vrijdag 23 januari 2015

Russia and US end collaboration on nuclear disarmament


By Clara Weiss


Photo courtesy The Clyde Fitch Report

Russia and the United States ended their collaboration in the disposal of nuclear waste in mid-December, according to a report in the Boston Globe on Monday. After the US, Russia is the second largest nuclear power in the world. Together Washington and Moscow own 90 percent of global nuclear weapons.

Within the framework of nuclear disarmament treaties, which came into force in the early 1990s, the US and Russia had agreed that American specialists would assist with the securing and destruction of nuclear weapons and materials so that they were not sold or passed on to terrorists.

According to the Globe report, the US has spent $2 billion to date on the so-called cooperative threat reduction programme, and had planned a further $100 million for this year. “Since the cooperative agreement began, US experts have helped destroy hundreds of weapons and nuclear-powered submarines, pay workers’ salaries, install security measures at myriad facilities containing weapons material across Russia and the former Soviet Union, and conduct training programmes for their personnel,” the newspaper wrote.

At a three-day meeting in Moscow in mid-December, the Russians declared that they rejected all further cooperation with the US in the securing and destruction of nuclear weapons. Prior to the Globe report, there had been no official statement about this ending of cooperation.

The newspaper reported that several dozen leading figures had participated on both sides, including officials from the US Energy Department, the Pentagon and the State Department, as well as several Russian military experts and government representatives.

From 1 January, the expansion of security equipment was halted at some of Russia’s seven closed nuclear sites, where large quantities of highly enriched uranium and plutonium are located. The joint securing of 18 civilian nuclear depots, as well as two sites that transform highly enriched uranium into a harmless substance, has been stopped. The construction of hi-tech surveillance systems at 13 nuclear depots and the installation of radiation detectors at Russian ports, airports and border crossings are also at risk.

The ending of cooperation did not come as a surprise. In November, the chairman of the Russian federal agency for nuclear energy, Sergei Kiriyenko, told US government representatives that Russia was not planning any new joint contracts in 2015 for nuclear disarmament.

US government officials expressed their disappointment to the Boston Globe about the ending of cooperation. In reality, the Russian move was predictable and effectively provoked by last year’s aggressive policies on the part of the US and European Union (EU).

The ending of cooperation is above all the result of the provocative actions of US and German imperialism in Ukraine. Washington and Berlin supported a putsch last February that brought a regime to power that not only intends to join NATO, but also has raised the prospect of Ukraine’s nuclear rearmament.

Until the Budapest Agreement of 1994, the world’s third largest nuclear stockpile was in Ukraine. In the Budapest memorandum, the Ukraine government promised to relinquish all nuclear weapons. In exchange, the US, Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany guaranteed the borders of Ukraine at the time.

The announcement of the ending of cooperation in nuclear disarmament reflects extreme military tensions. In the face of a civil war in Ukraine and NATO’s rearming against Russia, the Kremlin is signalling that it no longer trusts American specialists with the checking and destruction of nuclear weapons.

The nuclear disarmament New START treaty, which came into force at the beginning of 2011, will still apply. According to the Stockholm-based peace research institute SIPRI, however, the US and Russia disarmed much more slowly between 2013 and 2014 than they had done between 2012 and 2013.

According to the report, the US had reduced its total number of warheads by 400 to 7,300. Of these, 1,900 are ready to be deployed. In Russia, the total fell by 500 to 8,000, of which 1,600 are ready for deployment. According to New START, each country is expected to reduce its strategic nuclear weapons to 1,550. SIPRI expert Phillip Schell told German news channel NTV, “It is relatively clear that this has nothing to do with a genuine process of disarmament.”

Shortly before the final ratification of the treaty in 2011, cables released by WikiLeaks exposed
plans for war by NATO against Russia.

