Category Archives: Geopolitics

Headline of the day II: And the echoes continue

From the Guardian:

FTSE 100 closes 4% lower in global market sell-off as Brexit recession looms – live

World markets have slumped in Europe, America and Asia, as economists predict that Brexit vote will push UK into recession

Cold War 2.0: The tensions continue to rise

As the Obama administration draws to a close, global tensions largely dormant since the end of the Cold War near three decades ago are smoldering again, and with renewed intensity.

It.s an ominous turn, given that both apparent presidential candidates are among the most bellicose since the Cold War ended.

We begin today’s account of the latest development with RT:

Russia will take adequate measures to counter NATO’s increasingly “aggressive rhetoric,” President Vladimir Putin told MPs at the closing session of the State Duma. He called to create an international security system open to all countries.

It’s necessary to create a collective security system void of “bloc-like thinking” and open to all countries, Putin said on Wednesday in Russia’s parliament.

“Russia is ready to discuss this extremely important issue,” he said, adding that such proposals have been so far left unanswered by Western countries.

“But again, as it was at the beginning of WWII, we don’t see any positive response,” he continued. “On the contrary, NATO ups its aggressive rhetoric and aggressive actions near our borders.”

“In this environment, we must pay special attention to strengthening our country’s defense capabilities,” he concluded.

Russia plans to public positions of America’s secret spay satellites

From RT again, another provocative move:

Russia’s own data on near-Earth objects – including military satellites not covered by the open catalog of the North-American warning system NORAD – could soon be made publicly available as a comprehensive database, Russian media report.

Russia is planning to set up a free database on thousands of near-Earth objects, including those not publicly listed in open catalogs of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), Izvestia newspaper reported on Tuesday.

NORAD doesn’t only track Santa at Christmas – its database also provides details on thousands of satellites launched, destroyed or still functioning. While the catalog does not disclose data on America’s own military or dual-use satellites (or those of allies – Japan, France, Germany and Israel among them), as Izvestia says, it does feature Russia’s defense satellites.

At a Vienna meeting of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in mid-June, Russia proposed to create a similar UN-run database “collecting, systemizing, sharing and analyzing information on objects and events in outer space.” Such an international database would be available to any country that has capabilities in the areas of human spaceflight, launches or satellites.

And the U.S. sends spy planes to the China Seas

Another move certain to up the ante in the hot zone where provocations by the U.S., China, Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam could easily tturn into armed conflict.

From the Diplomat:

Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, the United States Navy dispatched four U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack aircraft and about 120 military personnel to Clark Air Base, an air force base located on Luzon Island in the Philippines, according to a U.S. Seventh Fleet press release.

The four aircraft and 120 personnel arrived on June 15 for training with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) FA-50 aircraft pilots and to support U.S. and Philippine naval operations in the South China Sea, as the statement makes clear with a veiled reference to so-called freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in the disputed waters.

“In addition to bilateral training missions, Growler aircraft will support routine operations that enhance regional maritime domain awareness and assure access to the air and maritime domains in accordance with international law,” the press release reads.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Panoptic corporate imperialism, Googled and Liked

From Dutch public television’s VPRO Backlight comes a remarkable documentary posing a fascinating question: Is the absence of digital connectivity becoming the newest luxury good, a costly product for consumption by the world’s elite?

Consider the case of Silicon Valley, where elites send their children to low-tech Montessori and Waldorf schools where they are disconnected from the web and the incessant call to the iPhone is precluded.

Consider even the case of Mark Zuckerberg, a billionaire thanks to the incessant pull of the digital that has fueled the rice of his Facebook empire.

From BBC News:

A photograph of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg shows tape has been used to cover his MacBook Pro’s webcam and mic.

Facebook has not responded to requests for comment about the picture, shared to celebrate Instagram reaching its 500 million monthly user milestone.

FBI director James Comey has previously said he also covers his laptop’s webcam to prevent hackers spying on him.

And digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said it regularly sold its webcam “stickers”.

Documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden allege US and UK spy agencies intercepted webcam images from millions of Yahoo users around the world between 2008 and 2010.

And a section of the image in question with the tape clearly visible as a square covering the round camera aperture:


And it’s not just digital cognoscenti like Zuckerberg who display obvious concerns about the intrusion of the digital into daily life.

One of those interviewed by VPRO is Birgitta Jónsdóttir [previously], the founder of Iceland’s Pirate Party, now leading in the polls, and the improbable yet distinctly possible pick as the country’s prime minister.

