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NATO threatens Russia with invasion

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The heads of state and heads of government of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), held at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland, on 8 and 9 July 2016. The two-day summit was attended by a wide array of world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US president Obama. In addition to Russia, the member countries are expected to discuss topics like anti-terrorism efforts in Iraq and the rest of the Muslim world, the mission in Afghanistan, and defense spending, but also Brexit and cooperation with the European Union.

The NATO summit opened with alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg and Polish President Andrzej Duda addressing the public in Warsaw on Friday. NATO members discussed a response to what they see as aggressive Russian actions in Eastern Europe, specifically in Ukraine. Poland and other eastern NATO members have demanded more NATO involvement close to Russian borders. Polish President Duda called for “deepening relations” with those countries and establishing “an enhanced presence in Eastern and Central Europe.” On Friday, Stoltenberg said NATO had stepped up its capabilities in response to the alleged Russian threat.

In his opening statement, Stoltenberg said NATO “does not seek confrontation.” “Russia is our biggest neighbor and the integral part of European security,” he said, adding that the alliance would continue dialogue with the Kremlin. “We don’t want a new Cold War,” Stoltenberg said. “The Cold War is history and should remain history”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has accused Russia of “unsettling” NATO allies with its actions in Ukraine. In her speech before Germany’s parliament, the chancellor called for both “deterrence and dialogue” with Moscow. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen backed deployment in Eastern Europe and said NATO should deal with Russia “consistently, calmly and soberly” and signal Moscow that it has nothing to fear. The Kremlin actions can be “completely unpredictable and aggressive,” but there is also a Russia that cooperates on the crisis in Iran and Libya, von der Leyen said.

The main focus was the formal ratification of plans to dispatch thousands more NATO troops to Poland and the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—all countries bordering Russia. In remarks made in the presence of Polish President Andrzej Duda, Stoltenberg praised NATO’s opening of military headquarters and missile bases across Eastern Europe as well as the tripling of the alliance’s rapid response force to 40,000 troops. “Our presence will be multinational and a clear message that an attack on one ally is an attack on the whole alliance,” he declared.

The highlights on the first day of the summit, July 8, include agreement to station four battalions of about 1,000 soldiers each in NATO’s east – Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -on a rotational basis, starting next year. Canada will lead the battalion for Latvia, Germany in Lithuania, the United Kingdom in Estonia and the United States in Poland. NATO members also agreed to beef up their cyber defenses.

On July 09, the second and final day of the NATO summit, NATO heads of state approved a major military escalation in Eastern Europe and continuing deployments to Afghanistan. These initiatives, together with expanded NATO military cooperation with former Soviet republics, including Georgia and Ukraine, are all aimed at encircling and preparing for war against Russia. Besides shoring up its presence among NATO’S eastern members to deter any possible Russian strike, “We have tripled the size of the NATO Response Force to 40,000 troops with a Spearhead Force at its core able to move within a matter of days.

The alliance approved the largest military buildup in Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War. President Petro Poroshenko met with leaders of the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy as part of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. Regarding Ukraine, while Western allies have stressed that NATO members will reaffirm their support in the struggle against Russia’s war, details are still short on specifics and rhetorical backing has outpaced financial support.

Ukraine

Ukraine has also been disappointed by the West’s commitment to Ukraine. Obama never visited Ukraine. Ukrainians had hopes at the beginning of the year that, looking at Obama’s scheduled appearance in Warsaw, he would take the opportunity after the summit to visit nearby Kyiv in the waning days of his presidency. Instead, Obama has chosen to go to Spain, the largest European country he hasn’t visited yet, and a key NATO ally. He will leave office as the first president since Ronald Reagan not to visit Ukraine while in office.

Stoltenberg talked about Ukraine’s status at another morning press briefing on July 8 during an experts’ forum. “They are focusing on the reforms and will wait with the application until they have moved further and modernize the defense sector, more than is the case today,” Stoltenberg said of Ukraine’s leaders. “We support them with political support and practical support. We will also step up that support at this summit. What is unchanged is every nation has the right to choose its own path. It applies to Georgia, Ukraine and all other nations. Whether Georgia or Ukraine or any other nation is going to be a member of NATO is up to that nation to decide and the 28 allies. That’s a fundamental principle that every nation has the right to decide its own path.”

Stoltenberg dismissed the premise of a question that the multinational troop buildup of NATO allies on Russia’s border shows that the alliance is the aggressor, not Russia. ” We have seen a more assertive Russia.. We are increasing our military presence in the Baltic countries and Poland, but there is no doubt that is something we do as a response to what Russia did in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said. “No one talked about any military presence of the kind we now see in Poland and the Baltic countries before Ukraine, before the illegal annexation of Crimea. What we do is defensive, it is proportionate, and it’s fully in line with our international commitments.. We have seen a Russia which has been willing to use military force against sovereign nations in Europe with aggressive actions against Ukraine, the illegal annexation of Crimea.

Ben Rhodes, a US deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, talked about America’s commitment to Ukraine. “In particular on Ukraine, it’s an important opportunity to reaffirm our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, to stress the urgency of moving forward with the implementation of the Minsk agreements, and expressing our continued determination to maintain sanctions on Russia should they not follow through on those commitments,” Rhodes said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Kyiv on July 7, said Ukraine has a long way to go before it is NATO-ready. “And NATO will also welcome Ukraine’s progress on defense reforms, particularly on civilian oversight of the armed forces and its move towards NATO standards. In addition, we have contributed in kind to four of the six trust funds specifically the command and control, the cyber, the medical rehabilitation, and logistics,” Kerry said, Ukraine has a long way to go in order to modernize and reform its defense sector and increase its interoperability with NATO, which is part of the discussion that takes place in the context of the NATO-Ukraine Commission.” Poroshenko called for stronger pressure by the West against Russia, but did not specify what steps he was advocating. “Pressure on the aggressor must be intensified until the Kremlin fulfills its obligations under the Minsk agreements, reverses the illegal and illegitimate self-declared annexation of Crimea, and comes back under the rule of law,” Poroshenko wrote.

