Issue XCVI

21 OCT 2016

International

09/25/2014

President Obama’s UN Speech: Defending World Order

Intl1

In one of the most impressive speeches of his presidency, Barack Obama this morning challenged UN member states to join the United States in confronting two “defining challenges”: the return of imperialist aggression and the spread of violent extremism.

The president began by acknowledging a widespread feeling that the world is going off the rails. On one level, such pessimism was ironic. For on virtually every dimension of well-being—from wealth to health and from education to security—“this is the best time in human history to be born.” Whether you live in Manhattan or Kenya, “you are more likely than ever before to be literate, to be healthy, and to be free to pursue your dreams,” he noted. “And yet there is a pervasive unease in our world,” he conceded, “a sense that the very forces that have brought us together have created new dangers, and made it difficult for any single nation to insulate itself from global forces.”

The world faces a slew of problems demanding urgent attention, from terrorism to aggression, climate change to Ebola. “But they are also symptoms of a broader problem—the failure of our international system to keep pace with an interconnected world.” The United Nations, he declared, has a choice to make. “We can renew the international system that has enabled so much progress, or allow ourselves to be pulled back by an undertow of instability.”

Rather than cover the entire global agenda, the president wisely focused on the two biggest threats to a stable world order.

The first was a resurgence of great power aggression. Departing from his normal diplomacy, the president launched a frontal assault on Russia’s intervention in Ukraine as a blatant violation of the international rule of law and the very principles upon which the United Nations was founded. “No nation can subjugate its neighbors and claim their territory,” he proclaimed. This was the doctrine of “might makes right,” and the United States rejected it, standing for the principle that “right makes might.” Warning that “the cause of empire leads to the graveyard,” he pledged U.S. support for Ukraine, the strengthening of collective defense within NATO, and continued economic sanctions. President Obama plainly stated that Russia has a choice to make: to continue on its disastrous course, or return to the path of peace and...


Deceit and delusion at the United Nations

Having launched yet another illegal war, President Barack Obama came before the United Nations Wednesday to justify American actions around the world and demand that all nations fall into line behind the US drive for world hegemony.

The speech was a collection of declamations, threats and ultimatums linked together by hollow slogans and clichés. It was delivered in a halting, ritualistic manner, one pronouncement following another, separated by long pauses and a pursing of the lips, without any attempt to make a coherent argument.

But what above all distinguished the speech was the complete disconnect between its assertions and political reality. Obama’s lies were so extreme and brazen, they took on a delusional character. When the world political situation has reached a point where those in power cannot acknowledge a single truth, this in itself is an expression of an extraordinary level of crisis of the entire political and economic order.

All the lies and hypocrisy were summed up in Obama’s denunciation of “a vision of the world in which might makes right—a world in which one nation’s borders can be redrawn by another…" He declared, "America stands for something different. We believe that right makes might—that bigger nations should not be able to bully smaller ones; that people should be able to choose their own future.” [Emphasis added].

This statement was made by the representative of the world’s most violent and menacing country, one that has, in direct violation of the UN charter, made preventive war the foundation of its foreign policy, proclaiming an unlimited right to intervene militarily wherever its economic, political or geostrategic interests are at stake.

Since it emerged as an imperialist power at the end of the 19th century, the United States has arrogated to itself the right to bully and impose its will on small and large countries alike. The past quarter century, in particular, has seen an unending and escalating series of wars, invasions, covert operations and bombings carried out by American imperialism against countries in every corner of the globe. In its military actions over this period, American imperialism has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

One could cite, among others, the invasion of Panama in 1989, the First Gulf War against Iraq in 1991, the intervention in Somalia in 1992-93, the invasion of Haiti in 1994,...



09/22/2014

Cameron changes tack on shake-up

Intl1

Manchester, England - Scotland will get more autonomy with no “ifs or buts”, Prime Minister David Cameron's office said on Sunday, after Scottish leader Alex Salmond accused him and other politicians of tricking Scots out of independence.

