian aggression, especially when it takes the form of unconventional, hybrid attacks.

The EU should respond to these changing geopolitical dynamics by adopting the Polish proposal and extending it for more than one year. The SGP should exempt increases in general defense spending for five years, and increases in spending on equipment procurement for ten years. And that’s not all: the European Commission should be able to waive the 2%-of-GDP exemption limit for individual countries or for the EU as a whole, depending on external security risks and economic needs.

This change will not be easy, but the US must insist on it, despite continued German resistance in the name of supposed fiscal rectitude. Germany, which has loudly demanded that Greece keep its promises to the EU, is now standing in the way of NATO members’ ability to meet their commitments to collective defense. Worse still, Germany’s misguided imposition of austerity on the eurozone has undermined European political cohesion, thereby opening the door for Russian revanchism and aggression.

Trump is right about one thing: NATO allies should pull their weight. But that message should be sent to Germany, not Estonia. The US should tell Germany – in the same no-nonsense terms that Germany used with Greece – that it cannot defer to the US for its security while undermining Western unity to protect its taxpayers from possible intra-eurozone liabilities.

As the EU’s de facto leader, Germany should be making it easier, not harder, for NATO members to meet their obligations to collective defense. It can start by embracing the Polish proposal – and it should move forward from there.

(Reuters) UK Labour leader refuses to say he’d defend NATO ally from Russia

(Reuters)

The leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party has refused to say whether he would defend a NATO ally if one was invaded by Russia.

Jeremy Corbyn was asked several times at a leadership debate in Birmingham, central England, on Thursday if he would support the military alliance’s key principle of “collective defense” where any attack on one member country is considered an attack against all members.

Corbyn declined to give any assurances that he would do so if he won power. Instead he stressed the need for diplomatic solutions, saying he wanted to achieve a world where there was no need to go to war.

“You’d obviously try to avoid that happening in the first place, you would build up a good dialogue with Russia to ask them and support them is respecting borders,” he said.

“We would try and introduce a demilitarization of the borders between Russia, Ukraine and all the other countries down in the border between Russia and eastern Europe.”

The Labour Party has been in turmoil since Britain’s June 23 vote to leave the European Union, with veteran left-winger Corbyn’s position being challenged by fellow lawmaker Owen Smith.

Smith said he would go to the aid of a fellow NATO member.

In the past Corbyn has backed Britain’s withdrawal from NATO though more recently he has talked of a more restricted role for the alliance.

Though Smith is backed by most of Labour’s elected lawmakers, Corbyn is strong favorite to win the leadership contest thanks to widespread support at grassroots level.

The outcome of the leadership election is expected on Sept. 24.

NATO’s mutual defense guarantee is a commitment that comes without any “conditions or caveats,” British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said last month.

(Spiegel) Dangerous Propaganda: Network Close To NATO Military Leader Fueled Ukraine Conflict

(Spiegel)

Former NATO Supreme Allied Comander Europe Philip Breedlove at a press conference in 2015

Former NATO Supreme Allied Comander Europe Philip Breedlove at a press conference in 2015

Working with dubious sourcing, a group close to NATO’s chief military commander Philip Breedlove sought to secure weapons deliveries for Ukraine, a trove of newly released emails revealed. The efforts served to intensify the conflict between the West and Russia.

In private, the general likes to wear leather. Philip Mark Breedlove, 60, is a well-known Harley-Davidson fan, and up until a few weeks ago, he also served as the commander of NATO and American troops in Europe. Even during his tenure as the military leader of the alliance, the American four-star general would trade his blue Air Force uniform for motorcycle gear and explore Europe’s roads with his friends.

Photos show a man with broad shoulders, a wide gait and an even wider smile. The pictures of the general’s motorcycle tours were recently made public on the online platform DC Leaks. Restraint, it seems, was never Breedlove’s thing.

The photos are the entertaining part of an otherwise explosive collection of Breedlove’s private email correspondence. Most of the 1,096 hacked emails date back to the dramatic 12 months of the Ukraine crisis after Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014. Thousands died in the skirmishes between Kiev’s troops and Moscow-aligned separatists. More than 2 million civilians fled eastern Ukraine.

Russia supports the separatists with weapons, fighters and consultants. When people began calling for Washington to also massively intervene in 2015, the Ukraine conflict risked escalating into a war between East and West.

Early Concern

The newly leaked emails reveal a clandestine network of Western agitators around the NATO military chief, whose presence fueled the conflict in Ukraine. Many allies found in Breedlove’s alarmist public statements about alleged large Russian troop movements cause for concern early on. Earlier this year, the general was assuring the world that US European Command was “deterring Russia now and preparing to fight and win if necessary.”

The emails document for the first time the questionable sources from whom Breedlove was getting his information. He had exaggerated Russian activities in eastern Ukraine with the overt goal of delivering weapons to Kiev.

The general and his likeminded colleagues perceived US President Barack Obama, the commander-in-chief of all American forces, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel as obstacles. Obama and Merkel were being “politically naive & counter-productive” in their calls for de-escalation, according to Phillip Karber, a central figure in Breedlove’s network who was feeding information from Ukraine to the general.

“I think POTUS sees us as a threat that must be minimized,… ie do not get me into a war????” Breedlove wrote in one email, using the acronym for the president of the United States. How could Obama be persuaded to be more “engaged” in the conflict in Ukraine — read: deliver weapons — Breedlove had asked former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Breedlove sought counsel from some very prominent people, his emails show. Among them were Wesley Clark, Breedlove’s predecessor at NATO, Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs at the State Department, and Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Kiev.

One name that kept popping up was Phillip Karber, an adjunct assistant professor at Georgetown University in Washington DC and president of the Potomac Foundation, a conservative think tank founded by the former defense contractor BDM. By its own account, the foundation has helped eastern European countries prepare their accession into NATO. Now the Ukrainian parliament and the government in Kiev were asking Karber for help.

Surreptitious Channels

On February 16, 2015, when the Ukraine crisis had reached its climax, Karber wrote an email to Breedlove, Clark, Pyatt and Rose Gottemoeller, the under secretary for arms control and international security at the State Department, who will be moving to Brussels this fall to take up the post of deputy secretary general of NATO. Karber was in Warsaw, and he said he had found surreptitious channels to get weapons to Ukraine — without the US being directly involved.

According to the email, Pakistan had offered, “under the table,” to sell Ukraine 500 portable TOW-II launchers and 8,000 TOW-II missiles. The deliveries could begin within two weeks. Even the Poles were willing to start sending “well maintained T-72 tanks, plus several hundred SP 122mm guns, and SP-122 howitzers (along with copious amounts of artillery ammunition for both)” that they had leftover from the Soviet era. The sales would likely go unnoticed, Karber said, because Poland’s old weapons were “virtually undistinguishable from those of Ukraine.”