During the alliance’s last summit, held in Wales in 2014, the leaders agreed a “Readiness Action Plan” to strengthen the defence of its most vulnerable members against Russia. But NATO remains constrained by an earlier agreement signed with Russia in 1997. Under this “founding act”, the alliance promised not to permanently deploy any combat troops in any member country east of Germany, provided the “security environment” did not change.

Russian adventurism

Russian President Puitn displayed new brand of Russian assertive politics. In 2014, Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine, annexing the territory of a European country for the first time since 1945. Afterwards, Russia invaded eastern Ukraine, starting a war that has claimed 9,000 lives and driven 1.7 million people from their homes. NATO’s eastern members, particularly those who border Russia, want assurances that they will never share the same fate. In one set of war games last March, 33,000 Russian troops practiced how to launch nearly simultaneous attacks on Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. The latter two countries were also the target of simulated nuclear strikes by the Russian air force in 2013, almost every week, Russia dispatches jet fighters and bombers to probe the airspace of NATO’s eastern members.

NATO members say Russia might invade the Baltic States sooner or later. And countries like Estonia, along with NATO are other Baltic members, now feel most exposed to Russian ambitions. The NATO idea is to have one infantry battalion each in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The idea is that they would serve as a “tripwire” for any Russian invasion, demonstrating to the Kremlin that it would have to fight NATO troops and start a war with the entire alliance – including America – if it ever attacked a member state. In this way, the summit in Warsaw aimed to preserve the peace by deterring Russia.

Nonetheless, Russia’s war against Ukraine – in its third year – and its illegal military invasion and annexation of the Crimean peninsula – are driving the political-military alliance’s priorities.

In a recent interview, former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that Ukraine should abandon its dreams about joining NATO as he predicted more instability for Europe ahead.

The leaders of the 28 NATO allies and their partners at Warsaw summit agreed on sending four multinational battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, on a rotational basis. NATO’s plan to enhance presence in Europe aims to reassure allies on its eastern flank rather than unleash a new cold war. The conflict in Ukraine, the migration crisis and terrorism are among the most dangerous threats to the Western world.

Although the SCO under Moscow’s leadership is not considered a serious threat, NATO views the formidable Russo-China military tie ups a dangerous phenomenon.

Tensions

The real cause of tensions around the world and reason for Israel’s aggressive attacks on Palestinians has been the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), established in 1949 to threaten Soviet Union and stop its eastward expansionism. NATO claims responsibility to ensure the security of its member states in both the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea.

NATO protects all member countries. Under Article V of this agreement, an “armed attack against one” NATO member “shall be considered an attack against them all”. On the evening of 12 September 2001, less than 24 hours after the 9/11 attacks, and for the first time in NATO’s history, the allies invoked the principle of Article 5 without in fact knowing the nation that attacked USA. But the Neocons readily invented an Islamizing Afghanistan as being the culprit requiring terror attacks by NATO.

Tensions between Russia and the West have skyrocketed in the past two years, with both sides holding large military maneuvers. Moscow and the alliance traded blame for the escalation.

During the two-day summit in Warsaw, NATO members will decide on placing four battalions in Poland and the Baltic countries neighboring Russia as part of the largest military buildup on the alliance’s eastern flank in decades.

Russia is becoming increasingly assertive in the Black Sea. Three current NATO member states (Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria) and one NATO aspirant with close ties to the alliance (Georgia) share the Black Sea with Russia. All these countries have expressed serious concern about Moscow’s growing assertiveness in the Black Sea region.

In response to NATO expansion and its containment policy, Russia often cites a 1997 agreement in which NATO pledged not to create permanent bases in former Eastern bloc states. US officials, however, claim that the troops would be rotated rather than stationed permanently. Stoltenberg said NATO would “project stability,” including in countries that have been confronted by Russia. “We will also affirm our commitment to our partners in the east, to Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, to help them resist outside pressures, and advance reform,” Stoltenberg said.

The NATO concerns are still greater because Russia has conducted a series of military exercises, supposedly designed to rehearse the invasion of neighbouring countries. Some of these drills have involved anything from 40,000 to 80,000 troops. Russia repeatedly said it has no empire ambitions and it won’t revive the Soviet Union.

While Ukraine’s status as victim of Russian aggression is driving NATO priorities, Ukraine remains far from any membership in NATO as it hasn’t even applied to join the alliance.

Existential challenge to NATO as permanent terror body

A serious mistake was made by the USA and those NATO member states – primarily France and the United Kingdom – by their joint invasion of Afghanistan on false pretext only to destroy Islamic regime in Kabul, invasion of Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011 without a corresponding readiness to engage in post-conflict stabilization. The consequences of this flawed fascist approach have emerged in the form of severe political fanaticism and factionalization, the rise of the Islamic State group and a migrant crisis that has brought thousands to the shores of Europe.

Now NATO has been facing an existential challenge as it has indeed become redundant with the Warsaw Treaty led by Russia was abolished following the end of Cold War. But USA, in order to maintain global military superiority, does not want to dismantle the Western military club saying it is necessary to fight the future threats like terrorism. And in order to prove the argument USA created terrorism by employing Muslims who fought against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and coolly called it “Islamic fundamentalist terrorism’ and directed the media to blast the terror news prominently .

Individual NATO member states such as Turkey, the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands have directly taken part in airstrikes against the Islamic State group while others have contributed ammunition and equipment. But given the threat to Europe posed by the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, NATO needs to be more involved. At the Warsaw summit, the alliance must express a willingness to augment its role in the fight to roll back and end the terror war launched by Bush Jr.

The alliance currently has 12,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. NATO collectively must commit additional resources to bolster its Resolute Support mission and support Afghan forces. For the USA, their intention to maintain current troop levels in Afghanistan until the end of the yea means retaining 9,800 troops instead of reducing their numbers to 5,500 as planned.

Multinational conflicts in Syria and Iraq led by USA and Russia have generated a refugee crisis of historic proportions that continues to threaten Europe’s security and its cohesion. NATO must play a larger role to address these conflicts and bring peace back to the region. .

