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Creating an EU army, the end of NATO?

Today’s security problems in Europe are directly related to NATO’s actions in the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa after the collapse of the USSR.

Svetlana Maksovic

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An initiative for the creation of EU defence forces has been launched several times, but so far it has not been realized. The EU attempted in the 50’s to establish a military structure through the European Defence Community and the Western European military alliance, but that plan failed. The EU security and defence policy is strategically dependent on NATO, and the forming of a new special military structure was understood as a duplication of competencies and as diminishing of the role of NATO. After the Second World War, a foundation of the security architecture of Europe was set, where NATO has taken a key role. That role became important over time, and along with the enlargement of the EU, the capacity of NATO increased. Most of the EU member States are at the same time members of the NATO organization, namely, only six of the twenty-eight EU member States are not members of NATO. What we must have in mind when we talk about the security of the EU, is that America, as the leading country in NATO, has a key role in the European security. It was the United States that braked the creation of an EU military structure independent from NATO, but also the United Kingdom.

The new European reality

However, some progress has been made. A European Defence Agency was established in 2004 (1), and the Lisbon Treaty established a framework for the military and security cooperation, as well as the possibility for a defence integration within the Union. These steps have resulted in the formation of the battle groups for a “quick response.” These battle groups could be the basis of any future EU army.

After UK leaving the EU, the German Defence Minister, Ursula von der Leyen said: “Britain has been persistently blocking for years all EU proposals on the military. The exit of Great Britain from the EU opens up new possibilities for intensifying military cooperation among the member States.” She pointed out that Germany and France were planning to “take the initiative on future military cooperation.”

Recent decisions of the European Parliament provide the basis for strengthening the defence policy and for a possible creation of an army. In mid-November 2016, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the European Defence Community (2). According to this resolution, “Europe needs a political will and determination supported by a broad spectrum of appropriate policy instruments, including strong and modern military competences.”

After indications of its new president that the US will redefine the relationship with NATO, and leaving Britain from the EU, the issue of the formation of EU military forces  has gotten a new dimension.

Also, Macron’s victory in the French elections, according to some opinions, should speed up the decision-making on the establishment of the EU defence forces (3). After UK leaving the EU, France remains as the only nuclear power in the EU and is the only permanent member of the UNSC. In addition to this, France is one of the most vulnerable EU countries because of internal ethnic and religious conflicts. The fight against terrorism is the main topic of the French security. It is bad that the French society has a largely distorted view of the causes of the terrorism threat in the country, not understanding its own role in it.

The tasks of the European army

The question is whether the EU army would be able to meet all the requirements of the European security and what would be the role of NATO after the creation of an EU army?

The tasks of the future EU army would be linked to external and internal threats.

The main role of the army is the territory defence from an external armed threat. The first task of the future EU army would be to control and defend the borders of the EU. The destabilization of the Middle East has caused large population migrations from the Middle East to Western Europe which have demonstrated the vulnerability of the EU. Not only the EU did not control the migrants, but there is no intelligence about who is staying in the territory of the Member States, and there is no communication between the member States regarding the potential dangers. The EU countries have not been able to agree on quotas for migrants and on how to distribute the migrants to the different countries.

Organized control and protection of EU external borders require the formation of border troops. In addition, the EU should establish intelligence structures that could handle external, and especially internal threats.

As for the armed external threats, the EU has a special problem with the rise of Islamic terrorism, arriving to the EU from the Middle East via Turkey. However, it cannot be considered as external but as an internal threat, given that terrorist cells act within the territory of the EU. The EU will certainly not be attacked by a conventional terrorist army, but it is realistic to expect that terrorist groups are actively operating within the EU. The establishment of EU borders control will prevent from new individuals linked to terrorism entering the territory, but it will not solve the problem of those who are already in the EU, who have asylum or live in the territory of the EU on other grounds. It is essential that the Brussels bureaucracy stops ignoring real threats and further responding to non-existent threats, which means stopping the creation of conflicts with Russia. Obediently following the US foreign policy, has already placed Europe in a very risky position, but today’s new security problems in Europe are directly caused by such acts. Further continuation of such a policy could cause an escalation of civil conflicts in the European countries or a conflict with Russia, which is persistently supported by Washington. The EU needs a new defence concept, but it is important for this concept to be established on a sound basis and to include not only the United States as a partner, but also Russia.