An early adapter, Jónsdóttir played a role in one of Wikileak’s most explosive releases, video of the American helicopter machine-gunning of two Reuters journalists in Iraq in 2010. The video, likely leaked by Chelsea Manning, embarrassed the U.S. government and made Jónsdóttir the target of efforts by U.S. intelligence agencies and federal prosecutors.

Our digital connectivity, she notes, is all about turning us into commodities by exploiting our deepest secrets and relationships as tools for our own exploitation.

And like Zuckberg, Jónsdóttir keeps her laptop lens covered. And she warns that a’ those “smart” connected devices in your home, especially those responding to voice commands, make every aspect of private lived vulnerable to incessant snooping, catching every cry of ecstasy and despair, and with no legislation anywhere restricting corporate use of your innermost desires to seduce your wealth away.

Evgeny Morozov, a scholar and prolific writer who focuses in the social and political implications of the digital world, notes that the drive for global digital connectivity is driven by a fusion of the imperial interests of American corporations and the Washington establishment, with the implicit demand that those corporations are free from legal liability for their actions.

Especially chilling is a brief excerpt from a speech in India by Mark Zuckerberg in furtherance of his ambition to unite that nation in a digital Webb entirely controlled by his company, and effort he never accomplished until popular opposition forced a pullback.

Especially fascinating is way folks of our own ancestry are adapting to the wireless world. Our last name is Pennsylvania Dutch, folks of the Amish and Mennonite persuasion. The documentary reveals that even the Old Order Amish, the folks who still live in gaslit houses and travel by horse and buggy, now have cell phones and computers [though the phones have no internet capability and online computer access is tightly restricted, and the built-to-order hardware comes with no video capability.

There’s much more. . .

From VPRO Backlight:

Offline is the new luxury [VPRO backlight]

Program notes:

To be online all the time and everywhere. It sounds great, but it has its drawbacks. As digital networks are closing in, there are fewer places to be really on your own. Being offline is becoming a luxury. Where can you be offline?

We are connected to the internet even in our bedrooms. It’s the ambition of companies like Google and Facebook to connect the entire world, so that we can be online all the time and everywhere. This month, Google will send balloons up into the skies over Sri Lanka to provide the island state with free Wi-Fi. On the ground, more and more devices communicate through the so-called Internet-of-Things. We are going to be ‘glass citizens’ in a transparent house, connected for life to a wireless intravenous drip and traced anywhere via our smartphones. What does it mean, this shift to 100 percent connectibility of the entire planet?

Chart of the day: Sources of refugees to the U.S.

With patterns of changing origins over time, via the Pew Research Center:

BLOG Refugees

Cold War 2.0: The tensions continue to rise

Back in 1989 when the Cold War ended with the breakup and the Soviet Union and its satellite alliance, newspapers and politicians were hailing the end of the Cold War, that nuclear-armed ongoing confrontation that had kept the world poised on the brink of an apocalypse for four decades.

Fast forward 27 years and we seem to be right back where we started, with provocations occurring on a daily basis between the U.S. and its allies and the Cold War foes Russia and China.

Escalation on the Russian frontier

We begin with the first of two stories from the World Socialist Web Site:

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is sending 4,000 additional troops to Eastern Europe in the name of reassuring Poland and the Baltic states, the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed on Monday. “We will agree to deploy by rotation four robust multi-national battalions in the Baltic states and Poland,” Stoltenberg told NATO officials.

The US, Germany and Britain will each contribute 1,000 soldiers, with Canada expected to confirm its own contingent of 1,000. The deployments are among the most provocative actions taken by the NATO high command in the course of its anti-Russian buildup, now well into its second year. With ever greater recklessness, the US and European ruling elites are sowing the seeds of war across the width and breadth of the Eurasian landmass.

The announcement of new troop deployments comes in the midst of Operation Anaconda 2016, involving more than 30,000 NATO forces in the biggest war drill held in Poland since the end of the Second World War. Some 12,500 of the 30,000 soldiers are American.

In Eastern Europe, under the guise of “rotational deployments,” NATO has established a permanent military force. Put forth for public consumption as a response to Russian “meddling” in Ukraine and alleged provocations by Russia’s military along the frontiers of NATO’s eastern member states, the real purpose of NATO’s spearhead force is to prepare for a ground invasion across Russia’s western border.

And a second story on the NATO/Russian frontier from the World Socialist Web Site:

Germany needs new tanks! This was the demand of Jörg Vollmer, inspector of the German Army, on June 9 in Berlin. Referring to the supposed “changed threat situation” in the east, the lieutenant general concluded that the German military needs 31 “Iguana” bridge-laying armoured vehicles next year as well as additional materials costing several billion euros. All troops would also have to be equipped with new radios.