Both Russia and the US are once again rearming their nuclear arsenals, although the US invests by far the largest sums of money in its nuclear weapons programme. As the New York Times reported in November 2014, the Obama administration plans to begin the investment of what will eventually amount to $1.1 trillion in nuclear weapons over the coming three decades. $350 billion is to be used up in the coming 10 years alone.

In addition, the US published a
military blueprint at the end of 2014, outlining US preparations for military interventions around the globe, as well as for a third world war.

In contrast to the United States, Russia is not an imperialist country. It functions chiefly as a supplier of energy to the world market and as a sales market for global concerns. The total value of all Russian shares was put at $531 billion in November, above all due to western sanctions. This is less than one US company alone, Apple, with a share value of $620 billion.

But precisely because of Russia’s economic and political weakness, the Kremlin sees nuclear weapons as the only possibility of strengthening its position in negotiations with the imperialist powers and preparing for a potential war with NATO member states.

In this context, the cancelling of the agreement on disarming Russian nuclear weapons is a further sign of the growing danger of a war between the two nuclear powers, the US and Russia.

This article first appeared on World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) on 23 January 2015, and was republished with permission.

maandag 29 december 2014

2014: het jaar van de paradigmaverschuiving in het internationale systeem






“In de strijd om Europa is Angela Merkel de confrontatie met de Russische beer aangegaan. Door Poetin aan te pakken heeft de Duitse bondskanselier Europa verenigd. Zij is de staatsvrouw van het jaar,” zo kopt Guardian columnist Timothy Garton Ash op 22 december. Het contrast met de zienswijze van woordvoerder Vsevolod Chaplin van de Russisch-orthodoxe Kerk tijdens een videoconferentie op 25 december kon niet groter zijn: “Ten koste van eigen levens heeft Rusland door de eeuwen heen een halt toegeroepen aan de wereldambities van Napoleon, Hitler en vandaag die van de VS. Ambities die botsten op ons geweten, op onze kijk op de geschiedenis en op de wil van God." Wie van beide geeft de werkelijkheid beter weer?

Duitsland speelt vandaag in Europa ontegenzeggelijk de eerste viool. Berlijn zorgde dat de Euro werd gered en daarmee het Europese project. Frankrijk, vanouds in tandem met Duitsland, devalueerde tot Duitsland’s Europese rechterhand. Als Europees leider nam Duitsland de relatie met de Verenigde Staten in heroverweging. Daarbij was het NSA-schandaal eerder een voorwendsel dan de oorzaak van de verkoeling in de Duits-Amerikaanse betrekkingen. Tegelijk beraadde men zich op de relatie met Moskou, waarbij Oekraïne als katalysator fungeerde. Dat Duitsland enkel uit “Atlantische discipline” handelt is een misverstand: het is teleurgesteld in het Rusland van na Medvedev. De pragmatische Ostpolitik van Gerhard Schröder en Helmut Kohl heeft plaatsgemaakt vooreen politiek van morele pincipes en geopolitieke belangen.

Maar die politiek lijkt te mislukken. In het Oekraïne-dossier slaagt Merkel er tot haar eigen wanhoop maar niet in Poetin naar haar hand zetten. Aan de vooravond van de G20 in Australië organiseerde zij een bilaterale confrontatie met Poetin. Op de man af vroeg ze hem wat hij precies voor had met Oekraïne en met andere voormalige Sovjetstaten. Maar de meeting verliep niet volgens plan: Poetin herhaalde ijskoud zijn bekende standpunten. Na de ontmoeting in Milaan een maand eerder die enkel “gebroken beloftes” had opgeleverd steeg de frustratie in Berlijn tot ongekende hoogte. Merkel zat op dood spoor. Tientallen telefoontjes tussen de beide leiders ten spijt. Ook buitenlandminister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, lid van de traditioneel pro-Russische SPD, had Moskou niet kunnen overtuigen zich bij het Westen aan te sluiten.