       A destroyed airport building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk        : Thousands were killed in fighting during the Ukraine conflict.      Zoom

AFP

A destroyed airport building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk : Thousands were killed in fighting during the Ukraine conflict.

Karber noted, however, that Pakistan and Poland would not make any deliveries without informal US approval. Furthermore, Warsaw would only be willing to help if its deliveries to Kiev were replaced with new, state-of-the-art weapons from NATO.

Karber concluded his letter with a warning: “Time has run out.” Without immediate assistance, the Ukrainian army “could face prospect of collapse within 30 days.”

“Stark,” Breedlove replied. “I may share some of this but will thoroughly wipe the fingerprints off.”

In March, Karber traveled again to Warsaw in order to, as he told Breedlove, consult with leading members of the ruling party, on the need to “quietly supply arty (eds: artillery) and antitank munitions to Ukraine.”

Much to the irritation of Breedlove, Clark and Karber, nothing happened. Those responsible were quickly identified. The National Security Council, Obama’s circle of advisors, were “slowing things down,” Karber complained. Clark pointed his finger directly at the White House, writing, “Our problem is higher than State,” a reference to the State Department.

Sights on Germany

Breedlove and his fellow campaigners also had the German federal government in their sights early on. In April 2014, Clark sent a mail to Nuland and Breedlove and wrote that Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev had implied there was a “problem with German attitude” concerning its “sphere of influence.”

Efforts by Merkel and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to find a peaceful solution to the Ukraine crisis were portrayed by hardliners as a readiness in Berlin to let Russia bully Ukraine.

In order to build up pressure for the desired weapons aid, Clark and Karber began painting grim scenarios. If the West were to abandon Ukraine, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe Clark prophesized, China would then be encouraged to expand its sphere of influence in the Pacific. It could also lead to NATO’s collapse. The situation could only be prevented with the help of military aid, they argued. On November 8, 2014 Clark sounded the alarm internally after talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, his advisers and senior military and intelligence officials. The Ukrainians were expecting an attack as early as the end of the month.

Breedlove answered, “I will focus on this immediately.” He also wrote, “One of our biggest problems” is that one of the United States’ allies had been denying the findings of its intelligence. The remark was aimed at Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency, which had been much more reserved in its assessment of the situation — a position that in retrospect would prove correct.

‘The Front Is Now Everywhere’

Karber’s emails constantly made it sound as though the apocalypse was only a few weeks away. “The front is now everywhere,” he told Breedlove in an email at the beginning of 2015, adding that Russian agents and their proxies “have begun launching a series of terrorist attacks, assassinations, kidnappings and infrastructure bombings,” in an effort to destabilize Kiev and other Ukrainian cities.

In an email to Breedlove, Clark described defense expert Karber as “brilliant.” After a first visit, Breedlove indicated he had also been impressed. “GREAT visit,” he wrote. Karber, an extremely enterprising man, appeared at first glance to be a valuable informant because he often — at least a dozen times by his own account — traveled to the front and spoke with Ukrainian commanders. The US embassy in Kiev also relied on Karber for information because it lacked its own sources. “We’re largely blind,” the embassy’s defense attaché wrote in an email.

At times, Karber’s missives read like prose. In one, he wrote about the 2014 Christmas celebrations he had spent together with Dnipro-1, the ultranationalist volunteer battalion. “The toasts and vodka flow, the women sing the Ukrainian national anthem — no one has a dry eye.”

Karber had only good things to report about the unit, which had already been discredited as a private oligarch army. He wrote that the staff and volunteers were dominated by middle class people and that there was a large professional staff that was even “working on the holiday.” Breedlove responded that these insights were “quietly finding their way into the right places.”

Highly Controversial Figure

In fact, Karber is a highly controversial figure. During the 1980s, the longtime BDM employee, was counted among the fiercest Cold War hawks. Back in 1985, he warned of an impending Soviet attack on the basis of documents he had translated incorrectly.

He also blundered during the Ukraine crisis after sending photos to US Senator James Inhofe, claiming to show Russian units in Ukraine. Inhofe released the photos publicly, but it quickly emerged that one had originated from the 2008 war in Georgia.

By November 10, 2014, at the latest, Breedlove must have recognized that his informant was on thin ice. That’s when Karber reported that the separatists were boasting they had a tactical nuclear warhead for the 2S4 mortar. Karber himself described the news as “weird,” but also added that “there is a lot of ‘crazy’ things going on” in Ukraine.

The reasons that Breedlove continued to rely on Karber despite such false reports remain unclear. Was he willing to pay any price for weapons deliveries? Or did he have other motives? The emails illustrate the degree to which Breedlove and his fellow campaigners feared that Congress might reduce the number of US troops in Europe.

Karber confirmed the authenticity of the leaked email correspondence. Regarding the questions about the accuracy of his reports, he told SPIEGEL that, “like any information derived from direct observation at the front during the ‘fog of war,’ it is partial, time sensitive, and perceived through a personal perspective.” Looking back with the advantage of hindsight and a more comprehensive perspective, “I believe that I was right more than wrong,” Karber writes, “but certainly not perfect.” He adds that, “in 170 days at the front, I never once met a German military or official directly observing the conflict.”

Great Interest in Berlin

Breedlove’s leaked email correspondences were read in Berlin with great interest. A year ago, word of the NATO commander’s “dangerous propaganda” was circulating around Merkel’s Chancellery. In light of the new information, officials felt vindicated in their assessment. Germany’s Federal Foreign Office has expressed similar sentiment, saying that fortunately “influential voices had continuously advocated against the delivery of ‘lethal weapons.'”

Karber says he finds it “obscene that the most effective sanction of this war is not the economic limits placed on Russia, but the virtual complete embargo of all lethal aid to the victim. I find this to be the height of sophistry — if a woman is being attacked by a group of hooligans and yells out to the crowd or passersby, ‘Give me a can of mace,’ is it better to not supply it because the attackers could have a knife and passively watch her get raped?”

General Breedlove’s departure from his NATO post in May has done little to placate anyone in the German government. After all, the man Breedlove regarded as an obstacle, President Obama, is nearing the end of his second term. His possible successor, the Democrat Hillary Clinton, is considered a hardliner vis-a-vis Russia.

What’s more: Nuland, a diplomat who shares many of the same views as Breedlove, could move into an even more important role after the November election — she’s considered a potential candidate for secretary of state.

(GUA) Boris Johnson takes issue with Trump over Nato stance

(Guardian) Foreign secretary says Britain stands ‘fervently’ behind doctrine of mutual defence despite Trump’s comments.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson said Nato doctrine of mutual defence was ‘incredibly important’. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, has taken issue with the Republican US presidential nominee, Donald Trump, by emphasising the importance of Nato’s doctrine of mutual defence.