Turkey is worried that NATO’s migrant mission in the Aegean is distracting the alliance from these rising threats. Just as Russian military aircraft have harassed and conducted dangerous overflights of U.S. vessels in the Baltics Sea, they have done the same in the Black Sea. Yet the latter does not receive the same attention as the former.

The NATO terror outcomes and destabilization of Arab world, Afghanistan and Pakistan form the western democratic contribution to the world.

War propaganda

In order to allocate more resources for military, the western powers spread Russian threat and war propaganda.

According to western reports, through an act of invasion of Baltic, Russian president Putin is likely to bid to make Russia a great power again. Former deputy commander of Nato General Sir Richard Shirreff in his new book predicts that the West would be at war with Russia within the year. The Kremlin will invade the Baltic States through Latvia and threaten to go nuclear if NATO attempts a military response.

Poland and the Baltic countries call for a strong response to pre-empt another annexation like that of Crimea. The Germans and French would call for negotiations with Moscow. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in direct opposition to the Polish president, insisted that the Russia-NATO Founding Act remained valid.

The NATO battalions are touted as a “spearhead” rapid reaction force on the border with Russia that will tackle a range of possible threats. The force will be used to buy the alliance some time to mount a serious counteroffensive but will not stop any type of intervention in the short term. The deployment was unlikely change the balance of power in the region. It will, however, enhance the capability of Allies to maintain, and if required, implement their collective self-defense commitments

The arguments advanced by Stoltenberg for a confrontation with Russia are political lies—above all, the claim that Russia’s support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine proves it is an aggressive power dedicated to military conquest in Europe. He explained yesterday, “We are increasing our military presence in the Baltic countries and Poland, but there is no doubt that it is something we do as a response to what Russia did in Ukraine.”

Terror budget

The Cold War was the period when military spending in many countries grew almost without control. As a result, in some countries military budgets reached a stunning two percent of GDP. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 it became clear that the threat from the Soviet Union overinflated, but it was used to justify increased military spending in the West. Lobbying groups have again brought up the Russian threat to politicians and the European public.

NATO and USA had all previously made it clear that the 28-nation bloc did not seek a confrontation with Russia or a new cold war, but all their actions point to the contrary

In February, NATO defense minister approved the deployment of NATO troops to Eastern Europe. Total military spending of the NATO members since 1990 has reached €20.2 trillion. At the same time, Russia has spent only €1.3 trillion on defense since 1990. NATO’s demand to increase military spending sounds absurd. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, NATO allies have raised only 5 million Euros in trust fund money for Ukraine, in contrast to Afghanistan, for example, to which NATO trust funds have committed $1.3 billion Euros.

NATO needs more and more money as it seeks to send battalions to every country if finds a “threat”, but now Poland and the Baltics. In fact every country that does not support USA in its global terror war is treated in Washington as a threat. The force should be composed of at least 2,000 troops, ideally closer to 4,000. Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States have already agreed to lead three battalions, and the Visegrad Four – Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary – have in a separate initiative committed a total of 600 troops to the Baltics.

Why NATO wants its members to increase military spending? The only reason for this requirement is that the United States wants an arms race against Russia and China. Europe should not be involved in this process because Europe is not interested in supporting Washington’s ambitions to deter China.

The summit argued the European countries should not increase military spending and instead invest in the EU’s defense capabilities, confusing everybody, to oppose the new NATO norm of two percent and adopt a two-percent norm for the EU, including one percent of GDP for defense and one percent for global social and environmental challenges

Does NATO aim at a world war?

One thing is quite certain: USA does not want to end its misguided terror wars even the destabilization of many Muslim nations and loot of their vital resources, including oil, as they coerce the nations to buy their terror goods directly and through their agent for the third world Israel.

The danger that such a conflict could erupt at any time, whether by design or inadvertently, emerged very directly in last month’s massive NATO military exercise, Operation Anaconda, involving 30,000 NATO forces in Poland. Moscow responded by mobilizing a comparable number of troops in western regions of Russia, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Moscow reserved the right to take whatever measures were necessary to defend itself.

What has been going on in the name of terror war is NATO’s permanent war. NATO plans for military action in countries ranging from Libya to Georgia and Ukraine, Afghanistan and the regions bordering China are to be the subject of extensive discussion in Warsaw.

The way Obama escalated terror war in Mideast only shows the USA has no intention of ending the fake terror wars only to kill Muslims. The full list of targets identified in NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s opening remarks spans much of the globe. He served notice that NATO would step up military action in Iraq and Syria and expand its deployments in the Mediterranean and across NATO’s entire “neighborhood.”

The purpose of these political lies is to present the imperialist powers’ war drive as a defensive effort to preserve “peace and stability,” even as it threatens to unleash a war of unimaginable dimensions.

The aggressor in Ukraine was not the Kremlin oligarchy, however, but Washington and Berlin, which ousted an elected pro-Russian government in Ukraine by orchestrating violent, right-wing nationalist protests in Kiev. Washington had spent $5 billion to promote the Ukrainian opposition.

NATO Gen Shirreff points towards the short war between Russia and Georgia in 2008, the annexation of the Crimea two years ago and the separatist strife in eastern Ukraine as part of a grand plan of Russian expansion. Far from laying the basis for a peaceful and democratic capitalist development, Moscow was the opening act of a protracted crisis of the entire nation-state system in Europe and internationally.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the NATO does not intend to refuse to cooperate with Russia. “We are unanimous in the position that continuous security in Europe is only possible with Russia, and not in opposition to it. The central place for dialogue with Russia remains the NATO-Russia Council,” Merkel told the Bundestag. Gen Shirreff asked USA to position personnel and weapons in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe. NATO is, in fact, in the process of doing just that to the chagrin of the Kremlin which holds this breaches the pledge made by the Alliance to Boris Yeltsin’s government in 1997 that it will not have permanent troop presence in any of the former Warsaw Pact states.

NATO defense shield

NATO has put in place NATO defense shield in Eastern Europe, targeting Russian territory. The idea is to attack Russia and not let Russia retaliate back to USA or Europe. However, Russia has put in place advanced technology to deter western missiles and destroy them before they reach Russian territory.