Salmond made his allegations after Cameron, within hours of Scotland voting “No” to independence in a referendum last week, unexpectedly said new powers for Scotland promised by London before the vote should go in tandem with new powers for England.

His sudden change of tack sparked a rancorous dispute with the opposition Labour party which said it had a different vision of how constitutional reform for England should unfold.

This raised the possibility a new deal for Scotland could be delayed or even thwarted by a party political row.

Angered by the turn of events, Salmond, who is stepping down as leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) after losing the independence referendum, accused Cameron on Sunday of winning the vote by making false pledges.

“It is the people who were persuaded to vote 'No' who were misled, who were gulled, who were tricked effectively,” Salmond told BBC TV, saying he thought last-minute promises of greater powers and continued higher-than-average funding, which he said were already unravelling, had swayed the vote's outcome.

Cameron's office responded by saying the government would stick to its promises.

“This Government has delivered on devolution and we will do so again in the next Parliament,” it said in a statement, referring to the next government's 2015-2020 term in office.

A source in Cameron's office said that despite earlier remarks by him and one of his most senior lieutenants, Cameron would not delay new powers for Scotland if cross-party agreement over wider reform for England could not be reached.

“The prime minister and other leaders have made a clear and unambiguous commitment to deliver on devolution - and produce draft legislation by January. They will deliver on that commitment - no ifs, no buts,” the source said.

The dispute between Labour and the Conservatives overshadowed the start of Labour's annual conference in Manchester, meant to focus on the party's vision of a society where wealth and opportunity is shared more equally.

Instead, Labour leader Ed Miliband was forced to clarify his views on English devolution as part of what many voters are likely to...


Labour refuses to back English home rule 20 times

Intl2

Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, repeatedly dodges questions about whether allowing Scottish MPs to vote on English matters is 'unfair' in the wake of the referendum

Labour has refused 20 times to back David Cameron's proposals for 'home rule' for England as the issue threatens to overshadow the party's conference.

Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, this morning refused seven times to say that allowing Scottish MPs to vote on English matters is 'unfair'.

He said instead that David Cameron’s plan for ‘home rule’ was “absolutely not” the right approach and would leave Britain with “two parliaments and two prime ministers”.

His comments come after Ed Miliband, the Labour leader refused to back plans set out by the Prime Minister for English votes on English laws 13 times in a Sunday morning interview ahead of the final Labour party conference before the election.

The Labour leader has been backed into a corner on the issue after he signed up to a “vow” alongside Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader and Mr Cameron to give greater welfare and taxation powers to Scotland ahead of the independence referendum.

However Labour has 40 Scottish MPs and the party's leadership is now faced with campaigning against devolution in England because it could leave him unable to form a parliamentary majority.

Although Mr Balls admitted that there are “issues around what MPs can scrutinise and whether English MPs should have different processes on English decisions than Scottish MPs” he refused to say that the current system is unfair.

He added: “I think David Cameron is just trying to dupe people with the idea that he has some easy, quick political fix which him and William Hague and George Osborne have sorted out. You can’t play political games with our constitution.

“I want fairness but I am not going to say there is an easy and fair solution to the question you are raising.”

Speaking earlier in a separate interview Mr Balls said that Mr Cameron’s plan for home rule is not “the best way at all to deliver the change we want to see.”

He told BBC News: “It is absolutely not as simple as that by any means – for over a hundred years we have debated this issue and to be honest getting into having is it two parliaments is it two Prime Ministers?

“Are we really going to start dividing our Parliament in this way? I don’t think it is I the best way at all to deliver the change we need to see I want to see.”

Speaking one hour after the referendum result on Friday Mr Cameron said...



09/16/2014

Sweden Looks to Exclude Far Right From Coalition

Intl1

GOTHENBURG, Sweden — Sweden, a country synonymous with stable government, generous welfare and liberal immigration policies, entered a new era on Monday, as its fragmented political mainstream scrambled to form a coalition government strong enough to exclude the surging far right.

