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Seymour Hersh – Nord Stream: “It’s one of the dumbest things the American government has done in years”

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Reporter Seymour Hersh (photo) on Democracy Now. An emission “How America Took Out the Nord Stream Pipeline” with his big revelations:

– I’m just writing about inside baseball stuff. It’s the normal things you do. They set up in (White House) a committee to think of options. Russia was clearly going to go. The threat the president had yet to make had not been made, and this is December, before New Year’s Day, of the year before, 2021. And the question inside the committee, and it included the usual — CIA, NSA, Treasury Department, State Department, you name it — and they met in a secret office building in the — across the street from the White House in the Executive Office Building. The option was: ‘Do you want us to do something kinetic or something not kinetic?’ In other words, not kinetic would be more sanctions, and something kinetic would be, you know, taking out the pipeline, as had been thought about.

– A lot of sophisticated people in the intelligence and operation community concluded you could do it, and the White House was told ‘it was possible’. None of the rules of reporting to Congress involved are involved — were involved.

– And so they began their planning. They went to Norway, which is a great ally of ours. Norway was one of the original signers of the 1949 NATO treaty. I think 19 nations were involved then. And Norway is a great ally. We have spent — I write about this in some detail in the article — hundreds of millions, probably more, closer to a billion or more, upgrading facilities. Norway has a 1,400-mile border along the Atlantic coast that goes from Oslo, in Europe, all the way up north into — it runs into the Russian border above the Arctic Circle. So, we do — we put a lot of facilities up north there — synthetic-aperture radar, which costs a fortune, to monitor the Russian nuclear sites around and also their military activities around there, up in the other side of the peninsula, the Kola Peninsula. So, they’re just our guys. And they’re also great at doing underwater stuff. And so, that’s what happened. We did a plan with them.

– And the miners came from a little town in Florida. And the mining community in the Navy is very secret, and they just do their business. They don’t talk. That was perfect people to get. And they practiced it. And as you said, there was a major exercise every summer by the 6th Fleet, which — the Americas 6th Fleet out of Italy, which controls — also has the operational rights in the Baltic Sea. Baltic Sea is a huge place.

– The pipelines we’re talking about, Nord Stream 1, which came alive in 2011, and Nord Stream 2 was actually done, but the Germans, that are ready to pump pump, has 750 miles. And they go straight from Russia, which is loaded with all kinds of gas — in Siberia, they have enormous reserves — directly into Germany.

– And I can tell you, Nord Stream 1 was a godsend for the German economy and Western Europe. They produce so much gas at such low prices that the German government was actually able to resell some of the gas the Russians were providing at a profit, without Russia objecting. And so, the German economy is huge. It’s booming. You know, the cars, we know about. Germany has the largest chemical company in the world, BASF. And everybody is — right now it’s hell to pay. It’s gotten very cold there. There’s a lot of anger.

– Anyway, what happened is, there was an exercise in June, and it was supposed to — the bombs were put in there under the cover of a NATO exercise. There were a lot of different countries running around with divers and blowing up things. It was an exercise to go find and chase mines. There never had been one before. It actually was — whoever in the CIA or in the other agencies that thought this up should get a bow, because it was pretty ingenious. So, in that exercise, the divers went down, did what they were trained to do. They’re very good. C4, a couple hundred — whatever the weight is — bombs enough to blow up most cities, most buildings in Washington, and maybe some in New York. Anyway, they did their job.

– But the president, at the last minute, hesitated, because he was afraid blowing it up right after the exercise would put the finger at us. And then he wanted permission to do it anytime, and that caused an enormous trouble in the team. The team was — you know, people are sophisticated in the intelligence services.

– I know we have clichés about them. We see the movies about them. And the bottom line is, this made sense to them, blowing up a pipeline. Blowing up a pipeline owned by — it’s actually owned by a division of — Gazprom owns 51%. 49 percent of the Nord Stream 1 are owned by four business groups in the Western Europe who farm out the oil. Anyway, they saw the threat as being valid. And if you wanted to do it during an exercise, well, OK.

– But in September, late September, they got the word… So, when he did that, here’s what Biden did. And this is what I think the ultimate point of the story, why so many people, even the intelligence community, are very troubled by it. What he did is he said, “I’m in a big war with Ukraine. It’s not looking good. I want to be sure I get German and West European support. And I know winter is coming, and if it’s going to be bad, I don’t want the Germans to say, ’We’ve got to check out, because we’re getting massacred. We’ll be massacred with no cheap fuel, and our economy will go bonkers. We’re going to check out, and we’re going to open up the gas line,’” which they could do. So he took away that option.