NATO defense shield now in Romania is meant to check any possible Russian missiles. Defense shield gives the NATO member states the power to intercept any missiles fired from Russia once war broke out. But now Russia has said they are going to retaliate and eliminate the threat and that means they will actually destroy the shield in Romania which then the west will use as a pretext to go war with Russia. In the run-up to the summit, the Polish president called for the formal scrapping of the Founding Act.

The Warsaw summit’s plans amount to the final repudiation, more or less explicitly, of the 1997 Russia-NATO Founding Act, in which NATO pledged that it would not exploit the dissolution of the Soviet Union to rearm in Europe and pursue an aggressive strategy against Russia. The act stated that NATO would undergo a “historic transformation,” “radically” reducing its military forces and ensuring that NATO and Russia “not consider each other as adversaries.”

NATO and EU, mediated by the USA, cooperate against Russia. In 2014, NATO suspended practical civilian and military cooperation with Russia amid strained relations over the Ukrainian crisis, as the Alliance accused Moscow of involvement in the conflict. Political dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council, however, was not halted. Russian reaction caused serious economic weakening in Europe. The Greeks, Italians and Spanish make clear that their economies had already suffered enough from the sanctions on Russia after the annexation of Crimea.

NATO has been building up its military presence in Eastern Europe, using Moscow’s alleged interference in Ukraine as a pretext for the move. Moscow has repeatedly denied the claims and warned NATO that the military buildup on Russia’s borders is provocative and threatens the existing strategic balance of power.

Over the last quarter century, the Eastern European countries and the former Soviet republics were thrown open to capitalist exploitation and imperialist intrigue, joining NATO or the European Union. Particularly after the 2014 Kiev putsch, with the emergence of a pro-Western Ukrainian regime, Russia has found itself surrounded by hostile states allied to NATO and thrown back militarily to the positions it held 75 years ago following the Nazi invasion of the USSR. In this crisis, the policies of all of the capitalist factions are deeply reactionary. The Kremlin oligarchy’s attempt to use the military to pressure the imperialist powers for an accommodation only heightens the war danger.

A further factor driving the aggressive policies of the imperialist powers is the increasingly bitter and intractable crisis within NATO itself, exacerbated by the June 23 British vote to leave the EU. Washington and several Eastern European states, including Poland, have called for an even more aggressive policy towards Russia.

Germany, followed by France and Italy, on the other hand, are proposing a more independent foreign policy, i.e., independent of Washington, involving a rapid expulsion of Britain from the EU and a ratcheting down of the confrontation with Russia.

Stoltenberg’s rationalization for mass military deployments to Eastern Europe by all of the major NATO powers is extraordinarily reckless and sinister. The best way to secure the NATO alliance, according to Stoltenberg, is to permanently threaten Russia with nuclear war by ensuring that any local conflict involving Russia in Eastern Europe immediately escalates to all-out conflict between Russia and the entire NATO alliance.

Russian military jets have carried out more sorties in a day in Syria than the US-led coalition has done in a month. The Russian navy has launched ballistic missiles from the Caspian Sea 900 miles way. Russian advances in military technology is routine and does not mean that Kremlin is about to launch an attack, although it may add to the argument for increased defence spending.

Unlike American presidents with hidden agendas, President Putin is not a bad person the media make out him to be and he has actually been constantly warning NATO ever since they started talking about installing the missile defence shield in Eastern Europe that all they are doing is undermining the security of their nations. NATO especially the US just kept saying it’s not targeted at Russia but they are there to only target Iran. Anyone with a bit of common sense knows that is load of crap meant to fool Moscow.

Twenty-five years after the much heralded victory of capitalism and the USA in the Cold War, USA and world imperialism have shown mankind the true “benefits” of capitalism: ever increasing social inequality and poverty, the promotion of national chauvinism and racism, the drive to dictatorship, and the looming danger of a nuclear Third World War. But America could not the entire world.

Observations

The July 8-9 NATO summit in Warsaw marks an extraordinary escalation of the ongoing wars in Mideast into a global war drive of the capitalist-imperialist powers—above all, the economic, political and military campaign against Russia launched two years ago. The USA and Germany backed putsch toppled a pro-Russian government in Ukraine, leading to the current conflict there.

The Sept-11 hoax perpetrated essentially by anti-Islamic forces in USA let the NATO forces invade and destabilize an Islamizing Afghanistan and gave rise to terrorization of international politics.

NATO faces unprecedented challenges from both east and south. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused the alliance to refocus on its original raison d’etre of territorial defense. But unconventional threats from nonstate actors and humanitarian crises fueled by ongoing conflict in the Middle East and North Africa are pushing NATO to become alert and upgrade military equipment. .

The summit’s main military objective is to threaten Russia with invasion by massively expanding NATO forces’ presence along Russia’s borders. More broadly, it seeks to formalize NATO’s transformation into an alliance intervening aggressively around the world, beginning with war preparations against Moscow.

The summit finalized the exact contributions from member states amid what NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has described as a challenging regional security situation.

What these conflicts have revealed is an existential crisis of the entire system of international alliances and all of the institutions of European capitalism.

The air defenses installed by the Russia in Syria and eastern Ukraine would make it extremely hazardous for the West to carry out strikes against the Assad regime or Ukrainian separatists. Any open and prolonged Russian conflict with an Eastern European country might lead to the destruction of the NATO alliance itself.

Why should Russian he President risk all the gains with a risky hot war with an invasion of the Baltic States which, unlike Ukraine and Georgia, are members of NATO and can invoke NATO assistance?

Russia has said it would destroy the missile shield in Romania but if it really does then that would give a pretext cum justification to go for war with Russia.

NATO is also interested in holding another NATO-Russia Council after the Warsaw summit on July 8-9, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed the next Russia-NATO Council would be held in Brussels on July 13 and would be focused on the Ukrainian crisis and the situation in Afghanistan.

The escalating crises of NATO and the EU are a warning and a challenge to the international public. The unfolding crisis in Europe threatens humanity with a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. Its prevention depends on the people developing a politically conscious international movement against NATO terror war and for the overthrow of capitalism and establishment of humane socialism.