The army must be capable of building stable bridges and laying anti-tank mines, Vollmer said. “A brigade that is fully equipped with combat tanks and armoured personnel carriers but has no Iguanas to carry them over water is clearly handicapped.” According to the general, the army must “again provide everything we once sized down for good reasons.”

Seventy-five years after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the German military is again arming itself against Russia. Vollmer confirmed that the military will participate in the permanent deployment of NATO combat troops in Eastern Europe. At the NATO summit to be held in Warsaw at the beginning of July, Germany will propose taking leadership of one of the four planned “robust, multi-national NATO battalions” in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland. To this end, the military wants to send an additional 600 soldiers to Lithuania.

The German military is already playing a leading role in NATO deployments in Eastern Europe, which are an increasingly direct preparation for a war against Russia.

After the jump, rising tensions in the China Seas. . . Continue reading

Seymour Hersh: When Osama died, Obama lied

America’s foremost investigative journalist sits down with a Pakistani writer to talk about the extrajudicial murder of Osama bin Laden, a killing Hersh rightly describes as a war crime.

Their half-hour talk [a second follows next week] covers the reality of the bin Laden murder, the subervience of American journalists to the Obama White House, and much more.

From teleSUR English:

Global Empire – The World According to Seymour Hersh

Program notes:

Tariq Ali talks to investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, about the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011 and describes what the Americans and Pakistanis knew about his whereabouts.

The game of chicken continues in Europe and Asia

Direct confrontations between the armed forces of the world’s major power military powers have been increasing, with government taking increasingly belligerent tones to describe the encounters.

One of the latest incidents was reported with distinctly different twists by news media of the respective countries.

The curious case of the submarine in the North Sea

First up, via Sky News:

A Russian submarine – capable of carrying cruise missiles – has been intercepted by a Royal Navy warship in the North Sea.

The vessel was detected by NATO forces and is now being escorted by HMS Kent.

The Ministry of Defence said the Type 23 Duke class frigate will continue to shadow the Kilo-class submarine.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “This shows that the Navy is maintaining a vigilant watch in international and territorial waters to keep Britain safe and protect us from potential threats.”

And from the other side of Europe, Russia’s RT adds a note of irony:

UK media hail Navy’s ‘intercept’ of Russian sub… which was not hiding

Program notes:

Headlines in the British media have hailed a Royal Navy operation to ‘track and intercept’ a Russian submarine off the UK coast – but Moscow says it’s surprised it took so much effort to find what was actually a surfaced sub traveling with a tug boat.

Armed forces in prepare for war in East Europe

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Europe Defense News covers another confrontation:

Poland has kicked off its joint multinational exercise with heavy US Army participation in order to test readiness and interoperability using 31,000 soldiers from 24 countries, 100 aircraft, 12 vessels and 3,000 vehicles.

The US Army’s role in the biggest Polish national exercise, called Anakonda, will include a multinational air assault and airborne operations as well as bridging operations and live fire, command post, field training, cyber and electronic warfare exercises led by the 4th Infantry Division Headquarters.

Among some of the key activities, the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division will conduct an airborne operation into the Torun training area to secure terrain east of the Vistula river and the 10th Army Air & Missile Defense Command will conduct electronic warfare exercises in the Utzka training area in support of air defense artillery brigade maneuvers that will include live fire exercises.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said Monday during the opening ceremony that the single purpose for the US Army in Anakonda is to demonstrate that the US Army is “shoulder to shoulder” with Poland, its army and NATO “to ensure that all countries of NATO remain free and independent.”

An aerial confrontation in the East China Sea

And on to Asia, with a report from RT:

A Chinese J-10 fighter plane intercepted a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft during a “routine mission” over the East China Sea in an “unsafe” manner, two American defense officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

The officials claimed that Washington was alarmed by the Chinese fighter’s “excessive rate of closure” on the US aircraft – meaning it approached too fast. According to CNN sources, the Chinese jet did not fly closer than 100ft to the US spy plane while it was on the mission.

Beijing insisted its fighter jet kept a safe distance and avoided making dangerous maneuvers, and demanded that Washington stop reconnaissance flights next to Chinese airspace.

“The United States continues close reconnaissance activity, which significantly undermines China’s security at sea. This is what causes the problem. We urge the United States to stop this activity and prevent such incidents in the future,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told journalists at a briefing on Wednesday. China remains within its rights to take self-defense measures, Hong stressed.