On Wednesday, February 21st, the UK’s Minister of Defence, Conservative Gavin Williamson, announced that the United Kingdom is changing its fundamental defence strategy from one that’s targeted against non-state terrorists (Al Qaeda, etc.), to one that’s targeted instead against three countries: Russia, China, and North Korea. He acknowledged that a massive increase in military spending will be needed for this, and that “savings” will have to be found in other areas of Government-spending, such as the health services, and in military spending against terrorism.
The headline in the London Times on February 22nd was “Russia ‘is a bigger threat to our security than terrorists’”. Their Defence Editor, Deborah Haynes. reported:
The threat to Britain from states such as Russia and North Korea is greater than that posed by terrorism, the defence secretary said yesterday, marking a significant shift in security policy.
Gavin Williamson suggested to MPs that more money and a change in the structure of the armed forces would be needed as part of a defence review to meet the challenge of a state-on-state conflict, something that Britain has not had to consider for a generation. …
It is a departure from the national security strategy published in 2015, which listed international terrorism first, and chimes with a decision by the United States last month to declare “strategic competition” from countries such as China and Russia as its top focus instead of counterterrorism. …
He described the Kremlin’s “increased assertiveness”, such as a ten-fold increase in submarine activity in the North Atlantic, a growing Russian presence in the Mediterranean region and their involvement in the war in Syria. “But then you are seeing new nations that are starting to play a greater role in the world, such as China. …
Asked whether Mr Williamson accepted that this would have a knock-on effect for how Britain’s military was structured and its readiness for war, “Yes it does,” Mr Williamson replied.
Just as happened when UK’s Prime Minister Tony Blair made his country the U.S. President George W. Bush’s lap-dog in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May makes her country U.S. President Donald Trump’s lap-dog now in the invasions to come, of North Korea, Russia, and China.
The press in the U.S. and its allied countries (such as UK) might have a difficult time persuading their populations that expanding military expenditures in order to conquer Russia, China, North Korea, and — as U.S. President Trump wants also to include — Iran (but he’ll probably use America’s ally Israel for that part of the operation), could be difficult, because, for example, on the same day, February 22nd, Gallup reported that by a margin of 59% to 37%, Americans disapprove of Trump on the issue of “Relations with Russia,” and back on 23 March 2017, Public Integrity headlined “The public favors cutting defense spending, not adding billions more, new survey finds” and reported:
President Trump’s proposed budget for 2018 isn’t following public sentiment, a new survey finds.
The survey, by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC), found that while Trump has proposed a $54 billion boost to federal spending for the military, a majority of Americans prefer a cut of $41 billion. While Trump has proposed a $2.8 billion increase for homeland security, a majority of Americans favor a $2 billion cut. …
Trump’s proposals were at odds with the preferences of both Republicans and Democrats. …
A majority of GOP respondents said they wished to keep the so-called “base” or main defense budget at the current level, although they favored cutting $5 billion in spending from a budget for “overseas contingency operations,” specifically in Afghanistan and Iraq. …
Those results, in turn, were strikingly similar to the conclusions of a 2012 survey by the Center for Public Integrity, PPC, and the Stimson Center, a nonprofit policy study group in Washington, D.C. When respondents were asked in that survey what they would do with Obama’s base defense budget, the majority favored cutting it by at least $65 billion, from $562 billion down to $497 billion. …
The situation is likely to be even more difficult in UK, where according to Gallup’s polling in 2017, as reported in their “Rating World Leaders: 2018”, residents in UK who were asked “Do you approve or disapprove of the job performance of the leadership of the United States?” answered 63% “Disapprove,” and 33% “Approve,” and the net approval (-30%) had declined 26% from the prior President Obama’s rating (-4%), in 2016.
Consequently, in order for the leaders to do this, there will need to be a total divorce from even the claim of being ‘democracies’, because, on such a momentous decision as to whether or not there should be a Third World War (and if so, whether Iran should be a target in it), going against the overwhelming public opinion wouldn’t be possible except in what is effectively a dictatorship (such as the U.S. has been scientifically proven to be). So: actually achieving this will be a stretch, but at least in the United States — a proven dictatorship — it’s possible.
Whereas the press, both in the U.S. and UK, willingly pumped the lies of the Government, that according to the IAEA Saddam Hussein was only six months away from having nuclear weapons, they might not do it this time against actual nuclearly armed nations, because there probably aren’t yet, and won’t soon be, enough billionaires’ bunkers deep underground — such as here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here — to protect them from even the nuclear blasts, much less anything at all to protect anyone at all from the resulting nuclear winter and global famine. So, perhaps, greed will finally meet its limit: sheer self-preservation. It’s one thing when a foreign country, such as Iraq — or Libya, or Syria, or Yemen — is destroyed, but quite another matter when the world itself will be. The degree of insanity that the military-industrial complex is now assuming to exist amongst the general public, might simply not be there, at all. Finally, Western governments’ weapons-manufacturing firms might need to face the steep declines in their stock-values that all of them so richly deserve, and that’s been held off already for decades too long — since at least 1991, when the Soviet Union and its communism and its Warsaw Pact military alliance all ended, and all that’s left available as bogeymen who must be killed in order to ‘save the world’, is: Russia, China, North Korea — and maybe (if the Sauds and Israel are to have their way), Iran.