USA and Russia will not have direct war of any kind – now or any time in the near future. Apparently, all five plus one veto members have informally agreed to avert and avoid any war among them because that would lead to a world war, officially.

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The Road Leading Nowhere

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A few days ago, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General, announced the expulsion of several diplomats from the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the Organization. The only justification NATO could muster up for this was the traditional rhetoric of Russia’s alleged “malign activities” in NATO member states. As it so usually happens, no evidence or illustrations of such activities were ever provided. It is almost as if NATO’s leadership is consistently trying to destroy everything that Moscow and Brussels have built to bolster European security architecture through joint efforts during the last two decades.

Russia launched its Permanent Mission to NATO in 2003 following the establishment of the NATO–Russia Council (NRC) on May 28, 2002 in Rome. Prior to that, Russia’s ambassador to Belgium had also acted as the nation’s non-resident ambassador to the Organization. The establishment of the NATO–Russia Council was a momentous event, which is evident by the fact that the heads of state and government of all NATO member states as well as the president of the Russian Federation gathered in Rome to sign the Declaration on “NATO–Russia Relations: a New Quality” at an official ceremony.

I happened to be present at that ceremony in Rome. The atmosphere was very spirited, and the leaders were quite optimistic about the prospects of the new mode of cooperation between Russia and the West. Those present at that memorable event unanimously welcomed the new mechanism, while U.S. President George W. Bush stressed that should Russia be left behind the alliance would fail in resolving the issues facing the world in the new century and responding to the new security challenges in the Euro-Atlantic region and beyond. Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister of Canada, noted that NATO was “opening a new chapter in strengthening our ties with Russia,” emphasizing that the surest way of responding to the challenges of the 21st century would be to coordinate the efforts of the international community at large. He concluded, “It was high time that Russia be involved in the process.”

For his part, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia expected “the Rome Declaration to be a sound solution to work in a cooperative and constructive spirit rather than a mere statement of intentions.” He went on to say that Russia and NATO have a fraught history—however, the two had made real headway, shifting the paradigm “from opposition to dialogue, from confrontation to cooperation.” The Rome Declaration, Russia’s leader argued, was only to mark the beginning of the endeavours to arrive at fundamentally different relations.

While the reason why the two parties agreed two decades ago to establish the NATO–Russia Council and the extent to which the new joint mechanism indeed proved an agent of change for the military and political situation in the Euro-Atlantic (and globally) remain subject of persistent speculation, I believe it would be hard to refute the idea that the old shibboleths of the Cold War needed to be revised amid the evolving circumstances at the dawn of the new millennium. First and foremost, this had to do with security issues. By that time, sober-minded politicians in the West came to realize that Russia was far from what posed threats to world peace and international security. The foreground now featured a new set of global challenges, such as terrorism, WMD proliferation risks, illegal migration and regional crises, with no nation—even the largest and most powerful among the powers that be—able to counter them on their own. Russia was the first to face the challenge of global terrorism. Following hard on Russia’s heels, this threat engulfed the United States and other countries in its most cruel and dramatic form.

In accordance with the Rome Declaration, Russia and NATO member states committed to cooperating as equals in areas of mutual interest. The members of the Council, acting in their national capacities and in a manner consistent with their collective commitments and obligations, agreed to take joint decisions and bear equal responsibility, individually and collectively, for the decisions to be implemented. The Council saw some 25 working groups and committees established to foster meaningful cooperation in critical areas.

Following a meeting with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson in November 2002, President Vladimir Putin offered the following vision of Russia’s relations with NATO, “Never before have we raised the question of our full-fledged participation in NATO. Nor do we raise that matter today. Should our relationship, should our cooperation develop as positively as is the case now… And if NATO as an alliance transforms in implementing institutional reforms… And as long as our cooperation is in line with Russia’s national interests, meaning that we’ll see that this framework could serve a tool to pursue our own interests… Then our cooperation with NATO will surely be changing to encompass a broader involvement and participation.”

It has been some 20 years since the NATO–Russia Council was established. Can we deem this experiment to be a success? Both a “yes” and a “no.” On the one hand, we all could see for ourselves that dialogue and cooperation were, in fact, possible. Over the years, joint working groups were offering decisions whose implementation was in line with the fundamental interests of both parties. These included combatting terrorism, engaging on the Afghanistan dossier, enhancing military and technical cooperation, addressing arms control in Europe as well as other issues.

On the other hand, we also discovered that the old stereotypes were deeply entrenched in the minds of some strategists in the West who still believe Russia to be the principal and indispensable factor to cement “Western solidarity.” Otherwise, how can we account for the fact that NATO’s leadership chose to freeze all the Council’s proceedings and contacts with Russia contrary to what is stipulated in the Rome Declaration that provides for an urgent session of the NATO–Russia Council in the events such as brutal conflicts in South Ossetia or Ukraine?

NATO’s only approach to Moscow as of today is to expel as much staff as they can from Russia’s mission in Brussels. The purpose of all this is not hard to guess. NATO is busily getting ready for its next Summit, which is due to be held in 2022 in Madrid. At that summit, NATO plans to approve a new strategy for the alliance to make it “even stronger.”

This will not be an easy task in the wake of the alliance’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is why it has been taking strides to shift attention and search for an adversary whose presence would justify the organization’s continued existence as well as another hike in military budgets of its members. Individual statements make it clear that the new conceptual framework should bring NATO back to its former rhetoric of approaching Russia (and China) as a threat.

Apparently, the alliance would rather wave a final goodbye to the NATO–Russia Council by the time of the upcoming summit. This explains why they are trying to elicit a response from Moscow, which will definitely happen in the near future, likely to affect both Russia’s mission to NATO in Brussels and NATO’s Information Office in Moscow. It seems to be obvious that the only way an international organization can be effective is if this is indeed what all the parties want—in deeds rather than in words. If NATO has for whatever reason decided that it no longer needs the NATO–Russia Council, NATO should then be responsible for dismantling it.

