SYRIA – MATERIAL EVIDENCE

SYRIA_CIVILWAR

Syria

The civil war in Syria is a conflict that the country cannot solve since 2011. A conflict that nearly caused a military intervention of the world community. Who “benefits” from this war? What is happening in Syria now? The events in Syria are another episode of the Arab Spring; but here it has turned the cities into ruins with a horrific number of victims and divided the society different, opposing groups. By visiting the exhibition, where each photo is a frozen reality of human misery, we can learn to understand and even experience the horror of the civil war in Syria.

SYRIA, A “NEW” LIBYA WITH VERY LITTLE TIME LEFT?

22libya-full-bleed-videoSixteenByNine3000                   Fotograph courtesy of the New York Times

 

There could be no more apt image to describe Libyan politics today than the prime minister himself, the beleaguered Mr Ali Zeidan, being kidnapped on Tuesday morning by a militia notionally allied to his own government. When he was released several hours later, he noted, with marvellous understatement, that “there are many things that need dealing with”. Indeed there are.

For one thing, Mr Zeidan’s was not the first abduction of the week. That came courtesy of American special forces, who strolled into Tripoli on Saturday to pick up Abu Anas al-Liby, a senior member of al‑Qaeda wanted for the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Uganda. The Americans then made life immeasurably harder for the Libyan government by insisting that it had known about the raid. The predictable result was uproar.

But it’s no surprise that the US felt the need to step in. Libyan forces were neither able to prevent the 2011 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, nor arrest anyone afterwards. If the US had simply put in an extradition request, the prospect of al-Liby being picked up or ever facing trial would have been vanishingly small.

In truth, the prime minister’s kidnapping and the US raid are both no more than symptoms of something that has been obvious for over a year: Libya’s post-Gaddafi state lacks the firepower to impose its will on an increasingly lawless country. The Italian consulate in Benghazi was attacked in January, the French embassy in April, the EU ambassador’s convoy in August, and Russia’s embassy last week. And those are just the foreign targets.

This is about much more than terrorist violence. The state in Libya, which Colonel Gaddafi eviscerated for his own despotic ends, is now being consumed by the same rebel groups that brought it into life back in 2011. Performing the most basic tasks of administration, such as making arrests or monitoring borders, can require a negotiation between the government and whichever militias happen to have accumulated enough guns in that particular area. It’s not just that the enfeebled police and army won’t take them on for fear of losing. It’s also that the state has decided to outsource these functions to its tormentors. Both the prime minister’s kidnapping and the attack in Benghazi were perpetrated by groups that have worked with the government and its ministries.

Why are militias challenging the government in the first place? There’s no simple answer, because there is a dizzying variety of groups with guns. Some are Islamist, others secular and nationalist. Some are formed around particular cities or provinces. Others formed in a jumbled way during the 2011 uprising, and claim a sort of Jacobin revolutionary legitimacy against what they see as a government tainted by corrupt, pro-Western stooges.

In March, a coalition of militias, with the typically self-important title of the Supreme Security Council, laid siege to the ministries of justice and foreign affairs for two weeks, insisting that parliament sign a wide-ranging law that would ban Gaddafi-era officials from serving in government. Remarkably, parliament capitulated. It had essentially been coerced into legislating at the barrel of a gun. The speaker of parliament himself was forced to resign.

Outside of Tripoli, the problem is no better. For the past two months, Libyan oil exports have plummeted to a fifth of their Gaddafi-era peak, after guards at eastern oil facilities and ports went on strike. Part of that dispute was a demand that eastern Libya, which chafes at Tripoli’s domination, be given more autonomy.

Wars, once won, tend to be forgotten. This was the fate of Afghanistan in the years after 2001, Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011. But Libya’s problems will not stay within its borders. Adding to all of these domestic concerns is the massive flow of arms across Libya’s long, porous borders. Libyan weapons, looted from Gaddafi’s armouries, have been smuggled across the region, turning up in places as diverse as Mali, the Sinai, Gaza and Syria. According to one estimate, around 3,000 shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles – capable of bringing down civilian airliners – remain missing.

The dilemma is clear: Libya’s government is too weak to fix these problems itself, but unilateral American or European steps – or assistance that is too public – risks tainting the government further in the eyes of Islamists and nationalists. A careful balance has to be struck. This government’s authority has been eroding for over a year, and it has now suffered the most grievous blow yet. Unless Mr Zeidan shows he can check the power of militias, he risks a continued slide into irrelevance.

The Attack on the American Mission in Benghazi, Libya

The American mission in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked twice on the night of Sept. 11, 2012. Below, the events that evening that resulted in the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans according to the latest information available.
 
The American mission in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked twice on the night of Sept. 11, 2012. Below, the events that evening that resulted in the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans according to the latest information available.
Sept. 11, 9:30 p.m. Benghazi time

Militants, firing guns and rocket-propelled grenades, attack the main compound, moving on multiple entrances at once. The main entrance is protected by three armed and four unarmed Libyan guards. No more than seven Americans are in the compound, including three civilians and four who have guns. Mr. Stevens is alone in the main building, according to guards interviewed later. The militants enter the compound, backed by truck-mounted artillery.

Libya Envoy’s Killing Was a Terrorist Attack, the White House Says

WASHINGTON — The White House is now calling the assault on the American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, a “terrorist attack.”

“It is self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack,” the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday. “Our embassy was attacked violently and the result was four deaths of American officials.”

Until now, White House officials have not used that language in describing the assault. But with the election less than two months away and President Obama’s record on national security a campaign issue, they have come under criticism from Republican lawmakers who say the administration is playing down a threat for which it was unprepared.

Mr. Carney offered the new assessment in response to a question about remarks by Matthew G. Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, who told a Congressional committee Wednesday that J. Christopher Stevens, the United States ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans had died “in the course of a terrorist attack.”

Asked if the president drew a connection between the Libyan attack, which occurred on Sept. 11, and the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon 11 years before, Mr. Carney said, “The attack occurred on Sept 11, 2012, so we use the same calendar at the White House as you do.”

