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Showing posts from August 19, 2014

Did Iran Just Knife Putin in the Back?

By Mike Whitney

"Counter Punch" -- On Thursday, Ukraine’s parliament passed a law that will allow foreign investors to lease up to 49 percent of Ukraine’s transit pipelines and underground gas storage facilities. The bill, which had failed to pass just weeks earlier, was approved by the slimmest of margins, 2 votes, suggesting that there might have been some arm twisting or bribery behind the scenes. The new law is a victory for the Obama administration and western elites who want to control the flow of gas from Russia to the EU, set prices, and make sure that transactions continue to be denominated in dollars. Here’s a little more background from an article in Reuters:

“Ukraine’s parliament approved a law on Thursday to allow gas transit facilities to be leased on a joint venture basis with participation from firms in the European Union or United States….The government has said the joint venture will bring in investment and remove the need for the South Stream pipeline, which…

Prospects Of The Conflict In Ukraine's Southeast

Putin Says Russia’s Defense Industry Absolutely Self-Sufficient, Safe From Political Risk

BTR-82 wheeled amphibious combat vehicles in one of the shops of the Arzamas Machine Building Plant.

Russia’s defense industry is capable of producing all parts and military hardware on its own, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday.

“Some things are evident for all of us. First of all, we are absolutely capable of doing everything on our own. Absolutely everything,” Putin said at a meeting devoted to import substitution.

“Our task is to insure ourselves against risks of non-compliance with contracts by our foreign partners,” the president added. “We need to ensure reliable and timely supply of required components and monitor their quality closely.”

Putin said that although he saw no particular risks for the Russian defense industry, “all difficulties should benefit us, because we should launch our own production where it did not exist before.”

Against the backdrop of Kiev’s ongoing special operation in eastern Ukraine, the country’s recently elected president, Petro Poroshenko, ban…

Ukraine Resolution Depends on Fighting, Not Negotiations, Analysts Say

By Ivan Nechepurenko

Thomas Peter / ReutersRussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said progress had been made at Sunday’s talks on the Ukraine crisis.

Fighting raged in eastern Ukraine on Monday even as diplomats said they had made progress in finding a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, and analysts said both sides are seeking military gains to take the upper hand in negotiations.

A day after Russian, Ukrainian, German and French foreign ministers met in Berlin to seek a peaceful solution, a convoy of refugees was attacked by rocket fire near the city of Luhansk, resulting in multiple fatalities, the Ukrainian military said.

Analysts told The Moscow Times that both sides were both preparing for negotiations but trying to score as many military advances as possible in the meantime to give them leverage in future talks.

"The Ukrainian army is active around Luhansk and Donetsk, while the insurgents are engaging in a counter-offensive around the Savur-Mohyla strategic height near …

Putin's Food Ban Splits EU on Wisdom of Russia Sanctions

By Alexander Panin

Maxim Stulov / VedomostiFinland’s biggest dairy producer, Valio, had shipped almost half of all its exports to Russia before the ban.

The European Union's united front on Russia sanctions seems to be buckling, as Eastern European countries hit hardest by Moscow's retaliatory food import bans begin to question the wisdom of wrecking their economies in the name of a strategy that has seen the crisis in Ukraine only escalate.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban summed up the sentiment: Europe, which, according to figures released last week, is once again on the verge of a recession, is "shooting itself in the foot," he said.

Experts in Russia, however, were doubtful that even the combined efforts of Europe's eastern member states would be able to outweigh the politically and economically more influential West and swing the pendulum toward milder sanctions and de-escalation.
Pity Finland

On Friday, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto became the first E…

EU sanctions like 'shooting oneself in the foot' - Hungary PM

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has urged a rethink of the European Union’s sanctions policy toward Russia, saying the measures are like “shooting oneself in the foot.”

“The sanctions policy pursued by the West, that is, ourselves, a necessary consequence of which, has been what the Russians are doing, causes more harm to us than to Russia,” Reuters quoted Orban as saying on the radio, he added “in politics, this is called shooting oneself in the foot.”

Russia is Hungary’s largest trade partner outside of the EU, with exports worth $3.4 billion in 2013. Also it is highly dependent on Russian energy. Earlier this year Hungary agreed a $13 billion deal with Russian power company Rosatom to expand the country’s only nuclear power plant.

“The EU should not only compensate producers somehow, be they Polish, Slovak, Hungarian or Greek, who now have to suffer losses, but the entire sanctions policy should be reconsidered,” the Hungarian Prime Minister said, saying he is already looking fo…

Turkey: German spying ‘unacceptable’ if confirmed

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has called in Germany’s ambassador in Ankara to explain media reports that Germany’s secret services had been spying on its NATO ally.

“This is a grave situation that needs to be explained by Germany if there is slightest truth to these allegations,”the ministry said in a statement Monday. “Such practices in relations among friends and allies, which should be built on mutual trust and respect, are in no way acceptable.”

“It is expected that the German authorities present an official and satisfactory explanation on the claims reported by German media and end these activities immediately if the claims are true.”

Turkey's acting Foreign Ministry undersecretary, Erdogan Iscan, met German Ambassador Eberhard Pohl to voice Turkey's concerns.

Germany said that its ambassador had not been “summoned”but rather invited for a discussion, which was conducted “in a friendly manner.”

Earlier, German media reported that the national Federal Intelligence Service (BND)…

Why should UK taxpayers foot the bill for Ukrainian oligarchs’ military adventures?

Ukrainian servicemen guard a checkpoint near the eastern Ukrainian town of Debaltseve, August 16, 2014. (Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)

​Back in 2003, with the illegal Iraq war looming and protests filling the streets of London in opposition, Vanity Fair’s David Margolick came to Downing Street to interview Tony Blair.

When the writer broached the topic of religion – to US politicians what bees are to honey – the former PM’s spin doctor Alastair Campbell interjected sharply: “We don’t do God.” Of course, privately, Blair held a deep Catholic faith and never obscured it but there was a feeling among his advisors that in an increasingly secular Britain, spirituality was bad for business.

“He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.”
King James Bible, Proverbs 22:16

The current occupant of the office, David Cameron, has no such qualms. This year he claimed he was “doing God’s work" when he earlier launched the governmen…

West has more influence than Kiev on oligarchs’ armies in Ukraine – Lavrov

Moscow believes the West has more influence on various paramilitary forces in Ukraine - sponsored by local oligarchs - than Kiev does, Russian FM said citing the latest bickering between Right Sector and the Interior Ministry.

“The authorities in Kiev are not in control of the numerous paramilitary forces, including Right Sector, which, we estimate, comprises a large portion of the National Guard. The demarche of Right Sector towards the Ukrainian Interior Minister speaks for itself,”Sergey Lavrov said, adding that existence of armed groups sponsored by Ukrainian oligarchs, such as the Azov and Dnepr battalions, poses a great security threat.

“We work with our Western partners in Europe and the United States who can really influence those paramilitary units that don’t answer to the central government in Kiev. We know the West has such influence,” he added.

Lavrov was referring to the weekend ultimatum of the far-right group, which threatened to pull out its troops from eastern Ukraine a…