Hoezeer Merkel de plank misslaat blijkt uit de manier waarop zij haar frustratie toonde in een toespraak in Sydney na de mislukte tête-à-tête met Poetin. In ongebruikelijk harde taal beschuldigde zij Rusland het internationaal recht met voeten te treden met “oude opvattingen” gebaseerd op invloedssferen. “Na de verschrikkingen van de twee wereldoorlogen en het einde van de Koude Oorlog staat hiermee de vrede in Europa op losse schroeven," zo klonk het. Voor Merkel is haar aangekondigde “komt tijd, komt raad” geen optie: de situatie in Oekraïne verslechtert zienderogen, en het verzet tegen haar aanpak stijgt. Nieuwe sancties zijn van tafel wegens Europese tegenkanting. Of maart 2015 de bestaande sancties worden verlengd staat om dezelfde reden te bezien. Bovendien moet Merkel afrekenen met groeiend binnenlands verzet tegen haar politiek.

Merkel verkijkt zich compleet op de crisis in Oekraïne. Het gaat niet om een conflict tussen Oekraïne en Rusland. De crisis is het gevolg van een intern Oekraïens conflict uitgelokt door de staatsgreep in februari waar Europa mede debet aan was. De oplossing ligt dus in overleg tussen de strijdende partijen. Rusland ligt niet aan de basis van het conflict en heeft niets te zeggen over de rebellen. Rusland heeft daar wel invloed, maar kan op grond van binnenlandse politieke overwegingen geen overeenkomst sluiten waarbij de rebellen het slachtoffer worden. Dat was de boodschap aan buitenlandminister Steinmeier in Moskou direct na Merkel’s harde taal in Sydney, met verwijzing naar 21 februari 2014, toen onder diens leiding partijen overeenkwamen hun conflict uit te praten, overleg dat nooit heeft plaatsgevonden.

De Duitse bondskanselier staat voor een lastig dilemma. Zij botst op een onvermurwbare Poetin en krijgt Europa in haar nieuwe Ostpolitik niet mee. Tegelijk staat zij onder zware Amerikaanse druk. Na de boete van $9 miljard aan BNP wegens de Franse weigering om de Russische order op Mistral-oorlogsschepen te annuleren werd Merkel er door de Amerikaanse toezichthouder beleefd aan herinnerd dat Deutsche Bank op een derivatenberg van €55 biljoen ($50.000 miljard) zit en haar land dus vooral "ja" moet stemmen tijdens de volgende sanctieronde tegen Rusland. Commerzbank wordt in het vizier genomen wegens ongeoorloofde transacties met Iran en Soedan. Merkel blijft dus hinken op twee gedachten, maar zal door de binnenlandse oppositie worden gedwongen het roer om te gooien, of op te stappen.

Dat het roer om moet past in de nieuwe houding ten opzichte van het Westen die in Duitsland het laatste decennium is gegroeid. Het land verzette zich in 2003 tegen de Irak-oorlog en kant zich sindsdien steeds meer tegen militair ingrijpen. In deze periode groeide het Duitse exportaandeel in het BBP van 33% tot 48%. Die groei kwam vooral van niet-westerse landen. Het is dus niet verwonderlijk dat Duitsland zijn buitenlands beleid steeds meer op zijn economische belangen ging baseren. Groeiend anti-Amerikaans sentiment bij gewone burgers speelde ook een rol bij de evolutie naar een nieuwe buitenlands beleid. Voor veel Duitsers betekende de crisis van 2008 het failliet van het Angelsaksische kapitalisme en een bevestiging van de eigen sociale markteconomie. Dat Duitsland onder deze omstandigheden een eigen koers gaat varen werd in 2011 duidelijk toen het zich onthield in een stemming in de Veiligheidsraad over militair optreden tegen Libië en zich daarmee aansloot bij China en Rusland, tegen Frankrijk, het Verenigd Koninkrijk en de VS.