Nobody needs NATO

Basic internal threats in the EU are linked to an increased risk of terrorism, which has led to new security challenges. NATO army is not trained to fight terrorism, which is why the EU is extremely vulnerable. The question is to which point would the new EU army be trained and how it will deal with new problems. It should be borne in mind that the clashes turned into a new form of struggle, which is also called hybrid war, and it involves the use of not only military competences, but of much more advanced technology, electronic, intelligence, information, etc. In this sense, armies trained for conventional wars, are not qualified for new forms of battle. In order to cope with contemporary challenges in the EU, a highly-trained army specialized in combating terrorism in urban conditions is required.

It is especially dangerous that the terrorist threats in the EU can develop into a civil conflict, mostly in countries that are burdened by ethnic and religious conflicts. In this sense, the most endangered country is France, but also the situation in Germany is not simple. France is a country with a high percentage of immigrants from former colonies since many years, and Germany has a lot of immigrants from Turkey and a large number of migrants who came from the Middle East.

The armed forces of European countries definitely need reforms and modernization, and NATO itself is not able to respond to the new challenges. The European countries spend less money on defence than the US, and Donald Trump’s comments were precisely related to that fact. He also stated that NATO is an obsolete organization, not able to fight terrorism, which was confirmed several times by the absence of reaction to the terrorist acts carried out in many cities in the EU and in Brussels, the headquarters of NATO.

If an EU army was formed, NATO would lose its purpose and won’t be needed anymore. This organization has certainly lost its role with the collapse of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact, because its main task was the defence against the communist threat. Instead of being dissolved after the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO was then transformed from a defensive alliance into a conquering one. Today’s security problems in Europe are directly related to NATO’s actions in the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa after the collapse of the USSR.

And finally, one more thing should be said. The political and military power potential of the EU, compared to the superpowers such as Russia, America and China, is negligible and that fact will not change with the formation of an EU army, simply because in the current situation, Europe has no capacity to become a superpower.

Svetlana Maksovic, Centre for Geostrategic Studies – Serbia

Stanje Stvari

References:

  1. https://www.eda.europa.eu/home
  2. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P8-TA-2016-0435+0+DOC+XML+V0//HR
  3. http://www.friendsofeurope.org/security-europe/decisions-loom-french-defence-amid-increased-demands/

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Major Syrian Army Assault On Southeast Idlib As Sochi Deal Unravels

Though the Syrian war has grown cold in terms of international spotlight and media interest since September, it is likely again going to ramp up dramatically over the next few months. 

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Via Zerohedge


The Syrian Army unleashed a major assault across the southeastern part of Idlib province on Saturday, a military source told Middle East news site Al-Masdar in a breaking report. According to the source, government forces pounded jihadist defenses across the southeast Idlib axis with a plethora of artillery shells and surface-to-surface missiles.

This latest exchange between the Syrian military and jihadist rebels comes as the Sochi Agreement falls apart in northwestern Syria, and in response to a Friday attack by jihadists which killed 22 Syrian soldiers near a planned buffer zone around the country’s last major anti-Assad and al-Qaeda held region. The jihadist strikes resulted in the highest number of casualties for the army since the Sochi Agreement was established on September 17th.

Though the Syrian war has grown cold in terms of international spotlight and media interest since September, it is likely again going to ramp up dramatically over the next few months.

The Al-Masdar source said the primary targets for the Syrian Army were the trenches and military posts for Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham in the towns of Al-Taman’ah, Khuwayn, Babulin, Haish, Jarjanaz, Um Jalal, and Mashirfah Shmaliyah. In retaliation for the Syrian Army assault, the jihadist rebels began shelling the government towns of Ma’an, Um Hariteen, and ‘Atshan.

Damascus has been critical of the Sochi deal from the start as it’s criticized Turkey’s role in the Russian-brokered ceasefire plan, especially as a proposed ‘de-militarized’ zone has failed due to jihadist insurgents still holding around 70% of the planned buffer area which they were supposed to withdraw from by mid-October. Sporadic clashes have rocked the “buffer zone” since.

Russia itself recently acknowledged the on the ground failure of the Sochi agreement even as parties officially cling to it. During a Thursday press briefing by Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova admitted the following:

We have to state that the real disengagement in Idlib has not been achieved despite Turkey’s continuing efforts to live up to its commitments under the Russian-Turkish Memorandum of September 17.

This followed Russia also recently condemning  “sporadic clashes” and “provocations” by the jihadist group HTS (the main al-Qaeda presence) in Idlib.

Likely due to Moscow seeing the writing on the wall that all-out fighting and a full assault by government forces on Idlib will soon resume, Russian naval forces continued a show of force in the Mediterranean this week.

Russian military and naval officials announced Friday that its warships held extensive anti-submarine warfare drills in the Mediterranean. Specifically the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s frigates Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen conducted the exercise in tandem with deck-based helicopters near Syrian coastal waters.

Notably, according to TASS, the warships central to the drill are “armed with eight launchers of Kalibr-NK cruise missiles that are capable of striking surface, coastal and underwater targets at a distance of up to 2,600 km.”

Since September when what was gearing up to be a major Syrian-Russian assault on Idlib was called off through the Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement, possibly in avoidance of the stated threat that American forces would intervene in defense of the al-Qaeda insurgent held province (also claiming to have intelligence of an impending government “chemical attack”), the war has largely taken a back-burner in the media and public consciousness.

But as sporadic fighting between jihadists and Syrian government forces is reignited and fast turning into major offensive operations by government forces, the war could once again be thrust back into the media spotlight as ground zero for a great power confrontation between Moscow and Washington.

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Trump Quietly Orders Elimination of Assange

The destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government.

Eric Zuesse

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On June 28th, the Washington Examiner headlined “Pence pressed Ecuadorian president on country’s protection of Julian Assange” and reported that “Vice President Mike Pence discussed the asylum status of Julian Assange during a meeting with Ecuador’s leader on Thursday, following pressure from Senate Democrats who have voiced concerns over the country’s protection of the WikiLeaks founder.” Pence had been given this assignment by U.S. President Donald Trump. The following day, the Examiner bannered “Mike Pence raises Julian Assange case with Ecuadorean president, White House confirms” and reported that the White House had told the newspaper, “They agreed to remain in close coordination on potential next steps going forward.”

On August 24th, a court-filing by Kellen S. Dwyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia, stated: “Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure [than sealing the case, hiding it from the public] is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged. … This motion and the proposed order would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.” That filing was discovered by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. On November 15th, he posted an excerpt of it on Twitter, just hours after the Wall Street Journal had reported on the same day that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Assange. However, now that we know “the fact that Assange has been charged” and that the U.S. Government is simply waiting “until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter,” it is clear and public that the arrangements which were secretly made between Trump’s agent Pence and the current President of Ecuador are expected to deliver Assange into U.S. custody for criminal prosecution, if Assange doesn’t die at the Ecuadorean Embassy first.

On November 3rd (which, of course, preceded the disclosures on November 15th), Julian Assange’s mother, Christine Ann Hawkins, described in detail what has happened to her son since the time of Pence’s meeting with Ecuador’s President. She said:

He is, right now, alone, sick, in pain, silenced in solitary confinement, cut off from all contact, and being tortured in the heart of London. … He has been detained nearly eight years, without trial, without charge. For the past six years, the UK Government has refused his requests to exit for basic health needs, … [even for] vitamin D. … As a result, his health has seriously deteriorated. … A slow and cruel assassination is taking place before our very eyes. … They will stop at nothing. … When U.S. Vice President Mike Pence recently visited Ecuador, a deal was done to hand Julian over to the U.S. He said that because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high, the plan was to break him down mentally…   to such a point that he will break and be forced to leave. … The extradition warrant is held in secret, four prosecutors but no defense, and no judge, … without a prima-facie case. [Under the U.S. system, the result nonetheless can be] indefinite detention without trial. Julian could be held in Guantanamo Bay and tortured, sentenced to 45 years in a maximum security prison, or face the death penalty,” for “espionage,” in such secret proceedings.

Her phrase, “because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high” refers to the worry that this new President of Ecuador has, of his cooperating with the U.S. regime’s demands and thereby basically ceding sovereignty to those foreigners (the rulers of the U.S.), regarding the Ecuadorian citizen, Assange.

This conservative new President of Ecuador, who has replaced the progressive President who had granted Assange protection, is obviously doing all that he can to comply with U.S. President Trump and the U.S. Congress’s demand for Assange either to die soon inside the Embassy or else be transferred to the U.S. and basically just disappear, at Guantanamo or elsewhere. Ecuador’s President wants to do this in such a way that Ecuador’s voters won’t blame him for it, and that he’ll thus be able to be re-elected. This is the type of deal he apparently has reached with Trump’s agent, Pence. It’s all secret, but the evidence on this much of what was secretly agreed-to seems clear. There are likely other details of the agreement that cannot, as yet, be conclusively inferred from the subsequent events, but this much can.

Basically, Trump has arranged for Assange to be eliminated either by illness that’s imposed by his Ecuadorean agent, or else by Assange’s own suicide resulting from that “torture,” or else by America’s own criminal-justice system. If this elimination happens inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, then that would be optimal for America’s President and Congress; but, if it instead happens on U.S. soil, then that would be optimal for Ecuador’s President. Apparently, America’s President thinks that his subjects, the American people, will become sufficiently hostile toward Assange so that even if Assange disappears or is executed inside the United States, this President will be able to retain his supporters. Trump, of course, needs his supporters, but this is a gamble that he has now clearly taken. This much is clear, even though the rest of the secret agreement that was reached between Pence and Ecuador’s President is not.

