Monday, 14 November 2016

NATO Panics As Putin Urges Trump To Force Alliance Withdrawal From Russian Border

NATO Panics As Putin Urges Trump To Force Alliance Withdrawal From Russian Border

12 November, 2016

While many in the media have speculated that the Kremlin had a hand in Wikileaks' procurement of hacked Podesta emails - something Julian Assange denied last week - and US intelligence services officially accused Russian government-supported hackers of interfering with the US election (providing zero proof for the allegation), the truth is that Vladimir Putin is delighted with the outcome from the US elections: not so much for Hillary's loss as that the sharp, neo-con wing in the Pentagon has been muted for the next four years.

And, in the first test of Trump's willingness to rebuild bridges with Russia, Putin's spokesman suggested that President-elect Donald Trump should begin rebuilding the U.S.-Kremlin relationship by urging NATO to withdraw forces from the Russian border. Dmitry Peskov told the Associated Press that such a move "would lead to a kind of detente in Europe." Trump repeatedly praised Putin during his campaign and suggested the U.S. abandon its commitment to the NATO alliance.

The request comes at a time of disturbing, relentless escalations in military tensions between NATO and Russia: this week we reported that NATO has placed as much as 300,000 troops on "high alert" in preparation for confrontation with Russia.

Peskov said in the interview that the NATO presence does not make Russia feel "safe." "Of course, we have to take measures to counter," he said.

Additionally, setting the stage for Trump's official position on Crimea, in a separate interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, Peskov insisted that Crimea which became part of Russia after the CIA-sponsored Ukraine presidential coup in 2014, will remain such. "No one in Russia — never — will be ready to start any kind of discussion about Crimea," he said, refusing to call it "annexation."

When asked how Trump could approach the Crimea issue, quoted by The Hill, Peskov said it would take time. "We understand that it will take time for our partners in Europe, for our partners here in the United States to understand that. We are patient enough to wait until this understanding occurs here in Washington, in the States, in Europe," he said.

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But while the Crimea issue is largely moot, with the West resigned to its concession to Moscow, fears that Trump will indeed follow Russia's advice and pressure the alliance into standing down, or worse, withdraw US support, has resulted in outright panic, and according to German Spiegel, NATO strategists are planning for a scenario in which Trump orders US troops out of Europe.

Spiegel adds that strategists from NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s staff have drafted a secret report which includes a worst-case scenario in which Trump orders US troops to withdraw from Europe and fulfills his threat to make Washington less involved in European security.

For the first time, the US exit from NATO has become a threat” which would mean the end of the bloc, a German NATO officer told the magazine. During his campaign, Trump repeatedly slammed NATO, calling the alliance “obsolete.” He also suggested that under his administration, the US may refuse to come to the aid of NATO allies unless they “pay their bills” and “fulfill their obligations to us.”

Of course, this is the same Spiegel which after Trump's victory has predicted the end of the world.
We are experiencing a moment of the highest and yet unprecedented uncertainty in the transatlantic relationship,” said Wolfgang Ischinger, former German ambassador in Washington and head of the prominent Munich Security Conference. By criticizing the collective defense, Trump has questioned the basic pillar of NATO as a whole, Ischinger added.

Alternatively, by putting into question a core support pillar behind NATO's endless provocations and troop buildup at Russia's border, Trump may prevent World War III.

NATO, however, demands its way or no other way at all, and it why Ischinger demands that the president-elect reassure his "European allies" that he remains firm on the US commitment under Article 5 of the NATO charter prior to his inauguration.

This wasn't the only criticism launched at Trump by the military alliance: earlier this week, Stoltenberg slammed Trump’s agenda, saying: “All allies have made a solemn commitment to defend each other. This is something absolutely unconditioned.” Perhaps the commitment was only contingent on having a resident in the Oval Office who put the interests of the Military Industrial Complex ahead of those of, for example, the American people?

NATO's panic has grown so vast that out of fear Trump would not appear in Brussels even after his inauguration, NATO has re-scheduled its summit – expected to take place in early 2017 – to next summer, Spiegel said.

The NATO report likley also reflects current moods within the EU establishment as well, as Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, has called on the member states to establish Europe’s own military. Washington “will not ensure the security of the Europeans in the long term... we have to do this ourselves,” he argued on Thursday. Because Greek troops just can't wait to give their lives to defend German citizens and vice versa.

Meanwhile, Spiegel admits that despite NATO's bluster, Trump has all the leverage, and if Trump is serious about reducing the number of US troops stationed in Europe, large NATO countries like Germany have little to offer, Spiegel said. Even major member states’ militaries lack units able to replace the Americans, which in turn may trigger debate on strengthening NATO’s nuclear arm, a sensitive issue in most European countries for domestic reasons.

How will Trump respond? It is unclear: while in his pre-election rhetoric, Trump pushed for an anti-interventionist agenda, and certainly made it seem that NATO would be weakned under his presidency, that remains to be seen as his transition team currently hammers out the specifics of his rather vague policies. We would not be surprised at all to find that for all the anti-establishment posturing, the "shadow government" - now in the hands of the Bush clan - which Ron Paul warned against earlier, manages to regain dominance, and far from a detente, Trump's position emboldens NATO to pressure Putin even further. We would be delighted if our cynicism is proven wrong on this occasion.

CONFIRMED: Russia prepares heavy bombers, Syrian Army gives Jihadis 24 hours to surrender


13 November, 2016
As Russian aircraft from the Admiral Kuznetsov overfly Syria and Russian bombs equip for heavy cruise missile strikes the Syrian army broadcasts messages to the Jihadi fighters holed up in eastern Aleppo to surrender within the next 24 hours.
There are growing signs that what looks like a big Syrian government offensive in Aleppo is in the works.

The Syrian army has been broadcasting messages to the trapped Jihadis in eastern Aleppo via loudspeakers all daygiving them just 24 hours to lay down their arms.

There are also reports of more elite Syrian troops from the Tiger forces and the Desert Hawks Special Forces units being concentrated in Aleppo.  They are apparently being reinforced by well trained Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon. 

There is also an indeterminate number of Shiite militia fighters brought to the area of Aleppo from Iraq, though it seems that they are being given secondary support roles, and that most of the fighting on the front line will be carried out by the Syrian army.

In addition there are also reports of Russian and Iranian staff officers arriving in the city to help coordinate the fighting.

Meanwhile the captains of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and the nuclear powered missile battle cruiser Pyotr Veliky have both been talking to the Russian media.

Sergey Artamonov, the Admiral Kuznetsov’s captain, is reported to have confirmed that aircraft from the carrier have been flying over Syria for four days.  He described the reason for their flights as follows
The flights are performed from the deck of the aircraft-carrying heavy cruiser. Interaction with a coastal airfield is being worked out.”

The “coastal airfield” is clearly Russia’s Khmeimim air base in Syria’s Latakia province, which is the air base the Russians mainly use for the strikes they carry out in Syria.

The Russians do not have any experience of carrying out air strikes on ground targets from aircraft carriers, or of coordinating such strikes with ground bases.  It seems that they have been using the last four days to work out systems of coordination between the two separate services involved (the Russian Aerospace Forces in Khmeimim and Russian Naval Aviation on board the Admiral Kuznetsov) and to iron out any resulting communications and coordination problems before they go jointly into action.

Recently I said that one of the major reasons for involving the Admiral Kuznetsov in the operation was to give the Russians training and experience in carrier based ground strikes, something which they have never done before. Captain Artamonov’s words appear to bear this out.

Meanwhile Pyotr Veliky’s captain, Captain Vladislav Malakhovsky, has also been speaking to the Russian media.  He is reported as saying the following
Nobody is flying above us. Everybody is afraid of approaching us closer than 50 kilometers, understanding the might of the cruisers (Pyotr Veliky and Admiral Kuznetsov)”.

These words appear to confirm that the primary mission of the Pyotr Veliky battlecruiser is – as the Saker recently correctly said – to provide the fleet air defence with its formidable S-300 anti aircraft missile battery.  From what Captain Makakhovsky is saying, it is succeeding.

The fact that the Russian Defence Ministry has authorised the captains of the two most powerful warships in the Russian fleet to speak to the media is perhaps the single strongest indicator that a big attack is coming.

Another even stronger indicator that such a big attack is indeed coming is that there are reports that Russia’s heaviest bombers – its TU160 supersonic and its TU95 subsonic bombers – are being loaded with cruise missiles in preparation for a major strike.

The main focus of the coming attack seems to be the Al-Qaeda controlled town of Khan Tuman near Aleppo, which following its capture by Jihadi fighters in May has become the main base for the Al-Qaeda led Jihadi offensives against south west Aleppo.

However the fact that the Syrian military is calling on the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo to surrender as well may be a sign that the Syrian army is planning to launch an attack on them there as well.

From the British press




The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov passes within a few miles of Dover, in the southeast of England as a fleet of Russian warships sail through the North Sea, and the English Channel 


President-elect appears to reiterate his position that an alliance with Syrian and Russian governments to defeat Isis is his preferred way forward in the Syrian conflict

assad-smiles.jpg

President-elect Donald Trump has reaffirmed his campaign trail position that assisting the Syrian government in fighting Isis should be the US’ main objective in Syria, despite appeals from rebels for continued help in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad.

I’ve had an opposite view of many people regarding Syria. My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting Isis, and you have to get rid of Isis,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with the Wall Street Journal on Friday.

Mr Trump has stated that while he “did not like [Mr Assad] at all”, shoring up his regime is the best way to stem the extremism that has flourished in the chaos of the civil war and threatens the US.

He has also been emphatic about mending ties with Russia, Syria’s long-standing ally and military backer in the conflict.

Russia is now totally aligned with Syria, and now you have Iran, which is becoming powerful, because of us, is aligned with Syria… Now we’re backing rebels against Syria, and we have no idea who those people are,” he told the Journal, referring to the hardline Sunni Islamist elements present in rebel ranks. If the US attacks Mr Assad, “We end up fighting Russia,” he added.

Mr Trump’s shock victory in the US election this week was welcomed by Moscow and Tehran, as well as Damascus, where aides to Mr Assad were cautiously optimistic in interviews on Thursday. The president is “ready” to cooperate with Mr Trump going forward, they said.

To date the US has tacitly supported rebels in Syria both logistically and financially, along with Turkey and Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The long-standing US position has been that Mr Assad must be removed from power and democratic elections take place to end the complex and multisided conflict, now in its sixth year.

Mr Assad's military strategy - including air strikes targeting civilian infrastructure, siege tactics and alleged use of chemical weapons - has been responsible for far more civilian deaths since 2011 than rebel groups or Isis militants, analysts and monitors say.

Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton had proposed a no-fly-zone over Syria, a position rebels had been hopeful could stem the aerial attacks that have turned the tide of the war in Mr Assad’s favour since Russia began lending the Syrian government military support in September 2015.

After Mr Trump’s victory this week, the main Syrian opposition group the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) reached out to his staff asking him to protect civilians.

President Anas Al-Abdah said the SNC had sent Mr Trump its congratulations and was in touch about a “comprehensive new approach” to Syria.

The US must “establish peace in our region and to find fair and swift solutions for the threat of terrorism... especially the state terrorism practiced by the Syrian regime against the Syrian people,” Riad Hijab, head of the opposition High Negotiations Committee, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Other rebels on the ground were less enthusiastic, predicting more bloodshed no matter what Mr Trump’s policy ultimately ends up being on a war which has killed more than 400,000 people to date and driven half the Syrian population from their homes.

I guess most Syrians are reacting in a similar way today, trying to hide their disappointment by making [jokes],” said Wissam Zarqa, a rebel media activist in besieged east Aleppo.

We live in hope... but the only bright side to this is that we will not live on false promises now,” he added, referring to the international community’s inability to stop Russian air strikes on the area’s 250,000 trapped civilians.

With [US President] Obama, we had enough of his false promises and fake red lines.”

Abu Hamed, head of the military council of rebel group Liwa al-Haq Brigade, was similarly dismissive. “The Americans were never honest with us,” he said, speaking from Hama. “They left us in a quagmire that drowned the Syrians... everyone is trading with our blood and suffering.”




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