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Chronically deluded Poland wants to dominate Europe from the Baltic to the Adriatic

Europe’s most pathetic chauvinists want to resurrect a failed hegemony strategy from the 1920s

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(New Eastern Outlook) – Poland’s Three Seas Initiative to date is a thinly-disguised geopolitical attempt to create a counter to the influence of both Russia to the east and of Germany to her west. Comparisons with Poland’s ill-fated Intermarium following World War I come to mind, not without reason. Following that war Poland’s leader Josef Pilsudski attempted to create a de facto union of states from the Black Sea to the Baltic to oppose both the Soviet Russian and the German empire under the name Intermarium. If we superimpose the states geographically from the various configurations of Intermarium with that of today’s Three Seas Initiative we see a clear resemblance, if you will, a kind of demarcation line between Germany in the west and the Russian Federation in the east. The similarities do not end there.

The current Three Seas Initiative was formally founded in Dubrovnik in August 2016 and includes twelve central and eastern European states as members. Member countries span the space between the Baltic, the Adria and the Black Seas, hence the name. In addition to Poland and Croatia, members presently include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia. It’s second meeting in Warsaw in July 2017 was attended by the US President Trump, who gave the group his clear imprimatur.

The question is what political or economic notions are driving Poland’s Three Seas Initiative? If we look more closely at its initial focus on energy, much becomes clearer.

US Shale LNG

On July 6, 2017 en route to the Hamburg G20 Summit, US President Donald Trump made a high-profile stop in Warsaw to attend the second meeting of the Three Seas Initiative, a project first publicly proposed by Polish President Andrzej Duda.

While the prime actors, Poland and Croatia, insist that the Three Seas Initiative is not at all geopolitical, but rather a forum to better integrate common infrastructure projects north-south in the new EU states of central Europe, it’s clear that the opposite is the case, it’s geopolitics. The real driver of the initiative, Washington, is clearly opposed to the German-Russian undersea Baltic Nord Stream II gas pipeline. Poland for her part stands to lose gas transit fees as the present transit routes of Russian gas via Ukraine and Poland would be phased out, but that is not the major driver. For Germany and for Russia, since the US-initiated February 2014 Kiev coup d’etat broke Ukraine’s ties with Russia, Ukraine transit of Russian gas has been a highly explosive and uncertain issue.

In July in Warsaw Trump told his audience, “We are committed to securing your access to alternate sources of energy, so Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy.” The remarks were a not-so-veiled slap at Moscow where Washington alleged, falsely, in 2008 that Russia’s Gazprom cut gas supplies via Ukraine to western European consumers, something Moscow vehemently denied, stating it was done by Ukraine, with the almost certain backing of Washington. During the worst tensions of the Cold War Moscow never disrupted gas deliveries to Europe. They had no reason to do so in 2008, rather the opposite. However, US-backed President Viktor Yushchenko did.

A Polish Gas Hub

For their side Poland has dreams of using the Three Seas Initiative to make Poland into a new gas hub for the EU by importing US Liquified Natural Gas (LNG).

To ship gas by LNG tanker is a costly process. It requires construction of special LNG terminals at both port of origin and of destination. The gas must first by transformed into a cold liquid state at about −260 °F, and loaded on the specially-made tankers. At destination a similar special LNG terminal is required where the gas can be again changed from liquid to gas state for ultimate consumption. All this is quite costly compared with pipeline gas routes.

By contrast, Russia today delivers most of its gas via pipeline to the EU market. The cost of Russian gas as a result of this and other factors is significantly lower. For Poland this seems not to matter. They dream of replacing Ukraine as the gas transit to the EU with gas from Norway and LNG gas from the USA and perhaps gas from Qatar if Washington does not manage to disrupt that via Saudi sanctions.

In late June, 2017 Poland’s new LNG terminal on the Baltic Sea at Swinoujscie received the first US LNG shipment from the Texas terminal of Cheniere Energy, currently the only US LNG terminal for export of LNG. During the Trump visit Poland’s president made clear he wanted long-term contracts with US LNG suppliers, ultimately to export to other countries of the Three Seas Initiative in place of Russian gas via Ukraine. In the process, Poland has dreams of replacing Russia also as supplier to Ukraine.

