Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Poland turns to Norwegian gas to trump Russia

Politico  It would consist of a new pipeline between Denmark and Poland, known as the Baltic Pipe, and an infrastructure upgrade between Denmark and Norway. This is part of Warsaw’s larger energy security plan known as Northern Gate, which also includes the country’s new liquid natural gas terminal that began operations this summer. It has a capacity of 5 billion cubic meters of gas a year.

The pipeline would transport up to 10 billion cubic meters of gas, about the same as Poland receives from Russia today, accounting for about three-quarters of the country’s gas needs.

This is the third effort to bring the project to life. A contract for the Danish-Polish leg of the deal was signed in 2001, but was shelved shortly after a more pro-Russian government came to power in Poland. The project was revived once more in 2007, but without success.
Norway wants to avoid investing in expensive infrastructure that won’t be needed. But Polish officials reassured that Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the Baltic region, are the only EU areas where gas demand is expected to rise in the next years.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Canada seeking to cooperate with Russia in the Arctic

 Phys.Org  Despite tensions over conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, Russia and the West have maintained a strong working relationship in the Arctic and Canada's new Liberal government is looking to further bolster that cooperation.
A joint conference in Ottawa has been scheduled for November 24.

Canada and Russia control three quarters of the Arctic.

"Preventing scientists from these countries from talking to one another is irrational. Our government wishes to be rational," Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, parliamentary secretary to Foreign Minister Stephane Dion, said in a speech last month.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Erdogan's New Nationalism

Very good article on Turkey's pursuit of pre-1918 borders,

In the past few weeks, a conflict between Ankara and Baghdad over Turkey’s role in the liberation of Mosul has precipitated an alarming burst of Turkish irredentism. On two separate occasions, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the Treaty of Lausanne, which created the borders of modern Turkey, for leaving the country too small. He spoke of the country’s interest in the fate of Turkish minorities living beyond these borders, as well as its historic claims to the Iraqi city of Mosul, near which Turkey has a small military base. And, alongside news of Turkish jets bombing Kurdish forces in Syria and engaging in mock dogfights with Greek planes over the Aegean Sea, Turkey’s pro-government media have shown a newfound interest in a series of imprecise, even crudely drawn, maps of Turkey with new and improved borders.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Russian air defense raises stakes of U.S. confrontation in Syria

Washington Post  Russia’s completion this month of an integrated air defense system in Syria has made an Obama administration decision to strike Syrian government installations from the air even less likely than it has been for years, and has created a substantial obstacle to the Syrian safe zones both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have advocated.

Deployment of mobile and interchangeable S-400 and S-300 missile batteries, along with other short-range systems, now gives Russia the ability to shoot down planes and cruise missiles over at least 250 miles in all directions from western Syria, covering virtually all of that country as well as significant portions of Turkey, Israel, Jordan and the eastern Mediterranean.
While there is some disagreement among military experts as to the capability of the Russian systems, particularly the newly deployed S-300, “the reality is, we’re very concerned anytime those are emplaced,” a U.S. Defense official said. Neither its touted ability to counter U.S. stealth technology, or to target low-flying aircraft, has ever been tested by the United States.

“It’s not like we’ve had any shoot at an F-35,” the official said of the next-generation U.S. fighter jet. “We’re not sure if any of our aircraft can defeat the S-300.”

Monday, October 17, 2016

Who lives under the sea? Lenin monument in the most unusual museum ever 

Russia Beyond the Headlines  An unusual museum lies at the bottom of the Black Sea, 100 meters from Crimea's Cape Tarkhankut.

Monuments to famous people are sited below the waves in so-called “halls,” divided from each other by arches.
In 1992, local diver Vladimir Borumensky placed the first monuments to Soviet leaders, standing 12-15 meters high, on the seabed.

The USSR had just collapsed and many monuments to Communist leaders and revolutionists were being dismantled.
The museum is home to dozens of exhibits. Tourists in diving gear gliding among the monuments and fish are an unusual sight.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Turkey is purging its elite NATO officers

New Europe  In a classified military dispatch seen by Reuters, it was revealed that 149 Turkish NATO envoys in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and the U.K were ordered to return home on September 27.

Of the 50 Turkish military staff stationed at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, only nine remain. Turkey’s Ambassador to NATO has of yet made no statement on the issue.

Turkey has dismissed approximately 400 NATO military envoys since July, but the pace continues.

They are recalled, arrive to Turkey, and are dismissed, arrested, and imprisoned. The purge focuses especially on air force commanders.
In August, a Turkish Rear Admiral posted in a NATO base in Norfolk, Virginia, requested asylum to the United States. Mustafa Zeki Ugurlu was in NATO’s Allied Command Transformation headquarters in the US on July 15, during the failed coup; 26 Turkish officers were in Virginia at the time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Report: Germany's post-World War II government was full of Nazis

Christian Science Monitor The number of former Nazi party members in Germany’s Justice Ministry grew compared to the number of acting Nazis serving the department during World War II, indicating that officials protected, or ignored, those guilty of heinous war crimes by folding them into the country’s new legal system, according to a new report.
The study, known as the Rosenberg project, examined previously classified documents to gain insight into the era between 1950 and 1973. Researchers found that some 77 percent of senior officials in the Justice Ministry had once identified as Nazis, a portion higher than during the Third Reich, the period between 1933 and 1945 when Adolf Hitler controlled Germany, and much higher than researchers expected.

