Wednesday, October 1, 2014

U.S. Tanks Arrive In Baltics, Russia Locks NATO Out Of Caspian Sea, State Dept. Rejects Netanyahu's Mideast Diagnosis

U.S. Tanks Arrive In Baltics

Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz says she wants a greater military presence in Poland in light of events in Ukraine. The comment came as the US announced it is deploying 700 soldiers and 20 ‘Ironhorse’ tanks across the three Baltic States and Poland.
The comments were made during Kopacz's inauguration speech to the lower house of the Polish parliament.

“In the face of what is happening in Ukraine, closer relations with the United States become more important. That is why my government will make every effort to ensure that the United States increases its military presence in Poland,” she said.

Meanwhile, the so-called ‘Ironhorse’ armed cavalry unit – consisting of 20 M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks and about 700 soldiers, along with Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles – is being sent from its base in Texas and marks a considerable increase in tensions between NATO and Russia.

The Baltic countries and Poland have said they are nervous about an increasingly assertive Russia in the face of recent events in Ukraine. This is the first time the US has shipped heavy armored reinforcements to Europe since the end of the Cold War, Reuters reported.

“The purpose is to be a very visible demonstration of commitment to our allies. We may take slightly longer to deploy than lighter forces, but there’s nothing like a tank if you really want to achieve effect,”said Captain John Farmer, public affairs officer for Ironhorse.

Ironhorse, formerly called the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, will replace a similar number of lightly armed US paratroopers, who were deployed after Crimea's accession in March.

Tensions between Russia and NATO increased dramatically due to the crisis in Ukraine, although mistrust and discontent between the two have been simmering for the past decade.

Russia has warned many times against NATO’s increased buildup and march eastward toward its borders, which it views as a threat. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in July that the planned US missile defense system in Eastern Europe is not just for defensive purposes, but is an “offensive weapon” which is an “element of the US offensive system deployed outside the mainland.”

“As it stands NATO is blatantly building up its forces in Eastern Europe, including the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea areas. Its operational and combat training activities are gaining in scale,” he said.

Along with the planned missile defense shield and the enlargement of the military alliance into countries like Ukraine, NATO has also been expanding its military activities in the Black and Baltic Sea.

READ MORE: Ukraine hosts military drills led by US and joined by NATO

Part of Russia’s response to NATO's buildup on its borders and the proposed US missile defense shield has been to deploy the advanced Iskander missile system in the Kaliningrad enclave, as well as to increase its own military spending and modernization.

Iran and Russia have built unanimous consensus among the Caspian states, which also feature Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, over the inadmissibility of a foreign military presence in the Caspian Sea, ruling out any future possible deployment of NATO forces in the basin.
A political declaration signed by the presidents of the five Caspian states at the IV Caspian Summit held in Astrakhan, Russia, on September 29, “sets out a fundamental principle for guaranteeing stability and security, namely, that only the Caspian littoral states have the right to have their armed forces present on the Caspian,” according to a statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the wake of the summit.
His Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, added that “there is consensus among all the Caspian Sea littoral states that they are capable of maintaining the security of the Caspian Sea and military forces of no foreign country must enter the sea,” Iran’s state news agency PressTV quoted Rouhani as saying.
The move comes as both Russia and Iran are experiencing tense diplomatic relations with Western countries and feel increasingly threatened by a foreign military presence in the Caspian Sea.
“Both Iran and Russia have interests in keeping under control a military presence of Western countries in the basin,” Bahman Diba, foreign policy expert and author of The Law and Politics of the Caspian Sea, told The Diplomat.
“Because of the ongoing troubles with former Soviet countries such as Ukraine and Georgia, Russia revived a foreign policy that can bring to mind the Cold War era. At the same time, the Iranian regime is concerned that the west may use Caspian countries to put pressure on its nuclear program.”
The Ukraine crisis has left the West seriously at odds with Moscow, which stands accused of breaching international law and violating Ukraine sovereignty. The array of sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe on Russia following the annexation of Crimea and fighting in Eastern Ukraine represent the toughest action taken by Western countries against the Kremlin since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In yet another tragic indication of Obama administration’s ideological obstinance, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki indicated that Israel and the United States are not on the same page regarding the scope of Islamic terror.

The rift centers around Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speechat the U.N. on Monday, during which he insisted that terrorist groups such as ISIS, Hamas, the Iranian regime, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram share the same vision. “Some are radical Sunnis, some are radical Shi’ites,” he explained.