Trump questioned the doctrine this week when he said he would weigh up whether other Nato members “fulfill their obligations” before deciding whether the US would protect them in the face of external aggression.

Johnson, speaking in Washington DC, insisted he was not getting involved in US politics but stressed the UK’s commitment to the policy of mutual defence.

He said: “I think that article five in the Nato treaty of 1948, the doctrine of mutual defence, is incredibly important. It’s something that I’ve repeated several times already just in the last week to various other countries, and my counterparts in various other countries around Europe, in the Baltic countries and elsewhere.

“It’s something that the British government believes in absolutely, fervently, and that we stand behind full square.

“Fundamentally, it is the Nato treaty, that doctrine of mutual defence, that has guaranteed the peace in Europe for decades, and will do, I think, for decades to come.”

Britain is determined to maximise its involvement in Nato following the vote to leave the European Union, in part to show its commitment to internationalism is undimmed.

Trump gave no guarantees in an interview with the New York Times that the US would come to the aid of the Baltic states if they were attacked, saying some of them had not paid their bills or fulfilled their obligations.

Trump’s remarks angered the Nato secretary general, Jan Stoltenberg, since they are thought to give encouragement to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

The Estonian president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, also pointed out that its country met the commitment to spend 2% of its GDP on defence, and had made a full commitment to the war in Afghanistan without any caveats.

Estonia is 1 of 5 NATO allies in Europe to meet its 2% def expenditures commitment. Fought, with no caveats, in NATO’s sole Art 5 op. in Afg

Johnson also highlighted UK plans to lead a drive to collect evidence for potential war crimes charges against members of the Islamic State terror group. The UK Foreign Office currently funds groups compiling evidence of war crimes against Bashar al-Assad and his supporters but has not been greatly publicising this work

since Assad may remain as the Syrian president in an interim transitional role. The threat of war crimes charges are unlikely to help persuade him to compromise on a peace deal.

Johnson was in the US for a conference on combating Isis, where he also spoke out about the risk of fighters diffusing across the world as the group faces losses of territory in Iraq and Syria.

Much of the conference was dedicated to preparing for an attack on Mosul, the densely populated northern Iraqi city held by Isis. There is concern for the political and humanitarian aftermath if Mosul is liberated, and the possible fanning out of radicalised fighters into Europe.

A US-led coalition claims to have driven Isis out of nearly 50% of the territory that it once controlled in Iraq and 20% of territory in Syria. The Washington conference was told by Brett McGurk, the US special envoy on countering Isis, that the capture of Mosul was the ultimate test for the coalition.

Johnson said: “We’ve got to deal with the whole cancer and its ability to spread and to metastasise, to pop up all over the world in the way that we’ve been seeing,” he told television reporters afterwards.

“There are thousands of them and we need to start setting in train the process of gathering evidence, of getting more witnesses, so that ultimately they can be prosecuted and held to account for their crimes against humanity and that’s something that I said today to everybody and got a large measure of support.”

The UK has been taking a leading role in trying to combat Isis on the internet. The Americans point to a recent study by the US Global Engagement Center indicating that anti-Isis content on the internet now far exceeds that supporting it.

(Euronews) Declarações de Trump alarmam NATO e indignam Washington

(Euronews) A administração norte-americana reagiu aos comentários polémicos de Donald Trump sobre a NATO, garantindo que o país vai manter os seus compromissos com a Aliança Atlântica, “como todos os executivos republicanos e democratas desde 1949”.

A declaração do secretário de Estado norte-americano John Kerry, surge depois do candidato presidencial republicano ter admitido a possibilidade do país não intervir em caso de ataque contra um país aliado.

“Quero que que os nossos aliados da NATO saibam que a nossa posição é clara. Esta administração, como todas administrações, republicanas ou democratas desde 1949, mantém-se inteiramente comprometida com a NATO e os compromissos para com os países aliados”, garantiu Kerry.

Entrevistado pelo New York Times, Donald Trump, tinha declarado que esta intervenção, em especial em caso de agressão russa nos balcãs, vai estar condicionada à contribuição financeira dos aliados.

O secretário-geral da NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, afirmou estar, “alarmado”, com as declarações de Trump, sublinhando, “não vou interferir na campanha eleitoral norte-americana”.

“A solidariedade entre aliados é uma valor fundamental para a NATO”, afirmou Stoltenberg num comunicado, sublinhando, “Isto é bom para a segurança da Europa e dos EUA. Nós defendemo-nos mutuamente, como vimos no Afeganistão, onde dezenas de milhares de europeus, canadianos e militares de países aliados combateram ombro a ombro com os soldados norte-americanos”.

A presidente da Lituânia, país na linha da frente da mobilização da NATO no leste da Europa, reagiu igualmente esta quinta-feira:

“Quero enviar esta mensagem de volta aos EUA. Nós confiamos na América, independentemente do seu presidente. A América sempre defendeu as nações sob ataque e vai continuar a fazê-lo”, afirmou Dalia Grybauskaite.

Trump voltou a defender uma política externa menos internacionalista e “dispendiosa”, garantindo que, “necessitamos de aliados mas não vamos dar lições aos outros do que têm que fazer dentro das suas fronteiras”.

O artigo 5 do Tratado da NATO prevê a intervenção automática de todos os aliados em caso de ataque sobre um país membro da Aliança.

Uma disposição utilizada apenas uma vez na história da NATO, pelos EUA após os atentados de 11 de Setembro de 2001.

+++ V.V.I. (BBG) Trump Says U.S. May Not Defend NATO Allies Against Russia Attack

(BBGDonald J. Trump, on the eve of accepting the Republican nomination for president, said Wednesday that if he were elected, he would not pressure Turkey or other authoritarian allies about conducting purges of their political adversaries or cracking down on civil liberties. The United States, he said, has to “fix our own mess” before trying to alter the behavior of other nations.

“I don’t think we have a right to lecture,” Mr. Trump said in a wide-ranging interview in his suite in a downtown hotel here while keeping an eye on television broadcasts from the Republican National Convention. “Look at what is happening in our country,” he said. “How are we going to lecture when people are shooting policemen in cold blood?”

During a 45-minute conversation, he explicitly raised new questions about his commitment to automatically defend NATO allies if they are attacked, saying he would first look at their contributions to the alliance. Mr. Trump re-emphasized the hard-line nationalist approach that has marked his improbable candidacy, describing how he would force allies to shoulder defense costs that the United States has borne for decades, cancel longstanding treaties he views as unfavorable, and redefine what it means to be a partner of the United States.

He said the rest of the world would learn to adjust to his approach. “I would prefer to be able to continue” existing agreements, he said, but only if allies stopped taking advantage of what he called an era of American largess that was no longer affordable.