The group included Nazi-era prosecutor Eduard Dreher, a man who sought the death penalty for petty criminals, and Max Merten, who played a role in deporting Jews from Greece.
Many of those working for the ministry in the post-war years came from backgrounds as lawyers or judges in Nazi Germany, and came to the department to provide legal advice as West Germany rebuilt itself. By coming together and closing ranks, the network of former Nazis not only protected one another from legal prosecution but also bound together to create the nation’s laws.

"The Nazi-era lawyers went on to cover up old injustice rather than to uncover it and thereby created new injustice," Mr. Maas said.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Russia, Turkey could sign TurkStream deal on Monday

(Reuters)  Turkey and Russia aim to finalize an agreement on the TurkStream natural gas pipeline project during a meeting between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday, a Turkish official and industry sources said.

Officials from Russian state gas producer Gazprom, the project operator, have been holding meetings since last week in Ankara and an inter-governmental agreement on the project had almost been finalised, the Turkish official said.
Talks on the project were halted last year after Turkey shot down a Russian air force jet and Russia retaliated with trade sanctions. But since then Moscow and Ankara have made significant progress to mend relations.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Russia's missile deployment in Kaliningrad ups the stakes for Nato

(BBC) The Iskander-M system is relatively modern and was introduced into the Russian military in 2006. It is highly mobile - a pair of missiles are carried on a heavy-wheeled launcher. The missile is known as the SS-26 and code-named "Stone" by Nato. It is equipped with a variety of counter-measures to try to breach enemy defences. Fired from Kaliningrad, it can reach all of the Baltic republics and probably about two-thirds of Poland.

It is controversial on two counts - because of its range and because it is dual-capable. In other words, it can carry either a conventional or a nuclear warhead. Armed with a nuclear weapon, its range of in excess of some 500km (300 miles) brings it into the scope of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty of 1987 which effectively bans the development and deployment of such weapons.

The US already believes that Russia has breached this treaty in its development work, but the regular deployment of the Iskander probably marks another nail in the coffin of the web of arms control agreements inherited from the Cold War.

Russia stresses that this deployment is part of a routine exercise. But equally, in the past it has brandished the Iskander system as a response to Nato's plans to deploy anti-ballistic missile defences in Europe. Russia has made several threats to target countries deploying elements of any missile defence system with nuclear weapons. Indeed, Russia's nuclear doctrine has also been re-written to afford a greater and earlier role for nuclear weapons in any regional conflict.
This is all part of a developing Russian strategy of what Nato characterises as an "anti-access and area denial": deploying weapons systems and sensors with ever-longer range (or, in the case of Kaliningrad, to a location where even relatively short-range will do) to push Nato forces away from the area.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Inside the Shadowy PR Firm That’s Lobbying for Regime Change in Syria

Alternet Posing as a non-political solidarity organization, the Syria Campaign leverages local partners and media contacts to push the U.S. into toppling another Middle Eastern government.
The Syria Campaign presents itself as an impartial, non-political voice for ordinary Syrian citizens that is dedicated to civilian protection. “We see ourselves as a solidarity organization,” The Syria Campaign strategy director James Sadri told me. “We’re not being paid by anybody to pursue a particular line. We feel like we’ve done a really good job about finding out who the frontline activists, doctors, humanitarians are and trying to get their word out to the international community.”

Yet behind the lofty rhetoric about solidarity and the images of heroic rescuers rushing in to save lives is an agenda that aligns closely with the forces from Riyadh to Washington clamoring for regime change.
Among The Syria Campaign’s most prominent vehicles for promoting military intervention is a self-proclaimed "unarmed and impartial" civil defense group known as the White Helmets. Footage of the White Helmets saving civilians trapped in the rubble of buildings bombed by the Syrian government and its Russian ally has become ubiquitous in coverage of the crisis. Having claimed to have saved tens of thousands of lives, the group has become a leading resource for journalists and human rights groups seeking information inside the war theater, from casualty figures to details on the kind of bombs that are falling.

But like The Syria Campaign, the White Helmets are anything but impartial. Indeed, the group was founded in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Office of Transitional Initiatives, an explicitly political wing of the agency that has funded efforts at political subversion in Cuba and Venezuela. USAID is the White Helmets’ principal funder, committing at least $23 million to the group since 2013. This money was part of $339.6 million budgeted by USAID for “supporting activities that pursue a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria" -- or establishing a parallel governing structure that could fill the power vacuum once Bashar Al-Assad was removed.
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