Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 10, 2014

Ukraine: Who Is Holding Up the Needed Crisis Talks With Russia?

Thus starts a letter by the Russian President Putin to leaders of other European countries:

Ukraine’s economy in the past several months has been plummeting. Its industrial and construction sectors have also been declining sharply. Its budget deficit is mounting. The condition of its currency system is becoming more and more deplorable. The negative trade balance is accompanied by the flight of capital from the country. Ukraine’s economy is steadfastly heading towards a default, a halt in production and skyrocketing unemployment.

"Western" pundits agree:

Moody's recently downgraded Ukraine‘s sovereign debt from ”extremely speculative” to “default imminent with little prospect for recovery.” Moody’s based its decision not just on the escalating political crisis, but on Ukraine’s rapidly dwindling foreign currency reserves, its exploding level of debt (from 40% of GDP at the end of 2013 to a projected level of 60% at the end of 2014), and full-year 2014 economic growth that is optimistically forecast to be somewhere between -3 and -4%. Although the new government in Kiev isn’t to blame for the economic carnage now transpiring, the fact that Yanukovych and his cronies were responsible doesn’t do anything to change the reality of the situation: whether we like it or not, Ukraine is in economic free fall.

An IMF bailout of some $16 billion with lots of cruel strings attached could probably come in May. But those $16 billion are about as much money as the Ukraine owns to the Russian state owned energy company Gazprom. Without payments to Gazprom no further gas will flow and the energy intensive chemical and metal industries in east Ukraine will have to shut down. Unemployment and intensified general unrest will follow.

Some have argued that the European Union (in reality, German taxpayers) should bailout the Ukraine and they point to Poland as a successful case for an economic turnaround with EU help. But Poland got about $150 billion of foreign support over 10 years and will still need more. This back when the EU financial position was somewhat healthy. No one in Europe, especially not German taxpayers, are willing to invest anything like that to "win" the Ukraine. Neither will the U.S. provide any help. It gave a loan guarantee, which is in fact just a subsidy to U.S. banks, for a mere $1 billion loan the Ukraine may want to take up.

Since mid February the Ukrainian currency, the Hydrina, fell from $0.12 to $0.08. The loans and bills the Ukraine has to pay are in U.S. dollars or Euros. Each day the currency falls further increases the debt in ratio to the local GDP.

Since January Russia has offered talks with other European leaders to find a solution for Ukraine's economic crisis. The offer has not been taken up. It seems as if the EU and the U.S. are simply ignoring the problem and are calmly watching as the Ukraine defaults and slips even deeper into chaos.

What is their intend behind this? Why wasn't this foreseen when the U.S. and EU pressed for "regime change"? Is this just the childish attitude of "if I can't have it I will destroy it"? For what purpose?

Putin points out that a lot of gas to "western" Europe flows through pipelines across the Ukraine. Should Gazprom not get paid for deliveries to Ukraine itself it will stop the flow destined to Ukraine. Ukraine will then, likely, skim off the flow that is destined to other countries. This is a European problem. Why isn't the EU leading talks on Ukraine?

While there is a lot of anti-Russian bluster in the media no none can argue that Russia does not deserves to be paid for the gas it delivers. Russia can also easily suspend all gas deliveries to the "west" for a few month and fill its new pipelines towards the east and China. It does not the EU to survive. There is really nothing the EU can win by not talking to Russia and by not finding a solution for the Ukraine. What òr who is holding this up?

Posted by b on April 10, 2014 at 17:07 UTC | Permalink | Comments (160)

April 09, 2014

Open Thread 2013-10

(busy again)

News & views ...

Posted by b on April 9, 2014 at 17:59 UTC | Permalink | Comments (135)

April 08, 2014

How Does The NPR Distinguish "Protesters" From "Mobs"?

The U.S. National Public Radio on Ukraine:

December 9 2013: Ukrainian Police Threaten To Drive Protesters Out Of City Buildings

Police are also threatening to enforce a court order to drive protesters out of city buildings they've been occupying.

April 7 2014: Mob In Ukraine Seizes Provincial Building, Declares Independence

On Sunday, pro-Russian mobs also stormed buildings in Luhansk and Kharkiv, two other cities in the country's east that have large numbers of Russian speakers and strong pro-Moscow sentiment.

What is the NPR's stylebook definition of "protesters" when people occupy government buildings? And how does that differ from a "mob" doing just the same?