Commenting on the Polish wish, Trump declared that “many more” US LNG shipments will be coming to Poland, but added that the price might rise. “Maybe we get your price up a little bit, but that’s ok, tough negotiations,” Trump told his audience in Warsaw. “We are sitting on massive energy, we are now exporters of energy. Whenever you need energy, just give us a call.” Tough negotiations, to be sure.

Poland is building a strategy to make it the new energy hub of central Europe to replace Russian gas. This is at the heart of her Three Seas Initiative project. The new LNG terminal which was built at a cost of $ 1 billion can accept 5 billion cubic meters of gas per year, about one-third Poland’s nnual gas consumption. Poland is discussing doubling that.

But that’s only the first part of what in fact is a NATO strategy to drive Russian gas out of EU markets. The strategy calls for making Poland a natural gas hub for Central Europe by linking Poland with Lithuania, Ukraine, Slovakia and the Czech Republic through interconnectors.

Blocking Nord Stream II

The Polish Three Seas Initiative on energy infrastructure for importing US LNG is at one and the same time a strategy against German influence on EU energy markets and against Russia as major energy supplier. It is no wonder, given Poland’s gas hub ambitions that the country takes the lead in trying to block the German-Russian Nord Stream II under-Baltic gas pipeline.

On November 1, Krzysztof Szczerski, head of the Chancellery of the President of Poland, announced that Poland’s government will do everything possible to block Nord Stream II. “We must be aware of the Nord Stream 2 issue, of what scale of interests we are facing,” he stated. “We are dealing with the interests of two large states (Germany and Russia-w.e.), which will launch significant resources for the implementation of this project. Nord Stream 2 is not a side project, but a foundation to their interests. Simultaneously, it has a deep anti-European character (sic!),” he said.

Blocking Nord Stream II is also a high Washington priority. In June, 2017 the US Congress passed and President Trump signed into law severe new anti-Russian sanctions that among other aims explicitly targeted investment in Nord Stream II. The latest US economic sanctions against Russia take direct aim at the companies involved in backing the German-Russian Nord Stream II pipeline expansion across the Baltic, independent of Poland transit. If activated by the US President it would impose severe economic sanctions on EU companies involved in energy projects with Russia, such as Nord Stream II.

The governments of Germany and Austria immediately registered vehement opposition to the latest possible US sanctions for obvious reasons. On June 15 the German and Austrian foreign ministers issued an unusually US-critical joint statement. They declared in very strong terms, “Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe, not the United States of America. We cannot accept … the threat of illegal extraterritorial sanctions against European companies that participate in the development of European energy supply.” Austria boycotted the Trump July 6 appearance before the Three Seas Initiative as well to signal its disapproval of the US gas talks.

Poland’s Costly US LNG

On November 21, 2017 Poland’s state gas firm PGNiG signed its first mid-term deal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) deliveries from the United States, as part of their plan to cut dependence on Russian supplies. PGNiG said that as part of the deal, signed with Centrica LNG Co. an Anglo-American energy group, it will receive nine LNG shipments in 2018-2022. The company has not revealed the volumes and prices agreed under the contract. Market indications are that the Polish government is paying a huge penalty for its Russo-phobia.

Estimates of Russia’s Gazprom suggest that Poland must pay for winter 2017-18 in the range of $265-$295/1,000 cubic meters. Russian gas via pipeline is being delivered for an average price of $190/1,000 cu m. If accurate, it suggests that Poland is paying up to 50% more for its US LNG deliveries. To deliver that US LNG further to other Three Seas Initiative partner countries implies far higher gas prices in central Europe.

What is developing are new major EU fault lines around the economic lifeline of energy, explicitly of natural gas energy. On the one side is the axis between especially Germany but also Austria, France and other EU states currently tied to major Russian gas supplies. Now emerges clearly the opposed axis of Poland allied with Washington.

Role of Atlantic Council

For Washington Poland’s Three Seas Initiative is a win-win situation. That should come as no surprise when we consider that the Atlanticist NATO think tank, Atlantic Council, is playing a shaping role behind formation of the Poland Three Seas Initiative.

The naming of former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State was no accident. It is part of a longer-term Washington strategy to make the United States, particularly with its recent exploitation of unconventional shale gas and shale oil, to become the dominant global energy power. US actions in Syria and with Saudi Arabia against Iran and Qatar fit into that strategy. Elimination or sharp curtailing of Qatar LNG exports, including to Poland, stands to benefit US gas suppliers.

One reason for the Saudi sanctions on Qatar, imposed following the May 21 Trump meeting in Riyadh to discuss creation of an “Arab NATO,” had little to do with claims that Qatar supported the Muslim Brotherhood, something that had been true. Saudi Arabia for its part had spent billions backing every terror group in Syria from Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front, to ISIS, in its effort to dislodge Bashar al Assad. The real issue for the US-backed Saudi embargo of Qatar was the fact that Qatar had begun secret negotiations with Iran on joint development of their shared Persian Gulf gas fields, the largest known in the world. Were that Qatar-Iran cooperation to happen with Bashar al Assad firmly in power after Russia’s intervention in Syria, it would change the entire world energy geopolitics in Russia’s favor and against the US role.

In reality the Qatar blockade by the Saudis is aimed not at stopping radical terrorists. It is aimed at keeping Iranian and Qatari and, potentially, Syrian gas out of the EU gas market, estimated to become the world’s largest gas consumer in coming years. For Washington, Poland and their Three Seas Initiative are merely a chess play in a larger geopolitical game.

The creation of Poland’s costly LNG terminal and its strategy to become a central European gas hub via the Three Seas Initiative was not an idea born in Warsaw. It came from Washington, specifically from the geopolitical strategists of the Atlantic Council. The Atlantic Council, created by Washington during the height of the Cold War, today is a major think tank of NATO policy financed by the Pentagon and US intelligence agencies. Official donors include the US Department of the Air Force; Department of the Army; Department of the Navy and the US National Intelligence Council. As well the US State Department and Energy Department contribute to the Council, along with NATO itself.

In April, 2017 the Atlantic Council held a conference in Istanbul on the Three Seas strategy. The theme of the conference was “Making the Three Seas Initiative a Priority for Trump.” The keynote speech was made by General James L. Jones, chairman of the Atlantic Council, and former Obama National Security Advisor. The Atlantic Council was present in Warsaw in July for the Trump appearance at the three Seas Initiative meeting.

Jones remarked in his April remarks on the Three Seas Initiative, “This is a truly transatlantic project that has enormous geopolitical, geostrategic, and geo-economic ramifications.” Jones went on to confirm that the Three Seas Initiative is designed to “alleviate the Kremlin’s strong hand in the European energy sector.” Jones noted also that he had spoken with Secretary Tillerson about the importance of supporting the Three Seas Initiative: “He understands it. He understands the strategic interest; he understands the economic interest,” Jones noted.

Another Initiative Shows Limits of Three Seas

On November 27 a quite different forum assembled, hosted by a member country of the Three Seas Initiative. The China – Central and Eastern Europe summit in Budapest, hosted by Prime Minister Viktor Orban included all 12 members of the Three Seas Initiative as well as non-EU states Serbia, Bosnia Herzogovina, Macedonia and Albania. The China-CEE countries discussed participation in China’s vast One Belt, One Road infrastructure to increase European-Eurasian trade flows. They discussed creation of new infrastructure funds, of currency cooperation and much more. It was a far contrast to the prospects of the Three Seas Initiative to spend billions in risky US shale gas LNG projects in order to alienate Russia and Germany further.

The contrast of the China-CEE summit to that of the Three Seas Initiative couldn’t be more stark. It shows the geopolitical fault lines of what little positive Washington is able to offer its European NATO allies today in contrast with the possibilities to join with China and Russia in building a new Eurasian infrastructure to Europe.

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Russia Lures International Arms Buyers With Half-Priced, More Effective Missile System

The Russian S-400 mobile long-range surface-to-air missile system costs around $500 million, vs. the $1 billion price tag for a US-made Raytheon Patriot Pac-2 battery.

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Via Zerohedge


Russia has been pitching a rival missile platform that costs half of those made by US companies, reports CNBC, which has resulted in several countries dealing with the Kremlin “despite the potential for blowback.”

Sefa Karacan | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Russian S-400 mobile long-range surface-to-air missile system costs around $500 million, vs. the $1 billion price tag for a US-made Raytheon Patriot Pac-2 battery, while a THAAD battery made by Lockheed Martin costs just about $3 billion, according to people with first-hand knowledge of a US intelligence assessment.

Nearly 13 countries have expressed interest in buying Russia’s S-400, a move that could trigger potential U.S. sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Donald Trump signed in August 2017. In September, the U.S. slapped sanctions on China  for buying fighter jets and missiles from Russia. However, the U.S. could grant sanction waivers. –CNBC

Turkey, meanwhile, may be hit with US sanctions over their decision to purchase the S-400 defense system, which the United States says poses a risk to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

Meanwhile, India called the United States’ bluff over sanctions in late Ocotber, standing its ground in its decision to buy the S-400.

One of the reasons Russian systems are generally considered less expensive than their American counterparts is because they don’t include pricey ongoing maintenance.

“When foreign militaries buy American, above and beyond the purchase, they are buying a partnership with the U.S. military,” Andrew Hunter, director of the Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told CNBC. “And that plus the maintenance and technical assistance is a big part of the cost difference.

The S-400 system made its debut in 2007, succeeding the S-200 and S-300 missile systems. According to CNBC, “the Russian-made S-400 is capable of engaging a wider array of targets, at longer ranges and against multiple threats simultaneously,” vs. US-made systems.

In terms of capability, one source noted that while there is no perfect weapon, the S-400 eclipses even THAAD, America’s missile defense crown jewel.

When asked why nations seek to buy the S-400 instead of America’s Patriot or THAAD systems, one of the people with knowledge of the intelligence report explained that foreign militaries aren’t willing to stick with the cumbersome process of buying weapons from the U.S. government. –CNBC

“Many of these countries do not want to wait for U.S. regulatory hurdles,” said a CNBC source with first hand knowledge of the assessment. “The S-400 has less export restrictions and the Kremlin is willing to expedite sales by skipping over any regulatory hurdles.

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Britain’s Enemy Is Not Russia But It’s Own Ruling Class, UN Report Confirms

In austerity Britain, who the enemy is has never been more clear.

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Authored by John Wright. op-ed via RT.com:


As the UK political establishment rips itself to pieces over Brexit, a far greater crisis continues to afflict millions of victims of Tory austerity…

A devastating UN report into poverty in the UK provides incontrovertible evidence that the enemy of the British people is the very ruling class that has gone out of its way these past few years to convince them it is Russia.

Professor Philip Alston, in his capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, spent two weeks touring the United Kingdom. He did so investigating the impact of eight years of one of the most extreme austerity programs among advanced G20 economies in response to the 2008 financial crash and subsequent global recession.

What he found was evidence of a systematic, wilful, concerted and brutal economic war unleashed by the country’s right-wing Tory establishment against the poorest and most vulnerable section of British society– upending the lives of millions of people who were not responsible for the aforementioned financial crash and recession but who have been forced to pay the price.

From the report’s introduction:

“It…seems patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty. This is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes to see the immense growth in foodbanks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the sense of deep despair that leads even the Government to appoint a Minister for Suicide Prevention and civil society to report in depth on unheard of levels of loneliness and isolation.”

Though as a citizen of the UK I respectfully beg to differ with the professor’s claim that such social and economic carnage seems “contrary to British values,” (on the contrary it is entirely in keeping with the values of the country’s Tory establishment, an establishment for whom the dehumanization of the poor and working class is central to its ideology), the point he makes about it being “obvious to anyone who opens their eyes,” is well made.

For it is now the case that in every town and city centre in Britain, it is impossible to walk in any direction for more than a minute before coming across homeless people begging in the street. And the fact that some 13,000 of them are former soldiers, casualties of the country’s various military adventures in recent years, undertaken in service to Washington, exposes the pious platitudes peddled by politicians and the government as reverence for the troops and their ‘sacrifice,’ as insincere garbage.

Overall, 14 million people in the UK are now living in poverty, a figure which translates into an entire fifth of the population. Four million of them are children, while, according to Professor Alston, 1.5 million people are destitute – that is, unable to afford the basic necessities of life.

And this is what the ruling class of the fifth largest economy in the world, a country that parades itself on the world stage as a pillar of democracy and human rights, considers progress.

The values responsible for creating such a grim social landscape are compatible with the 18th not 21st century. They are proof positive that the network of elite private schools – Eton, Harrow, Fettes College et al. – where those responsible for this human carnage are inculcated with the sense of entitlement and born to rule ethos that defines them, are Britain’s hotbeds of extremism.

Professor Alston:

“British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach apparently designed to instill discipline where it is least useful, to impose a rigid order on the lives of those least capable of coping with today’s world, and elevating the goal of enforcing blind compliance over a genuine concern to improve the well-being of those at the lowest levels of British society.”

Here, set out above in bold relief, is the barbarism that walks hand in hand with free market capitalism. It is the same barbarism that was responsible for pushing post-Soviet Russia into a decade-long economic and social abyss in the 1990s, and the values that have pushed 14 million people in the UK into the same economic and social abyss in our time.

Austerity, it bears emphasizing, is not and never has been a viable economic response to recession in a given economy.

Instead, it is an ideological club, wielded on behalf of the rich and big business to ensure that the price paid for said economic recession is borne exclusively by those least able to bear it – namely, the poor and working people. It is class war by any other name, packaged and presented as legitimate government policy.

However, in Britain’s case in 2018, this is a war like no other because, as Professor Philip Alston’s report lays bare, only one side in this war has been throwing all the punches and only one side has been taking them.

With Christmas season upon us, the scale of human suffering across the UK ensures that the elaborate ad campaigns inviting us to shop and indulge to our heart’s content – ads depicting the middle class dream of affluence and material comfort – take on the character of a provocation. In fact, they call to mind the truism that wars take place when the government tells you who the enemy is, while revolutions take place when you work it out for yourself.

In austerity Britain, who the enemy is has never been more clear.

 

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‘Iron’ Mike Pence Stares-Down Putin In APEC Showdown

Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor John Bolton were seen shaking hands and chatting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Singapore.

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Via Zerohedge


Forget the All-Blacks ‘Haka’, ignore Foreman-Frasier, Drago-Balboa, and Ortiz-Liddell, the honor of the greatest (or perhaps most awkward) staredown in history now goes to US Vice President Mike Pence…

Having been blamed for everything from Trump’s election victory to USA soccer team’s loss to England last week, Russia faced accusations all weekend and was reportedly confronted by the US contingent over “meddling.”

As The Sun reports, Pence and Putin “discussed the upcoming G20 Summit and touched on the issues that will be discussed when President Trump and President Putin are both in Argentina for the summit,” according to the vice president’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah.

An NBC reporter tweeted: “New per the @VP’s Office—> The VP’s office says Vice President Pence directly addressed Russian meddling in the 2016 election in a conversation with Vladimir Putin on Thursday in Singapore.

“The conversation took place following the plenary session this afternoon at ASEAN.”

But, it was the following clash of the titans that caught most people’s attention.

As the Russian president joined the that Pence shook Putin’s ‘deadly’ hand, met his ‘steely KGB-trained’ gaze, and desperately tried not to smile or blink for 20 seconds as Putin appeared to chat amicably with the US VP…

While Putin has (if his accusers are to be believed) grappled his opponents to death with his bare hands (remember he is a sinister KGB agent and jiu-jitsu expert); we suspect the only thing VP Pence has gripped tightly in his hands is his bible.

Sadly, John Bolton then blew the tough guy act (or is he Mike Pence’s ‘good cop’) as he does his best impression of a teenage girl meeting their popstar idol for the first time…

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