– The fear was Europe would pass away, walk away from the war. Now what he’s done — and you have to lift it up a little bit. There you go. There. Now what he’s done is he’s told Europe, “You’re second rate.” And I think the consequences of this for the Europeans are going to be horrific. They really — this has cut into the notion that they can depend totally on America, even in a crisis. And I think it’s going to undercut NATO, which I always found to be supremely useless, but certainly that European countries are going to be — I know people that are paying five times as much now for electricity. People are paying three or four times more for gas. It’s very expensive.

– And anyway, I think the consequences politically for us are enormous. I think the reason that Biden and his people in the White House have denied the story and continue to deny it, and yet accepted by some of the press — my old newspaper, ‘The New York Times’, I don’t know why they’re not doing more reporting on this, instead of relying on a denial and walking away from the story. Ditto for ‘The Washington Post’. I think the consequences politically for us in the long run, looking at even potential some countries walking out of NATO.

– I think the point I’m making is I’m still going to do more reporting on this, because there’s still things I need to write about later. I think that this has probably been, in the view of some of the people who did it, one of the dumbest things the American government has done in years.

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TIME: Will China create a better world?

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China is everywhere in global politics. China is “ubiquitous,” a retired Senior Colonel Zhou Bo of China’s PLA told in a conversation with TIME magazine. On March 10, in an agreement brokered by Beijing, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to normalize relations, after seven years of bitter rivalry in a deal that sidelined the U.S. Earlier, on February 24, China put forward a 12-point proposal for peace in Ukraine. On March 20, President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow, where he discussed the situation in Ukraine with Vladimir Putin.

Senior Colonel Zhou Bo spoke about what the “watershed moment” means for China and the world. He said:

– For Beijing, the war in Ukraine is a trigger for new security arrangements in Europe that will have to be made before peace returns. China’s proposal on peace in Ukraine is a big step forward. The success on mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia will encourage China to make more proposals, but the challenge is always to find road maps. With reform and opening up, as Deng Xiaoping said, China was trying to get across the river by feeling the stones on the riverbed, but now China is entering the ocean.

– We are talking about Global China. When Boris Johnson talked about Global Britain, it was probably more rhetorical. But Global China is definitely real. China is ubiquitous. China’s influence is everywhere. The PLA’s operations overseas are carefully chosen to be humanitarian in nature, but as your strength grows, people have higher expectations for you. We are talking about the world. This is the ocean we are wading in.

– China does have some sympathy with Russia on how this war came about because of NATO expansion, despite NATO’s promises on no expansion from time to time. China understands why Russia is resentful. When China stresses sovereignty must be respected, it also tries to look at it from a more comprehensive perspective. Countries like South Africa, Brazil, or India are taking similar positions like China on this.

– There is no doubt that China wants to see a ceasefire because China’s interests were damaged in Europe. Because of China’s neutrality, China’s relations with Western capitals have soured. This is ludicrous because China has nothing to do with this war.

– It does not make any sense that China, which has not provided weapons to Russia since the outbreak of the war, would change its mind, especially at a time when they have actually announced a peace plan. Why would Antony Blinken say that? By saying it, Blinken was actually giving a pre-emptive warning because China providing military support would be the worst fear of the U.S. But it’s totally impossible.

– The American presence in the region is not as strong as before, but the U.S. will not go away. But on this issue China is doing what the U.S. cannot do. Why? Because the U.S. doesn’t even have diplomatic relations with Iran. It cannot become a mediator between the two sides. The U.S. has allies in the region. It has to adopt double standards. Therefore, China can do a better job, but this is not an attempt to replace the U.S.

– If there were a war between Saudi and Iran, this would damage China’s interests, both economic interests and energy security, profoundly. So China needs to prevent a war and that may explain its new role.

– China depends on energy imports from the Middle East, which make up 40-50% of Chinese energy imports. We are trying to diversify, but that is the situation for now… At the same time, China’s activity in the Middle East now comprises almost everything, from building infrastructure to launching satellites to energy imports, therefore its stake on peace and stability in the Middle East has become higher.