Giving a preview of his address to the convention on Thursday night, he said that he would press the theme of “America First,” his rallying cry for the past four months, and that he was prepared to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada if he could not negotiate radically better terms.

He even called into question whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back.

For example, asked about Russia’s threatening activities that have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

He added, “If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.”

Mr. Trump said he was pleased that the controversy over similarities between passages in a speech by his wife, Melania, to the convention on Monday night and one that Michelle Obama gave eight years ago appeared to be subsiding. “In retrospect,” he said, it would have been better to explain what had happened — that an aide had incorporated the comments— a day earlier.

When asked what he hoped people would take away from the convention, Mr. Trump said, “The fact that I’m very well liked.”

Mr. Trump conceded that his approach to dealing with the United States’ allies and adversaries was radically different from the traditions of the Republican Party — whose candidates, since the end of World War II, have almost all pressed for an internationalist approach in which the United States is the keeper of the peace, the “indispensable nation.”

“This is not 40 years ago,” Mr. Trump said, rejecting comparisons of his approaches to law-and-order issues and global affairs to Richard Nixon’s. Reiterating his threat to pull back United States troops deployed around the world, he said, “We are spending a fortune on military in order to lose $800 billion,” citing what he called America’s trade losses. “That doesn’t sound very smart to me.”

Mr. Trump repeatedly defined American global interests almost purely in economic terms. Its roles as a peacekeeper, as a provider of a nuclear deterrent against adversaries like North Korea, as an advocate of human rights and as a guarantor of allies’ borders were each quickly reduced to questions of economic benefit to the United States.

No presidential candidate in modern times has ordered American priorities that way, and even here, several speakers have called for a far more interventionist policy, more reminiscent of George W. Bush’s party than of Mr. Trump’s.

But Mr. Trump gave no ground, whether the subject was countering North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats or dealing with China in the South China Sea. The forward deployment of American troops abroad, he said, while preferable, was not necessary.

“If we decide we have to defend the United States, we can always deploy” from American soil, Mr. Trump said, “and it will be a lot less expensive.”

Many military experts dispute that view, saying the best place to keep missile defenses against North Korea is in Japan and the Korean Peninsula. Maintaining such bases only in the United States can be more expensive because of the financial support provided by Asian nations.

Mr. Trump’s discussion of the crisis in Turkey was telling, because it unfolded at a moment in which he could plainly imagine himself in the White House, handling an uprising that could threaten a crucial ally in the Middle East. The United States has a major air base at Incirlik in Turkey, where it carries out attacks on the Islamic State and keeps a force of drones and about 50 nuclear weapons.

Mr. Trump had nothing but praise for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country’s increasingly authoritarian but democratically elected leader. “I give great credit to him for being able to turn that around,” Mr. Trump said of the coup attempt on Friday night. “Some people say that it was staged, you know that,” he said. “I don’t think so.”

Asked if Mr. Erdogan was exploiting the coup attempt to purge his political enemies, Mr. Trump did not call for the Turkish leader to observe the rule of law, or Western standards of justice. “When the world sees how bad the United States is and we start talking about civil liberties, I don’t think we are a very good messenger,” he said.

The Obama administration has refrained from any concrete measures to pressure Turkey, fearing for the stability of a crucial ally in a volatile region. But Secretary of State John F. Kerry has issued several statements urging Mr. Erdogan to follow the rule of law.

Mr. Trump offered no such caution for restraint to Turkey and nations like it. However, his argument about America’s moral authority is not a new one: Russia, China, North Korea and other autocratic nations frequently cite violence and disorder on American streets to justify their own practices, and to make the case that the United States has no standing to criticize them.

Mr. Trump said he was convinced that he could persuade Mr. Erdogan to put more effort into fighting the Islamic State. But the Obama administration has run up, daily, against the reality that the Kurds — among the most effective forces the United States is supporting against the Islamic State — are being attacked by Turkey, which fears they will create a breakaway nation.

Asked how he would solve that problem, Mr. Trump paused, then said: “Meetings.”

Ousting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, he said, was a far lower priority than fighting the Islamic State — a conclusion the White House has also reached, but has not voiced publicly.

“Assad is a bad man,” Mr. Trump said. “He has done horrible things.” But the Islamic State, he said, poses a far greater threat to the United States.

He said he had consulted two former Republican secretaries of state, James A. Baker III and Henry Kissinger, saying he had gained “a lot of knowledge,” but did not describe any new ideas about national security that they had encouraged him to explore.

Mr. Trump emphatically underscored his willingness to drop out of Nafta unless Mexico and Canada agreed to negotiate new terms that would discourage American companies from moving manufacturing out of the United States. “I would pull out of Nafta in a split second,” he said.

He talked of funding a major military buildup, starting with a modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal. “We have a lot of obsolete weapons,” he said. “We have nuclear that we don’t even know if it works.”

The Obama administration has a major modernization program underway, focused on making the nuclear arsenal more reliable, though it has begun to confront the huge cost of upgrading bombers and submarines. That staggering bill, estimated at $500 billion or more, will land on the desk of the next president.

Mr. Trump used the “America First” slogan in an earlier interview with The New York Times, but on Wednesday he insisted he did not mean it in the way that Charles A. Lindbergh and other isolationists used it before World War II.

“To me, ‘America First’ is a brand-new, modern term,” he said. “I never related it to the past.”

He paused a moment when asked what it meant to him.

“We are going to take care of this country first,” he said, “before we worry about everyone else in the world.”

(WashingtonBlog) What Is NATO — Really?

(Washington Blog) Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org

When NATO was founded, that was done in the broader context of the U.S. Marshall Plan, and the entire U.S. operation to unify the developed Atlantic countries of North America and Europe, for a coming Cold War allegedly against communism, but actually against Russia — the core country not only in the U.S.S.R. but also in Eastern Europe (the areas that Stalin’s forces had captured from Hitler’s forces).

NATO was founded with the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington DC on 4 April 1949, and its famous core is: 

Article 5: The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

However, widely ignored is that the Treaty’s preamble states:

The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments. They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. They seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area. They are resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security. They therefore agree to this North Atlantic Treaty.

Consequently, anything that would clearly be in violation of “the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments,” or of “the rule of law,” would clearly be in violation of the Treaty, no matter what anyone might assert to the contrary. (As regards “the principles of democracy,” that’s a practical matter which might be able to be determined, in a particular case, by means of polling the public in order to establish what the public in a given country actually wants; and, as regards “individual liberty,” that is often the liberty of one faction against, and diminishing, the liberty of some other faction(s), and so is devoid of real meaning and is propagandistic, not actually substantive. Even the “rule of law” is subject to debate, but at least that debate can be held publicly within the United Nations, and so isn’t nearly as amorphous. Furthermore, as far as “individual liberty” is concerned, the Soviet Union was a founding member of the UN and of its Security Council with the veto-right which that entails, but was never based upon “individual liberty”; and, so, whatever “rule of law” the UN has ever represented, isn’t and wasn’t including “individual liberty”; therefore, by the preamble’s having subjected the entire document of the NATO Treaty to “the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations,” the phrase “individual liberty” in the NATO Treaty isn’t merely propagandistic — it’s actually vacuous.)