Duitsland heeft ook de banden met China aangehaald. China is vandaag de 2e grootste Duitse exportmarkt buiten Europa. Voor China is de relatie van strategisch belang: het ziet in Duitsland de spil waar een sterk Europa om draait, een Europa dat het tegen de VS kan opnemen. Hoe sterker de handelsrelaties tussen Duitsland en China, hoe onafhankelijker Duitsland zich zal opstellen ten opzichte van economische dwangmaatregelen tegen China. Zo’n ontwikkeling zou zijn effect op de Europese saamhorigheid en de relatie met de VS niet missen. Duitsland zou veel Europese landen met “aanleunende” economieën aan zich kunnen binden. Verlaat het Verenigd Koninkrijk de EU, dan kan de Unie nog meer de Duitse lijn volgen, vooral die met betrekking tot Rusland en China. Daarmee zou Europa op gespannen voet kunnen komen met de VS, en het Westen een onomkeerbaar schisma ondergaan.

In dat beeld past de economische oorlog van het Westen om Moskou te straffen voor zijn verzet tegen een neokolonialistisch hertekening van het Euraziatisch continent. De opheffing van het Warschaupact en de ontmanteling van de Sovjet-Unie in 15 republieken was voor Washington blijkbaar niet genoeg. Maar China laat Rusland niet economisch wurgen. Het beloofde Moskou alle financiële steun die het nodig heeft, en neemt daarmee het risico op een confrontatie met de VS voor lief. De Chinese valutareserves van $3.89 biljoen ($3.890 miljard) laten Beijing toe om de Russische schulden probleemloos af te lossen.

De komende eeuw wordt niet de Amerikaanse eeuw naar het model van de neoconservatieve denktanks in Washington, maar een Euraziatische eeuw. Met zijn opbod aan roekeloze en agressieve initiatieven lijken de VS hun hand te overspelen. Dat drijft Rusland en China in elkaars armen en doorkruist de toenadering tot China van president Nixon in 1972 die China tot Amerikaans bondgenoot tegen de Sovjet-Unie maakte. Daarmee eindigt de post-1945 wereldorde. Precies wat Poetin’s woordvoerder Dmitry Peskov 17 december bedoelde in zijn interview met Rossiya-24: het jaar 2014 heeft uiteindelijk geleid tot “een paradigmaverschuiving in het internationale systeem.”

donderdag 11 december 2014

Kerry demands open-ended Mideast war resolution


By Patrick Martin

In an extraordinary appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry outlined the Obama administration’s demand for a congressional resolution to authorize military action in Iraq and Syria that would be unlimited in scope, time frame and methods.

Kerry argued for an open-ended resolution that would set no binding time limit on the war, nor any limit on the geographical area in which US operations could be conducted. He stressed as well that the resolution should not bar President Obama from ordering the use of US combat troops.

The three-and-a-half-hour hearing saw Senate Republicans, who will control the panel starting in January, criticizing the White House for not seeking broader authority and presenting a full-scale war plan, while the outgoing chairman, Democrat Robert Menendez, favored a more narrowly focused resolution. None of the Democratic senators expressed opposition to the current war in Iraq and Syria or to its escalation.

Kerry began the hearing claiming the resolution should be “limited and specific to the threat posed by” the Sunni fundamentalist ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) militia, which currently controls the eastern third of Syria and the western third of Iraq, including Mosul, a city of nearly two million, Iraq’s third largest.

But when he turned to the details of the proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the limitations evaporated. “We do not think an AUMF should include a geographical limitation,” he said.

We don’t anticipate conducting operations in countries other than Iraq or Syria. But to the extent that [ISIS] poses a threat to American interests and personnel in other countries, we would not want an AUMF to constrain our ability to use appropriate force against [ISIS] in those locations if necessary. In our view, it would be a mistake to advertise to [ISIS] that there are safe havens for them outside of Iraq and Syria.”

