NATO officials are growing increasingly nervous about the possibility of an invasion of the Baltic states ahead of Russian wargames planned this fall on the border of Belarus and Poland that could involve as many as 100,000 troops. That “anxiety” was on display this week, when US and British troops carried out the first NATO military exercise that involved a simulated defense of the Suwalki Gap, an area in northern Poland on the border with Lithuania that serves as the gateway to the Baltic region. In other words, a drill against a Russian invasion of the Baltics states, and by extension, Europe. *** NATO officials described the area as a ‘choke point’ that, if it were taken by an invading force, could potentially isolate the Baltic states from their NATO allies, according to Reuters. “The gap is vulnerable because of the geography. It’s not inevitable that there’s going to be an attack, of course, but … if that was closed, then you have three allies that are north that are potentially isolated from the rest of the alliance”, said U. S. Lieutenant General Ben Hodges. “We have to practice, we have to demonstrate that we can support allies in keeping (the Gap) open, in maintaining that connection,” he said.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 18, 2017.
One day after John McCain made a questionable diplomatic outburst when as part of a US diplomatic tour meant to reassure Europe, and NATO, of Trump’s support, the Senator told participants at a Security Conference in Munich that the Trump administration is in “disarray”, on Saturday morning Vice President Mike Pence did his best to return to conventional foreign policy after he vowed that the United States will “hold Russia accountable.” In an address to the Munich Security Conference, Pence assured European allies that the U. S. “strongly supports” NATO and will be “unwavering” in its commitment to trans-Atlantic institutions like NATO. Pence also said the U. S. would demand that Russia honor a 2015 peace deal agreed upon in Minsk, Belarus, to end violence in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russia-backed separatists. “Know this: The United States will continue to hold Russia accountable, even as we search for new common ground which as you know President Trump believes can be found,” Pence said.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 18, 2017.
For 30 years the 1,000 square miles surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia have lay largely inhabited and remains one of the most radioactively contaminated areas in the world. But that’s all about to change if a group of German and Chinese investors have their way about it. According to Ukraine’s Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, Ostap Semerak, 39 separate entities have applied for permission to install 2 gigawatts worth solar panels on the land that would otherwise lie unutilized for centuries to come. Per Bloomberg: Chinese and Germans are among dozens of investors taking Ukraine up on its offer to turn the grounds of one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters into a massive solar park. Thirteen international investors are among the 39 groups seeking Ukraine permission to install about 2 gigawatts of solar panels inside the radioactive exclusion zone surrounding the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant, according to Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources Ostap Semerak. Two gigawatts is almost the capacity of two modern nuclear reactors, although atomic power unlike solar works day and night.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 20, 2017.
Lithuania has confirmed the presence of U. S. special forces inside its territory, stating the deployment’s purpose is to train local forces and act as a deterrent against Russian aggression. Supposedly, Vladimir Putin has been deploying nuke-ready missiles in the Russian province of Kaliningrad, an area that borders Poland, Belarus, and Lithuania. This move has prompted the neighboring Baltic states to become ‘highly concerned’ about Russian military activity. ‘The United States was the first to offer additional safety assurance measures to the Baltic countries following the deterioration of the security situation in the region after the annexation of the Crimea,’ Lithuanian Defense Ministry spokeswoman Asta Galdikaite told local media on Tuesday, as reported by International Business Times. Russia has made it clear that its deployment of missiles is a deterrent against NATO expansion along its borders. It is effectively a cat-and-mouse game that continues to be played with catastrophic consequences.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on November 20 that Turkey did not need to join the European Union at all costs. Instead, it could become part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), or Shanghai Pact. The Turkish leader said he had already discussed the idea with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev. The SCO is a Eurasian political, economic, and military organization founded in 2001 in Shanghai. Its members are Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan speak Turkic languages. India and Pakistan are to become full-fledged members by the next meeting at Astana in 2017. Mongolia, India, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan are SCO observers. In 2013, Turkey got the status of SCO’s dialogue partner. The other country with the same status is Belarus. Dialogue partners are entitled to take part in ministerial-level and some other meetings of the SCO, but do not have voting rights. Turkey formally applied to become a member of the European Union in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005. Its ambition to become part of the bloc dates back to the 1960s. Its prospects of joining look dim after 11 years of negotiations. The human rights are a divisive issue.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 23, 2016.