The NATO Treaty, therefore, is, from its inception, a Treaty against Russia. It is not really — and never was — a treaty against communism. The alliance’s ideological excuse doesn’t hold, and never was anything more than propaganda for a military alliance of America and its allies, against Russia and its allies. Consequently, the Warsaw Pact had to be created, on 14 May 1955, as an authentic defensive measure by Russia and its allies. This had really nothing to do with ideology. Ideology was and is only an excuse for war — in that case, for the Cold War. For example, a stunningly honest documentary managed to be broadcast in 1992 by the BBC, and showed that the U.S. OSS-CIA had begun America’s war against “communism” even at the very moments while WW II was ending in 1945, by recruiting in Europe ‘former’ supporters of Hitler and Mussolini, who organized “false flag” (designed-to-be-blamed-against-the-enemy) terrorist attacks in their countries, which very successfully terrified Europeans against ‘communism’ (i.e., against Russia and its allies). As one of the testifiers in that video noted (at 6:45), “In 1945 the Second World War ended and the Third World War started.” The ‘former’ fascists took up the cause against “communism” but actually against Russia; it wasn’t democracy-versus-communism; it was fascists continuing — but now under the ‘democratic’ banner — their war against Russia. This operation was, until as late as 1990, entirely unknown to almost all democratically elected government officials. The key mastermind behind it, the brilliant double-agent Allen Dulles, managed to become officially appointed, by U.S. President Eisenhower in 1953, to lead the CIA. Originally, that subversive-against-democracy element within the CIA had been only a minority faction. Dulles had no qualms even about infiltrating outright Nazis into his operation, and his operation gradually took over not only the U.S. but its allies. His key point man on that anti-democracy operation was James Angleton — a rabid hater of Russians, who was as psychopathic an agent for America’s aristocracy as was Dulles himself. But the CIA was only one of the broader operation’s many tentacles, others soon were formed such as the Bilderberg group. Then, the CIA financed the start of the European Union, which was backed strongly by the Bilderbergers. This was sold as democratic globalism, but it’s actually fascist globalism, which is dictatorial in a much more intelligent way than Hitler and Mussolini had tried to impose merely by armed force. It relies much more on the force of deception — force against the mind, instead of against the body.

Mikhail Gorbachev failed to recognize this fact about NATO (its actual non-ideological, pure conquest, orientation) in 1990, when he agreed and committed to the dismemberment and end of Russia’s established system of alliances, without there being any simultaneous mirror-image termination of America’s system of alliances — including NATO. He wasn’t at all a strategic thinker, but instead tried to respond in a decent way to the short-term demands upon him — such as for immediate democracy. He was a deeply good man, and courageous too, but unfortunately less intelligent than was his actual opponent at that key moment, in 1990, George Herbert Walker Bush, who was as psychopathic as Gorbachev was principled.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

+++ (FT) Defence spending by Nato’s Europe states up as uncertainty rises

(FT) Defence spending by Europe’s Nato states is set to rise for the first time in nearly a decade, figures show, as fears over Russian aggression and the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean stoke anxiety over security across the continent.

But Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg warned, in an interview with the Financial Times, that a UK vote to leave the EU could throw the turnround into jeopardy.

“The forecast for 2016, based on figures from allied nations, indicates that 2016 will be the first year with increased defence spending among European allies for the first time in many, many years,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

“We are faced with uncertainty, we are faced with more threats, more security challenges than in a generation, and we need unity, we need strength, we need stability,” he added

“The UK is the largest European provider of defence capabilities in Nato, [it has] the biggest defence spending, it has the biggest defence investments … second only to the United States in the whole alliance … a strong UK in a strong Europe is important for unity and stability,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

The EU is becoming increasingly important in almost all the challenges Nato has to deal with, Mr Stoltenberg added. The UK is “key” in developing the relationship between the two, he said.

We are faced with uncertainty, we are faced with more threats, more security challenges than in a generation, and we need unity, we need strength, we need stability

Jens Stoltenberg, Nato secretary-general

“Nato and the European Union are working in tandem. For the UK [remaining] is a good position to be in, to be able to sit at both the Nato table and the EU table, since both organisations are so important to how we are responding to the instability we are faced with, both to the east and to the south.”

Last year, Nato’s European allies spent $253bn on defence compared with a US spend of $618bn. According to the 2 per cent guideline, European countries should be spending an additional $100bn annually on their militaries. The current spend is equivalent to around 1.43 per cent of gross domestic product.

The aggregate figure has been steadily sliding since 2008. That year, European countries on average spent 1.7 per cent of their GDP — $288bn — on defence. The longer-term trend has been one of even more significant decline. Between 1985 and 1989, European Nato states spent an average of 3.1 per cent of GDP on defence. The figure stayed above 2 per cent for the decade following the end of the cold war, only dipping below the threshold after the millennium.

Nato did not provide exact figures for 2016 because it said the data were provisional and had been shared with the alliance on a confidential basis. Several key Nato states have publicly declared significant increases to their budgets, however.

The Baltic states which border Russia have made the biggest changes. Latvia’s budget will rise nearly 60 per cent this year. Lithuania will see a 35 per cent increase and Estonia 9 per cent. Poland, eastern europe’s main military power, is also raising defence expenditure 9 per cent.

The UK’s military budget is also rising. The government has pledged to increase spending in order to maintain the 2 per cent of GDP alliance target.

Falling military budgets and a fractured approach to defence procurement and strategy in Europe have been a source of concern for the alliance and the US in particular.

The issue has even become an unlikely topic of the US presidential race, after Republican candidate Donald Trump declared the alliance “expensive” and “obsolete”, and accused Europe of freeloading on US military largesse.

At Nato’s 2014 summit in Wales, amid alarm over Russia’s invasion of Crimea and Moscow’s growing military actions, allies pledged to freeze all further cuts in their defence budgets and work towards hitting Nato benchmarks for spending over the next 10 years. Nato allies were supposed to spend 2 per cent of their annual GDP on defence.

The rise in European budgets has come as a surprise to many inside Nato in spite of the commitment made in Wales. Many did not expect expenditure to grow at a time of economic travails and political instability in Europe.