Such language would make the entire world a potential target of the war resolution, a fact on which several senators commented later in the hearing. Republican Rand Paul said, referring to the two holiest cities in Islam, “If Medina or Mecca pledges allegiance to the Islamic State, they are open to being bombed by the United States. You are sending a message to the Middle East that no city is off limits.”

Kerry treated such concerns with contempt. “Nobody’s talking about bombing everywhere,” he said, telling Paul to “make a presumption in the sanity of the President of the United States.”

While Paul, an ultra-right libertarian, occasionally postures as an opponent of US wars in the Middle East, he suggested at a previous Foreign Relations Committee hearing that Congress adopt a declaration of war against ISIS. If enacted, this would mark the first formal war declaration since World War II and provide the legal basis to outlaw antiwar opposition as “treason” or “aiding the enemy.”

Among the countries that could become battlefields with ISIS in the near future is Lebanon, where Sunni fundamentalists have been active in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley. Two other Arab states, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, border on ISIS-controlled territory.

Last week, press reports suggested the Obama administration was moving towards imposing a limited no-fly zone along part of the Turkish-Syrian border, to be enforced by US warplanes based at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. This would make Incirlik and other territory in southern Turkey a likely target for combat between ISIS and US-NATO forces.

Kerry and the outgoing Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Robert Menendez, disagreed briefly on language Menendez was proposing that would bar “ground combat operations except as necessary for the protection or rescue of US soldiers or citizens, for intelligence operations, spotters to enable air strikes, operational planning, or other forms of advice and assistance.”

The administration did not plan to commit combat troops to the war with ISIS, Kerry claimed, but he went on to insist, “[T]hat does not mean we should preemptively bind the hands of the commander-in-chief—or our commanders in the field—in responding to scenarios and contingencies that are impossible to foresee.”

As for the length of the war, “we can be sure that this confrontation will not be over quickly,” Kerry said. “We understand, however, the desire of many to avoid a completely open-ended authorization. I note that Chairman Menendez has suggested a three-year limitation; we support that proposal, subject to provisions for extension that we would be happy to discuss.”

In other words, there would be no time limit to the war. Three years would take the fighting into the next administration, and the next president would have authority to extend the timeframe more or less indefinitely.

Republican members of the Senate committee criticized Kerry for not bringing with him an administration draft of proposed language for the AUMF. The White House has rebuffed such requests, preferring to operate with a completely free hand in the absence of any congressional resolution.

Moreover, with the Republicans taking control of the Senate in January as a result of the Democratic rout in the November 4 elections, the administration counts on a far more expansive war resolution than was likely when Obama first ordered air strikes on Syria in September.

The bellicose stance of the Republicans was expressed by Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who will replace Menendez as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. He disparaged placing any limitation on Obama’s power to order military action in Iraq and Syria, saying sarcastically that such a resolution would be “really an ISIS protection plan… Because you can use all force against Al Qaida and others, but against ISIS you cannot. It’s kind of an interesting approach.”

There is another significant issue on which there was little discussion reported from the committee hearing, although Kerry made an indirect reference to it: whether the resolution would permit US military action against the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Kerry urged the senators not to limit the war resolution to ISIS per se, but to permit US attacks on “associated forces.” This kind of language was used by the Bush administration to justify attacks on local Islamists in virtual every country in North Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, whether or not they were actually affiliated with Al Qaeda.

The CIA-backed Syrian opposition groups have repeatedly charged that the Assad regime is in a tacit alliance with ISIS, as both wage war against the “rebel” forces. By that definition, the Syrian Army and ISIS would be considered “associated forces” and the war resolution could be construed to authorize US air strikes or full-scale combat against the regime in Damascus.

One prominent Senate Democrat, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, called for precisely such a maneuver in an op-ed piece published in the pro-war Washington Post on November 27, under the headline “The US Plan to Destroy the Islamic State Must Also Take Down Bashar al-Assad.”