In a highly charged political atmosphere, the mere use of the term “terrorist” is loaded, not least, as one administration official acknowledged privately, because the phrase conjures up an image of America under attack, something the White House wants to avoid.

Beyond that, different government agencies have different definitions for what defines terrorism, said Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism expert at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan research group.

The classic definition, Mr. Fishman said, “is an attack by a nonstate group on noncombatants with the intent to intimidate people.” He said that another reason the administration was shying from using that term is because “they really didn’t know who did it.”

And the president, campaigning in Florida on Thursday, did not use the word terrorism when asked about the attacks.

Mr. Carney maintained on Thursday that Obama administration officials still were not calling the attack preplanned.

“According to the best information we have now, we believe it was an opportunistic attack on our mission in Benghazi,” he said. “It appears that some well-armed militants seized on that attack as the events unfolded that evening. We do not have any specific intelligence that there was significant advance planning or coordination for this attack.”Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said earlier in the week that there had been no intelligence warnings that an attack was imminent.

Mrs. Clinton said that F.B.I. investigators had arrived in Tripoli and that the United States, with the Libyan authorities, would find those responsible. She did not discuss any potential ties to Al Qaeda, but blamed extremists opposed to the democratic changes in places like Libya, Tunisia and Egypt for the violence and protests around the region generally.

Mrs. Clinton announced the creation of a panel to investigate the attack. The panel, called an Accountability Review Board, will be led by Thomas R. Pickering, a veteran diplomat and former under secretary of state. The board is authorized by a 1986 law intended to strengthen security at United States diplomatic missions.

“We are concerned first and foremost with our own people and facilities,” Mrs. Clinton said in an appearance at the State Department with the Indonesian foreign minister. “But we are concerned about the internal security in these countries, because ultimately, that puts at risk the men, women and children of these societies on a daily ongoing basis if actions are not taken to try to restore security and civil order.”

MILITARY TIMES – Russia has big ambitions, growing capabilities

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Russia has big ambitions,
growing capabilities
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Early on the morning of Sept. 30, a Russian three-star general approached the American embassy in Baghdad, walked past a wall of well-armed Marines, to deliver face-to-face a diplomatic demarche to the United States. His statement was blunt: The Russia military would begin air strikes in neighboring Syria within the hour — and the American military should clear the area immediately.

It was a bout of brinksmanship between two nuclear-armed giants that the world has not seen in decades, and it has revived Cold War levels of suspicion, antagonism and gamesmanship.

With the launch of airstrikes in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin instigated a proxy war with the U.S., putting those nation’s powerful militaries in support of opposing sides of the multipolar conflict. And it’s a huge gamble for Moscow, experts say. “This is really quite difficult for them. It’s logistically complex. The Russians don’t have much in the way of long-range power projection capability,” said Mark Galeotti, a Russian security expert at New York University.

Moscow’s military campaign in Syria is relying on supply lines that require air corridors through both Iranian and Iraqi air space. The only alternatives are naval supply lines running from Crimea, requiring a passage of up to 10 days round-trip. How long that can be sustained is unclear.

That and other questions about Russian military capabilities and objectives are taking center stage as Putin shows a relentless willingness to use military force in a heavy-handed foreign policy aimed at restoring his nation’s stature as a world power. In that quest, he has raised the specter of resurgent Russian military might — from Ukraine to the Baltics, from Syria to the broader Middle East.

Russia’s increasingly aggressive posture has sparked a sweeping review among U.S. defense strategists of America’s military policies and contingency plans in the event of a conflict with the former Soviet state. Indeed, the Pentagon’s senior leaders are asking questions that have been set aside for more than 20 years:

How much are the Russians truly capable of?
Where precisely might a conflict with Russia occur?
What would a war with Russia look like today?

Make no mistake: Experts agree that the U.S. military’s globe-spanning force would clobber the Russian military in any toe-to-toe conventional fight. But modern wars are not toe-to-toe conventional fights; geography, politics and terrain inevitably give one side an advantage.

Today, the U.S. spends nearly 10 times more than Russia on national defense. The U.S. operates 10 aircraft carriers; Russia has just one. And the U.S. military maintains a broad technological edge and a vastly superior ability to project power around the world.

Russia remains weak, according to many traditional criteria. But it is now developing some key technologies, new fighting tactics and a brazen geopolitical strategy that is aggressively undermining America’s 25-year claim to being the only truly global superpower. The result: Russia is unexpectedly re-emerging as America’s chief military rival.

As U.S. officials watch that unfold, they are “clearly motivated by concerns that at least locally, Russia has the potential to generate superior forces,” said David Ochmanek, a former Pentagon official who is now a defense analyst at the RAND Corp. And looming over the entire U.S.-Russian relationship are their nuclear arsenals. Russia has preserved, even modernized, its own “triad” with nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles, a large fleet of long-range strike aircraft and increasingly sophisticated nuclear-armed submarines.

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“The Russian defense industry is being rebuilt from ruins,” said Vadim Kozyulin, a military expert at the Moscow-based PIR Center, a think tank. “The military balance can only be ensured by Russia’s nuclear might, which isn’t as expensive to maintain as many people think.”

But while Russia’s conventional forces are less impressive than its nuclear forces, there are specific conventional areas where the Russians excel — among them aircraft, air defenses, submarines, and electronic warfare.

The Soviet-era weapons design bureaus remain prominent internationally. Russia’s aerospace industry, for example, has benefited greatly from international exports to non-Western nations, which go to Russia to buy effective fighter jets that are cheaper than their Western variants. China today spends more on defense annually than Russia, but still imports platforms and advanced weaponry from Russia.

Attempting a side-by-side comparisons of the U.S. and Russian militaries is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, many experts say; the Russians have distinctly different strategic goals, and their military structure reflects that. Russia views itself as a land-based power, exerting influence in a sphere expanding outward from its Eurasian heartland into Eastern Europe, Central Asia and possibly the Middle East and Pacific rim. It is well suited for relying on a particular set of capabilities known as “anti-access and area denial.”