It’s not yet clear just when — if ever — the ‘democratic’ countries in The West (the U.S. and its allies, the billionaires there) will reach the limit of their imperial greed. But if the world is their limit, then there is no limit at all, because the world itself will end, before this limit is reached. And, now, it’s not only Donald Trump who is leading the way there, but Theresa May has joined his luxurious march, toward global oblivion.
first published at strategic-culture.org
Time to Tackle the Stigma Behind Wartime Rape
The youngest capital city in Europe, Pristina, is the ultimate hybrid of old and new: Ottoman-era architecture stands amongst communist paraphernalia, while Kosovars who lived through the bloodshed of the 20th century share family dinners with a generation of young people with their sights set on EU accession.
This month, the capital’s Kosovo Museum welcomed a new force for change; Colours of Our Soul, an exhibition of artwork from women who survived the sexual violence of the Yugoslav Wars, showcases the world as these women “wished it to be.”
Colours of Our Soul isn’t the first art installation to shine a light on the brutal sexual violence thousands of Kosovar victims suffered throughout the turmoil of the conflict which raged from 1988 to 1999. In 2015, Kosovo-born conceptual artist Alketa Xhafa-Mripa transformed a local football pitch into a giant installation, draping 5,000 dresses over washing lines to commemorate survivors of sexual violence whose voices otherwise tend to go unheard. “I started questioning the silence, how we could not hear their voices during and after the war and thought about how to portray the women in contemporary art,” said Xhafa-Mripa at the time.
Victims, and their children, pressed into silence
The silence Xhafa-Mripa speaks of is the very real social stigma faced by survivors of sexual violence in the wake of brutal conflict. “I would go to communities, but everyone would say, ‘Nobody was raped here – why are you talking about it?’”, remarked Feride Rushiti, founder of the Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (KRCT).
Today, KRCT has more than 400 clients— barely a scratch on the surface given that rape was used in Kosovo as an “instrument of war” as recently as two decades ago. Some 20,000 women and girls are thought to have been assaulted during the bloody conflict; the fact that the artists whose work is featured in the Colours of our Soul exhibition did not sign their work or openly attend the installation’s grand opening is a sign of how pervasive the stigma is which haunts Kosovar society to this day.
As acute as this stigma is for the women who were assaulted, it is far worse for the children born from rape, who have thus far been excluded from reparation measures and instead dismissed as “the enemy’s children.” In 2014, the Kosovar parliament passed a law recognising the victim status of survivors, entitling them to a pension of up to 220 euros per month. Their children, however, many of whom were murdered or abandoned in the face of community pressure, are barely acknowledged in Kosovar society and have become a generation of young adults who have inherited the bulk of their country’s dark burden.
A global problem
It’s a brutal stigma which affects children born of wartime rape all over the world. The Lai Dai Han, born to Vietnamese mothers raped by South Korean soldiers, have struggled for years to find acceptance in the face of a society that views them as dirty reminders of a war it would rather forget. The South Korean government has yet to heed any calls for formal recognition of sexual violence at the hands of Korean troops, let alone issue a public— and long-awaited— apology to the Lai Dai Han or their mothers.
In many cases, as in the case of Bangladesh’s struggle for independence, the very existence of children born from rape has often been used as a brutal weapon by government forces and militants alike. Official estimates indicate that a mammoth 200,000 to 400,000 women were raped by the Pakistani military and the supporting Bihari, Bengali Razakar and al-Badr militias in the early 1970s. The children fathered, at gunpoint, by Pakistani men were intended to help eliminate Bengali nationhood.
Their surviving mothers are now known as “Birangana”, or “brave female soldier,” though the accolade means little in the face of a lifetime of ostracization and alienation. “I was married when the soldiers took me to their tents to rape me for several days and would drop me back home. This happened several times,” one so-called Birangana explained, “So, my husband left me with my son and we just managed to exist.”
No end in sight
Unfortunately, this barbaric tactic of rape and forced impregnation is one that is still being used in genocides to this day. The subjugation of the Rohingya people, for example, which culminated in a murderous crackdown last year by Myanmar’s military, means an estimated 48,000 women will give birth in refugee camps this year alone. Barring a major societal shift, the children they bear will suffer ostracization similar to that seen in Kosovo, Vietnam and Bangladesh.
Initiatives like the Colours of Our Soul installation in Pristina are not only central in helping wartime rape survivors to heal, but also play a vital role in cutting through the destructive stigma for violated women and their children. Even so, if the number of women who submitted their paintings anonymously is anything to go by, true rehabilitation is a long way ahead.