Elections held Sunday gave the center-left enough votes to take power from the governing center-right alliance, yet neither bloc won a majority. But the Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigrant party, more than doubled their vote and now hold the balance of power in Parliament.

On Monday, the popular tabloid Expressen published a front page starkly displaying on a black background the number of Swedes who voted for the Sweden Democrats: more than 780,000, or almost 13 percent of the total.

Thousands of protestors gathered in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo on Monday to protest against racism in reaction to the Sweden Democrats, who have roots in the white supremacist movement. “It is a sad day,” said Annie Loof, leader of the Center party.

As the scale of the gains for the Sweden Democrats became clear, their leader, Jimmie Akesson, declared to cheering supporters: “We said that we would become kingmakers, and we have done that. We said we would double our support, and we have doubled our support.”

The left-leaning Social Democrats, with 31 percent, barely exceeded their total from the previous election four years ago, a result seen as a disaster for the party and setting off a leadership fight. The Green party, the Social Democrats’ most likely coalition partner, scored less than 7 percent, and conceded its dreams of being Sweden’s third political force dashed to the far right.

Together with the Left party of former communists, the so-called red-green bloc mustered only 43.8 percent of the vote, compared with 39.3 percent for the center-right bloc — a wafer-thin margin unforeseen in opinion polls.

On Monday, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Finance Minister Anders Borg of the main governing party, the Moderates, submitted their resignations, despite having presided over a dynamic economy that quickly bounced back from the global slump of 2008.

But inequality in Sweden has grown, and with it a fear that the free market is failing to deliver the standard of welfare services that Swedes expect. The left attracted voters by promising a sharp break with the Reinfeldt government’s economic austerity policies, pledging to tax...


Swedish elections: Support declines for establishment parties

The main feature of elections held on Sunday in Sweden, which resulted in the removal of the right-wing government of former Prime Minister Frederick Reinfeldt, was the growing rejection by the electorate of all the established political parties.

While the nominal victors were the Social Democrats, whose leader Stefan Löfven will take over as prime minister, the party secured just 31 percent of the vote. This was barely a 1 percent increase on the party’s result in 2010, when Sweden’s traditional party of government suffered its worst result in almost a century, polling just over 30 percent of the vote.

The Social Democrats’ poor performance meant that even with the backing of the Green Party, which won 6.8 percent, and the Left Party, 5.7 percent, it could muster only 43.7 percent of the vote. According to the latest result, this coalition would be 15 seats short of the 175 needed for a parliamentary majority.

The right-wing Alliance, led by Reinfeldt’s Moderate Party, suffered a disastrous result. The Moderates lost around 10 percentage points from 2010, dropping to just 23 percent of the vote. The three smaller parties in the coalition, the Liberals, Centre Party and Christian democrats, saw little change.

After conceding defeat, Reinfeldt and finance minister Anders Borg both announced their resignation, with Borg declaring that he would retire from politics.

The only party to gain significant support from the vote was the far-right Sweden Democrats, which more than doubled its vote to 13 percent. It is likely to send 47 MPs to parliament, up from 20 in the last legislative period, making it the third largest party in the Riksdag. It has sought to capitalise on growing social discontent by blaming immigrants for overrunning Sweden’s welfare state and producing the social problems that the country now confronts.

The vote reflects broad disillusionment with the entire structure of official politics. Reinfeldt’s government was viewed with hostility for its policies of slashing social welfare, deregulation, privatisation and tax cuts since coming to power in 2006. Its sell-off of state assets, in what was the biggest privatisation drive in Swedish history, and further opening up of the public sector to private companies has helped deepen social inequality.

Sweden, long praised as a role model for social harmony, is now cited as the country with the fastest growing levels of social inequality in the OECD. There...



09/08/2014

Russia Hardens Military Thinking as NATO Fizzes Over Ukraine

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U.S.173 airborne brigade soldiers leave a C-17 aircraft during the "Steadfast Javelin II" military exercise in the former Soviet state of Latvia on Saturday.