– This is the first time China becomes directly involved in regional security. The biggest question of the 21st century is, if China’s rise is inevitable, will China create a better world? My answer is, at least it can make a safer world. At least it will make much less harm than the U.S.

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War in Ukraine: Congress adopts a declaration of condemnation

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Image source: Czech Presidency

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe unanimously adopted on 21 March 2023 a Declaration to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s war against Ukraine, presented by the Congress President and Rapporteur on The Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine, Leendert Verbeek (Netherlands, SOC/G/PD).

President Verbeek said that the Congress declaration is a clear message of condemnation of this brutal war and a strong reaffirmation of the Congress’ unwavering solidarity with Ukraine, its people and communities : “we must continue to show our Ukrainian friends, colleagues and peers – the elected leaders that are engaged in a battle for their lives, their citizens, their towns and their futures – that they are NOT forgotten and that we will do everything in our power now, and in the future, to support them.” President Verbeek also stressed that the declaration reiterated the Congress’ resolute support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.

The debate was preceded by a video message from the Ukrainian Commissioner for Human Rights, Dmytro Lubinets. “The solidarity of our partners strengthens the stability of our resistance to the aggressor and our strong confidence in victory”, he underlined while speaking about the difficult humanitarian situation in Ukraine. He also stressed the importance of mechanisms for the protection of citizens’ rights on the local level for everybody. He described how his office was implementing this approach by opening representative offices of the Commissioner in each region.

In his speech, the Congress President praised the “extraordinary courage and resilience of the Ukrainians and their leadership as they relentlessly defend their country at the frontline and the home front. “The Congress commends the solidarity and unity of Europeans, their cities and regions. We call on all to continue to mobilise and provide large-scale financial, security and humanitarian assistance to their Ukrainian counterparts”, he highlighted.

During the debate, Congress members supported the creation of a special international tribunal for the crime of aggression against Ukraine and the setting up of an international compensation mechanism for the injury, damage and loss incurred by the State of Ukraine as well as natural and legal persons in Ukraine. “It is imperative to hold Russia accountable for all crimes and justice must be done for all the victims.”, stressed President Verbeek.

“The Congress stands by the Ukrainian people at this historically decisive time for Ukraine and the world and believes in a common, democratic future based on respect for international law and a just peace.”, he concluded.

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The strategic situation in the Persian Gulf region has dramatically changed

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photo: Xinhua/Liu Weibing

The China-brokered Saudi-Iranian normalisation of diplomatic relations. What has happened is an epochal event, writes M.K. Bhadrakumar, Indian Ambassador and prominent international observer.

Henry Kissinger drew the analogy of his own accomplishment in an extraordinary diplomatic career when, as Secretary of State in the Richard Nixon administration, he helped achieve rapprochement with Beijing amidst its tensions with Moscow.

One aspect of the Saudi-Iranian deal that has implications for India’s immediate external environment is that the strategic situation in the Persian Gulf region, India’s extended neighbourhood, has dramatically changed.

This can only be seen as the culmination of a series of repositioning on the part of the regional states that have been underway in the regional politics, as they increasingly took to diversifying their foreign policies away from the preponderant dependency on the West historically, and steadily and unmistakably began asserting their strategic autonomy with a newfound self-assuredness — be it Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt or Turkey.

Today, Israel stares at strategic isolation in its region and America, its mentor-cum-benefactor-cum-guardian-cum-protector, stands diminished.

Kissinger noted that ‘China has in recent years declared that it needs to be a participant in the creation of the world order. It has now made a significant move in that direction.’

Of course, Chinese President Xi Jinping himself stated last week that Beijing should ‘actively participate in the reform and construction of the global governance system’ and promote ‘global security initiatives’.

India cannot but be wary that the Biden administration’s main thrust is military deterrence fuelling an Asian arms race, with which India can identify only at the risk of grave consequences.

NATO’s defeat in Ukraine will seriously damage the transatlantic system and the US’ hopes that casting China as enemy might rally Europe are unrealistic. Besides, the China-Russia quasi-alliance will resist. Should India get sucked into the maelstrom?

The US strategies seriously impact peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, as they are anchored on bloc politics and confrontation, and their self-serving geopolitical agenda is to create a NATO-replica in the Asian continent.

The Anglo-Saxon clique known as AUKUS — comprising the US, Britain and Australia—opens a Pandora’s box as other countries will likely follow suit, which will seriously impact the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and even lead to its collapse. Will that serve Indian interests?

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