However short-sighted and dangerous such a step on the part of NATO could be, this does not erase from the agenda the question of what the Euro-Atlantic security architecture would look like in the future. New challenges and threats continue to undermine the entire system of international security. Therefore, the feat of building a full-fledged and equal dialogue between Moscow and the West on a whole range of strategic stability issues is more relevant than ever. Under the current circumstances, such a dialogue being absent is fraught with risks that are too high for all the parties. These problems can surely be covered up and left to fester beneath the surface. For how long, though?

From our partner RIAC

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Iran in the SCO: a Forced “Look East” Strategy and an Alternative World Order

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On September 17, a package of several dozen documents was signed in Dushanbe at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The highlight of the meeting was the decision taken by the Heads of State Council of the SCO on launching the procedure of granting SCO membership to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Technically, this decision does not turn Tehran into a full-fledged SCO member, launching the accession process only. Granting full membership involves a number of agreements signed, which usually takes about two years. However, a proactive decision has de facto been made, and the Islamic Republic of Iran can already be considered a member of the Organization.

Moscow played a key role in granting SCO membership to Iran. It was after a telephone talk on August 11 with Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of Russia’s Security Council, that Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, announced that the political obstacles to Iran’s membership in the SCO had been removed so that Iran’s SCO membership could be finalized. Besides, throughout this year, Russia has repeatedly urged to endorse Iran’s bid for SCO membership.

Intrinsic Motivation

Endorsing Tehran’s bid for SCO membership was the first significant victory for the new ultra-conservative Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi’s foreign policy. One of the key tasks for the Islamic Republic’s new head of government is to demonstrate his own achievements as opposed to the failures of his predecessor, the reformist Hassan Rouhani. The latter has repeatedly advocated for expanding cooperation with the SCO; however, Tehran did not manage to join the Organization during his presidency.

One of the reasons for this was Rouhani’s team pursuing the Western vector of Iran’s foreign policy. The nuclear deal with the leading world powers, including the United States, as well as the subsequent prospects of large-scale investments from Europe, clearly exceeded what other international projects could offer. Therefore, other integration initiatives were temporarily set aside. While this looked rather reasonable at that point, the subsequent failure of this plan because of the inconsistencies in the U.S. foreign policy raised the burning issue of exploring the alternatives.

Yet, Hassan Rouhani never completely abandoned the non-Western vector. There have been at least two remarkable achievements here during his tenure. On May 17, 2018, the Eurasian Economic Union and Iran signed a provisional free trade zone agreement, which entered into force on October 27, 2019, for a period of three years. Then, late into Rouhani’s presidency, China and Iran signed a 25-year cooperation agreement on March 27, 2021, to comprehensively enhance the bilateral relations.

Ebrahim Raisi is largely trying to prove himself as polar opposite to Hassan Rouhani, whose recent years have been one of the most proving times for Iran’s economy. First and foremost, Ebrahim Raisi needs to live up to the confidence placed in him, while the new president’s decisive victory in June 2021 was overshadowed by the extreme political apathy demonstrated by large segments of the country’s population, resulting in a record low voter turnout in Iran’s history.

Domestically, the fight against COVID-19 is still serving this purpose. Lockdown restrictions are consistently lifted in Iran amid reports of high vaccination rates. This stands in sharp contrast with Rouhani’s administration, when the epidemic was only growing, with the authorities resorting to closures of businesses and public institutions as well as to movement restrictions, and with Tehran constantly having problems with vaccines import.

Iran’s accession into the SCO demonstrates another good start for Raisi—this time, in terms of foreign policy. This is especially important amid stalled negotiations on restoring the nuclear deal. Technically, reviving the JCPOA remains valuable for Tehran and Washington, which both sides confirm every now and then. However, trust between the parties is so low after Donald Trump’s demarche that the prospects for new agreements are increasingly elusive.

All the more so since Iran is demanding security guarantees from the U.S. so that the incident does not recur and that the new U.S. elections do not destroy any previous agreements. However, Washington cannot guarantee this due to the very nature of the American political system. At the same time, Joe Biden, in fearing domestic criticism, has not yet made any concessions that could give Tehran at least some confidence in the intentions of the U.S. president. Washington could well have announced its unilateral return to the JCPOA without the sanctions lifted. However, the White House did not do this, which means a U.S. delegation cannot sit at the negotiating table on the nuclear deal in Vienna, with the JCPOA dialogue with the U.S. held separately.

There are still chances for the JCPOA to be revived and the sanctions against Tehran to be lifted. Even if this is case, however, there is no quick positive outcome for Raisi—which is why the SCO membership has gained momentum for his image within the country. It is no coincidence that his participation in the SCO Summit in Dushanbe was the first international trip made by the Iranian president in the wake of the elections.

Looking East

At the turn of the 2010s, the demand for better relations with the West grew so strong in Iran that both the legislative and the executive were taken over by Westerners amid the struggle for power, with President Rouhani becoming the epitome of the process. This turn may seem paradoxical to the casual observer since the ideology of the Islamic Republic of Iran is anti-Western at its core. However, pro-Western forces were rather strong in Iran of the 1990s. President Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989–1997) was the first who cautiously spoke out for the normalization of relations with the United States and Europe to be then succeeded by Mohammad Khatami (1997–2005), an open advocate for dialogue.

Therefore, of the last four presidents in Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005–2013) was the only who proved a consistent opponent of the West. Hassan Rouhani seemed right for establishing the dialogue. The United States under Obama’s administration and the European countries seemed to have weighed all the possibilities in embarking on the path of normalizing the relations with Tehran. However, the Collective West found itself hostage to the twists and turns of the U.S. domestic policy.

Donald Trump’s hasty withdrawal from the JCPOA was carried out in spite of no violations of the deal’s terms on the Iranian side, the position of the UN Security Council, or the opinion of U.S. allies in Europe. This became a critical point for the Iran’s “pivot West.” The political elite of the Islamic Republic of Iran saw once again that treaties with the U.S. and assurances from the U.S. are not worth anything. However, this does not mean that the West has lost Iran forever. In theory, there might be a new chance in the long run—for the foreseeable future, this is out of the question, though.