“The United States and Russia are going for different things,” Galeotti said. “What the Russians are looking for is not to take on and compete on equal terms with us. It’s denial.” For example, he said, “one can look at the U.S. Navy as massively superior to the Russian navy. Most of them are legacy Soviet ships. But in a way, that doesn’t matter, because Russia does not plan to send its forces all across the world’s oceans.”

That’s reflected in the fact that Russia maintains a lone aircraft carrier while the U.S. Navy’s 10-carrier fleet operates on a continuing global deployment cycle. Instead of carriers designed for offensive power projection at sea, the Russians are investing in an expanding fleet of submarines that can supplement their nuclear force and, conventionally, threaten an enemy surface fleet in nearby waters such as the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea or the Mediterranean Sea.

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Its airspace also is heavily fortified. The quality of Russia’s stealth aircraft is far weaker than those of the U.S., but Russia has cutting-edge anti-stealth systems, and also has invested heavily in robust surface-to-air missile systems and arrayed its forces domestically to protect its border regions. “The static airpower picture would favor the Russians because they have a lot of capability in terms of air defense and a variety of tactical and cruise and ballistic missiles,” said Paul Schwartz, a Russian military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Russia’s electronic warfare capability is also daunting to Pentagon military planners; left unclear is the extent to which Russia could jam the radars and signals intelligence that forms the foundation of the U.S.’s advanced air power. Any attempt by the U.S. and its allies to infiltrate Russian air space “would not necessarily be easy,” Schwartz said. “It would be a contested environment. But over time I think we would be able to degrade it. The problem is, with a nuclear power, you try to avoid a full-scale fighting.”

Meanwhile, the Russian army, still predominantly a conscripted force, is being transitioned to an American-style professional force. In effect, Russia has two armies: About two thirds of the roughly 800,000-man force remains filled with unmotivated and poorly trained draftees, but about one third is not — and those are the units outfitted with top-notch gear, including the Armata T-14 Main Battle Tanks.

In sum, the Russian military is not the equal of the U.S. military. But the gap has narrowed in recent years.

Forward Operating Base Syria

Russia’s swift creation of a forward operating base in Syria has stunned many U.S. officials. In just a few weeks, its military erected a potentially permanent base at Latakia, on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. They’ve deployed dozens of combat aircraft, fortified the installation with tanks and assembled housing for hundreds of troops.

The Russians recently announced plans for a naval exercise in the eastern Mediterranean this fall, but did not specify exactly when ships would deploy to the region. The exercise will feature the Black Sea Fleet’s flagship, the guided missile cruiser Moskva, as well as several smaller escort vessels and large amphibious assault and landing ships, Russia’s TASS news agency reported. Some military officials question whether the exercise is a cover for shipping more troops and gear to the Syrian coast.
Smoke rises over Talbiseh, a city in western Syria’s

Smoke rises over Talbiseh, a city in western Syria’s Homs province, on Sept. 30, marking Russian first airstrikes in the region.
(Photo: Homs Media Centre via AP)

The new forward operating base will give Russia the capability to fly combat air sorties, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance missions and drones across the Middle East. That could include Iraq, the leadership of which has invited the Russians to assist in the fight against the Islamic State in that country.

The base will help secure Russia’s longtime naval support facility at the Syrian port of Tarus, a key to the Russian military’s ability to maintain and project power into the Mediterranean. Russia reportedly is expanding its footprint at the Tarus facility.

More broadly, Moscow is signaling a long-term interest in extending its umbrella of anti-access area denial capabilities into the Middle East. The Russians reportedly are shipping some of their most advanced surface-to-air missile systems into Latakia, raising concerns inside the Pentagon because that move runs counter to Russia’s claims of limiting the focus of its military activities to Syrian rebel groups like the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Russia has deployed a number of Su-30 fighters to Syria,

Russia has deployed a number of Su-30 fighters to Syria, aircraft that are capable of striking ground targets as well as those in the air.
(Photo: Pavel Golovkin/AP)

“We see some very sophisticated air defenses going into those airfields, we see some very sophisticated air-to-air aircraft going into these airfields,” Gen. Phillip Breedlove, chief of the U.S. European Command and also the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, said Sept. 28. “I have not seen ISIL flying any airplanes that require SA-15s or SA-22s [Russian missiles]. I have not seen ISIL flying any airplanes that require sophisticated air-to-air capabilities. These very sophisticated air defense capabilities are not about ISIL … they’re about something else.”

In effect, the Russians could challenge the air superiority maintained — even taken for granted — by the U.S. over large swaths the Middle East for more than 20 years. A crucial factor in this equation is Russia’s alliance with Iran, another key Syrian ally. Russia depends on Iranian airspace for its flight corridors into Syria, and reportedly is prepared to support Iranian ground troops aligned with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Experts inside Russia believe the incursion into Syria, along with Putin’s aggressive speech at the United Nations on Sept. 28, signal his long-term interest in becoming a key player in the region.

“It became clear that Russia is going to exercise a more ambitious policy in the Middle East. The Russian President made it clear that the western model of democracy and its way of dealing with conflicts in the region is not working,” said Yury Barmin, a Moscow-based Russian expert on Mideast politics and Russian foreign policy. However, Barmin said, “it is doubtful that Russia has the capacity to emerge as a leading power in [the Middle East] in the near future because its presence in the region is limited if you compare it to that of the United States.”

Yet some see Putin’s maneuvers in Syria as some broader geopolitical gambit that aims to secure a deal on Ukraine. Russia currently occupies parts of Ukraine, but the U.S. still considers Moscow’s March 2014 invasion illegal and its control there illegitimate. “It’s much more about the U.S. than it is about Syria and Assad,” Galeotti said. “Let’s be honest, if Washington indicated that some deal could be struck where they tacitly accept the Russians’ position in Crimea and parts of Donbas, they are not going to fight a war for Assad.”