EU–South Africa Summit: Strengthening the strategic partnership
At the 7th European Union–South Africa Summit held in Brussels Leaders agreed on a number of steps to reinforce bilateral and regional relations, focusing on the implementation of the EU-South Africa Strategic Partnership. This includes economic and trade cooperation and pursuing the improvement of business climate and opportunities for investment and job creation which are of mutual interest.
Leaders also discussed common global challenges, such as climate change, migration, human rights, committing to pursue close cooperation both at bilateral level and on the global stage. A number of foreign and security policy issues, including building and consolidating peace, security and democracy in the African continent and at multilateral level were also raised. Leaders finally committed to work towards a prompt resolution of trade impediments affecting smooth trade flows.
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, represented the European Union at the Summit. South Africa was represented by its President, Cyril Ramaphosa. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen and Commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmström also participated, alongside several Ministers from South Africa.
President Juncker said: “The European Union, for the South African nation, is a very important trade partner. We are convinced that as a result of today’s meeting we will find a common understanding on the open trade issues. South Africa and Africa are very important partners for the European Union when it comes to climate change, when it comes to multilateralism. It is in the interest of the two parties – South Africa and the European Union – to invest more. It will be done.” A Joint Summit Statement issued by the Leaders outlines amongst others commitment to:
Advance multilateralism and rules based governance
Leaders recommitted to work together to support multilateralism, democracy and the rules-based global order, in particular at the United Nations and global trade fora. South Africa’s upcoming term as an elected member of the United Nations Security Council in 2019-2020 was recognised as an opportunity to enhance cooperation on peace and security. As part of their commitment to stronger global governance, Leaders stressed their support to the process of UN reform, including efforts on the comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council and the revitalisation of the work of the General Assembly. Leaders reiterated their determination to promote free, fair and inclusive trade and the rules-based multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organisation at its core and serving the interest of all its Members.
Leaders agreed to step up collaboration in key areas such as climate change, natural resources, science and technology, research and innovation, employment, education and training including digital skills, health, energy, macro-economic policies, human rights and peace and security. The EU and South Africa will, amongst others, explore the opportunities provided by the External Investment Plan. Linked to this, Leaders committed to exploring opportunities for investment, technical assistance including project preparation, and the improvement of business and investment climates to promote sustainable development. Leaders welcomed the conclusion and provisional implementation in 2016 of the EU-Southern African Development Community (SADC) – Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
Leaders also committed to find mutually acceptable solutions to impediments to trade in agriculture, agri-food and manufactured goods. They agreed to work towards a prompt resolution of these impediments.
Leaders welcomed the new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs put forward by the European Commission. They exchanged views on foreign and security policy issues, addressed a number of pressing situations in the neighbourhoods of both the EU and South Africa, and welcomed each other’s contribution to fostering peace and security in their respective regions. Leaders agreed to explore opportunities to enhance cooperation on peace and security, conflict prevention and mediation.
Leaders confirmed common resolve to reform the future relationship between the EU and the countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. To this end they are looking forward to the successful conclusion of negotiations for a post-Cotonou Partnership Agreement, that will contribute to attaining the goals of both the United Nations 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the long-term vision for African continent – Agenda 2063.
Macron so far has augmented French isolation
French President Emmanuel Macron has recently criticized the unilateral pullout of the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) but at the same time expressed pleasure that Washington has allowed France and the other JCPOA signatories to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.
In an exclusive interview with the CNN, Macron said that he has “a very direct relationship” with Trump. “Trump is a person who has tried to fulfill his electoral promises, as I also try to fulfill my promises, and I respect the action that Trump made in this regard. But I think we can follow things better, due to our personal relationship and talks. For instance, Trump has decided to withdraw from the Iran pact, but at the end, he showed respect for the signatories’ decision to remain in the JCPOA.”
There are some key points in Macron’s remarks:
First, in 2017, the French were the first of the European signatories to try to change the JCPOA. They tried to force Iran to accept the following conditions: Inspection of military sites, application of the overtime limitation on nuclear activities, limiting regional activities, including missile capabilities within the framework of the JCPOA.
Macron had already made commitments to President Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to push Iran to accept the additional protocols to the deal, and he pushed to make it happen before Trump left the JCPOA.
Second, after the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, although France expressed regret, they had secret negotiations with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the JCPOA.
The result of the undisclosed talks was deliberate delay on the part of the European authorities in providing a final package to keep the Iran deal alive. In other words, after the US unilaterally left the JCPOA, the French have been sloppy and maybe somewhat insincere about making the practical moves to ensure it would be saved.
Third, France has emphasized the need to strengthen their multilateralism in the international system and has become one of the pieces of the puzzle that completes the strategic posture of the Trump Administration in the West Asia region.
Obviously, French double standards have irritated European politicians, many of whom have disagreed with the contradictory games of French authorities towards the US and issues of multilateralism in the international community. Also, France’s isolation and its strategic leverage in the political arena has grown since the days of Sarkozy and Hollande. Some analysts thought that Macron and fresh policies would stop this trend, but it has not occurred.
First published in our partner MNA
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