“We still have a long way to go but the picture’s better than it was before and I’m inspired by the fact that one year after the commitment in Wales we have been able to stop the cuts in Europe. Now it looks like, into the second year, we will have the first real increase in total European defence spending,” said Mr Stoltenberg.vbhhnnjmojhgfg

(Times) Spain ‘betraying Nato allies’ by hosting Russian navy

(Times)

The Severomorsk is one of many Russian naval vessels to have docked in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in north Africa

Spain has been accused of betraying its Nato and EU allies by allowing dozens of Russian destroyers and submarines to refuel in its territories in north Africa — less than 20 miles from the Royal Navy base at Gibraltar.

Spain has hosted at least 57 Russian warships, submarines and amphibious vessels at its north African enclave since 2011, prompting concerns on both sides of the Atlantic that Madrid is providing succour to President Putin.

This week the US Congress highlighted the issue by amending the annual defence bill to require defence officials to report on Nato countries that allow Russian

+++ (BBG) Turkey May Be Difficult, But It Does Belong in NATO: Editorial

(BBG) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used to speak with U.S. President Barack Obama more than any other foreign leader. Now hecan’t even make it onto Obama’s official schedule when he visits Washington. Can this marriage be saved?

By all accounts, their relationship is difficult. But if the question is broadened to ask whether Turkey belongs in the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization, then the answer is easy: Of course it does.

Not everyone agrees. Turkey’s policies on the Kurds, Syria and Islamic State are out of sync with those of the U.S. and many NATO allies, they point out, while Erdogan’s record on democracy and free speech makes the U.S. and Europe increasingly uncomfortable.

But NATO is a military alliance, in which common values are not as necessary as a common goal. That goal is security. Controlling access from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean remains as strategically important as it was during the Cold War, as does Turkey’s traditional role as a counterweight to Russian influence in the region. And as difficult as it is for Europe to stop the flow of refugees from Syria with Turkey’s cooperation, it would be impossible without it. Meanwhile, Greece and Turkey still have serious territorial claims against each other, which their common NATO membership helps to keep in check.

In terms of democratic values, Turkey’s record has been spotty. There were coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980. A war against Kurdish militants, in which tens of thousands have been killed or executed, went on for decades and was rekindled last year. (In the 1980s, Turkey denied the very existence of a Kurdish ethnicity.) At various times, civil rights have been sharply curtailed. Throughout all this, Turkey retained its NATO membership.

Obama is right not to validate Erdogan’s current policies by officially meeting with him this week, and the U.S. and Europe can and should do more to protect Turkey’s civic and democratic institutions. In fact, membership in organizations such as NATO and the Council of Europe offer the West tools to influence Turkey’s direction.

Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952. Its membership remains as necessary — and awkward — as ever.

+++ V.V.I. (BBG) NATO Boost Is a ‘Turning Point’ for EU’s Edges, Latvia Says

(BBG) Baltic nations, which broke free from the Soviet Union a quarter century ago, are at a critical juncture as they discuss increased defense spending and the allocation of more NATO troops to the region, Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis said.

The discussion is about a battalion-sized contingent in each of the three countries, split three ways between the U.S., the European Union and the host nation, Kucinskis said in an interview Tuesday. The Latvian government has received no indication that there would be obstacles to this plan, he said. The nation itself wants to reach the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s defense-spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product in 2018, having budgeted 1.4 percent of GDP for this year.

“This is one of those turning points where we can show that we are firmly in Europe,” Kucinskis said in his office in the center of the Latvian capital, Riga.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are boosting defense spending and seeking a long-term commitment by NATO to increase the number of its troops in the region, home to large Russian-speaking minorities. They will head into negotiations at a July summit in Warsaw against the backdrop of a U.S. presidential election campaign in which Republican frontrunner Donald Trump criticized the military alliance as obsolete and said the U.S. is paying a disproportionate share of its costs.

‘Our Security’

“Any substantial U.S. political changes in relation to NATO wouldn’t be in our interest, because that could directly affect our security,” Kucinskis said. “U.S. policies have recently been very predictable, very stable, and I hope that these are pre-election talks that you see in every country.”

A British exit from the EU is also a potential security risk as the country is “one of Europe’s biggest NATO players,” Kucinskis said. Latvia’s priority is to avoid ‘Brexit,’ with a large number of its nationals living and working in the U.K., he said.

“Frankly speaking, nobody’s ready for that,” Kucinskis said. “That would undoubtedly be a huge loss for all of the European Union.”

While Latvia is at odds with Russia over security issues, Kucinskis said the two countries are working together to brace for the potential increase of refugee flows from the Middle East after Balkan nations closed the route running from Greece through Macedonia, Serbia and beyond. The governments in Riga and Moscow are sharing information and have set up a working group to discuss border control, he said.

‘Very Concerned’

Latvia is also strengthening its frontiers as the lack of stability in Syria and elsewhere in the region means a continued potential for further waves of refugees, Kucinskis said. While the country hasn’t recorded an increase in arrivals, the government in Riga has become “more attentive” after reports of migrants crossing into Finland and Norway from Russia, he said.

“At the moment when there was a known concentration near Russia, we got very concerned,” Kucinskis said of a potential refugee wave heading toward the Baltics. “At the moment, there’s no information about further escalation, but this shows that there are risks.”

+++ V.I. (FT) Donald Trump questions US role in Nato

(FT) Republican frontrunner says Washington can no longer afford its commitment to military alliance.

The US and Nato flags
© Getty

Donald Trump, frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, has questioned the US role in Nato and suggested Washington can no longer afford to maintain its commitment to the 28-member military alliance.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Mr Trump said America should focus on its domestic challenges and pay less attention to problems in other parts of the world. He also questioned whether the US should maintain its posture in Asia, which would mark a reversal from the Obama administration’s “Asia pivot”.

“We certainly can’t afford to do this any more,” Mr Trump said. “Nato is costing us a fortune … we’re protecting Europe with Nato but we’re spending a lot of money.”

Mr Trump cited South Korea and Germany as examples of countries that should assume more of the burden for providing security in their regions.

“Ukraine is a country that affects us far less than it affects other countries in Nato and yet we’re doing all of the lifting,” Mr Trump said. “Why is it that Germany’s not dealing with Nato on Ukraine … Why are we always the one that’s leading, potentially, the third world war with Russia?”

His comments mark a radical departure from the foreign policy consensus in Washington towards Nato since the end of the second world war. While George W Bush proposed downsizing the US military presence in Europe early in his administration, no mainstream presidential candidate has ever suggested withdrawing from Nato.

“Trump is proposing nothing less than the liquidation of the liberal world order,” said Thomas Wright, a foreign policy expert at the Brookings Institution. “It would be a dream come true for Russia and China. Within a year they could achieve what they thought was impossible — an end to the US alliance system in Europe and Asia.”