Posted by b on April 8, 2014 at 7:04 UTC | Permalink | Comments (151)

April 07, 2014

Ukraine: The East Strikes Back

The people in the eastern industrial heart of the Ukraine had so far a mostly unsatisfactory life. After the catastrophic end of the Soviet Union the industries they were working in were either shut down or sold off for peanuts to some shady oligarchs. The economy fell, then stagnated and unlike in nearby Russia never recovered. They democratically elected a somewhat pro-Russian president Yanukovich but he was removed by an anti-democratic coup. Twice.

Now some alliance of fascists and oligarchs are ruling in Kiev. One of them, the pseudo blond gas-princess,  threatened to kill the Russian speaking people in eastern Ukraine. The coup government installed some Jewish Israeli-Ukrainian thieves as governors to rule over them. The announced austerity program will ruin what is left of the the eastern Ukrainian industry. So what are these people to do?

Of course they will not agree to calmly sit down and to let happen even more bad things to them. Instead they will follow the example the putschists and their U.S./EU supporters in Kiev laid out for them. They are occupying government buildings, proclaim self-established people's republics and ask their big neighbor Russia for help.

Supporting the moves in the East is the continued threat of the fascists in Kiev where the paramilitary Right Sector stormed the constitutional court to remove judges not in its favor.

The coup-government in Kiev has little it can do against this. It could send troops and police but would those follow its orders? Would Russia counter by sending troops to protect the people in the east? How would a possible loss of the eastern and southern Ukraine effect their plans?

The coup-rulers may soon find that the only way out is what Russia demanded all along, a far reaching federalization of the Ukraine. This only possible way out for them. The question then is if their "western" overlords will allow them to follow that path.

Posted by b on April 7, 2014 at 15:18 UTC | Permalink | Comments (143)

April 06, 2014

Hersh: Turkey Behind Sarin Attacks In Syria

Last December Seymour Hersh wrote that the CIA knew that Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda affiliated fundamentalists in Syria, were capable of producing Sarin and were likely the ones who used it last August in Ghouta near Damascus. The U.S. then claimed that the Syrian government had used the lethal gas and Obama threatened an all out air attack against it. Obama stopped the operation and went to Congress which denied to sanction any attack. A deal proposed by the Russian Federation for Syria to give up all its chemical weapons allowed Obama to publicly back down from his red-line.

Hersh now has a new piece out that goes much deeper into the issue. According to his sources:

  • In 2012 the CIA build a rat-line to provide weapons from Libya via Turkey to the Syrian insurgents.
  • That rat-line was stopped by the CIA after the attack on the U.S. "consulate" in Benghazi but the Turks continued to run it on their own.
  • The Turkish prime minister had bet all his cards one the Syrian insurgency. His intelligence service MIT was supporting not only the Free Syrian Army but also Al-Nusra. When the war turned against the insurgents and the Syrian government was on the verge of winning Turkey needed to change the game.
  • Turkey trained al-Nusra on the production of Sarin and provided the precursor chemicals.
  • After several Sarin incidents, on of which killed some Syrian soldiers, Erdogan pushed the White House to react to the supposed breach of Obama's red-line against the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. Obama at first declined.
  • In August 2013 chemical weapon inspectors arrived in Damascus. The Turks used the visit to instigate a spectacular chemical warfare incident in Ghouta. This incident pushed Obama to declare that the red-line had been crossed and that he would use air attacks against the Syrian government.
  • Provided with physical probes from the incident via the Russians and the British U.S. government laboratories found that the Sarin used in Ghouta did not match the Sarin the Syrian government was supposed to have.
  • Knowing that the case was weak and the proposed action would likely escalate throughout the Middle East the U.S. military urged to call the attack off. Obama then threw the ball over to Congress and, after Congress declined to pick it up, took the Russian deal.

The Turks are furious that they did not get the attack they had demanded. Erdogan still needs a victory over the Syrian government and his support for al-Nusra and other radicals continues. As Hersh tells it the U.S. is unable or unwilling to stop him:

Barring a major change in policy by Obama, Turkey’s meddling in the Syrian civil war is likely to go on. ‘I asked my colleagues if there was any way to stop Erdoğan’s continued support for the rebels, especially now that it’s going so wrong,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The answer was: “We’re screwed.” We could go public if it was somebody other than Erdoğan, but Turkey is a special case. They’re a Nato ally. The Turks don’t trust the West. They can’t live with us if we take any active role against Turkish interests. If we went public with what we know about Erdoğan’s role with the gas, it’d be disastrous. The Turks would say: “We hate you for telling us what we can and can’t do.”’

The story, as Hersh tells it, makes sense and fits the known circumstances. Erdogan has bet his house on the fall of the Syrian government and continues his best to achieve that.