Whatever the exact form of the resolution that eventually emerges from Congress, there is no question that American imperialism is moving steadily towards a full-scale war in Syria and Iraq, whose consequences—particularly in relation to Iran and Russia, the Syrian government’s main allies—would dwarf those of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

This article first appeared on World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) on 11 December 2014, and was republished with permission.

vrijdag 21 november 2014

Islamic State vs its far enemy



U.S. Sailors launch an F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213 from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) in the Persian Gulf
Oct. 18, 2014, as the ship supports Inherent Resolve. President Barack Obama authorized humanitarian aid deliveries to Iraq as well as targeted airstrikes to protect U.S. personnel from extremists
known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. U.S. Central Command directed the operations.
Photo: MC3 Joshua Card – Wikimedia Commons
Behind the flux of conflict on the ground in Syria-Iraq, all sides are digging in for a long war.

Much of the recent attention on the war against Islamic State has focused on the intense conflict between the movement and local Kurds in and around Kobane, close to the Syria-Turkey border. Its 60,000 people had been relatively undisturbed by the Syrian war until a few months ago, when thousands of people displaced by the escalating conflict began to swell its population.

Within a short period, as many as 400,000 had arrived. Most fled across the border to Turkey when the town was besieged by Islamic State (IS) militias. Today, control of otherwise deserted and ravaged Kobane is divided between these militias and Kurdish fighters, including some from Kurdish Iraq (see Tim Arango, “In Syria battle, a test for all sides”, New York Times, 20 November 2014)

Kobane is strategically important for IS, not least as seizing it would give the movement command of a long stretch of the border. The repeated targeting of IS positions by US airstrikes has made the battle there even more pivotal. At the same time, it is but one part of a wider war with many other elements. Three of these involve western and Iraqi governments, and three the Islamic State.

In the first category:
  • The Pentagon is deploying a further 1,500 troops to Iraq. This will take the acknowledged total to around 3,000, although this may not include special-force units whose deployment is seldom reported
  • The US chair of the joint chiefs of staff, General Martin Dempsey, has not ruled out deploying US ground troops to the frontline with Iraq army units
  • Both US and Iraqi sources have strongly discounted talk of an Iraqi army “spring offensive” in Anbar province in 2015, on the basis that rebuilding, retraining and re-equipping Iraq's army will take many months.
In the second category:
  • The Islamic State is reported to have concluded some sort of limited agreement with the al-Nusra Front (the al-Qaida affiliate in Syria) in order to bring inter-militia violence to an end there. In turn this development follows al-Nusra’s success in capturing a number of towns and villages from other Syrian militias with a more secular agenda
Al-Nusra is also reported to have overrun arms dumps containing modern weapons provided by western states for use against Bashar al-Assad's regime. These may include as many as eighty US-made BGM-71 anti-tank missiles (see Columb Strack, “Jihadists make gains in Syria after weapons seizure”, Jane’s Intelligence Review, December 2014).
  • The Islamic State has reputedly secured the allegiance of the most violent of Egypt's militant groups, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (see David D Kirkpatrick, “Militant Group in Egypt Vows Loyalty to ISIS”, New York Times, 10 November 2014). If confirmed this would be its biggest international boost, as the group is fighting Abdel Fattah al-Sisi government in Cairo and challenging the latter's violent suppression of Islamist and other dissent (see Sara Khorshid, “Egypt’s new police state”, New York Times, 17 November 2014).
The narrative

In other aspects of this complex conflict, the Islamic State's ability to make major advances has stalled. The movement is now preparing for a long conflict. A priority will be maintaining and enhancing its transnational support, in terms both of personnel (an estimated 15,000 have already come to join IS from across the Middle East and beyond, but it needs more) and finance (with individuals in western Gulf states playing a key role). These efforts require IS to determinedly promote its core narrative, which may be extreme by western perceptions but does have a sufficient basis to attract support.

