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Britain Officially Prepares Now for War Against Russia

Eric Zuesse

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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

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Europe

Did the Far-right Really Win the Sweden’s Elections?

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General elections were held in Sweden on Sunday 9 September 2018, to elect the 349 members of the Sweden Parliament (Riksdag). They in turn will elect the Prime Minister of Sweden. Regional and municipal elections were also held on the same day.

Sweden has been facing a political impasse after its mainstream center-left and center-right blocs virtually tied in an election on Sunday, while the far right — which neither wants to deal with — made gains on a hardline anti-immigration platform.

With nearly all votes counted on Monday, the ruling center-left Social Democrats and Greens and their Left Party parliamentary ally had 40.6 per cent of the vote, while the opposition center-right Alliance had 40.3 per cent. The Sweden Democrats, with roots in a neo-Nazi movement, won about 18 per cent, up from the 13 per cent gained four years earlier.

Under such circumstances, forming a coalition government is rather difficult in Sweden, with the country’s two traditional parties attempting to hold negotiations just to curb the Far-right extremists. Nevertheless there’s a very important point regarding the recent elections that should be taken into consideration:

Sweden Democrats, a right-wing political party in Sweden, which was founded in 1988, is described as right-wing populist, and anti-immigration. Jimmie Åkesson has been party leader since 2005. This party received increased support in the 2014 Swedish general election, when it polled 12.9% and secured 49 seats in parliament, becoming the third largest party in Sweden. But the the Sweden Democrats have remained isolated in the Riksdag because the other parties staunchly maintain a policy of refusing cooperation with them.

That is the reason why the Democratic Party, and Jimmie Åkesson’s strong presence at top of the political and executive equations in Stockholm are ruled out. The improvement in the vote of the democrats in the Swedish general election has been interpreted differently by various sources. Some analysts believe that Swedish extremists had a great success in the recent elections. However, some argue that the real story of Sweden’s election is not, as the prevailing narrative has it, the irresistible onward March of Europe’s far right.

The fact is that the far-right activists failed in Sweden’s general election: They failed to achieve their goal of gaining 25 to 30 percent of the general vote. True, the Swedish Democratic Party is still there as the third most powerful Swedish party in the recent election, but this is not exactly what while Jimmie Åkesson was after; to become the most powerful party in the country with winning the majority of the whole vote.

Though people like Jean-Marie Le Pen, the right-wing extremists’ leader in France, speak of the Swedish Democrats’ victory, the truth is something else!

Interestingly, surveys conducted before the Swedish general election indicate that Jimmie Åkesson and his entourage would be able to win at least 25% of the vote. But recent results suggest that some of the people who were supposed to vote for the Democratic Party in Sweden, had eventually decided to vote for the traditional parties.

In this way, at least until 2022, Sweden is rescued from a serious crisis called “right-extremism dominance over Stockholm”. If Axon and his associates come to power in Sweden, we will see the destruction of the multicultural society of Sweden on the one hand and the creation of some fundamental changes in the structure of the “welfare state” in this country on the other hand. And it should be noted that the development of populist policies in the welfare state will definitely lead to the elimination of the achievements that the Swedes have been struggling to deploy at the welfare and economic levels of society for decades.

First published in our partner Tehran Times

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Europe’s hollow threats

Mohammad Ghaderi

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Although there has recently been lots of controversies on issues such as developing an “independent payment system” Europe and a “pseudo-swift structure” to maintain the nuclear deal with Iran, many analysts and experts in economic affairs believe that there’s no real intention to actualize this idea among the EU authorities.

In the meantime, there are deterrent factors that have hampered European independence from the United States, and it seems that these factors are now highlighted under the presidency of Donald Trump.

The fact is that European politicians, and especially the current generation of European rulers act as the main barrier in this way. While some left-wing and Social-Democrats are about to put the idea into practice, some politicians such as the  German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and the British Prime Minister Theresa May are opposed to this idea.

They were committed to maintaining Europe’s economic and security dependence on Washington. However, the key question is whether the European countries will succeed on this path or not? Is there really a will to develop an independent payment system from the United States in Europe? The answer to this question is negative!

One of the most important prerequisites for the formation of an “independent payment system in Europe” is the consensus of the right-wing and left-wing parties on this issue. However, the European officials don’t seem to have such intention. On the contrary, they have become major obstacles to realizing this goal themselves.