NATO ‘strategic advisors’ from the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Lithuania arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday as part of an ongoing effort to reorganize Ukraine’s military to alliance standards. However, Kiev’s acknowledgement that the advisors also “discussed the situation in the east of Ukraine” has observers concerned. Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak met with the advisors on Tuesday. According to a Ministry press release, the meeting was devoted to “proceeding to the practical stage of work” between NATO strategists and the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Poltarok stressed that alliance advice and assistance at all levels was crucial, and that advisors would soon be meeting with the heads of the Defense Ministry reform subcommittees. Worryingly, the Defense Minister also confirmed that the two sides “discussed the situation in eastern Ukraine.” That region has been embroiled in a civil war since April 2014, when Kiev moved its army into the Donbass, where local residents came out in opposition to the Maidan coup d’tat in February of that year. Locals quickly formed militia units, and the two sides fought a fratricidal war against one another until February 2015, when they agreed to a ceasefire deal in talks brokered by Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. NATO and Ukraine have several agreements on the provision of assistance to modernize the country’s military, but this is the first time in recent memory that officials publically admitted to strategic discussions at a senior level regarding the conflict in Donbass. Before that, since 2014, when Kiev gave up its non-aligned status, Ukraine’s Armed Forces have hosted NATO advisors in the country’s western and central regions with regularity.
As of this writing, the increased U. S. troop presence in Eastern Europe includes a battalion-sized element of American troops being emplaced in the Suwalki Gap, Polish territory that borders Lithuania in a 60-mile stretch of corridor. The Russian Defense Ministry announced that 600 Russian and Belarussian airborne troops conducted training exercises in Brest, on the Belorussian-Polish border only a few miles from where the U. S. forces are deploying in Poland. This on the heels of Britain deploying 800 men, tanks, and jets to Estonia, along with pledges of Challenger 2 tanks, APC’s (Armored Personnel Carriers), and drones. Two companies of French and Danish Soldiers will join the British in the deployment to Estonia. For the first time since 1945, Norway has violated its treaty with Russia (then the Soviet Union) not to station foreign troops on its soil. A company of U. S. Marines will soon be stationed for a 6-month deployment in Norway. The situation is heating up in Ukraine, according to a report on fort-russ.com entitled Ukraine Moves Massive Force up to Lugansk Frontline, published October 28, 2016. The report reveals the Ukrainian Army is deploying 3,500 soldiers and 200 armored vehicles of the 15th Motorized Infantry Brigade to Krasny Oktyabr in the district of Lugansk in Eastern Ukraine. For the first time in history, Romanian airspace is being patrolled by the RAF (Royal Air Force) of Britain. In addition, the Ukrainian National Guard is deploying a tactical company equipped with 82 mm mortars and AGS-17 auto grenade launchers, along with APC’s and missile launchers. A separate reconnaissance battalion named the ‘Night Shades,’ a nationalist volunteer battalion will be deploying to Lugansk as well. No doubt they will receive a ‘warm’ reception, as the fighting has been ongoing in the region for more than two years. The area is a severe flashpoint, as the separatists are ethnic Russians of Ukrainian nationality who wish to secede in the manner that Crimea did… Russia annexed them after the popular vote to leave Ukraine. Now (since December 2015) the Congress gave the green light to send weapons and munitions to Ukraine; the ‘holdup’ is due to Obama not wanting to jeopardize the election of Hillary Clinton, as the Russians have stated weapons to Ukraine means war with the U. S. and NATO.
This post was published at shtfplan on November 2nd, 2016.
On the 30th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe yet, a new report shows radioactive contamination from the 1986 explosion at Chernobyl in Ukraine still lingers in startlingly large amounts across the border in neighboring Belarus. In an exclusive report by the Associated Press, fresh milk from a Belarusian dairy farm contained a radioactive isotope, traceable to the Chernobyl disaster, at ‘levels 10 times higher than the nation’s food safety limits’ – thirty years after the accident occurred. Though the AP turned to a laboratory to test the milk, dairy farmer Nikolai Chubenok called the results ‘impossible.’ ‘There is no danger,’ Chubenok asserted to AP journalists at his farm, just 28 miles from the site of the 1986 explosion and meltdown. ‘How can you be afraid of radiation?’ Though Chubenok and the Belarusian government – itself notoriouslyauthoritarian and intent on denying the dangers still present – might insist on the area’s safety, other reports from doctors and scientists paint the landscape in a vastly different light. Belarusian milk, though indicative, is inadequate in illustrating the astronomical devastation of the Chernobyl legacy.
Submitted by Simone Tagliapietra and Georg Zachmann via Bruegel.org, This is an eventful period for EU-Russia gas relations. Six months ago Russian President Vladimir Putin surprised the energy world by dismissing the long-prepared South Stream project in favour of Turkish Stream. Like South Stream, Turkish Stream is intended to deliver 63 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas per year through the Black Sea to Turkey and Europe by completely bypassing Ukraine from 2019. Yesterday, during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2015, Gazprom unexpectedly signed a set of Memorandums of Intent with the European gas companies E. ON, Shell and OMV. These plan for the construction of two additional gas pipeline strings along the Nord Stream pipeline system that connects Russia and Germany through the Baltic Sea. This project would double the current capacity of Nord Stream from 55 bcm per year to 110 bcm per year. Both Turkish Stream and an expanded Nord Stream indicate that Russia does not intend to abandon its position in the European market (by for example shifting attention to Asia). As illustrated in the figure below, current EU-Russia gas trade is based on three key axes: the Nord Stream pipeline, the Yamal-Europe pipeline through Belarus and the pipeline system crossing Ukraine. Of these three routes, only the Ukrainian gas transportation system is not controlled by Gazprom.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on 06/20/2015.
The Eastern Partnership summit in Riga ended with growing divisions and no promises on issues of visa-free travel, which worried some members. The European Union's Eastern Partnership summit with six ex-Soviet states ended with little progress as the partnership countries were divided in their aspirations for European integration and their goals for visa-free travel. The representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus refused to sign the initial document which stated that the summit condemned Russia's reunification with Crimea, which the document called an "illegal annexation." Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who was waiting for a "signal" from the E.U. on a visa-free regime, was told by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the E.U. is not ready for it.
A prominent Ukrainian journalist, known for his critical views of Poroshenko's government was shot dead in Kiev on Thursday, in the latest series of suspicious deaths of opposition supporters. Oles Buzina, 45, a supporter of ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, was shot in the street. Buzina's body was found on the ground nearing his apartment building close to the city center. The head of Kiev’s police department Alexander Tereschuk said that a TT gun was allegedly used in the crime. According to the neighbors, the journalist was probably shot while jogging. He was found wearing a sports outfit. The 45-year-old was shot by two men in masks who disappeared from the crime scene in a Ford Focus car with either Latvian or Belarusian number plate.
Foreign ministers from Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine called for an end to the renewed heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine following tough talks in Berlin on Monday. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters the talks had been “at times very controversial” but said all participants agreed there was no alternative to the ceasefire agreement signed in the Belarusian capital Minsk in February. “We need to ensure that the ceasefire is adhered to far more strongly as fully as possible,” Steinmeier said. The talks took place amid a sharp spike in hostilities in eastern Ukraine over the weekend. On Monday one Ukrainian serviceman was killed and six were wounded in rebel-held territories.
The political year for the Belarusian opposition begins today, on Freedom Day, with a state-sanctioned rally. The day, which marks the foundation of the Belarusian People’s Republic in 1918, used to bring thousands to the streets of Minsk to oppose the government of Alexander Lukashenko – who has been in power since 1994. Not anymore. The political opposition is suffering from years of exclusion from public sphere; they have not held a seat in parliament since 1996, they are virtually ignored by state-affiliated media and the government have restricted their right to protest. The appetite for a revolution has also been quelled by events in neighbouring Ukraine. Belarusians are cautious. The risk of the state collapse, civil strife and Russian interference seems too high. The west, particularly the US, take the same line. Preserving Belarusian independence, not democratisation, has become the highest priority.
While the distraction that is the stock market continues to enthrall most Americans, the big shots in the global monetary which for now are taking place behind the scenes, are getting ever louder. Several recent cases in point: US Attacks “Closest Ally” UK For “Constant Accommodation” With China De-Dollarization Accelerates As More Of Washington’s “Allies” Defect To China-Led Bank US “Isolated” As Key Ally Japan Considers Joining China-Led Bank US Upset At West’s Lack Of War Preparedness Treasury Secretary Lew Admits US “International Credibility & Influence Is Being Threatened” One person who is paying attention to the failure of the US to grasp that the unipolar world of the 1980s is long gone, is Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who earlier today proposed creating a “Eurasian” currency union which would have Belarus and Kazakhstan as its first members, which already are Russia’s partners in a political and economic union made up of former Soviet republics. As Telegraph reports, Putin made his proposal at a meeting with the Belarussian and Kazakh presidents which highlighted the challenges facing the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union following the fall in global oil prices and the decline of the Russian rouble. “The time has come to start thinking about forming a currency union,” Mr Putin said after the talks in the Kazakh capital Astana with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Not surprising, considering both Belarus and Kazakhstan have spent a lot of time in the past year alternatively devaluing, and scrambling to prop up their currency. Putin gave no details of the proposal but suggested it would be easier to meet economic challenges by working closely together. Mr Lukashenko and Mr Nazarbayev did not immediately respond to the proposal in public, but analysts say it is unlikely to get off the ground. Additional information from RT:
This post was published at Zero Hedge on 03/20/2015.
The Ukrainian government's economic reforms, including the six-fold hike of natural gas prices for consumers, looks like the right thing to do, but amounts to a humiliation of Ukraine's citizens, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday. "We talked about it, formally everything is correct, but in essence, it's humiliation," Putin said following a meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Russia and Belarus. On Tuesday, Ukraine's energy regulator announced a six-fold increase in natural gas prices for the country's population starting on April 1, as part of a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce energy subsidies. Between October 1 and April the price of natural gas used for heating homes will only be increased three-fold.
Foreign Affairs is the publication of the elitist Council on Foreign Relations, a collection of former and current government officials, academics, and corporate and financial executives who regard themselves as the custodian and formulator of US foreign policy. The publication of the council carries the heavy weight of authority. One doesn’t expect to find humor in it, but I found myself roaring with laughter while reading an article in the February 5 online issue by Alexander J. Motyl, ‘Goodbye, Putin: Why the President’s Days Are Numbered.’ I assumed I was reading a clever parody of Washington’s anti-Putin propaganda. Absurd statement followed absurd statement. It was better than Colbert. I couldn’t stop laughing. To my dismay I discovered that the absolute gibberish wasn’t a parody of Washington’s propaganda. Motyl, an ardent Ukrainian nationalist, is a professor at Rugers University and was not joking when he wrote that Putin had stolen $45 billion, that Putin was resurrecting the Soviet Empire, that Putin had troops and tanks in Ukraine and had started the war in Ukraine, that Putin is an authoritarian whose regime is ‘exceedingly brittle’ and subject to being overthrown at any time by the people Putin has bought off with revenues from the former high oil price, or by ‘an Orange Revolution in Moscow’ in which Putin is overthrown by Washington orchestrated demonstrations by US financed NGOs as in Ukraine, or by a coup d’etat by Putin’s Praetorial guards. And if none of this sends Putin goodbye, the North Caucasus, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, and the Crimean Tarters are spinning out of control and will do Washington’s will by unseating Putin. Only the West’s friendly relationship with Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakstan can shield ‘the rest of the world from Putin’s disastrous legacy of ruin.’
Something surprising happened about an hour ago: at 2:15 pm, the USGS reported that a major 6.8 Magnitude earthquake had taken place in Russian territory, 16 kilometers WNW of Klintsy, in a location that is close to the Russian border with both Belarus and Ukraine. Reuters was quick to report the earthquake: MAGNITUDE 6.8 EARTHQUAKE STRIKES WESTERN RUSSIA, NEAR BELARUS BORDER-USGS This is where the USGS noted the major earthquake took place:
And the notification of the quake in question:
This post was published at Zero Hedge on 02/13/2015.
In the Belarusian capital Minsk representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the rebels from the Donbass signed a 13-point agreement on a ceasefire and other measures to resolve the conflict in Ukraine under OSCE supervision. The essence of the plan is to take account of the self-determination of peoples, which is the reason for the conflict: the ethnic Russians in the Donbass do not want to submit to a central government from Kiev itself. The Obama Administration really opposed this sort of settlement on the grounds of old-world empire theory predicated on territorial integrity of Ukraine. Such policies have led to the death of hundreds of millions of people over the centuries.. The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany have reached a ceasefire deal after 17 hours of talks in Minsk, Belarus, on the Ukrainian conflict. The ceasefire will come into force on Sunday as part of a deal that also involves the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line. Russian president Vladimir Putin was the first to announce the deal, saying: ‘We have agreed on a ceasefire from midnight 15 February.’ Putin went on to say ‘There is also the political settlement. The first thing is constitutional reform that should take into consideration the legitimate rights of people who live in Donbass. There are also border issues. Finally there are a whole range of economic and humanitarian issues.’
After a marathon all night drafting session, if not the world, then certainly its stock markets, were delighted by yesterday’s early morning news that a second Ukraine ceasefire had been signed in the Belarus capital of Minsk, with the thinking (among algos perhaps, if not so much humans) that this time may be different and that following the failed Minsk I agreement in September, peace would miraculously break out. Humans were, for the most part far less enthused about said possibility, recalling how time after time 2014 saw countless “ceasefires”, only to be breached within days if not hours. It was the humans then who were not surprised by today’s news that 2 days before the latest ceasefire deal is said to go into effect on Sunday, that “Ukraine and Russian-backed rebels fought fiercely across the east of the country on Friday.” A ceasefire is due to come into effect from Sunday under the agreement, which also envisages a withdrawal of the heavy weapons responsible for many of the 5,000 casualties in the conflict that broke out almost a year ago. Kiev said pro-Russian rebels had built up their forces across separatist-held zones since the deal and both sides accused each other of killing civilians. Two people were killed and six wounded when a shell hit a cafe in the Kiev-controlled town of Shchastya near rebel-held Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, a local official said, adding that other shells had struck elsewhere in the town.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on 02/13/2015.
A ceasefire in eastern Ukraine will come into effect at 12 a.m. local time on February 15 (22:00 February 14 GMT time), Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday after the Normandy four meeting on Ukrainian reconciliation in Minsk. "This was not the best night of my life. But the morning was good regardless of all the difficulties during the negotiations and we were able to agree on the important thing. The first thing we agreed on is the ceasefire starting from 12 a.m. [local time] on February 15. The second point, which I consider extremely important — is the withdrawal of heavy artillery from the today’s contact line for Ukrainian army, and from the line marked on September 19 last year in the Minsk agreements for Donbas,," Putin told journalists in the Belarusian capital of Minsk following the peace talks on Ukraine. Kiev refuses to negotiate with the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, Russian President Vladimir Putin said adding that the parties have not agreed on the document on the Ukraine reconciliation yet.