This sees the Islamic State as a vanguard movement in the global defence of Islam at a time when Islam is under attack and leaders of Muslim states across the Middle East are either apostate or utterly untrue to the tenets of Islam. The movement has established a renewed caliphate, currently centred on Raqqa (the early capital of the most durable caliphate, the Abbasids of 1,200 years ago) with plans to extend it to Baghdad (the later and much longer-lasting Abbasid capital. In turn it will spread to Saudi Arabia, ousting the House of Saud and claiming guardianship of Mecca and Medina (sites of the "two holy places") - and, ultimately, reclaim the "third holy place" in Jerusalem.

The Islamic State is leading this historic renewal against the "far enemy" of the United States and its allies that have brought chaos to Afghanistan and Iraq, killing over 200,000 Muslims and wounding many more in the process. These enemy forces have also killed Muslims in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Mali and many other states, while propping up corrupt and un-Islamic regimes (al-Sisi’s Egypt being the latest). IS points to the far enemy’s practice of rendition, torture and detention without trial, and it emphasises the role of the Zionists. Indeed, Israel is seen as little more than an extension of the United States, and Israel strike-aircraft and helicopter-gunships as US military hardware with Israeli markings.

The prospect

The reality of the Islamic State is very different from its self-portrait. The progress it has made since mid-2014 has owed much to largely secular Ba'athists and others who hardly buy into its theology or long-term vision are prepared to make common cause against the hated Iraqi government and the United States. The narrative does resonate, though, with a small minority of young Muslims, for whom Islamic State answers a longing even more seductive than did al-Qaida after 9/11. The fact that IS has created a territorial entity, a physical manifestation of the promised caliphate, adds to its aura.

This narrative is not easy for western analysts to comprehend, especially given the brutality of many of the movement’s operations. But it is being worked on and developed relentlessly, then propagated over and over in many different forms (especially through new social media). It is helped greatly by the actions of the Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu, and would dearly like a serious ground war with western troops - which the current "mission-creep" may well provide. If that war comes, there will no doubt be elements in Islamic State that look forward to the capture of American soldiers, their detention, waterboarding, and on camera execution in orange jump-suits.

Perhaps a few western policy-advisers and analysts are thinking such a narrative through, recognising its seductive nature and acting accordingly. There is, though, not too much sign of that, which makes it all the more likely that this will be a lengthy war.

Paul Rogers is professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He is openDemocracy's international-security editor, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 28 September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group. His books include Why We’re Losing the War on Terror (Polity, 2007), and Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on twitter at: @ProfPRogers

This article first appeared on openDemocracy November 21, 2014

zaterdag 1 november 2014

Putin points to growing war dangers



By Nick Beams

Russian President Vladimir Putin has bluntly warned that actions by the United States, in disregard of the norms that have governed international relations since the end of World War II, could lead to war.

His declaration came in a major speech on October 24, delivered to the final session of a meeting organised by the Valdai International Discussion Club in the Russian winter resort of Sochi. The theme for the discussions, held over several days and attended by journalists, foreign policy experts and academics from Russia and internationally, was World Order: New Rules or a Game without Rules.

Putin began by saying “this formula accurately describes the historic turning point we have reached today and the choice we all face.” He said the lessons of history should not be forgotten. “[C]hanges in the world order—and what we are seeing today are events on this scale—have usually been accompanied by, if not global war and conflict, then by chains of intensive local-level conflicts.”

Expanding on the meeting’s theme, Putin’s speech comprised a series of indictments of US foreign policy from the end of the Cold War. The US, he said, having declared itself the victor, saw no need to establish “a new balance of power, essential for maintaining order and stability” but instead “took steps that threw the system into sharp and deep imbalance.”

Putin likened the actions of the US to the behaviour of the nouveaux riche “when they suddenly end up with a great fortune, in this case in the shape of world leadership and domination. Instead of managing their wealth wisely, for their own benefit too of course, I think they have committed many follies.”