In Ukraine, a new brand of ‘hybrid warfare’

The conflict in Ukraine and the American training mission there is giving the Pentagon fresh insight on an enemy they might fight elsewhere in the not-too-distant future. But critics say America’s timid response to Russian aggression — both in Crimea and the the Donetsk and Luhansk regions — has done little to deter Moscow. In Ukraine Russia has revealed a new brand of “hybrid warfare,” one that mixes non-state proxy fighters, heavy armor and artillery, drones, electronic warfare and aggressive information operations to achieve battlefield victories.
Ukrainian servicemen patrol near the chemical plant

Ukrainian servicemen patrol near the chemical plant in Avdeevka, a town just north of the city of Donetsk, on June 20. Ukrainian troops face threats from insurgents and conventionally trained forces.
(Photo: Aleskey Chernyshev/AFP)

“It is good for us to be aware how they fight,” said Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, in an interview with Military Times on Sept. 10. “We have not fought wars the way they do in kind of an urban, mixed urban and nonurban setting with UAVs, with electronic jamming.”

Farkas is stepping down from her post at the end of October, after five years at the Defense Department. It’s unclear who will take her place as the Pentagon’s key policy maker for Russia-related issues.

For the small cadre of U.S. military professionals who’ve been working alongside Ukrainian government forces, the fight against Russian-backed rebels is a major change from their recent experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We’ve got a ton of experience in low-intensity warfare, counterinsurgency warfare, whereas a bulk of the Ukraine experience is facing a 21st-century, near-peer adversary,” said Army Lt. Col. Michael Kloepper, commander of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, which recently began its third rotation into Ukraine to train that nation’s military forces.

The Army deployments are part of a broader U.S. military effort to reassure NATO allies rattled by Russia’s actions. Yet the Obama administration has been reluctant to provide more robust support, determined, it seems, to avoid the potential for a proxy war with the Russians.
Since its annexation of Crimea in early 2014, Russia

Since its annexation of Crimea in early 2014, Russia has steadily expanded its military presence in the region. In response, the U.S. and its NATO allies are working to build, train and equip Ukrainian forces.
(Photo: John Bretschneider/Staff)

Russian has lined thousands of troops and large tank and artillery units along its Ukrainian border. Those Russian troops routinely shell the border towns and make incursions into Ukraine to fight alongside the rebels in the contested areas. So far, the administration has pledged only “nonlethal aid” for training and gear such as Humvees, small drones and radar.

Washington has placed economic sanctions on Russia, sent U.S. troops to help train Ukrainian forces and has ramped up military exercises across Eastern Europe. But it has not yet provided any offensive weaponry and ammunition, and it has not threatened military action against Russia. Since March 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine, the U.S. has contributed $244 million in nonlethal security assistance and training. For comparison, that amount would pay for about three weeks of operations in Iraq and Syria.

Ukrainian officials in Kiev have made repeated pleas for more. “We need anti-tank Javelin systems, intelligence and combat drones, … fighter jets, helicopters, electronic and signal intelligence systems, radars and sound intelligence systems” to counter Russian military equipment used by Moscow-backed separatists on the eastern front, said Colonel General Victor Muzhenko, the Ukrainian military’s top officer. They’ve also asked for anti-aircraft guns and more equipment to neutralize enemy snipers, he told Military Times.
Ukrainian troops man an anti-aircraft weapon at a checkpoint

Ukrainian troops man an anti-aircraft weapon at a checkpoint outside the town of Amvrosiivka, close to the Russian border. Kiev says it’s desperate for more weaponry, but so far Washington has shown willingness to provide only nonlethal equipment.
(Photo: Vadim Ghirda/AP)

There are between 30,000 and 35,000 Russian-backed fighters in Eastern Ukraine, about 9,000 of whom are coming solely from the Russian front, Muzhenko estimates. They’re using sophisticated electronic warfare systems to jam the Ukrainians’ communications, radar, GPS and early warning-detection equipment, said Ihor Dolhov, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister for European integration.

It’s a unique battlespace, and the Americans who have provided training to Ukrainian forces are eager to collect intelligence about the Russians’ new mode of combat. “It has been interesting to hear what they have learned,” Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, told Defense News, a sister publication of Military Times. “No Americans have been under Russian artillery or rocket fire or been on the receiving end of significant Russian electronic warfare, the jamming and collecting, for example, not at tactical levels.”

The future of the Ukraine conflict is unclear. In late September, all sides agreed to withdraw tanks and heavy artillery from Ukraine’s eastern front. A ceasefire in eastern Ukraine also appears to be holding, although each side remains wary, and local parliamentary elections set to take place Oct. 25 may be upended by pro-Russian separatists, who aim to hold their own elections.

For now, Obama shows no signs of conceding to Russian control the regions Ukraine has controlled for decades. “We cannot stand by when the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a nation is flagrantly violated,” Obama told the U.N. General Assembly in a major speech on Sept. 28. “That’s the basis of the sanctions that the United States and our partners imposed on Russia. It’s not a desire to return to the Cold War.”

Predicting the next flashpoint

For more than a year, the U.S. and its European allies have been reassessing the military balance along NATO’s eastern border, which is lined with former Soviet satellite states. The result has been Operation Atlantic Resolve, an expanded rotational presence of U.S troops in NATO’s easternmost countries like Poland, the Baltics, Romania and Bulgaria.

Putin and his military have menaced the Baltic countries, who are among the newest and weakest NATO partners. Russia has repeatedly sent military aircraft into Baltic airspace, patrolled submarines in the Baltic Sea and allegedly mounted cyber-attacks. And Russian officials have voiced support for Russian-speaking minorities, raising the specter of future agitation.
Sgt. 1st Class Jason Muzzy, an observer-controller

Sgt. 1st Class Jason Muzzy, an observer-controller from Company A, 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment, works with an Estonian soldier during a training exercise in Germany. Some see NATO’s newest members, like Estonia, as particularly vulnerable to Russia aggression.
(Photo: Sgt. Christina Dion/Army)

The aggression in the Baltics, especially Estonia, which has a large Russian-speaking minority, has been more ambiguous than Moscow’s overt operations in Ukraine and Syria. The argument goes that Putin would employ a type of hybrid warfare perfected in Ukraine to rally ethnic Russian populations in the Baltic states to rise up in support with special operations forces — the so-called “little green men.”

That has sparked concern in the West that Putin’s ultimate goal is to break NATO with force, if intimidation fails. NATO is struggling to figure out how to respond, with member nations holding differing perspectives on when Russian behavior crosses a red line. It’s about “working out at what point a military response is the correct response,” said Nick de Larrinaga, a London-based analyst for IHS Jane’s Defense and Security Group. “Hybrid warfare casts doubts about when there should be a military response, or whether this is a civilian issue that should be taken care of by local law enforcement,” he said.
Russia claims to have some 750 tanks in its western

Russia claims to have some 750 tanks in its western military region, though its unclear how much of that equipment is legitimately combat-ready.
(Photo: Andrey Kronberg/AFP/Getty Images)

Another option for Russia, of course, is to shift to a conventional fight. A review of the military balance in the immediate Baltic theater would seem to give Russia an initial advantage in an aerial campaign against NATO, if Moscow’s political objective was to push NATO out of the Baltics.

According to a recent report by international think tank Chatham House, Russia’s military strength in its Western Military District stands at 65,000 ground troops, 850 pieces of artillery, 750 tanks, and 320 combat aircraft. Other estimates are much higher, but in general there is a high degree of uncertainty about how much of those forces exist only on paper, and how many are truly prepared for combat.

Another aspect of the Russian military that gets overhyped is its Baltic Fleet, the smallest of Russia’s main fleets and truly a shadow of its former self. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the coastal infrastructure that stretched from Kalingrad to Leningrad was lost to the newly independent Baltic states.

Today, the fleet is split between Kalingrad and St. Petersburg, making it difficult to support a larger fleet. The Baltic Fleet’s assets today include only two small Kilo-class diesel powered submarines, one of which is used mostly for training, along with a handful of Sovremenny-class destroyers, a frigate, four corvettes, and a smattering of support ships.

For a conventional operation, Russia also could bring assets from its Northern Fleet, which frequently patrols the North Atlantic, into the Baltic theater to support a larger action.

That threat could become a powerful one if Russia’s true goal in the Baltics is to force NATO into showing that it won’t honor Article V, the key element of the alliance treaty that holds an attack on one member nation will be met with a swift and unified response from all member nations.

Defense News’ Russia correspondent, Matthew Bodner, contributed to this report from Moscow.

© 2015 http://www.militarytimes.com. All rights reserved.

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BREAKING: Over 1,000 ISIS and Al Nusra Militants Surrender To Syrian Army In Last 24 Hours

 

 

The development came after President Bashar al-Assad in a televised address in July pardoned all soldiers who have fled the army, saying that his words served as a general decree to relevant officials.

Hundreds of gunmen have been laying down their weapons and turning themselves in to authorities in areas across the country.

This number seems to be on the rise as the army has been making steady gains in the battlefield against the terrorist groups, recapturing an increasing number of regions, including strategic sites, which helped cut off many of the militants’ supply routes and forced them to surrender or run away.

Also in the past 24 hours, the Syrian air raids destroyed concentration centers of the ISIL, al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups in Hama and Idlib.

The Syrian warplanes conducted airstrikes against positions of ISIL and the so-called Jeish al-Fath terrorists in the countryside of Hama and Idlib.

The airstrikes hit positions of the ISIL terrorists in al-Rahjan village, 50 km to the Northeast of Hama City, destroying a number of terrorists’ vehicles with all arms, ammunition and equipment on board.

The airstrikes also hit positions of al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups in Aqrab village in the Southwestern countryside of Hama, killing scores of terrorists.

A number of vehicles belonging to Jeish al-Fath terrorists were also destroyed in airstrikes in Abdin village in the countryside of Ma’aret al-Nu’aman in Idlib countryside.

Meantime, the Syrian fighter jets pounded hideouts of the Takfiri militants in the countryside of Homs.

The Syrian air raids destroyed Takfiri terrorists’ hideouts and vehicles in al-Qaryatain, al-Sa’an, and in the vicinity of al-Sha’er field in Homs countryside.

The Russian air group in Syria is using Kh-29L air-to-surface missiles to conduct airstrikes against the ISIL militants, the Russian military said Sunday.

“A Kh-29L surface-to-air missile is equipped with a semi-active laser guidance system. When the launch is conducted, a pilot illuminates a target with a laser sight. At the same time an aircraft can continue the flight,” Aerospace Forces Spokesman Colonel Igor Klimov said.

Also, the Syrian army conducted military operations against the foreign-backed Takfiri militants in Aleppo province, leaving hundreds of them killed and injured.

Hundreds of terrorists were killed or wounded in Aleppo City and its countryside in the past 24 hours, a military source said.

Elsewhere, at least 28 militant fighters of the ISIL terrorist group were killed during clashes with the Kurdish forces in the Northeastern Syrian province of Hasaka.

“The YPG forces besieged the ISIL militants near Mount Abdulaziz and killed dozens of terrorists and destroyed several vehicles,” a spokesman for the YPG Media Center told ARA News.

Also, gunmen from the Jeish al-Fath coalition of extremist groups are pulling out their forces from Idlib and other towns in Northwestern Syria.

The radical group started moving towards the Turkish border on Saturday after having experienced “the efficiency of the Russian aerospace forces’ strikes,” the As-Safir Arabic-language daily reported.

The coalition is led by al-Nusra terrorist group, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, which is sponsored by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. The group seized the Idlib province this spring.

The report said field commanders fear at any moment the attack of Syrian forces supported by Russian warplanes on the key town of Jisr al-Shugour, on the Lattakia-Aleppo highway.

KIEV’S JUNTA FORCES TERROR BOMB DONBASS

 

 

Kiev’s Junta Forces Terror Bomb Donbass

Posted by Stephen Lendman

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

 
Kiev war crimes include using banned chemical weapons, cluster bombs and white phosphorous in Donbass – including against civilian neighborhoods.
 
Reports indicate US experts are helping Ukraine produce chemical weapons for use against rebel forces. Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) intelligence learned they’re being secretly developed for escalated dirty war.
 
On Tuesday, reported fuel-air (thermobaric) explosives targeted a Donetsk chemical plant – fired from junta held Kurahhovo village 30 kilometers away.
 
These weapons suck oxygen from open areas and human lungs. They generate intense, high-temperature explosions. They’re much more destructive than conventional explosives of equal weight – especially when used against people in bunkers, shelters, caves and other enclosed places.
 
It’s virtually impossible for civilians to shelter against their destructive effects. A Russian military scientist once called their capability comparable to low-yield radiological munitions.
 
Used in large numbers, they’re enormously destructive – separate blast waves reinforcing each other increasing their overall power. They use fuel and explosive charges creating a massive blast wave. They were first used in Vietnam by US forces.
 
An earlier CIA study said their effect “within confined spaces is immense. Those near the ignition point are obliterated.”
 
“Those at the fringe are likely to suffer many internal, and thus invisible injuries, including burst eardrums and crushed inner ear organs, severe concussions, rupture lungs and internal organs, and possibly blindness.”
 
With air sucked from lungs, victims suffocate to death besides other injuries sustained. Make no mistake. These are terror weapons – yet not banned under international law.
 
Ukrainian forces targeted Donetsk’s chemical plant storage facilities where mining explosives are held. They tried earlier using inaccurate Tochka-U missiles. They failed again this time. Crater evidence showed thermobaric weapons use.
 
Western media ignore these type incidents – including multiple daily attacks by junta forces on Donbass.
 
Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Defense Ministry spokesman Eduard Basurin said junta forces used artillery, mortars, grenade launchers and small arms in the last 24 hours alone. The pattern repeats daily – including willfully targeting civilian neighborhoods.
 
Russian upper house Federation Council International Affairs Committee chairman Konstantin Kosachev blames US-dominated NATO for exploiting nonexistent “Russian aggression” in Ukraine.
 
He expressed concern about belligerent NATO actions – calling deploying heavy weapons close to Russia’s borders “the height of irresponsibility to all peoples of Europe.”
 
Is “another large-scale military conflict planned,” he asked? “(W)hat is going on in Ukraine is a direct consequence of actions by the West, which upset the security and power balance in Europe by its (power grab in) Ukraine.”
 
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Meshkov said “(n)one of the Russia-NATO programs that used to (operate) are functioning at a working level.” Nothing is being done to repair ruptured relations.
 
Moscow justifiably is concerned about US-dominated NATO’s planned Eastern European buildup – creating more dangerous flashpoint conditions than already.
 
Russia intends responding appropriately to protect its security against hostile Western actions. Days earlier, a Foreign Ministry statement said:
 
“We will keep an eye on the United States’ and their allies’ steps towards building a global missile defence system and other factors impacting Russia’s security, such as the United States’ stockpiling non-nuclear strategic weapons within the Prompt Global Strike concept and its persistent unwillingness to undertake legally binding liabilities not to deploy weapons in outer space.”
 
“…Russia reserves the right to take (all) necessary steps to protect its security and defend its national interests.”
 
Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Washington of provocations “designed to aggravate bilateral relations.”
 
Moscow wants mutual cooperation with all nations. At the same time, it’ll defend itself responsibly against hostile US actions. Whether East/West confrontation can be avoided remains to be seen.

posted by Steve Lendman @ 2:51 AM

posted by Ainhoa Aristizabal @ 2:19 PM

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

All-Out War in Ukraine: NATO’s ‘Final Offensive’

By Prof. James Petras
Global Research, November 21, 2014
Region: Russia and FSU
Theme: US NATO War Agenda
In-depth Report: UKRAINE REPORT

 

nato-ukraineThere are clear signs that a major war is about to break out in Ukraine: A war actively promoted by the NATO regimes and supported by their allies and clients in Asia (Japan) and the Middle East (Saudi Arabia). The war over Ukraine will essentially run along the lines of a full-scale military offensive against the southeast Donbas region, targeting the breakaway ethnic Ukraine- Russian Peoples Republic of Donetsk and Lugansk, with the intention of deposing the democratically elected government, disarming the popular militias, killing the guerrilla resistance partisans and their mass base, dismantling the popular representative organizations and engaging in ethnic cleansing of millions of bilingual Ukraino-Russian citizens. NATO’s forthcoming military seizure of the Donbas region is a continuation and extension of its original violent putsch in Kiev, which overthrew an elected Ukrainian government in February 2014.

The Kiev junta and its newly ‘elected’ client rulers, and its NATO sponsors are intent on a major purge to consolidate the puppet Poroshenko’s dictatorial rule. The recent NATO-sponsored elections excluded several major political parties that had traditionally supported the country’s large ethnic minority populations, and was boycotted in the Donbas region. This sham election in Kiev set the tone for NATO’s next move toward converting Ukraine into one gigantic US multi-purpose military base aimed at the Russian heartland and into a neo-colony for German capital, supplying Berlin with grain and raw materials while serving as a captive market for German manufactured goods.

An intensifying war fever is sweeping the West; the consequences of this madness appear graver by the hour.

War Signs: The Propaganda and Sanctions Campaign, the G20 Summit and the Military Build Up

The official drum- beat for a widening conflict in Ukraine, spearheaded by the Kiev junta and its fascist militias, echoes in every Western mass media outlet, every day. Major mass media propaganda mills and government ‘spokesmen and women’ publish or announce new trumped-up accounts of growing Russian military threats to its neighbors and cross-border invasions into Ukraine. New Russian incursions are ‘reported’ from the Nordic borders and Baltic states to the Caucuses. The Swedish regime creates a new level of hysteria over a mysterious “Russian” submarine off the coast of Stockholm, which it never identifies or locates – let alone confirms the ‘sighting’. Estonia and Latvia claim Russian warplanes violated their air space without confirmation. Poland expels Russian “spies” without proof or witnesses. Provocative full-scale joint NATO-client state military exercises are taking place along Russia’s frontiers in the Baltic States, Poland, Romania and Ukraine.

NATO is sending vast arms shipments to the Kiev junta, along with “Special Forces” advisers and counter-insurgency experts in anticipation of a full-scale attack against the rebels in the Donbas.

The Kiev regime has never abided by the Minsk cease fire. According to the UN Human Rights office 13 people on average –mostly civilians –have been killed each day since the September cease fire. In eight weeks, the UN reports that 957 people have killed –overwhelmingly by Kiev’s armed forces.

The Kiev regime, in turn, has cut all basic social and public services to the Peoples’ Republics’, including electricity, fuel, civil service salaries, pensions, medical supplies, salaries for teachers and medical workers, municipal workers wages; banking and transport have been blockaded.

The strategy is to further strangle the economy, destroy the infrastructure, force an even greater mass exodus of destitute refugees from the densely populated cities across the border into Russia and then to launch massive air, missile, artillery and ground assaults on urban centers as well as rebel bases.

The Kiev junta has launched an all-out military mobilization in the Western regions, accompanied by rabid anti-Russian, anti-Eastern Orthodox indoctrination campaigns designed to attract the most violent far right chauvinist thugs and to incorporate the Nazi-style military brigades into the frontline shock troops. The cynical use of irregular fascist militias will ‘free’ NATO and Germany from any responsibility for the inevitable terror and atrocities in their campaign. This system of ‘plausible deniability’ mirrors the tactics of the German Nazis whose hordes of fascist Ukrainians and Ustashi Croats were notorious in their epoch of ethnic cleansing.

G20-plus-NATO: Support of the Kiev Blitz

To isolate and weaken resistance in the Donbas and guarantee the victory of the impending Kiev blitz, the EU and the US are intensifying their economic, military and diplomatic pressure on Russia to abandon the nascent peoples’ democracy in the south-east region of Ukraine, their principle ally.

Each and every escalation of economic sanctions against Russia is designed to weaken the capacity of the Donbas resistance fighters to defend their homes, towns and cities. Each and every Russian shipment of essential medical supplies and food to the besieged population evokes a new and more hysterical outburst – because it counters Kiev-NATO strategy of starving the partisans and their mass base into submission or provoking their flight to safety across the Russian border.

After suffering a series of defeats, the Kiev regime and its NATO strategists decided to sign a ‘peace protocol’, the so-called Minsk agreement, to halt the advance of the Donbas resistance into the southern regions and to protect its Kiev’s soldiers and militias holed-up in isolated pockets in the East. The Minsk agreement was designed to allow the Kiev junta to build up its military, re-organize its command and incorporate the disparate Nazi militias into its overall military forces in preparation for a ‘final offensive’. Kiev’s military build-up on the inside and NATO’s escalation of sanctions against Russia on the outside would be two sides of the same strategy: the success of a frontal attack on the democratic resistance of the Donbas basin depends on minimizing Russian military support through international sanctions.

NATO’s virulent hostility to Russian President Putin was on full display at the G20 meeting in Australia: NATO-linked presidents and prime ministers, especially Merkel, Obama, Cameron, Abbott, and Harper’s political threats and overt personal insults paralleled Kiev’s growing starvation blockade of the besieged rebels and population centers in the south-east. Both the G20’s economic threats against Russia and the diplomatic isolation of Putin and Kiev’s economic blockade are preludes to NATO’s Final Solution – the physical annihilation of all vestiges of Donbas resistance, popular democracy and cultural-economic ties with Russia.

Kiev depends on its NATO mentors to impose a new round of severe sanctions against Russia, especially if its planned invasion encounters a well armed and robust mass resistance bolstered by Russian support. NATO is counting on Kiev’s restored and newly supplied military capacity to effectively destroy the southeast centers of resistance.

NATO has decided on an ‘all-or-nothing campaign’: to seize all of Ukraine or, failing that, destroy the restive southeast, obliterate its population and productive capacity and engage in an all-out economic (and possibly shooting) war with Russia. Chancellor Angela Merkel is on board with this plan despite the complaints of German industrialists over their huge loss of export sales to Russia. President Hollande of France has signed on dismissing the complaints of trade unionists over the loss of thousands French jobs in the shipyards. Prime Minister David Cameron is eager for an economic war against Moscow, suggesting the bankers of the City of London find new channels to launder the illicit earnings of Russian oligarchs.

The Russian Response

Russian diplomats are desperate to find a compromise, which allows Ukraine’s ethnic Ukraine- Russian population in the southeast to retain some autonomy under a federation plan and regain influence within the ‘new’ post-putsch Ukraine. Russian military strategists have provided logistical and military aid to the resistance in order to avoid a repeat of the Odessa massacre of ethnic Russians by Ukrainian fascists on a massive scale. Above all, Russia cannot afford to have NATO-Nazi-Kiev military bases along its southern ‘underbelly’, imposing a blockade of the Crimea and forcing a mass exodus of ethnic Russians from the Donbas. Under Putin, the Russian government has tried to propose compromises allowing Western economic supremacy over Ukraine but without NATO military expansion and absorption by Kiev.

That policy of conciliation has repeatedly failed.

The democratically elected ‘compromise regime’ in Kiev was overthrown in February 2014 in a violent putsch, which installed a pro-NATO junta.

Kiev violated the Minsk agreement with impunity and encouragement from the NATO powers and Germany.

The recent G20 meeting in Australia featured a rabble-rousing chorus against President Putin. The crucial four-hour private meeting between Putin and Merkel turned into a fiasco when Germany parroted the NATO chorus.