It’s interesting that such a fact has been taken into consideration by many Western sources. For example, Foreign Policy writes in this regard:

“What’s different today is that the US is imposing sanctions contrary to the foreign policies not just of Russia and China, which have long chafed against the sanctions tool, but against the fundamental foreign policy of our closest allies in Europe and elsewhere,” Smith said. “That is what has brought us to this situation.”

It continues; “with their access to the US financial system hanging in the balance, European banks know that, in the end, the EU must satisfy Trump’s demands to fix the deal or be prepared to fully comply when US sanctions return.”

Recently, the Chancellor of Germany has announced her opposition to the creation of an independent payment system in Europe (to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). Angela Merkel believes that the US-EU security relationship is a priority and this should be considered in all the EU calculations! In other words, the German Chancellor has actually preferred “to play on the US ground”, and this she considers above all other options including “Europe’s financial independence from the United States.”

Theresa May, the British prime minister, has exactly the same opinion. She believes that, instead of confronting Trump’s financial and economic policies, and even its illegal measures such as the White House’s withdrawal from then nuclear deal, Europe should think about holding negotiations and interactions with Washington!

As for the French President Emmanuel Macron, his policies suggest that he has a strong desire to interact with United States under any conditions! In 2017 and during the joint-American-European Project on changing the JCPOA, he played an extremely important and highlighted role, though Trump had eventually pulled out of the nuclear deal.

Finally, it should be noted that the main obstacle to “Europe’s independence from the United States” are the European authorities. As long as the current generation of European politicians are in office, such independence (in terms of security and finance) won’t be actualized. When it comes to Iran sanctions, the EU seeks to satisfy Trump’s demands, and this a rule which is not going to change.

First published in our partner MNA

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Balkan Borders and Russia’s Interests

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The idea of concluding an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on the territorial delimitation between Serbs and Albanians, voiced by the president of self-proclaimed independent Kosovo, Hashim Thaci and supported by Serbian President Aleksandr Vučić, may be on the negotiating table in Brussels in early September 2018. Both presidents are to meet in the Belgian capital to resume the dialogue on the normalization of bilateral relations under the auspices of the European Union.

In the interpretation of Hashim Tachi, this involves “correcting the Kosovo-Serb border” with the annexation of three adjacent Southern Serbian regions in Presevo Valley with predominantly Albanian population to Kosovo. If such an agreement is reached at the level of the leaders of Belgrade and Pristina “nobody will be able to interfere with its implementation – neither the EU, nor NATO, nor the United States”, the Kosovo president emphasized. Hashim Thaci even suggested holding a referendum in the relevant areas to resolve territorial issues, the decisions of which will have binding international legal force.

For his part, the head of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, refusing to speak on the status of the Presevo Valley, supported the idea of dividing Kosovo into Serbian and Albanian parts, stressing that otherwise in the next few decades, the Serbs will have to restrain Albanians already in cities outside Kosovo: “Do not want a differentiation with the Albanians? No problem, just tell people that we should be  ready to protect Vranje in 40 years if you do not see that our people are being evicted from there today.” “I stand for it and I do not hide it. I act and represent it as my policy, whether it will get the support of the people or not, but I stand for differentiation with the Albanians“? he said.

Addressing his opponents inside Serbia who see in the Kosovo division the act of national betrayal and the waiver of the “cradle of Serbian statehood,” Aleksandar Vučić accused them of unwillingness to really solve the Kosovo problem and even trying to use the Kosovo problem  for “overthrowing power in Serbia”: “They want to feel safe today, but what will happen tomorrow? It does not bother them.” I will not “wash my hands” like Pontius Pilate, but I will go out to the people with my draft resolution of settling the Kosovo problem” – promised Aleksandar Vučić, stressing that  until now he had no opportunity to negotiate directly with the Albanians themselves.

The possible achievement of a “package  agreement” between Belgrade and Pristina on the normalization of bilateral relations and the resolution of territorial issues is of growing interest in the Republika Srpska, which is part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to its President Milorad Dodik, if Kosovo is accepted to the UN and other international institutions with the consent of Serbia and its other opponents, the Republika Srpska will also seek accession to these structures.

The leader of the Bosnian Serbs stressed that the Kosovo problem cannot be solved separately from the Republika Srpska issue and recalled the resolution adopted by the parliament at Banja Luka in 2008. It said that in view of “establishing a new principle and international practice of recognizing the right to self-determination”, this state-forming entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina will seek for itself the status of the state.

Unlike the Balkan leaders, the European Union was seriously worried about the possible achievement of territorial compromises between Belgrade and Pristina and their possible extrapolation to other “disputed” areas of the Balkans. “Europeans are alarmed by the discussions about the borders between Serbia and Kosovo” as the territories exchange is “a risky bet in the Balkans”, – the Paris Le Monde  newspaper points out. It quotes the opinion of one of the leading EU diplomats who dealt with the settlement of interethnic conflicts, including in the Balkans and the former Soviet Union, Pierre Morel. “This is a great danger for the whole region” – the diplomat said, referring to the potential “escalation of movements for the renewal of borders on ethnic principles”. Such escalation can “infect” countries such as Macedonia, Montenegro or Bosnia and Herzegovina, where “many national minorities are struggling to coexist” – Le Monde points out.

Particular attention in this regard should be paid to Macedonia, taking into account the additional “risk factors” relative to this former Yugoslav republic. Among them is the threat of new internal political turmoil in the conditions of the refusal of a significant part of society (led by the president) to support an intergovernmental agreement with Greece on changing the name of the state.

As for the Albanian factor, the starting point for the “institutionalization” of Albanians’ demands was the 2001 Ohrid Peace Agreement. The rights of the Albanian minority proclaimed in this agreement actually turned Macedonia into a confederation. In particular, we are talking about such provisions as “unlimited use of the Albanian language as a service language in Macedonia” and “the introduction of consensus democracy in areas of activity that relate to ethnic rights.”

It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the very existence of Macedonia as a single state under the circumstances is primarily dependent on the “goodwill” of  the Albanian minority, which, according to various estimates, is between a quarter and one-third of the total population of the country.

Neither should we disregard the factor of NATO. In this relation, it should be recalled that the conclusion of the Ohrid Peace Agreement between the Government of Macedonia and the leaders of local Albanians was preceded by the signing of the so-called “Framework Agreement” between Macedonia and the North Atlantic Alliance. The amendments to the country’s constitution and other changes to the national legislation documented in this document were declared “an agreed framework for the future democracy in Macedonia”.

Such a consolidation of  dramatic changes in the legislation (concerning the very foundations of the national-state system) through an agreement with NATO was unprecedented even by Balkan measures but did not lead to a significant stabilization of the situation in Macedonia. It is no accident that experts from the International Crisis Group stated in 2006 that “the practical and political challenges facing the country still do not allow us to call it a stable post-conflict democracy.”

There can be no doubt that the leaders of the Macedonian Albanians will try to make maximum use of the Belgrade-Pristina agreements on territorial issues for their own purposes – despite the current opposition from the European Union.

The fact is that, according to available data, the idea of territorial “exchanges” between Belgrade and Pristina has recently received secret impulses from the United States. In reaching the relevant agreement Donald Trump’s administration saw a simple and convenient means of normalizing the situation in the Balkans and at the same time increasing its own rating in the eyes of both Serbs and Albanians, and “detachment” of Serbia from Russia. The Kosovo problem was actively discussed during the recent visit to Washington of the Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic. There she held meetings, including with US congressmen. “Washington, which has long opposed to any change in borders and has supported Kosovo since the 1999 war, seems to have also softened its position after Donald Trump came to power. Softened it to the extent that many European diplomats are now alarmed, what if the United States has managed to agree on a similar decision with Russia, which historically supports Serbia,” – worries Le Monde.

Under the current conditions, it can be predicted that all those interested in the new redrawing of the Balkan borders will try to take advantage of the contradictions between Brussels and Washington in their own interests in order to ensure for themselves the maximum advantages of both territorial and financial  nature. This, in turn, requires Russia to be more attentive to the Balkan processes that can become a catalyst for the corresponding “shifts” including in the post-Soviet space in the spirit of the well-known concept of Realpolitik.

At the same time, one should take into account the fact that many negotiators themselves are not at all inclined to expand their format and, in particular, to involve Russia as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Thus, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic rejects the possibility of Russia joining the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, stressing that the format of such negotiations will remain “as it is” and its expansion will not happen: “There are no such plans“.

However,  this does not prevent the leaders of Serbia from specifically discussing the above issues with the United States. Thus, in order not to “lose” the Balkans, Russian diplomacy should be more “proactive” and put forward their own initiatives that meet both its own interests and the interests of current and potential  partners in the Balkan region and beyond.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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