Later, on CNN, Mr Trump said he did not want to reduce the US role in Nato, but simply wanted the country to pay less. “We are paying disproportionately,” he said. “There has to be at least a change in philosophy.”

James Stavridis, former Nato supreme commander and now dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, said it was crucial for the US to maintain its leadership role in the alliance. “While we all want to see European defence spending in Nato increase, it would be a mistake to give up a US leadership role in the organisation,” he said. “Nato is an absolute foundation for global security.”

While Nato has struggled with how to reconfigure itself since the end of the cold war, it has increasingly moved into “out of area” missions, first in the Balkans and then in Afghanistan, which silenced most questions about its usefulness.

Russia’s aggressive stance in Ukraine has also reinvigorated Nato’s original purpose in the eyes of many allies, particularly Poland and the Baltic states, which see themselves as the frontline on a continent facing a new menace from Moscow.

But despite the US support, the tough stance towards Russia is not universally welcomed in Europe, where some have pushed for reconciliation with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

Mr Trump has expressed admiration for Mr Putin, a sentiment common among far-right and populist political leaders in several western European countries. Speaking in Washington, Mr Trump said: “I think it’s very nice” that Mr Putin has praised him.

NATO defence spending

+++ (AP) The Latest: Greece Says NATO Is Reducing Migrant Numbers

(AP) The Latest on the mass migration into Europe (all times local):

11:55 a.m.

A Greek official says there are early indications that NATO patrols in the eastern Aegean Sea are reducing the number of migrants traveling from Turkey to nearby Greek islands.

Dimitris Vitsas, the deputy defense minister, said expanded NATO patrols that started this week have put pressure on smugglers who have continued to bring migrants and refugees to Greek islands at an average of roughly 2,000 per day.

Vitsas told a state-run radio station: “Yesterday, we had about 700 people. So there is a strong eye on the situation.”

Turkey is currently in negotiations with the European Union for a broad agreement aimed at limiting the number of migrants crossing into Europe.

Turkey and Greece are backing a so-called re-admission agreement that would allow Greece to send back migrants who arrived illegally.

P.O. (Reuters) Poland wants Britain’s help over NATO troops in Brexit talks

P.O.

I am of the opinion that, if Poland wants NATO troops to have a presence in its territory, NATO should do what the Government of Poland wants.

Poland has earned the respect of the World, fighting against the Nazis and the Communists.

And we should say thank you!

It is the least we can do.

Support Poland!

It is our duty.

Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira

(Reuters – click to see) Poland could be open to compromise over British demands to limit the rights of European Union migrants if London helps it bolster the NATO presence in central Europe, Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told Reuters.

With hundreds of thousands of Poles living in Britain, Warsaw is one of the EU’s staunchest critics of Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposal to cut benefits for migrants as part of his planned overhaul of Britain’s EU membership terms.

Cameron has set a deadline of the end of 2017 for an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, but recently gave his strongest suggestion yet that he hopes to hold it in 2016.

Cameron left Warsaw empty-handed last month after a visit to discuss his push, with Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo saying further talks were needed.

Szydlo’s new conservative government, however, is keen to score a diplomatic victory at a summit of the NATO military alliance due to be held in Warsaw in July.

Waszczykowski said the issues were being discussed in tandem.

Asked whether Britain could offer Poland something to soften its opposition to Cameron’s proposal, Waszczykowski said: “Of course. Britain could offer something to Poland in terms of international security.

“We still consider ourselves a second-class NATO member-state, because in central Europe … there aren’t, aside from a token presence, any significant allied forces or defense installations, which gives the Russians an excuse to play this region,” he said.

In 2014, Poland’s then foreign minister said he wanted the alliance to station two NATO heavy brigades – typically between 3,000 and 5,000 troops – on Polish soil in response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, where Moscow denies it is actively assisting pro-Russian rebels.

The alliance is reluctant to permanently station troops in central Europe, with some states wary of violating a 1997 NATO-Russia agreement on the size of forces the alliance can have in former Warsaw Pact countries, of which Poland is one.

Moscow would almost certainly regard the establishment of a standing NATO presence on its borders as a hostile act.

Some western European allies have also been skeptical about basing large numbers of troops and equipment in Poland at a time when defense budgets are tight and question the military logic of tying down large numbers of troops in one place.

“Britain could support our expectations related to an allied military presence on Polish territory,” Waszczykowski said.

ELABORATE COMPROMISE

Waszczykowski said Poland wanted to offset the impact of any benefit cuts for its citizens living in Britain by planning to offer a monthly cash payment to families with children, in the hope Polish workers will stay in Poland instead of emigrating.

He said Warsaw opposed any cuts in benefits in Britain that singled out potential recipients based on their origin.

“We’re aware that the British welfare system is very elaborate and that it may not be able to bear it. We are therefore addressing this by increasing our benefits, and we also want to raise salaries in Poland,” he said.

EU heads of state are due to discuss British proposals at a summit in February.

NATO defense ministers are scheduled to meet next month in preparation for the NATO summit.

“It would be very difficult for us to accept any discrimination,” Waszczykowski said, referring to the migrant talks with London. “Unless Britain helped us really effectively with regard to the Polish defense ambitions at the summit in Warsaw.”

After Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, NATO suspended practical cooperation with Moscow. But after Russia’s involvement in Syria, some alliance members, notably Germany, have called for talks with Moscow to be reopened to avoid incidents like the downing of a Russian jet by NATO-member Turkey.

Poland, which has been a staunch critic of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, is ready to accept this, Waszczykowski said, but only if NATO members agree to bolster the alliance’s eastern flank first.

P.O./O.P. (JN) PCP condena exercícios militares da NATO

P.O./O.P.

…”Brainless Living Zombies”…!

…E isto é antes de estarem no Governo…

…Imagina se o que seria…

…E eu que não ouvia o PCP falar da Nato há anos…

Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira

(JN – click to see)

O PCP condenou os exercícios militares da NATO e a participação de Portugal nestas iniciativas, considerando que são mais um elemento para a “escalada de tensão e confrontação que marca a situação internacional”.

“O PCP condena e reitera a sua posição contrária à participação de Portugal nestes exercícios da NATO, tanto mais que materializam um elemento mais na escalada de tensão e confrontação que marca a situação internacional”, refere o PCP num comunicado intitulado “Não aos exercícios militares da NATO. Defender a Constituição da República”.

As críticas do PCP surgem a propósito do exercício da NATO ‘Trident Juncture’ que decorre em Portugal, Espanha e Itália, entre 21 de outubro e 06 de novembro, e no dia em que se realiza, em Lisboa, uma manifestação contra a iniciativa, organizada pelo Conselho Português para a Paz e Cooperação (CPPC).

O PCP adianta que os exercícios da NATO apontam para “um crescente belicismo e reforço desta organização como um bloco político-militar de natureza agressiva, responsável por alguns dos maiores crimes e conflitos ocorridos em várias partes do mundo, de que os milhões de refugiados são expressão”.

“Numa situação em que os trabalhadores, os povos e países da Europa enfrentam sérias dificuldades resultantes da crise do capitalismo e do ataque a salários, pensões e outros rendimentos e direitos, os exercícios da NATO, desde logo pela sua dimensão e custos, constituem um libelo acusatório das verdadeiras prioridades da União Europeia e dos países da NATO, que insistem no aumento dos gastos militares”, salientam os comunistas.

No comunicado, o PCP reitera a defesa da Constituição Portuguesa e apela à participação nas ações que dezenas de organizações portuguesas desenvolvem pela paz e contra os exercícios da NATO.

O Bloco de Esquerda de Beja também já se tinha manifestado contra o exercício da NATO na cidade, considerando que que “o povo português, já fustigado pela austeridade, dispensa jogos de guerra”, que são “um desperdício inadmissível de recursos”.

Em resposta, o Ministério da Defesa Nacional considerou que as declarações do BE de Beja “em nada ajudam ou servem os interesses nacionais”.

“Este tipo de posições públicas, de partidos com responsabilidade parlamentar, como é o caso do Bloco de Esquerda, em nada ajudam ou servem os interesses nacionais. Em especial numa época em que são várias as ameaças à segurança e à paz, na comunidade internacional em que Portugal se insere”, segundo uma nota do Ministério da Defesa Nacional, emitida na altura.

+++ V.I. (FT) Russia and Nato training for war with each other, say analysts

(FT) Russia and Nato are training for a full-blown confrontation, an influential group has warned, as the war of words between Moscow and the west translates into military planning.

The warning comes from the European Leadership Network, which comprises former military figures, politicians and policymakers. On Wednesday, it will present an analysis of recent military exercises by the two blocs that indicates each is “preparing for the worst”.

The stark assessment from a group made up of dozens of former generals and defence and foreign ministers highlights a fracture in which both sides have ramped up their military posturing in recent months.

The ELN analysed the stage-by-stage deployment of units in the two biggest military war games this year — Nato’s Allied Shield exercises and Russia’s “snap” drills — to assess dispositions and strategic thinking on both sides.

Both exercises were officially designed with hypothetical opponents in mind but “the nature and scale of the operations indicate otherwise”, the ELN report will say. “Each side is clearly training with the other side’s capabilities and war plans in mind.”

Russia’s snap exercises in March involved 80,000 men, including soldiers from airborne and Spetsnaz special units, 12,000 vehicles and 220 aircraft in an operation that spanned the country’s European border and in its far north.Russia-and-Nato-training...-say-analysts-FT

(BBG) Greek Debt Crisis Risks NATO Withdrawal, New Surge of Refugees

(BBG) Greek Debt Crisis Risks NATO Withdrawal, New Surge of Refugees
By David Lerman and Nicole Gaouette

A failure to resolve the Greek debt crisis could do more than weaken the euro and cause stocks to retreat.

It has the potential to prompt a Greek withdrawal from NATO, increase the influx of refugees into Europe and threaten Greek support for international sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.

“Greece spiraling into chaos would be a significant strategic disruption for Europe and therefore for the U.S.,” retired U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, a former NATO supreme allied commander, said in an interview. “There’s more to this crisis than money and the financial markets.”

Such outcomes are possible, though unlikely, should European leaders prove unable to resolve a debt dispute that has shut Greek banks and frightened investors. Greece is on course to miss a Tuesday deadline for a $1.7 billion debt payment to the International Monetary Fund.

If Greece ultimately is pushed off the euro currency for defaulting on its debt, it could seek revenge by pulling out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, blocking European Union sanctions on Russia or forcing the U.S. from its naval base in Crete, said Stavridis, a Greek-American who is dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

“A Greece that feels unloved and pushed out is less likely to be helpful” to the U.S. and Europe, he said.

Refugee Flow

A primary concern is the flow of refugees from Libya and Syria, some of whom may be terrorists or become radicalized.

The Greek government may become unable to control the border, allowing migrants to “freely flow through Europe,” which already faces a refugee crisis, said Heather Conley, senior vice president for Europe and Eurasia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

A default also could send Greece searching for economic allies outside the EU.

“Greece will look elsewhere for getting money,” including China, said Andrea Montanino, director of the global business and economic program at the Atlantic Council in Washington.

“China is seeking investment abroad,” Montanino said. “They can think of Greece as a good place to have a stop in Europe and control partly what happens in Europe.”

While Greece may try to unravel European sanctions against Russia, Montanino said, “this is not the likely scenario. I still think the Greek people are pro-European.”

‘No Political Experience’

The greater danger is a Greece that descends into chaos because of the unpredictable nature of its governing Syriza party, which took power this year based on its opposition to austerity measures sought by the IMF, said Thomas Niles, a former U.S. ambassador to Greece under President Bill Clinton.

“We’re dealing with people who have absolutely no political experience,” Niles said of the Greek government.

Greece’s ruling coalition, which includes Communist party members, could be inclined to look to Russia for economic support, said Douglas Elliott, a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington who has studied the Greek crisis.

“They believe that too much power is concentrated in Germany and Brussels,” he said. “So it’s not that hard for the Russians to make the argument that it would make sense for the Greeks to align with them.”

Any such moves would undermine the European Union, which operates based on unanimity among its members.

“There clearly are serious implications for the European Union” in a Greek default, said James Dobbins, a diplomat and former ambassador to the European Community who is now a senior fellow at the Rand Corp. in Washington. “This is clearly a step backward from the major piece of European architecture, the euro.”

A failed or foundering Greece, which is a NATO ally, also poses security issues for the U.S. and Europe, analysts said.

Its location in the Mediterranean on the border between Europe, the Middle East and North Africa underscores how much is at stake if the country becomes unstable, said Conley, a former State Department official in President George W. Bush’s administration.

The U.S. operates a small naval base at Souda Bay on the island of Crete, which could be jeopardized if relations with the Greek government sour, said Stavridis, the retired Navy admiral.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras struck a defiant tone Monday, saying European leaders don’t have the nerve to throw his country out of the euro.

After surprising negotiators with an announcement of a July 5 referendum on the European Union’s aid proposal, Tsipras plunged Greece into economic uncertainty with emergency measures that included shutting the country’s banks.

When Greece fell into civil war in the aftermath of World War II, the U.S. response was the Truman Doctrine, a massive economic aid program to shore up western Europe, said Dobbins, the Rand Corp. analyst.

While such aid would be unlikely today, “almost anything becomes conceivable” if Greece’s economy collapses, he said.

“We really are in unchartered waters,” Dobbins said. “The withdrawal from a currency like the euro is essentially unprecedented.”