Some want to restore a pre-medieval caliphate from the 7th century. Others want to trigger the apocalyptic return of an imam from the 9th century. They operate in different lands, they target different victims and they even kill each other in their quest for supremacy. But they all share a fanatic ideology. They all seek to create ever expanding enclaves of militant Islam where there is no freedom and no tolerance, where women are treated as chattel, Christians are decimated, and minorities are subjugated, sometimes given the stark choice: convert or die. For them, anyone can be an infidel, including fellow Muslims.

Such a no-holds-barred assessment of the threat was too much for the White House. When Psaki was asked if they agreed with Netanyahu’s argument, her answer was distressingly clear. “We would not agree with that characterization, no,” she replied. Pressed on Netanyahu’s contention that ISIS and Hamas are cut from the same cloth, Psaki once again balked. She conceded that both groups are U.S.-designated terrorist organizations, but insisted that ISIS “poses a different threat to Western interests and to the United States. And that’s just a fact.”
She continued. “We don’t believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu or anyone else from Israel is suggesting that the United States launch a military campaign against Hamas, so we certainly—they are both designated terrorist organizations under the United States designations, but certainly we see differences in terms of the threat and otherwise,” she added.

No doubt the administration was equally uncomfortable with Netanyahu’s comparison of militant Islam with Nazism because it once again revealed the wider scope of the threat. But his analogy was spot on. “The Nazis believed in a master race,” he said. “The militant Islamists believe in a master faith.”

Ayatollah Khomeini, in these words: We will export our revolution to the entire world. until the cry ‚ÄòThere is no God but Allah’ will echo throughout the world over… And ever since, the regime’s brutal enforcers, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, have done exactly that,” he explained.
He warned the world not to be fooled by “Iran’s manipulative charm offensive. It’s designed for one purpose, and for one purpose only: To lift the sanctions and remove the obstacles to Iran’s path to the bomb.”

What war? Psaki completely rejected Netanyahu’s characterization of Iran, insisting the Obama administration’s aim is to bring the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism into the international community, providing they can demonstrate their nuclear program is peaceful. “I can assure anyone that an agreement reached would not be based on a charm offensive or how that impacts us, but on the facts and the details,” she said. “And we’re not going to agree to a comprehensive agreement that doesn’t meet our standards and meet our threshold.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bluntly told U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday that he must make sure that any final nuclear deal with Iran does not leave it at the “threshold" of being able to develop nuclear weapons.
Even as Netanyahu pressed Obama over Iran in White House talks, the president urged the Israeli leader to help find ways to prevent Palestinian civilian casualties like those inflicted in the recent Gaza war between Israel and Hamas militants.
Netanyahu's visit was clouded by word of Israel's approval of the planned construction of more than 2,600 settler homes in mostly Arab East Jerusalem.

Underscoring Israeli misgivings at a critical juncture in nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, Netanyahu made clear that he remains at odds with Obama about the course of international negotiations with Israel’s regional arch-foe.
"As you know, Mr. President, Iran seeks a deal that would lift the tough sanctions that you worked so hard to put in place and leave it as a threshold nuclear power," Netanyahu said. "I firmly hope under your leadership that would not happen."
The crux of the U.S.-Israeli disagreement is that Netanyahu wants Tehran completely stripped of its nuclear capability, while Obama has suggested he is open to Iran continuing to enrich uranium on a limited basis for civilian purposes.

As if the fast degenerating geo-political situation isn’t bad enough, here’s another lorry load of concerns to add to the pile.
The UK and US economies may be on the mend at last, but that’s not the pattern elsewhere. On a global level, growth is being steadily drowned under a rising tide of debt, threatening renewed financial crisis, a continued squeeze to living standards, and eventual mass default.
I exaggerate only a little in depicting this apocalyptic view of the future as the conclusion of the latest “Geneva Report”, an annual assessment informed by a top drawer conference of leading decision makers and economic thinkers of the big challenges facing the global economy.
Aptly titled “Deleveraging? What Deleveraging?”, the report points out that, far from paying down debt since the financial crisis of 2008/9, the world economy as a whole has in fact geared up even further. The raw numbers make explosive reading.
Contrary to widely held assumptions, the world has not yet begun to de-lever. In fact global debt-to-GDP – public and private non financial debt - is still growing, breaking new highs by the month.

No comments: