Outgoing NATO Commander Calls the Alliance “A Linchpin for Peace”

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What is left of Aleppo, Syria’s most war-torn city.

by Stephen Lendman

US-dominated NATO is an imperial tool, a global killing machine, maintained for offense, not defense.

Its members and partners comprise nearly one-third of world nations. Exponential expansion is planned, Washington wanting NATO’s footprint spread globally on every continent, wanting it used as an instrument for world conquest and domination.

Since its 78-day rape of Yugoslavia in 1999, US-controlled NATO ravaged and destroyed one country after another.

In his Washington Post op-ed, outgoing Alliance Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General Philip Breedlove twisted reality, calling “the utility of the alliance…self-evident,” adding:

It’s “arguably the most critical linchpin supporting stability on the continent…(T)he United States absolutely needs…a NATO that is strong, resilient and united.”

Fact: It’s a US-dominated instrument for endless wars of aggression.

Fact: It’s the greatest threat to world peace.

Fact: When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, its existence was no longer justified.

Fact: Instead of disbanding, it expanded without justification. Stop NATO’s Rick Rozoff said from the mid-1990s to 2005, it “evolved from a regional alliance based in Western Europe to a global force (for) undoing the entire post-World War II order of which the UN was the cornerstone.”

It evolved into an instrument for advancing America’s imperium, a force for endless wars, not peace.

It had nothing to do with helping “rebuild the continent from the ravages of WW II.” Post-war Europe faced no threat from devastated Soviet Russia, needing many years to rebuild its war-shattered country.

After pledging no NATO eastward expansion post-1991, 10 former Warsaw Pact countries were added along with two other nations formed from the dismemberment of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Breedlove twisted truth calling them liberated, transformed into “thriving democracies.” He claimed NATO is critical to confront “an arc of instability and aggression threatening our interests and our allies stretching from the Arctic, through Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and across North Africa.”

US-dominated NATO bears full responsibility. Its rage for war threatens world peace. The Alliance never was nor will it ever be “the centerpiece to peace and stability in Europe…an institution indispensable in today’s dangerous world.”

It’s a global menace, an instrument for war, instability and chaos, a killing machine threatening humanity’s survival.

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.”

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

posted by Steve Lendman @ 9:44 AM

US-Backed Terrorists Shell Aleppo Hospital

US-Backed Terrorists Shell Aleppo Hospital

by Stephen Lendman

All terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere are US-backed, armed, funded, trained and directed to commit atrocities and other war crimes. Civilians are willfully targeted.

All attacks on residential areas, schools, hospitals, infrastructure and other nonmilitary targets are carried out by US-supported terrorists, Pentagon warplanes, Israel or other coalition partners.

Government forces and Russian aircraft have nothing to do with attacking nonmilitary targets. Accusations otherwise are fabricated.

Unexplained is the obvious. Why would they kill civilians they’re waging war on terrorism to protect? Why would they damage or destroy non-military sites, achieving no strategic objective?

On Tuesday, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said Jabhat al-Nusra and affiliated terrorist groups “fired 65 rocket shells” on Aleppo residential areas, killing at least 16, injuring 68 others.

Aleppo’s Health Directorate said most victims were civilian women and children. Al-Dhabeet Hospital was attacked, killing three women, injuring 17 other women and children, causing “extensive material damage.”

SANA said “terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra and terrorist groups affiliated to it fired scores of rocket shells at the neighborhoods of al-Midan, al-Furqan, Nile Street, al-Mukambo, al-Khalidiye, Jami’et al-Zahra’a, al-Ameriye, al-Ramousa, al-Masharqa, al-Muhafaza, al-Meridian, al-Serian, al-Sabeel, and al-Jamiliye in Aleppo city.”

Syria’s military said it’s responding with “appropriate measures.” Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said government “patience is running out and if (terrorists) don’t stop targeting civilians in the coming hours…they will pay a high price.”

Washington and its rogue partners are using the attack to call for ceasefire in Aleppo province – so terrorists they support get time to regroup for more intensive attacks.

As this is written, Sergey Lavrov said he hopes it will be announced “in the coming hours” – another futile attempt to halt Washington’s rage for war and regime change.

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 at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

posted by Steve Lendman @ 9:31 AM

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.

US Spy Chief Irresponsibly Hypes a Major Terrorist Attack on US Soil Ahead – By Stephen Lendman

 

 

US Spy Chief Irresponsibly Hypes a Major Terrorist Attack on US Soil Ahead
by Stephen Lendman
9/11 and subsequent attacks on US soil were state-sponsored false flags. Any new ones ahead will be no different. Big Lies repeated ad nauseam claiming otherwise reflect willful deception.
Alleged FBI foiled attacks were phony – innocent victims wrongfully arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned on false charges, Muslims at home and abroad persecuted, vilified and slaughtered by US imperial viciousness.
America’s only enemies are ones it creates. Appearing on CBS’ 60 Minutes last Sunday, CIA director John Brennan lied to millions of viewers, predicting an “inevitabl(e)” ISIS terrorist attack on US soil.
He failed to explain ISIS is a US creation. Why would its fighters attack their paymaster? They owe their existence to US and other foreign support. Without it they’d fade to oblivion.
“I’m expecting (ISIS) to try and put in place the operatives, the materiel, whatever else they need to do, or to incite people, to carry out these attacks, clearly. So I believe their attempts are inevitable,” Brenna ranted, adding:
They’re “trying to provoke a clash between the West and the Muslim world.” Claims about US policy aiming to “take over” Middle East countries are “the furthest thing from the truth.”
It’s hard believing he could boldly lie with a straight face, harder believing anyone buys his deception, hardest not realizing longstanding US imperial policy threatens world peace – raping one independent country after another, stealing their resources, massacring their people.
It’s not at all hard understanding why CBS would air outrageous Big Lies, a longstanding US media scoundrel tradition, part of the corporate media lying machine, supporting what demands denunciation.
Reject official, media-supported, explanations of all reported attacks on US soil at all times with no exceptions – used to hype fear, crack down on fundamental freedoms, justify outlandish military spending to wage endless naked aggression for falsified reasons.
Virtually always, alleged attackers are convenient patsies – notably 9/11 ones, the framed Boston bombers and wrongfully accused San Bernadino husband and wife, in all cases Muslims, falsely blamed for crimes they didn’t commit – the public none the wiser, believing the media-hyped Big Lies they’re fed.
The next time media scoundrels headline an alleged terrorist attack on US soil, know you’re being duped again. 
Reject falsified claims. Don’t fall for government propaganda – Big Lies furthering Washington’s imperial agenda, waging war on humanity at home and abroad, the highest of high crimes.
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.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.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. 

No regime change in Syria? Hmmm keep your foot far from the trap…

peace_dream_by_raw75

peace_dream_by_raw75

Bizarre Kerry Claim About US Not Seeking Regime Change in Syria

Kerry made the comment during his Tuesday Moscow visit – at Washington’s request. 
Both countries are unable to square the circle on their differing views on Syria, despite their diplomatic rhetoric suggesting otherwise.
Two major issues separate both sides. Washington won’t agree to recognize certain indisputable terrorist groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda affiliate, responsible for gruesome atrocities against civilians. 
Russia justifiably maintains they all must be called what they are, nations worldwide united against them.
The second sticking point is over who should lead Syria, including its president and majority parliamentarians. Washington wants a pro-Western puppet of its choosing, supported by like minded legislators. Russia insists it’s up to Syrians alone – with clear core international law backing.
No nation may interfere in the internal affairs of any others for any reason except self-defense if attacked – even then only if Security Council authorized.
Syria threatens no one, not its neighbors, Washington or any other Western states. No Security Council resolution or Damascus permission authorized Washington and coalition allies to bomb Syrian territory and invade with small numbers of combat troops – on the phony pretext of combating ISIS.  
Assad is fighting to keep what the vast majority of Syrians want, cherish and deserve – their sovereign independence, putting them at odds with US imperial objectives.
Syria is Obama’s war, launched in March 2011, ongoing for nearly five years, along with other US imperial wars fully responsible for the severest refugee crisis since WW II – besides the millions of corpses and dismembered bodies, a stark testimony to US barbarity.
America wants its will imposed everywhere. Nations unwilling to obey its rules risk being ravaged and destroyed by its killing machine – complicit with imperial partners.
Kerry came to Moscow for another try at getting Putin to bend to America’s will, a futile mission. 
Russia’s leader wants all conflicts resolved diplomatically. He’s fundamentally anti-war, involved in Syria to combat the scourge of terrorism, not for territorial or any other gains.
Washington escalated its military operations in Syria, exclusively bombing infrastructure and government targets along with coalition allies – supporting, not opposing ISIS.
All claims otherwise are Big Lies. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mikdad blasted US-led intervention in his country, saying:
“We doubt (it’s) sincere in their fight against terrorism. They do not coordinate their actions with the Syrian Army.” 
“This makes those forces illegal in Syria’s territory. One cannot say they are fighting terrorism. (It) must be a practical task, not this advertising gig that the West is engaged in.”
Mikdad blasted Saudi Arabia for forming a pro-ISIS bloc, comprised of terrorists wanting Assad forcibly ousted. 
“Syria does not negotiate with terrorists,” Mikdad stressed. The only place we meet them is (on) the battlefield. He welcomed support from any groups dedicated to combating ISIS and other terrorist groups – at the same time praising Russia for achieving “significant successes.”
Russia’s objectives are polar opposite Washington’s – supporting nation-state sovereignty, international law and world peace.
A Final Comment
Iraqi parliamentarians want Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to request Russian aid in combating ISIS. Washington is going all-out to prevent it. 
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter arrived in Baghdad to warn him against accepting Putin’s help. He’s stopped short of asking so far – for how long remains to be seen. Iraq has no chance to defeat its scourge without it.
US-led NATO war on Libya ravaged and destroyed the country, creating a continuing cauldron of violence in a divided country.
The West recognizes the Tobruk-based regime, led Abdullah al-Thani. A rival power headed by Prime Minister Khalifa al-Ghawi operates from Tripoli, the nation’s capital.
Days earlier, both sides agreed to a UN-brokered deal to form a unity government based in Tripoli. Earlier diplomatic efforts failed – perhaps this one as well.
General Khalifa Hafter was involved in US-led NATO’s war to oust Muammar Gaddafi. He’s now al-Thani’s armed forces commander.
On Friday, he said “(w)e welcome support from Russia in fighting terrorism.” ISIS has a foothold in Libya. Hafter commented after meeting with UNSMIL (UN peacekeeping) head Martin Kobler.
“(E)very day we wait, that you wait, is a gain for Daesh in this country,” said Kobler. “(I) am very glad to see that the general agrees on the urgency of the matter.”
Whether Russia will be asked to help (and if Putin will agree) remains to be seen. Washington will exert extreme pressure to prevent it.
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.”
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. 
 

Ukraine: Fascist Dictatorship, Deadbeat Borrower

 
Ukraine: Fascist Dictatorship, Deadbeat Borrower

Kiev’s US-installed, Nazi-infested putschist regime represents the reemergence of fascism in Europe’s heartland for the first time since WW II.

It’s run by a criminal gang of miscreants, headed by a billionaire oligarch crook and rogue prime minister. Both belong in prison, not high office.
Its regime imposed a moratorium on repaying its $3 billion eurobond debt obligation to Russia. Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk announced it at a Friday cabinet meeting – duplicitously saying:
“Considering that Russia has refused, despite our efforts, to sign an agreement on restructuring and to accept our proposals, the cabinet is imposing a moratorium on payment of the Russian debt worth $3 billion. (It’s halted) until we make restructuring proposals or a relevant court decision is made.”
Russian upper house Federation Council International Affairs Committee chairman Konstantin Kosachev blasted Kiev’s decision, saying:
“According to IMF rules, a moratorium by the Ukrainian government on the $3 billion debt repayment to Russia (constitutes) a declaration of Ukraine’s default.”
On Wednesday, the IMF declared Ukraine’s Russian debt as official and sovereign, no restructuring justified.
Kiev also halted debt repayments owed Russian banks. “The government is imposing a moratorium on the $507 million debt payment to Russian banks of two Ukrainian companies Yuzhnoe and Ukravtodor. From today all payments are suspended,” Yatsenyuk blustered.
Yesterday, Ukraine’s finance ministry headed by US transplant Natalya Yaresko, a shady figure with a disreputable background, ludicrously said Kiev “remains committed to negotiating in good faith.”
Russia offered $1 billion annual repayment terms of what it’s owed for the next three years – instead of all at once as originally stipulated. It wasn’t accepted.
Putin instructed his Finance Ministry to file a lawsuit for repayment if Kiev doesn’t fulfill its financial obligation within 10 days of the December 20 deadline.
Russia bought $3 billion worth of Ukrainian bonds from the democratically elected Yanukovich government. Putschists running the regime intend to default – with full US support and encouragement.
Economist Michael Hudson explained the IMF changed its rules for Ukraine. Earlier this month, “it made a radical decision to dismantle the condition that had integrated the global financial system for the past half century,” he explained.
Nations in financial arrears to others can’t qualify for an agency loan. Ukrainian fascists are getting special treatment afforded no other countries. For sure, US dirty hands are involved.
“(T)he IMF joined the New Cold War,” said Hudson – potentially heading toward turning red hot. The agency agreed to loan money to a financial deadbeat, changing its longstanding rules – Kiev unable or unwilling to honor its debt obligations.
Illegitimate oligarch president Petro Poroshenko wants IMF funding “to step up his nation’s civil war with the Russian-speaking population in” Southeastern Donbass, Hudson explained.
The US-controlled IMF is in bed with Europe’s most extremist regime – run by fascist kleptocrats, stealing the nation blind for their own self-enrichment, waging war on their own people, wanting only to live free under democratic governance.
Hudson quoted Kiev saying it “only enforce(s) debts owed in US dollars to US allies” – Washington’s latest scheme to punish nations not subservient to its dollar hegemony.
Russia, China and other countries are increasingly freeing themselves from this bondage. According to Hudson:
“The mirror-image response would be for the new Asian Development Bank to announce that countries that joined the ruble-yuan area did not have to pay US dollar or euro-denominated debts. That is implicitly where the IMF’s break is leading.”
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.”
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. 
 

Turkey Dumping Refugees It Was Bribed to Accept

 
Turkey Dumping Refugees It Was Bribed to Accept
by Stephen Lendman
Turkey is a valued NATO member, a close US ally – a fascist police led by the Erdogan crime family, directly involved in Obama’s regional wars of aggression.
It was caught red-handed smuggling heavy and other weapons to ISIS and other terrorists in Syria along with supplying them with deadly sarin and other toxic agents to kill civilians, then wrongfully blame incidents on Assad.
Last month, the EU bribed Turkey with 3 billion euros and promised help to join the bloc in return for accepting refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries its member states don’t want.
EU leaders called the deal a key way to stem the tide of asylum-seekers. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said it marked a new beginning in Ankara/Brussels relations.
Given Turkey’s horrific human rights record and unsavory history, especially under Erdogan, distrust remains high.
Agreement terms call for Ankara to increase Aegean Sea patrols in areas bordering Greece and Bulgaria, crack down on human smuggling gangs, and accept refugees turned away by EU countries.
European Council President Donald Tusk said EU officials will closely monitor Turkey’s implementation of terms reached. Davutoglu wouldn’t guarantee a slowdown in the human flood seeking safe havens in Europe, Germany the most favored destination.
Turkey is the main crossing point for Syrian and other regional refugees. It’s a short distance by sea to Greece. This year, well over 700,000 asylum seekers arrived in EU countries from Turkey, according to the International Organization of Migration.
A new Amnesty International (AI) report titled “Europe’s Gatekeeper” accuses Turkey of arresting, beating, painfully shackling and otherwise abusing refugees in isolated detention centers, many then deported back to war-torn Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere, their homeland countries.
AI said EU nations are “in danger of being complicit in serious human rights violations against refugees and asylum-seekers.”
They’re rounded up in large numbers, bused over 1,000km to desolate locations best described as concentration camps, grossly mistreated and held incommunicado – many then forcibly deported back from where they came.
According to AI’s Europe and Central Asia director John Dalhuisen, “(w)e have documented the arbitrary detention of some of the most vulnerable people on Turkish soil.” 
“Pressuring refugees and asylum-seekers to return to countries like Syria and Iraq is not only unconscionable, but it’s also in direct breach of international law.”
“By engaging Turkey as a gatekeeper for Europe in the refugee crisis, the EU is in danger of ignoring and now encouraging serious human rights violations. EU-Turkey migration-related cooperation should cease until such violations are investigated and ended.”
Turkey hosts the world’s largest refugee population, including about 2.2 million Syrians and 230,000 desperate people from other regional countries.
Until last September, treatment didn’t include brutalizing lawless detentions and forced deportations. Terms of the EU deal require Turkey to treat refugees humanely.
Instead, its funds are used to brutalize and expel vulnerable people deserving much better. All refugees AI representatives interviewed said they were forcibly detained, taken to Turkey’s western provinces, including Edirne and Mugla, before transported to desolate southern or eastern outposts.
They’re forcibly detained for weeks and denied outside contacts, including with lawyers and family members. Their only means of communication is through concealed cell phones.
Cases of horrific treatment included a 40-year-old Syrian man, isolated for seven days, his hands and feet painfully shackled.
“When they put a chain over your hands and legs, you feel like a slave, like you are not a human being,” he said. For many, this type horrific treatment is followed by pressure to sign a document in Turkish refugees don’t understand, then forced deportation.
Detainees said the only way they can leave detention is agreeing to return home. A three-year-old child’s fingerprints were used as evidence of his consent.
AI said it’s unknown how many refugees are being forcibly deported, but it believes it’s many, including to Afghanistan.
According to Dalhuisen, “(t)here is a total lack of transparency surrounding these cases and the real number of arbitrary detentions and unlawful deportations carried out by the Turkish authorities is unknown.” 
“This new practice must be investigated immediately to protect all refugees and asylum-seekers in Turkey.” 
So far, EU officials have done nothing to intervene responsibly. They’re complicit with Turkey and Washington – their wars causing the human flood in the first place.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. 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. 
 

Obama’s Demagogic Double Talk on Countering Terrorism

 
Obama’s Demagogic Double Talk on Countering Terrorism
by Stephen Lendman
On Thursday, Putin and Obama spoke on major world issues. What a difference between them! 
Russia’s leader held his highly anticipated annual Moscow marathon Q & A with reporters – an exercise in candor and straightforwardness like all his remarks. 
It’s why a record number of Russian and foreign journalists came to hear him. His preeminence on the world stage is indisputable – making Obama look buffoon-like in comparison.
The US president disgraces the office he holds. He’s a war criminal multiple times over, a serial liar, a moral coward, his policies polar opposite his duplicitous rhetoric.
He addressed a National Counterterrorism Center briefing in the White House Situation Room, saying “(a)s president and commander-in-chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people.”
They’ve never been less safe since the republic’s founding. US policies under both parties feature endless wars of aggression, neoliberal harshness impoverishing growing millions, responsible for a protracted Main Street Depression, and horrific police state violations of fundamental human and civil rights.
America was never beautiful. Now it’s unfit and unsafe to live in – a third world country for most of its citizens, a sham democracy, waging permanent wars on humanity at home and abroad.
Obama continued hyping phantom terrorist threats, focusing on the state-sponsored Paris and San Bernardino false flags.
He lied claiming since 9/11 (the mother of all false flags), “we’ve taken extraordinary steps to strengthen our homeland security – our borders, our ports, our airports, our aviation security, including enhanced watch lists and screening.”
Post-9/11, America was transformed into a police state. Obama continued what George Bush began with perhaps much more on the way.
Things are fast heading for full-blown tyranny, rendering remaining constitutional protections null and void, perhaps under martial law, despite nothing warranting extreme measures – convincing people they’re safer  without freedoms earlier generations cherished.
They’re disappearing in plain sight. The only terrorism Americans need fear is state-sponsored. Alleged plots Obama claimed were foiled or prevented were entirely fabricated – innocent victims wrongfully imprisoned.
“(T)he mission to protect our homeland (continues) on three main fronts,” Obama blustered.
“First, we’re…hitting ISIL harder than ever in Syria and Iraq. We are taking out their leaders. Our partners on the ground are fighting to push ISIL back, and ISIL has been losing territory.”
Fact: As explained many previous times, ISIS and other terrorist groups are US creations, used as imperial foot soldiers, supported to wage war where they’re deployed – notably in Syria and Iraq.
Fact: US military forces killed no terrorist leaders, unless perhaps by mistake.
Fact: America’s so-called “partners on the ground” include ISIS, Al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups. Syrian forces are the only ones combating this scourge along with vital Russian air power.
“Second, we continue to do everything in our power to prevent terrorists from getting into the United States,” Obama trumpeted.
Fact: There is no evidence of a single, independently verifiable terrorist attack on US soil in at least the last generation or two, perhaps never.
Fact: Potential terrorists invading America are phantoms. They don’t exist. The risk of any US citizen or resident being harmed by a terrorist attack is virtually zero. An uninformed, indifferent public is easy to convince otherwise.
Additional security measures Obama said are being implemented violate constitutional protections – on top of all the post-9/11 harm already done.
“Third, we’re stepping up our efforts to prevent (terrorist) attacks here at home,” according to Obama. Why when no threats exist!
Freedom in America is on a fast-track toward disappearing altogether. A nation waging permanent wars against invented enemies for fabricated reasons threatens humanity’s survival – given the power of today’s super-weapons.
America’s rage for unchallenged dominance risks ending life on earth.
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.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.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. 
 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Putin’s Annual Tour de Force Press Conference

 

During the Great Depression and WW II, Franklin Roosevelt gave 30 evening radio addresses, known as fireside chats – the first time a US president communicated directly with ordinary Americans, discussing major issues of the time.

His high popularity derived from his communication skills, along with vital New Deal social programs fast disappearing today.
In December 1987, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev went out of his way to mingle briefly with ordinary Americans in Washington – after morning Soviet embassy business, including with Vice President GHW Bush.
En route to the White House to meet with Ronald Reagan, his motorcade stopped. He startled onlookers by exiting his car and began pressing the flesh. One woman marveled, saying: “The guy is a PR genius.” 
Today he’s an aging former world leader with important geopolitical thoughts when expressing them publicly.
Perhaps no other world leader currently communicates more effectively with the Russian and foreign press through unscripted annual marathon Q & A sessions than Vladimir Putin – an eagerly anticipated event because of his candor, straight talk, no double talk, demagoguery and deception like Obama.
He skipped his usual opening statement, jumped right into taking and answering questions in his customary straightforward way.
He welcomed Donald Trump’s recent statement, urging cooperative relations with Russia. He doesn’t rule out the possibility of a Saudi/US conspiracy to lower the oil price to hurt the economies of Russia, Iran and Venezuela.
“(T)hey’re might be a struggle of traditional producers of crude oil and shale oil,” he said. “The main thing for us is the overall level of prices, but if the low price is kept for too long, the companies will stop investing in new deposits.”
He urged unity among nations to fight ISIS and other terrorist groups. He called Turkey’s downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber in Syrian airspace “an enemy act…Would it not have been easier just to pick up the phone,” he stressed.
He minced no words, saying “(t)here is a problem with the Turkish leadership,” pointing fingers at Erdogan, a tinpot despot.
“This was a stab in the back,” he said. “On an inter-state level, I do not see the prospect for improving relations.” Turkey constantly violated Syrian airspace before. “Let them try now,” Putin said. Russian aircraft and S-400 defense systems control Syrian skies.
He rejected US-led international calls to oust Assad, stressing Syrians alone have the right to decide who’ll “govern them and under what standards and rules.”
He intends to keep combating terrorism in Syria as long as Russian airpower is needed.
He declined to comment on the US presidential campaign, saying only “(w)hoever (is elected), we are ready and we want to develop our relations with the United States. We are going to work with any president the American people vote for.”
A record 1,390 journalists attended Putin’s 11th annual tour de force marathon. Last year’s yearend session took place against the backdrop of conflict in Ukraine and souring East/West relations.
This year it’s Syria and combating the scourge of terrorism. The event lasted slightly over three hours, answering numerous questions from dozens of Russian and foreign journalists.
Despite economic hard times, early November polling data showed his approval rating at an all-time 89.9% high – double what Obama scored in a recent December poll.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago.
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. 
 

US Phony War on ISIS Continues

 

US policy continues supporting the scourge it claims to oppose – directly aiding ISIS and other takfiri terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq, now getting a foothold in Libya and Central Asia.

Obama’s claims otherwise are a Big Lie. Since America supported Mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan (today’s Taliban) against Soviet Russia, it spent countless billions of dollars recruiting, training, arming, funding and directing terrorist elements, used as proxy imperial foot soldiers where they’re deployed.
Ignore high-minded administration and Pentagon rhetoric. Nothing suggests US policy changed – nothing interfering with its longterm goal.
It wants all independent governments replaced with US-controlled vassal states – especially Russia, China and Iran, no matter the cost in human lives and misery.
Supportive major media maintain the grand deception, suppressing rogue state policies demanding daily headlines and calls for responsible officials to be prosecuted for high crimes too grave to ignore.
Instead, they air video footage of Russia’s anti-terrorism campaign, pretending strikes were carried out by US warplanes – where conducted, strictly avoiding ISIS and other takfiri targets unlike Moscow’s commitment to destroy them.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said Moscow invited foreign journalists to view its Latakia, Syria operations firsthand.
“I have to stress that no-one has ever heard of the reporters’ press-tours to the (US-led) anti-ISIS coalition’s bases…(I)nternational TV channels are often using of the footage of Russian airstrikes to illustrate the airstrikes by the anti-ISIS coalition,” Konashenkov explained.
He politely stopped short of accusing them of willfully deceiving their viewers. Last month, the US Public Broadcasting News Hour used Russian aerial strike footage, claiming they were US airstrikes, deliberately lying to viewers.
Pentagon claims about destroying ISIS targets, including trucks carrying stolen oil, are willful deception. No evidence supports them – in contrast with Russia, having photographic evidence of every strike, displaying it publicly.
US cable, broadcast and European television channels operate the same way – maintaining the fiction of US-led war on ISIS, instead of reporting accurately on what’s ongoing.
At the same time, they regurgitate state-sponsored lies, maliciously claiming precision Russian airstrikes against ISIS and other terrorist groups are indiscriminate, killing civilians and phantom “moderates.”
Konashenkov minced no words saying “(t)oday we are the only (military) in the world that has showed how we have hit terrorist targets with specified precision weapons from Russian planes and ships (surface and subsurface).”
The claimed US-led war on ISIS is pure fiction. No evidence supports Pentagon and administration reports. Syrian and Iraqi infrastructure and government targets alone are being struck – supporting, not opposing ISIS.
US intelligence knows their precise locations, including its media operations spreading online propaganda. In over a year of US-led regional airstrikes, not a single media operation was bombed – on the phony pretext of avoiding civilian casualties.
US-led NATO notoriously bombed Belgrade media in 1999, Iraqi media in 1991 and 2003, Libya media in 2011 – along with residential communities and other nonmilitary targets wherever America wages war, inflicting enormous numbers of civilian casualties, disgracefully called “collateral damage.”
US wars since the beginning of the republic killed countless tens of millions of noncombatants – a horrific record of a ruthless rogue state, disdainful of human lives, public welfare and safety.
ISIS-run media operate in Syria, Iraq and Libya. Their locations are well-known, easy to destroy with targeted airstrikes, largely eliminating their propaganda war.
Their operations disseminate radical Islamic ideology worldwide, attracting new recruits. They should be prime targets to eliminate. 
They continue operating with US support, aiding its foot soldier allies, doing nothing to combat their scourge.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago.
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. 
 

Don’t miss it!

Another Anti-ISIS UN Resolution

 
Anti-ISIS lip service has been around a long time. Until Russia intervened in Syria against its forces and other terrorist groups on September 30, these elements made steady gains. 
Rhetorical Western and regional opposition did nothing to stop their advances. Resolutions declaring UN Member States’ unity in combating ISIS are one thing – commitment entirely another.
Russia alone among major powers is combating its scourge. America, Britain, France, Germany, Turkey, Israel, Canada, Australia, Gulf States and other so-called US coalition partners support what they pretend to oppose.
Security Council resolutions changed nothing on the ground in Syria and Iraq. In August 2014, SC members unanimously adopted Res. 2170 – binding under the UN Charter’s Chapter VII, permitting members to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” and to take military and nonmilitary action to “restore international peace and security.”
The resolution targeted ISIS, Al Qaeda and its affiliate groups.
In February 2015, SC members unanimously adopted Res. 2199 (binding under Chapter VII) to prevent ISIS and other terrorist groups from profiting from trade in oil, antiquities, hostages and other illicit sources of income.
In November 2015, SC members unanimously passed Res. 2249, calling on all Member States “to take all necessary measures” to defeat ISIS and other terrorist groups – “to redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by ISIL also known as Da’esh as well as ANF, and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the United Nations Security Council.”
On Thursday, Security Council members are scheduled to adopt the first joint US/Russian drafted resolution on combating ISIS. Its purpose is “to circle (the organization) as a separate, most vital terrorist threat.”
It stresses cutting off its funding sources. America heads the SC in December. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will chair the meeting – to be attended by finance ministers of some of the other SC members. Vitaly Churkin will represent Russia.
He said the resolution is binding under Chapter VII, as well as including “several brand new aspects.” Earlier SC resolutions “referred to (ISIS) as one of Al Qaeda’s divisions.”
“Now, the sanctions list is rebranded. The document offers expanded criteria of listing, which makes it possible to impose limitations on any individuals or corporates smudged by relations with” ISIS.
A key objective is “enforcement of the regime to reveal and stop illegal financing of (ISIS) and groups related to it by means of trade of oil, artifacts and other illegal sources.”
“The countries did have respective obligations well before this, but, unfortunately, those obligations have been observed not by all and not always.” 
Henceforth, UN monitoring and sanctioning mechanisms “will be focused clearly on eradication of those developments.”
What’s occurring on the ground and legally binding are world’s apart. Washington, rogue NATO partners, Israel, regional and other allies say one thing and do another.
SC resolutions and other legally binding measures change nothing on the ground. As long as Washington and partnered nations support ISIS and other terrorist groups, Russia alone with Syria, Iraq, Iran and Hezbollah forces will continue combating this scourge alone. 
Moscow is under no illusion otherwise, hard as it keeps trying to enlist other nations to unite responsibly against a universal threat – unable to exist without outside support.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago.
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. 
 

Trump: Unstoppable Republican Aspirant?

 
The latest Monmouth University poll has him way out in front with 41% support – besting his closest rival, Senator Ted Cruz, at 14%, by nearly three-to-one margin.
Most other Republican candidates scored in the low single digits, including party favorite Jeb Bush at 3%. According to Monmouth director Patrick Murray, “(i)t has become abundantly clear that Trump is giving his supporters exactly what they want, even if what he says causes the GOP leadership and many Republican voters to cringe” – including his Islamophobic rants, wanting Muslim immigrants banned from entering America.
Hillary Clinton remains virtually uncontested so far for the Democrat party nomination – besting Bernie Sanders by a 59% – 26% margin, better than two to one.
Demagogic self-promotion, bombast, bravado and arrogance apparently work to Trump’s advantage. Why ordinary Americans would support a billionaire unconcerned about their welfare is hard to explain.
Hillary Clinton is a war goddess, Trump a US warlord. More on this below. He dismisses Ronald Reagan’s so-called 11th Commandment about “not speak(ing) ill of any fellow Republican.”
Last August on ABC’s This Week, he blasted Jeb Bush, saying: “We need a person (in the White House) with a lot of smarts, a lot of cunning, and a lot of energy. And Jeb doesn’t have that.”
On the same program, he denigrated Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (now out of the race), calling his state “really in trouble.”
On December 13, he attacked Ted Cruz, saying he acts like “a little bit of a maniac” in the Senate. He doesn’t have “the right temperament (or) right judgment” to be president.
During Tuesday’s Republican debate, he bashed Bush again, saying “(w)ith (his) attitude, we will never be great again, that I can tell you.”
He may hyperventilate his way to the White House, complete with an endless war agenda. He’s unabashedly pro-war, pro-monied interests, anti-populist and against what matters most to ordinary Americans.
Dirty business as usual will continue on his watch. He favors expanding America’s bloated military budget. He wants US boots on the ground in Middle East war theaters and all-out support for Israel’s killing machine.
On Fox News days earlier, he said Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy as Secretary of State caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
“You look at what she did with Libya, what she did with Syria. Look at Egypt, what happened with Egypt, a total mess,” Trump ranted.
“We don’t back any of our allies…She was truly, if not the, one of the worst Secretaries of State in the history of the country. She talks about me being dangerous. She’s killed hundreds of thousands of people with her stupidity.”
“She was secretary of state. Obama was president…Look at what happened. The Middle East is a total disaster under her. She traveled back and forth, but look at all the problems.” 
“Look at, as an example, Iraq. Total disaster. They didn’t get us in, but they got us out badly. We spend $2 trillion, thousands of lives, wounded warriors all over…”
He ignored America’s bipartisan responsibility for millions of lost lives post-9/11 alone – through endless wars, related violence, diseases, starvation and overall deprivation.
Trump supports more of the same – all-out Middle East war on the pretext of combating ISIS. Last month, he said he’d “bomb those suckers. That’s right. I’d blow up the pipes. I’d blow up the refineries, every single inch. There would be nothing left.”
Trump is part of the problem, not the solution. All US administrations support endless imperial wars for unchallenged global dominance.
Each one in recent decades exceeded the worst of their predecessors, notably post-9/11. 
No Jack Kennedy exists when most needed – a warrior turned peacemaker in office, assassinated for wanting US troops out of Vietnam, abolishing nuclear weapons and rapprochement with Soviet Russia, among other reasons.
Whoever succeeds Obama may exceed his dubious record as America’s most reckless warrior president.
He continues waging endless direct and proxy imperial wars in multiple theaters, risking direct confrontation with Russia, the horrific possibility of nuclear war assuring no winners.
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. 
 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Chavismo Against GM Seed Contamination

 
Chavismo Against GM Seed Contamination
Genetically modified (GM) foods and ingredients are hazardous to human health. In America alone, virtually all processed foods contain them. Consumers don’t know what they’re eating because Congress prohibited labeling. 
The danger is clear and unequivocal. Independent studies show serious potential health problems are linked to their consumption.
They never should have been approved in the first place. They should be banned straightaway, their sales prohibited henceforth.
Instead, US and other consumers are part of an unregulated mass human experiment, the results unknown so far. When available, it’ll be too late to reverse the enormous damage done.
Science has no way to reverse contamination of over two-thirds of arable US farmland, its crops unsafe to eat.
Last year, Russia banned GMOs, urged more organic food production. China banned GMO corn. Dozens of countries require labeling.
In Venezuela, Monsanto and other Ag giants tried circumventing Hugo Chavez’s GM seed ban. A proposed 2013 seed law introduced by a ruling PSUV party member was criticized for allowing back door entry. More on this below.
A revised law entirely banned GM seeds. Chavez prevented the planting of 500,000 acres of Monsanto’s GM corn seeds alone. Venezuelan farmers overwhelming oppose all GM crops.
Article 27 of Venezuela’s Constitution states the following:
“It is the right and duty of each generation to protect and maintain the environment for its own benefit and that of the world of the future.” 
“Everyone has the right, individually and collectively, to enjoy a safe, healthful and ecologically balanced life and environment.” 
“The State shall protect the environment, biological and genetic diversity, ecological processes, national parks and natural monuments, and other areas of particular ecological importance.” 
“The genome of a living being shall not be patentable, and the field shall be regulated by the law relating to the principles of bioethics.” 
“It is a fundamental duty of the State, with the active participation of society, to ensure that the populace develops in a pollution-free environment in which air, water, soil, coasts, climate, the ozone layer and living species receive special protection, in accordance with law.”
At the same time, GM seeds weren’t specifically banned, nor the consumption of GM crops. In June 2013, PSUV National Assembly member Jose Urena introduced new seed legislation, banning transgenic crops – stating none may be used “without the corresponding certification of biological harmlessness issued by the National Seed Institute” – a glaring loophole. 
Unequivocal prohibition is needed, no exceptions allowed. GMOs are too hazardous to human health to permit – in Venezuela or anywhere else.
On June 4, 2015, the Presidential Council on Communes, representing communal councils nationwide, comprised of citizen and government members, approved new seed legislation – for submission to National Assembly members for debate.
It was approved, affirming state authorities will promote sustainable, safe to human health, agriculture. It rejects production, distribution, sale and importation of GM seeds – henceforth banned in Venezuela.
A national seed institution will be created to audit and control seed supply and use – to identify, prevent and punish GM seed violators. 
Peasant seed is protected, the result of natural cross-breeding, long part of Venezuelan culture. Post-December 6 elections, won by opposition party members, everything is uncertain going forward.
Chavismo faces its greatest challenge. Chavistas intend going all-out to protect hard-won gains, too vital to lose – including safe food to eat, free from GM contamination.
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.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.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. 
 

Vlad Putin just notched his first victory in Syria?

Obama_Putin

President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation and U.S. President Barack Obama

 

17 December 2015

Vladimir Putin’s carpet-bombing campaign in Syria just notched its first victory. The Obama administration surrendered, The New York Post said.

That is, Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday de facto abandoned Washington’s “Assad must go” line. Assad was losing until Vlad Putin intervened in October [surprising the world when he found what sparks the light in him, and then he used that light to illuminate the world]. 

Russia has been bombing ever since hitting ISIS a few times, but mostly the rebels, including those America had helped. Team Obama’s answer was first to tut-tut, and then to appease – seeking to negotiate a common front with Putin against ISIS.

Never mind that Assad has often allied with ISIS, coordinating joint assaults on the rebels and buying ISIS oil.  But beware of sleeping with the enemy.

No matter: After meeting Putin in Moscow, Kerry announced: “The United States and our partners are not seeking the so-called “regime change.”  The U.S. focus now isn’t on “what we can or cannot be done immediately about Assad”   but rather on a magical mystery peace process that will let Syrians make a “decision for the future of Syria.”  There goes Putin’s light again.

Swell — if any Syrians are left to decide after Assad, Putin and ISIS have their way.  However, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest insists US policy on Assad is still “he must go.” Mr. Earnest, however, will have to wait until Assad dies of old age, maybe.

Right now there’s hope that Russia and America can work together again.  And forget those who have tried to make them enemies.

“God’s love goes before us, his look anticipates our needs. He can see beyond appearances, beyond sin, beyond failures and unworthiness. He sees beyond our rank in society. He sees beyond this, to our dignity as sons and daughters, a dignity at times sullied by sin, but one which endures in the depth of our soul. He came precisely to seek out all those who feel unworthy of God, unworthy of others.”  ~ Pope Francis

 

 

Obama Ignores Russian Terror Victims, Killed by ISIS

By Robert Parry
Global Research, December 05, 2015
Consortium News 2 December 2015
Region: Middle East & North Africa, Russia and FSU, USA
Theme: US NATO War Agenda

President Obama has displayed a stunning lack of sympathy for the Russian civilians killed in an ISIS plane bombing in Egypt and for two Russian military men slain as victims of U.S. weapons systems in Syria, putting insults toward President Putin ahead of human decency, writes Robert Parry.

Normally, when a country is hit by an act of terrorism, there is universal sympathy even if the country has engaged in actions that may have made it a target of the terrorists. After 9/11, for instance, any discussion of whether U.S. violent meddling in the Middle East may have precipitated the attack was ruled out of the public debate.

Similarly, the 7/7 attacks against London’s Underground in 2005 were not excused because the United Kingdom had joined in President George W. Bush’s aggressive war in Iraq. The same with the more recent terror strikes in Paris. No respectable politician or pundit gloated about the French getting what they deserved for their long history of imperialism in the Muslim world.

President Barack Obama uncomfortably accepting the Nobel Peace Prize from Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2009. (White House photo)

obama-nobel-12-10-09-300x199

Apparently, the political imperative to display disdain for Russian President Vladimir Putin trumps any normal sense of humanity. Both Obama on Tuesday and Friedman on Wednesday treated those Russian deaths at the hands of the Islamic State or other jihadists as Putin’s comeuppance for intervening against terrorist/jihadist gains in Syria.

At a news conference in Paris, Obama expressed his lack of sympathy as part of a bizarre comment in which he faulted Putin for somehow not turning around the Syrian conflict during the past month – when Obama and his allies have been floundering in their “war” against the Islamic State and its parent, Al Qaeda, for years, if not decades.

“The Russians now have been there for several weeks, over a month, and I think fair-minded reporters who looked at the situation would say that the situation hasn’t changed significantly,” Obama said. “

In the interim, Russia has lost a commercial passenger jet. You’ve seen another jet shot down. There have been losses in terms of Russian personnel. And I think Mr. Putin understands that, with Afghanistan fresh in the memory, for him to simply get bogged down in a inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict is not the outcome that he’s looking for.”

In examining that one paragraph, a “fair-minded” reporter could find a great deal to dispute. Indeed, the comments suggest that President Obama has crossed some line into either believing his own propaganda or thinking that everyone who listens to him is an idiot and will believe whatever he says.

But what was perhaps most disturbing was Obama’s graceless manner of discussing the tragedy of the Sinai bombing, followed by his seeming pleasure over Turkey shooting down a Russian SU-24 last week, leading to the killing of two Russian military men, one the pilot who was targeted while parachuting to the ground and the other a marine after his search-and-rescue helicopter was downed by a TOW missile.

Even more troubling, the key weapon systems used – the Turkish F-16 fighter jet and the TOW missile – were U.S.-manufactured and apparently U.S. supplied, in the case of the TOW missile either directly or indirectly to Sunni jihadists deemed “moderate” by the Obama administration.

The Ever-Smug Friedman

Columnist Friedman was equally unfeeling about the Russian deaths. In a column entitled “Putin’s Great Syrian Adventure,” Friedman offered a mocking assessment of Russia’s intervention against Sunni jihadists and terrorists seeking to take control of Syria.

While ridiculing anyone who praised Putin’s initiative or who just thought the Russian president was “crazy like a fox,” Friedman wrote: “Some of us thought he was just crazy.

Well, two months later, let’s do the math: So far, Putin’s Syrian adventure has resulted in a Russian civilian airliner carrying 224 people being blown up, apparently by pro-ISIS militants in Sinai. Turkey shot down a Russian bomber after it strayed into Turkish territory. And then Syrian rebels killed one of the pilots as he parachuted to earth and one of the Russian marines sent to rescue him.

Ha-ha, very funny! And, by the way, it has not been established that the Russian SU-24 did stray into Turkish air space but if it did, according to the Turkish account, it passed over a sliver of Turkish territory for all of 17 seconds.

The evidence is quite clear that the SU-24 was ambushed in a reckless act by Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has been collaborating with Syrian and foreign jihadists for the past four years to overthrow Syria’s secular government. And the murder of the pilot after he bailed out of the plane is not some reason to smirk; it is a war crime.

Even uglier is the lack of any sympathy or outrage over the terrorist bombing that killed 224 innocent people, mostly tourists, aboard a Russian charter flight in Egypt. If the victims had been American and a similar callous reaction had come from President Putin and a columnist for a major Russian newspaper, one can only imagine the outrage. However, in Official Washington, any recognition of a common humanity with Russians makes you a “Moscow stooge.”

The other wacky part of both Obama’s comments and Friedman’s echoes of the same themes is this quick assessment that the Russian intervention in support of the Syrian government has been some abject failure – as if the U.S.-led coalition has been doing so wonderfully.

First, as a “fair-minded” reporter, I would say that it appears the Russian-backed Syrian offensive has at least stopped the advances of the Islamic State, Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and its jihadist allies, including Ahrar al-Sham (which technically separates itself from Al Qaeda and thus qualifies for U.S.-supplied weaponry even though it fights side-by-side with Nusra in the Saudi-backed Army of Conquest).

The Afghan Memories

Obama’s reference to Afghanistan was also startling. He was suggesting that Putin should have learned a lesson from Moscow’s intervention in the 1980s in support of a secular, pro-Soviet regime in Kabul, which came under attack by CIA-organized-and-armed Islamic jihadists known then as mujahedeen.

Wielding sophisticated surface-to-air missiles and benefiting from $1 billion a year in Saudi-U.S.-supplied weapons, the Afghan fundamentalist mujahedeen and their allies, including Saudi Osama bin Laden, eventually drove Soviet troops out in 1989 and – several years later behind the Taliban – completed the reversion of Afghanistan back to the Seventh Century. Women in Kabul went from dressing any way they liked in public, including wearing mini-skirts, to being covered in chadors and kept at home.

Obama’s bringing up Afghanistan in the Syrian context and Putin’s supposed one-month Syrian failure was ironic in another way. After Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks, the United States invaded Afghanistan in pursuit of bin Laden and has been bogged down in a quagmire there for 14 years, including nearly seven years under Obama.

So, Obama may not be on the firmest ground when he suggests that Putin recall Moscow’s experience in Afghanistan a few decades ago. After all, Obama has many more recent memories.

Further, what is different about Putin’s Syrian strategy – compared with Obama’s – is that the Russians are targeting all the terrorists and jihadists, not just the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh). While U.S. propaganda tries to present the non-ISIS jihadists as “moderates” (somehow pretending that Al Qaeda is no longer a terrorist organization), there is, in reality, very little distinction between ISIS and the alliance of Nusra/Ahrar al-Sham.

And, as for Official Washington’s new “group think” about the Syrian government’s lack of progress in the war, there is the discordant news that the last of rebel forces have agreed to abandon the central city of Homs, which had been dubbed the “capital of the revolution.” The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that “thousands of insurgents will leave the last opposition-held neighborhood in” Homs, with the withdrawal beginning next week.

Al-Jazeera added the additional fact that the remaining 4,000 insurgents are “from al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and the Free Syrian Army.” In other words, the “moderate” Free Syrian Army was operating in collusion with Al Qaeda’s affiliate and its major jihadist partner.

While it’s hard to get reliable up-to-date information from inside Syria, one intelligence source familiar with the military situation told me that the Syrian government offensive, backed by Iranian troops and Russian air power, had been surprisingly successful in putting the jihadists, including ISIS and Nusra, on the defensive, with additional gains around the key city of Aleppo.

The Belated Oil Bombings

Also, in the past week, Putin shamed Obama into joining in a bombing operation to destroy hundreds of trucks carrying ISIS oil to Turkey. Why that valuable business was allowed to continue during the U.S.-led war on ISIS since summer 2014 has not been adequately explained. It apparently was being protected by Turkish President Erdogan.

Another irony of Obama’s (and Friedman’s) critical assessment of Putin’s one-month military campaign came in Obama’s recounting of his meeting during the Paris climate summit with Erdogan. Obama said he was still appealing to Erdogan to close the Turkish-Syrian border although radical jihadists have been crossing it since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

“With respect to Turkey, I have had repeated conversations with President Erdogan about the need to close the border between Turkey and Syria,” Obama said. “We’ve seen some serious progress on that front, but there are still some gaps. In particular, there’s about 98 kilometers that are still used as a transit point for foreign fighters, ISIL shipping out fuel for sale that helps finance their terrorist activities.”

In other words, all these years into the conflict – and about 1½ years since Obama specifically targeted ISIS – Turkey has not closed its borders to prevent ISIS from reinforcing itself with foreign fighters and trafficking in illicit oil sales to fund its terror operations. One might suspect that Erdogan has no intention of really stopping the Sunni jihadists from ravaging Syria.

Erdogan still seems set on violent “regime change” in Syria after allowing his intelligence services to provide extensive help to ISIS, Al Qaeda’s Nusra and other extremists. The Russians claim that politically well-connected Turkish businessmen also have been profiting off the ISIS oil sales.

But Obama’s acknowledgement that he has not even been able to get NATO “ally” Turkey to seal its border and that ISIS still remains a potent fighting force makes a mockery of his mocking Putin for not “significantly” changing the situation on the ground in Syria in one month.

Obama also slid into propaganda speak when he blamed Assad for all the deaths that have occurred during the Syrian conflict. “I consider somebody who kills hundreds of thousands of his own people illegitimate,” Obama said.

But again Obama is applying double standards. For instance, he would not blame President George W. Bush for the hundreds of thousands (possibly more than a million) dead Iraqis, yet Bush was arguably more responsible for those deaths by launching an unprovoked invasion of Iraq than Assad was in battling a jihadist-led insurgency.

Plus, the death toll of Syrians, estimated to exceed a quarter million, includes many soldiers and police as well as armed jihadists. That does not excuse Assad or his regime for excessively heavy-handed tactics that have inflicted civilian casualties, but Obama and his predecessor both have plenty of innocent blood on their hands, too.

After watching Obama’s news conference, one perhaps can hope that he is just speaking out of multiple sides of his mouth as he is wont to do. Maybe, he’s playing his usual game of “above-the-table/below-the-table,” praising Erdogan above the table while chastising him below the table and disparaging Putin in public while cooperating with the Russian president in private.

Or maybe President Obama has simply lost touch with reality – and with common human decency.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon andbarnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34.

The trilogy includesAmerica’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.
The original source of this article is Consortium News
Copyright © Robert Parry, Consortium News, 2015

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.

MILITARY TIMES – Russia has big ambitions, growing capabilities

MilitaryTimes2

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.

635793005102288472-15-367-MIL-RussiaChart-web

“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.

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