As West's Cold-War-era military alliance cranks its belligerence levels up to 11, NATO's historic enemy, Russia, is rejigging its own military thinking in response.

In response to the harder stance confirmed at NATO's summit last week in Wales, Russian officials are revisiting the country's war doctrine, mulling its nuclear strategy and restructuring its military-industrial complex.

Analysts said a new doctrine — a strategy document that works as the prism through which a country evaluates and responds to threats — could re-establish NATO as Russia's primary threat and effectively set Russia's defense policy toward combatting it. Beyond that, the doctrine would formalize within Moscow's playbook the kind of small-scale destabilizing actions used in Russia's annexation of Crimea and continued incursions into eastern Ukraine, they said.

Meanwhile, the Kommersant newspaper cited an unidentified Kremlin official reporting on Friday that President Vladimir Putin may take personal control over the Military-Industrial Commission, a body that acts as the state's regulator of the defense industry. The order has already been drafted and sent to Putin's office for his signature, and the decision could be announced officially as early as this week, the source said.

A few days before, a senior Kremlin security official announced that Russia would update its military doctrine, last revamped in the halcyon days of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's stint as president in 2010. Making the announcement, Mikhail Popov, deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, said the new doctrine would respond to the new security environment created by the Arab Spring, fighting in Syria and the conflict in Ukraine.

Voices swiftly surfaced advocating a hard line. Retired General Yury Yakubov, who serves as an advisor at the Russian Defense Ministry, said last week the doctrine should list NATO not only as the primary threat to Russia, but detail the scenarios in which preemptive nuclear strikes against the alliance would be on the table.

This would far exceed the 2010 doctrine, which sees NATO expansion as a threat...


EU to unveil Russia sanctions as Ukraine truce teeters

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Ukraine accused pro-Russian rebels of waging fresh attacks in the restive east on Monday (Sep 8), further imperiling a fragile truce as EU leaders prepared to approve punishing new sanctions on Moscow.

MARIUPOL: Ukraine accused pro-Russian rebels of waging fresh attacks in the restive east on Monday (Sep 8), further imperilling a fragile truce as EU leaders prepared to approve punishing new sanctions on Moscow.

Russia warned it would retaliate against the new measures, which the EU has nevertheless said could be suspended if Moscow observes the ceasefire deal and removes its troops from Ukraine.

The warring parties have each accused the other of breaching the pact since it was signed on Friday, the first backed by both Kiev and Moscow to end a conflict that has plunged East-West relations to a post-Cold War low. Ukrainian soldiers were strengthening their positions around the flashpoint port city of Mariupol after weekend shelling by the insurgents left one woman dead.

"Despite the ceasefire, Ukrainian positions are still coming under attack," said Ukrainian defence spokesman Andriy, also accusing Russian troops of stirring trouble. "Russian sabotage and reconnaissance forces are attacking the terrorists' positions under the guise of being Ukrainian servicemen," he said.

Ukrainian forces said separatist militias had violated the truce overnight in Mariupol, which remains in government hands despite a rebel advance, and in the eastern insurgent strongholds of Lugansk and Donetsk. The first attacks outside Mariupol late on Saturday erupted only hours after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian leader Vladimir Putin issued nearly identical statements agreeing the truce was "generally holding" and vowing to pursue further steps toward peace.

Western governments accused Moscow of sending in huge numbers of troops and heavy weapons to back insurgents who launched a counter-offensive across the southeast in late August in a devastating reversal of fortune for the Ukrainian military. Mariupol has emerged as a key battleground with the insurgents apparently set on creating a land corridor between the Russian border and the Crimean peninsula annexed by Moscow in March.

Russia has repeatedly dismissed the claims as propaganda but Western leaders, deeply suspicious of Moscow's territorial ambitions, have reacted by threatening new sanctions and boosting its military presence in eastern Europe. In a further show of force, NATO and Ukraine launched naval drills in the Black Sea on Monday. ahead of annual ground exercises next week.

EU President Herman Van Rompuy said the new sanctions due to be approved on Monday...



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