Putin finally responded by expanding Russia’s air and ground troop preparedness along its borders while accelerating Moscow’s economic pivot to Asia.

Most important, President Putin has announced that Russia cannot stand by and allow the massacre of a whole people in the Donbas region.

Is Poroshenko’s forthcoming blitz against the people of southeast Ukraine designed to provoke a Russian response – to the humanitarian crisis? Will Russia confront the NATO-directed Kiev offensive and risk a total break with the West?
James Petras latest book is THE POLITICS OF IMPERIALISM:THE US, ISRAEL AND THE MIDDLE EAST (CLARITY PRESS:ATLANTA)

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). Unruly Hearts will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article.

Is Washington Planning “Operation Barbarossa 2.0″? War against Russia?

 

 
 
NATO-Russia-400x269On June 22, 1941, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union – perhaps the largest ever invasion force by one country against another involving up to four million combat and support troops.

His ambition to conquer the Soviet Union, acquire Lebensraum, its resources and enslave its people failed. So did Napoleon 130 years earlier against Tsarist Russia.

Does Washington plan repeating their mistakes?

Anti-Russian hostility and saber rattling should scare everyone. US-NATO military exercises on Russia’s doorstep are provocative.

They repeat with disturbing regularity. BALTOPS is the latest.

On June 5, NATO said “(s)cores of ships and aircraft from 17 countries are taking part in Baltic Sea naval drills as part of exercise BALTOPS which started on Friday, 5 June 2015 and runs until 20 June.”

“Allied participation demonstrates NATO’s resolve to defend the Baltic region, and will hone the ability of Allies and partners to work together.”

“Fourteen NATO Allies are joined this year by NATO partners Finland, Georgia and Sweden. Overall, 5,600 troops will be involved.”

NATO Commander of Naval Striking and Support Forces  Admiral James Foggo said “(t)his exercise represents an important opportunity for our forces, as allies and partners, to enhance our ability to work together and strengthen capabilities required to maintain regional security.”

Washington orchestrates NATO war games – anti-Russian/Chinese/Iranian exercises at a time no threat from these country exists, when America, its rogue NATO allies and Israel alone threaten world peace.

A previous article asked if US-dominated NATO planned war on Russia – the madness of potential nuclear confrontation if launched.

Mounting evidence should give everyone pause for concern. Provocative US-dominated military exercises near Russia’s borders suggest preparation for war.

So does irresponsible Russia bashing – a regular drumbeat of Big Lies. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf is paid to lie.

“Russia bears direct responsibility for what’s happening in Ukraine,” she says – despite no evidence suggesting it, plenty pointing fingers at Washington and its rogue allies.

Harf repeatedly blames “Russian separatists” for daily Kiev war crimes – naked aggression waged with full US support.

Russia is the continent’s preeminent peacemaker. America and its Kiev proxy want war.

On May 28, NATO deputy secretary general (its de facto boss) former US Defense Department official Alexander Vershbow repeated the same Big Lies about Russia he’s blustered numerous times before, including claiming:

– “Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea:”

– Russia undermines regional peace:

– Russia “br(ought) war to Eastern Ukraine:”

– Russia supports Donbass militia fighters “with weapons – including sophisticated heavy weapons – with soldiers and with training:”

– “Russian aggression” destabilizes Ukraine: FALSE! The whole world knows no Russian aggression exists.

– Russia “use(s) force – or the threat of force – to achieve its strategic objectives:”

These allegations are false.

Vershbow said “(w)e are putting NATO into a position of strength…to protect our allies (and) engag(e) with Russia” – code language for confrontation stopping short of declaring war.

Ahead of his visit to Italy, Vladimir Putin addressed irresponsible Western “Russian aggression” accusations saying:

“I think that only an insane person and only in a dream can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack NATO.”

“I think some countries are simply taking advantage of people’s fears with regard to Russia. They just want to play the role of front-line countries that should receive some supplementary military, economic, financial or some other aid.”

Russia’s military policy isn’t “global, offensive or aggressive,” he stressed. (V)irtually no bases abroad” are maintained.

Moscow wants demilitarization while Washington’s agenda is polar opposite.

“I invite you to publish a world map…and mark all the US military bases on it,” he said. “You will see the difference between Russia and America.”

Military spending of NATO countries is tenfold Russia’s budget. Washington is installing so-called “anti-missile systems, bases and radars in European territory (and at) sea” – ignoring Russia’s warning about undermining international security.

America under George Bush withdrew from the ABM treaty, not Russia. It limited anti-ballistic missile arsenals. Putin called it “the cornerstone of the entire international security system.”

“Everything we do is just a response to the threats emerging against us,” he explained.

“Besides, what we do is limited in scope and scale, but is, however, sufficient to ensure Russia’s security.”

In late May, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on the threat of Washington installing so-called missile defense systems in Ukraine, saying:

“(W)e can only perceive it negatively…because it will be a threat to the Russian Federation. In case there are missile defense systems stationed in Ukraine, Russia will have to take retaliatory measures to ensure its own safety.”

Ukraine remains a dangerous global flashpoint. At an extraordinary FridaySecurity Council meeting, Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin explained repeated Kiev violations of Minsk ceasefire terms.

“OSCE monitors should not simply note ceasefire violations, but clearly write down the purpose of these attacks, and who suffers from them –  civilians or military units carrying out artillery fire against settlements,” he said.

Ahead of the June 7 and 8 G-7 summit in Germany, Obama spoke with Poroshenko. He reaffirmed strong US support “for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

He blamed Russia and Donbass freedom fighters for Kiev high crimes. So did US UN envoy Samantha Power atFriday’s Security Council session – bashing Russia irresponsibly like she always does, systematically ignoring hard truths.

Washington wants Putin ousted. They want regime change in Russia. They want pro-Western stooge governance replacing its sovereign independence.

They risk heading things recklessly toward WW III.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site atsjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). Unruly Hearts  will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article.