For Iran, joining the SCO symbolizes a consolidation of its foreign policy’s Eastern dimension. Even a prospective return to the nuclear deal under Raisi will not change this trend. This may look like a victory for the “Look East” strategy promoted earlier on by Ahmadinejad as the basic tenet of his foreign policy. Moreover, it was right during his presidential term that Iran attained observer status with the SCO in 2005 and made two failed attempts to become a full member.

While this was a deliberate choice made by Iranian conservatives under President Ahmadinejad who sought to hinder relations with the West with their own hands, today’s Iran is taking such a step as a desperate measure. The West has closed off the path to normalization, doing so for no good reason, whose rationale would be shared by the majority of the players, but because one of them is in the grip of political instability domestically.

Reassessing the Image

The nuclear deal, coupled with the desire to cooperate with the outside world and the attempts to break the isolation, have borne some fruit for Iran. Iran’s image as a collective threat has consistently been blurred by Tehran’s efforts. The Islamic Republic is increasingly perceived as a rational actor on the international arena, if in pursuit of its specific goals.

Thus, Iran’s failed attempt to attain SCO membership was largely due to the fact that the Central Asian nations had been rather wary of Iranian Islamism and its proneness to ideological expansion. However, the following years have shown that Tehran is ready for constructive cooperation with secular forces. Realistic considerations increasingly prevail over Islamic motivation, while the expansionism is limited to certain regions in the Middle East. Moreover, Iran’s anti-terrorist aspirations tend to overlap with the vision of other countries. Iran’s fight against the Islamic State (ISIS, a terrorist group banned in Russia) and its meaningful interaction with Russia and Turkey in Syria are another important indicator.

Another obstacle to Iran’s membership in the SCO was its pronounced and unrelenting anti-Americanism, especially characteristic of Ahmadinejad’s years in power. China, remaining one of the key economic partners of the United States in the 2000s and 2010s, did not want the SCO to become a platform for anti-American rhetoric. Russia, too, had expectations to normalize relations with Washington at that time.

However, Tehran showed again that pragmatism, rather than ideology, is the highlight of its foreign policy, proving that Iran can even negotiate the nuclear deal with the “Great Satan”. The failure of the JCPOA framework should be attributed to the inconsistency of the United States rather than to the stance professed by Iran. Besides, anti-Americanism no longer seems to be an issue today. The relations between Moscow and Washington have progressively been degrading all this time, while China has turned from a stable partner of the U.S. into the main threat to it as a leading world power. In other words, Iranian anti-Americanism now looks much more acceptable to the founding members of the SCO than was the case 10 or 15 years ago.

Tehran’s general vector, pursuing an end to the isolation and aiming to legitimize the state around the world, has yielded certain results, and the SCO membership is one of them. At the same time, this was facilitated by the broader shifts in the international situation as much as by ideology having lesser sway in the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic.

An Alternative World Order

Iran’s accession into the SCO is taking place amidst the growing demand from the organization’s member states for new mechanisms of interaction. For a significant part of its history, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization looked like a showcase alternative to the Western order—today, in a number of dimensions, this “alternativeness” is not just an option but a need.

The most striking example is Afghanistan. In resolving security threats emanating from Afghanistan, including terrorism and drugs, the SCO member states have no one else to rely on, except for themselves, following the withdrawal of the U.S. forces. Against this background, Iran’s accession at this moment seems to be of significance, as an effective Afghan settlement seems hardly possible without Tehran.

Establishing alternative (to the Western) financial mechanisms and looking for new ways of handling economic activity is another challenge. And Iran’s example confirms the need for such an alternative. The U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, all other participants being against it, threatened the very existence of the Agreement. First of all, this happened due to the dominant influence of Washington on the global economy. Despite all attempts, Europe, China and Russia have failed to neutralize the consequences of U.S. secondary sanctions against Tehran.

At the same time, the sanctions policy has become a very popular instrument in international relations. Restrictions imposed by Western governments are becoming less and less predictable each year, since the internal political situation is the key factor. In the future, China, Russia and other countries may face similar pressure measures that are now used against Iran.

In this regard, Tehran is in the “vanguard”, exploring new pilot approaches. So far, circumventing sanctions has proved difficult and time-consuming, although there has been some progress in this area.

Finally, the key prospect for the SCO is its transformation into a dialogue platform for politically diverse states in order to agree on new approaches. The Organization’s extremely broad mandate allows it to tackle a huge range of issues and unlock the potential to coordinate efforts of different international actors.

In this vein, Iran turns out to be a unique test case for the entire structure. A country with a completely different worldview and specific goals will be forced to talk and negotiate on a regular basis with the largest states of the macro-region. From now on, Tehran as a full member cannot simply observe the course of meetings, it will have to adopt a position on the SCO agenda issues.

As far as the interest of Iran goes, the Organization is quite in line with its political objectives in the short term. Promoting trade ties is mostly based on bilateral agreements between the countries, while the role of the SCO as an economic driver is still at its early stage. This institution will primarily contribute to Tehran’s cooperation in the field of security and political rapprochement; however, closer economic cooperation may come as a by-product of this.

In any case, Iran’s membership in the SCO can be called an important stage in the SCO’s maturing into a solid international institution. Until now, the Organization has focused on combating terrorism, separatism and extremism, although its mandate allows it to tackle a much broader range of issues. The expansion of the membership increases the legitimacy of the SCO—but, at the same time, expectations from the organization as a global powerbroker are growing. To justify them, the SCO must take on greater responsibility, looking beyond security issues.

From our partner RIAC

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Defense

US military presence in the Middle East: The less the better

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It may not have been planned or coordinated but efforts by Middle Eastern states to dial down tensions serve as an example of what happens when big power interests coincide.

It also provides evidence of the potentially positive fallout of a lower US profile in the region.

Afghanistan, the United States’ chaotic withdrawal notwithstanding, could emerge as another example of the positive impact when global interests coincide. That is if the Taliban prove willing and capable of policing militant groups to ensure that they don’t strike beyond the Central Asian nation’s borders or at embassies and other foreign targets in the country.