Over the past period, Putin said, international law had been forced to retreat in the face of “legal nihilism.” Legal norms had been replaced by “arbitrary interpretations and biased assessments.” At the same time, “total control of the global mass media has made it possible, when desired, to portray white as black and black as white.”

The very notion of national sovereignty had been made relative and replaced by the formula “the greater the loyalty to the world’s sole power centre, the greater this or that regime’s legitimacy.”

Referring to the revelations over the operations of US spy agencies, the Russian president said “big brother” was spending “billions of dollars on keeping the whole world, including its closest allies, under surveillance.”

In a direct attack on US actions in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Ukraine, Putin said the imposition of a unilateral diktat, instead of leading to peace and prosperity, was producing the opposite result. “Instead of settling conflicts it leads to their escalation, instead of sovereign and stable states we see the growing spread of chaos, and instead of democracy there is support for a very dubious public, ranging from open neo-fascists to Islamic radicals.”

In Syria, the United States and its allies had armed and financed rebels and allowed them to fill their ranks with mercenaries from various countries. “Let me ask where do these rebels get their money, arms and military specialists? Where does all this come from? How did the notorious ISIL manage to become such a powerful group, essentially an armed force?”

The period of unipolar domination by the United States had demonstrated that having only one power centre did not make global process more manageable. It had opened the way for inflated national pride, the manipulation of public opinion and “letting the strong bully and suppress the weak. Essentially, the unipolar world is simply a means of justifying dictatorship over people and countries.”

Putin warned that unless there was a clear system of agreements and commitments governing international relations, together with mechanisms for managing and resolving crisis situations, “the symptoms of global anarchy will inevitably grow.”

“Today, we already see a sharp increase in the likelihood of a whole set of violent conflicts with either direct or indirect participation by the world’s major powers … I want to point out we did not start this. Once again, we are sliding into times when, instead of the balance of interests and mutual guarantees, it is fear and the balance of mutual destruction that prevent nations from engaging in direct conflict. In the absence of legal and political instruments, arms are once again becoming the focal point of the global agenda.”

In an accurate summation of the US position, Putin said that arms were used without any UN Security Council sanction. If the Security Council failed to support such actions, then “it is immediately declared to be an outdated and ineffective instrument.”

“Many states do not see other ways of ensuring their sovereignty but to obtain their own bombs. This is extremely dangerous.”

Putin’s remarks, which the Financial Times described as “one of his most anti-US speeches in 15 years as Russia’s most powerful politician,” appear to be motivated, at least in part, by fear of the impact of rapidly falling oil prices combined with sanctions, imposed at the insistence of the US, on the Russian economy.

The fall in the oil price, from around $100 to $80 per barrel, could slice as much as 2 percentage points from Russia’s gross domestic product and will have a major effect on the government’s budget, thereby destabilising the Putin regime, which rests on a network of powerful oligarchs.

Whatever immediate the motivations for the speech, the dangers of war to which it pointed are real and growing. The issues raised publicly by Putin over the role of the US are no doubt being discussed behind closed doors in political circles in other major countries.

As the impact of falling oil prices on Russia demonstrates, these geo-political tensions will be fuelled by the deepening economic crisis and the tendencies driving to deflation and stagnation throughout the world economy.

The dangers of war to which Putin alluded were underscored in remarks to the conference by an American expert on Russia, Christopher Gaddy of the Brookings Institution. Two days before Putin’s speech, Gaddy evoked The Sleepwalkers, the recent book on the origins of World War I by historian Christopher Clark, and drew parallels with the present situation.

“I fear very much that ... there is an element of sleepwalking in the policies of key players in the world today,” Gaddy said, indicating that sanctions against Russia had been designed by the United States and drawn up by a small group with unclear aims and questionable results.

This article first appeared on World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) on 1 November 2014, and was republished with permission.