Turkey obviously supports the current onslaught on Latakia and the Armenian town of Kessab in north-west Syria which is led by Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra. Recently over 1,000 mercenaries were flown from north Jordan to Turkey to join the fight. In the last week anti-tank missiles from U.S. production, of which the Saudi government recently bought 15,000, have been used in these attacks.

As the U.S. is unable or, more likely in my view, unwilling to stop Turkey on its way to become another Pakistan something else has to happen to change Erdogan's calculations. What could that be and who could provide it?

Posted by b on April 6, 2014 at 14:17 UTC | Permalink | Comments (100)

April 03, 2014

In Cuba Another U.S. Government Abuse Of Online Communication

The Associated Press has an interesting story about another USAID project to overthrow the government of Cuba. USAID used several front companies to create a Twitter like SMS phone service in Cuba which was, after becoming popular, supposed to be used to initiate anti-government flash mobs and civil strife:

At its peak, the project drew in more than 40,000 Cubans to share news and exchange opinions. But its subscribers were never aware it was created by the U.S. government, or that American contractors were gathering their private data in the hope that it might be used for political purposes.

"There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement," according to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord, one of the project's contractors. "This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission."

Somewhat astonishing is again the long term effort, the tenancy and the seemingly unlimited amount of money going into such subversive U.S. programs.

USAID has long been used to "promote democracy", i.e. to overthrow any government the U.S. government does not like. Several foreign governments have have taken the right steps and banned USAID activities in their countries. But with the use of front companies in various countries and methods similar to the CIA some critical USAID work is off the record and often hidden behind seemingly native and harmless programs. The open and legal USAID work, for example some 65 projects in the Ukraine, is often only a cover for its deeper projects.

As in the case the AP story uncovers USAID and various other government services may create and use online tools to influence masses and abuse them for their own purpose. Russia Today is promoting a new app through which people can "vote" like in a Occupy general assembly. But unlike such an Occupy assembly, where people are physically present, such an online vote tally can be easily manipulated to pretend a consensus for something that is not consensual at all.

It is important not only to be aware of the possible manipulation but to also warn others, especially younger people, of the danger of accepting "virtual" persons, movements and politics as a replacement of the real world. While it is also possible to manipulate the factual reality it is much more expensive to do so than to abuse the "virtual" online realm.

While USAID had to create a Twitter clone for its purpose in Cuba it does not have to do so in other countries. There Twitter is already established and can be readily (ab-)used by foreign governments just like USAID had planned for its Cuba clone. Blocking Twitter, as Turkey has recently done, may be at times necessary to prevent U.S. sponsored "regime change" endeavors.

Posted by b on April 3, 2014 at 9:21 UTC | Permalink | Comments (163)

April 02, 2014

Open Thread 2014-09

(busy ...)

Your news & views ...

Posted by b on April 2, 2014 at 18:00 UTC | Permalink | Comments (229)

April 01, 2014

The Pollard "Deal"

AP sources: US considers release of spy Pollard

The United States is talking with Israel about releasing convicted spy Jonathan Pollard early from his life sentence as an incentive to the Israelis in the troubled Mideast peace negotiations, people familiar with the talks said Monday.
...
In return for the release, the people close to the talks said, Israel would have to undertake significant concessions to the Palestinians in Middle East negotiations. Such concessions could include some kind of freeze on Israeli settlements in disputed territory, the release of Palestinian prisoners beyond those Israel has already agreed to free and a guarantee that Israel would stay at the negotiating table beyond an end-of-April deadline.

Besides a ton (literary) of other stuff Pollard stole daily reports about the position of nuclear submarines in the Mediterranean and gave them to the Israelis. He was largely motivated by money and had also offered his service to other countries. The Israelis sold the nuclear subs reports the got from Pollard to the Soviet Union. This at the height of the cold war.

Given Pollard to the Israelis would be a huge gift for which they will, guaranteed, give nothing significant in return.

Encouraged by such a deal the NATO foreign ministers are currently mulling over a similar idea. They want to offer Russia all Russian prisoners in their jails if it promises to behave nicely in Ukraine. Just kidding.

Israel, the abusive husband, wants to stay married while the Palestinians, the wife, urgently want a fair divorce. The U.S. plays the divorce judge. The Pollard deal getting done is similar to the divorce being rejected, the husbands continued abuse of the wife plus him getting custody of and alimony for the judges kids.

Now that's some deal.

Posted by b on April 1, 2014 at 17:01 UTC | Permalink | Comments (87)