Analysts credit the coming to office of US President Joe Biden with a focus on Asia rather than the Middle East and growing uncertainty about his commitment to the security of the Gulf for efforts to reduce tensions by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirate and Egypt on the one hand and on the other, Turkey, Iran, and Qatar. Those efforts resulted in the lifting, early this year, of the Saudi-UAE-Egyptian-led economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar.

Doubts about the United States’ commitment also played an important role in efforts to shore up or formalise alliances like the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel by the UAE and Bahrain.

For its part, Saudi Arabia has de facto acknowledged its ties with the Jewish state even if Riyadh is not about to formally establish relations. In a sign of the times, that did not stop then Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu from last year visiting the kingdom.

To be sure, changes in Washington’s priorities impact regional defence strategies and postures given that the United States has a significant military presence in the Middle East and serves as its sole security guarantor.

Yet, what rings alarm bells in Gulf capitals also sparks concerns in Beijing, which depends to a significant degree on the flow of its trade and energy from and through Middle Eastern waters, and Moscow with its own security concerns and geopolitical aspirations.

Little surprise that Russia and China, each in their own way and independent of the United States, over the last year echoed the United States’ message that the Middle East needs to get its act together.

Eager to change rather than reform the world order, Russia proposed an all-new regional security architecture modelled on the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) adding not only Russia but also China, India, and Europe to the mix.

China, determined to secure its proper place in the new world order rather than fundamentally altering it, sent smoke signals through its academics and analysts that conveyed a double-barrelled message. On the one hand, China suggested that the Middle East did not rank high on its agenda. In other words, the Middle East would have to act to climb Beijing’s totem pole.

For China, the Middle East is always on the very distant back burner of China’s strategic global strategies,” Niu Xinchun, director of Middle East Studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), China’s most prestigious think tank, told a webinar last year.

Prominent Chinese scholars Sun Degang and Wu Sike provided months later a carrot to accompany Mr. Niu’s stick. Taking the opposite tack, they argued that the Middle East was a “key region in big power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in a new era.”

Chinese characteristics, they said, would involve “seeking common ground while reserving differences,” a formula that implies conflict management rather than conflict resolution.

On that basis, the two scholars suggest, Chinese engagement in Middle Eastern security would seek to build an inclusive and shared regional collective security mechanism based on fairness, justice, multilateralism, comprehensive governance, and the containment of differences.

In the final analysis, Chinese and Russian signalling that there was an unspoken big power consensus likely reinforced American messaging and gave Middle Eastern states a further nudge to change course and demonstrate a willingness to control tensions and differences.

Implicit in the unspoken big power consensus was not only the need to dial down tensions but also the projection of a reduced, not an eliminated, US presence in the Middle East.

While there has been little real on-the-ground reduction of US forces, just talking about it seemingly opened pathways. It altered the US’ weighting in the equation.

“The U.S. has a habit of seeing itself as indispensable to regional stability around the world, when in fact its intervention can be very destabilizing because it becomes part of the local equation rather than sitting above it,” noted Raad Alkadiri, an international risk consultant.

While important, the United States’ willingness to get out of the way is no guarantee that talks will do anything more than at best avert conflicts spinning out of control.

Saudi and Iranian leaders and officials have sought to put a positive spin on several rounds of direct and indirect talks between the two rivals.

Yet, more important than the talk of progress, expressions of willingness to bury hatchets, and toning down of rhetoric is Saudi King Salman’s insistence in remarks last month to the United Nations General Assembly on the need to build trust.

The monarch suggested that could be achieved by Iran ceasing “all types of support” for armed groups in the region, including the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and pro-Iranian militias in Iraq.

The potential monkey wrench is not just the improbability of Iran making meaningful concessions to improve relations but also the fact that the chances are fading for a revival of the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program.

“We have to prepare for a world where Iran doesn’t have constraints on its nuclear program and we have to consider options for dealing with that. This is what we are doing while we hope they do go back to the deal,” said US negotiator Rob Malley.

Already, Israeli politicians, unhappy with the original nuclear deal and the Biden administration’s effort to revive it, are taking a more alarmist view than may be prevalent in their intelligence services.

In Washington this week, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan that Iran was “becoming a nuclear threshold state.” Back home Yossi Cohen, a close confidante of Mr. Netanyahu, who stepped down in June as head of the Mossad, asserted at the same time that Iran was “no closer than before” to obtaining a nuclear weapon.

There is no doubt, however that both men agree that Israel retains the option of a military strike against Iran. “Israel reserves the right to act at any moment in any way,” Mr. Lapid told his American interlocutors as they sought to resolve differences of how to deal with Iran if a revival of the agreement proves elusive.

Meanwhile, a foreplay of the fallout of a potential failure to put a nuclear deal in place is playing out on multiple fronts. Tension have been rising along the border between Iran and Azerbaijan.

Iran sees closer Azerbaijani-Israeli relations as part of an effort to encircle it and fears that the Caucasian state would be a staging ground for Israeli operations against the Islamic republic. Iran and Azerbaijan agreed this week to hold talks to reduce the friction.

At the same time, Iran, Turkey and Israel have been engaged in a shadow boxing match in predominantly Kurdish northern Iraq while a poll showed half of Israeli Jews believe that attacking Iran early on rather than negotiating a deal would have been a better approach.

Taken together, these factors cast a shadow over optimism that the Middle East is pulling back from the brink. They suggest that coordinated big power leadership is what could make the difference as the Middle East balances between forging a path towards stability and waging a continuous covert war and potentially an overt one.

A Johns Hopkins University Iran research program suggested that a US return to the nuclear deal may be the catalyst for cooperation with Europe, China, and Russia.

“Should the United States refuse to re-join the agreement following sufficient attempts by Iran to demonstrate flexibility in their negotiating posture, Russia and China will ramp up their economic and security cooperation with Iran in a manner fundamentally opposed to US interests,” the program warned.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh announced this week that Russia and Iran were finalizing a ‘Global Agreement for Cooperation between Iran and Russia’ along the lines of a  similar 25-year agreement between China and the Islamic republic last year that has yet to get legs.

Even so, Iran scored an important victory when the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in which China and Russia loom large last month agreed to process Iran’s application for membership.

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