Scooter Libby, who had arranged for the smearing of Valerie Plame who had tried to prevent the illegal and deceit-based 2003 invasion of Iraq, was sentenced to 30 months but never spent even a day in prison, and U.S. President Trump finally went so far as to grant him a complete pardon, on 13 April 2018. (The carefully researched docudrama “Fair Game” covered well the Plame-incident.) Libby had overseen the career-destruction of a courageous CIA agent, Plame, who had done the right thing and gotten fired for it; and Trump pardoned Libby, thus retroactively endorsing the lie-based invasion of Iraq in 2003. By contrast, Trump is determined to get Julian Assange killed or otherwise eliminated, and even Democrats in Congress are pushing for him to get that done. The new President of Ecuador is doing their bidding. Without pressure from the U.S. Government, Assange would already be a free man. Thus, either Assange will die (be murdered) soon inside the Embassy, or else he will disappear and be smeared in the press under U.S. control. And, of course, this is being done in such a way that no one will be prosecuted for the murder or false-imprisonment. Trump had promised to “clean the swamp,” but as soon as he was elected, he abandoned that pretense; and, as President, he has been bipartisan on that matter, to hide the crimes of the bipartisan U.S. Government, and he is remarkably similar in policy to his immediate predecessors, whom he had severely criticized while he was running for the Presidency.

In any event, the destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government; and, just like in Khashoggi’s case, the nation’s ruler controls the prosecutors and can therefore do whatever he chooses to do that the rest of the nation’s aristocracy consider to be acceptable.

The assault against truth isn’t only against Assange, but it is instead also closing down many of the best, most courageous, independent news sites, such as washingtonsblog. However, in Assange’s case, the penalty for having a firm commitment to truth has been especially excruciating and will almost certainly end in his premature death. This is simply the reality. Because of the system under which we live, a 100% commitment to truth is now a clear pathway to oblivion. Assange is experiencing this reality to the fullest. That’s what’s happening here.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Libya’s Peace Process Dies in Palermo

The best the Palermo negotiators could come up with at the end was a bland statement declaring their hope that sometime in the future all the Libyan forces will meet to sort out their differences.

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Authored by Richard Galustian for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity:


“Resounding flop” was the verdict of Italy’s former prime minister Matteo Renzi on this week’s Libya peace conference held in Palermo. He’s not wrong. The conference hosted by Italy’s new government achieved the remarkable feat of making Libya’s tensions worse, not better. Acrimony broke out between the parties, and Turkey’s delegation walked out, its vice president Fuat Oktay accusing unnamed States of trying to “hijack the process.”

Some sources in Palermo suggested, yet to be verified, that the US thought the Conference was not too bad: a joke if true.

Moreover the mystery we might ask is what “process” is there to hijack? Because the truth is, the peace plan the conference was supporting is already dead.

That plan was the brainchild of the United Nations, launched more than a year ago with the aim of ending Libya’s split between warring Eastern and Western governments with elections in December.

Even before the first delegates set foot in the pleasant Sicilian city of Palermo this week, the UN admitted the election date of December 10 they had decided to scrap.

The eastern government, led by the parliament in Tobruk, had made moves in the summer to organize a referendum on a new constitution which would govern the elections. But no referendum was held, and most Libyans agree it would be pointless because Tripoli, home to a third of the country’s population, is under the iron grip of multiple warring militias who have the firepower to defy any new elected government. Hours after the delegates left Palermo, those militias began a new bout of fighting in the Tripoli suburbs.

The best the Palermo negotiators could come up with at the end of the talks was a bland statement declaring their hope that sometime in the future all the Libyan forces will meet in a grand conference to sort out their differences – and this after four years of civil war. To say that chances of this are slim is an understatement.

Dominating the Palermo talks, and indeed Libya’s political landscape, was and is Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army, the country’s most powerful formation. In four years, the LNA has secured Libya’s key oil fields and Benghazi, its second city, ridding most of the east Libya of Islamist militias.

Haftar met reluctantly negotiators in Palermo, but insisted he was not part of the talks process. The Italian government press office said Haftar was not having dinner with the other participants nor joining them for talks. Haftar specifically opposed the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood champion, Qatar, at the event along with Turkey.

Haftar clearly only attended because he had a few days before visiting Moscow – which sent to Sicily Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev – and because also of Egyptian President Sisi’s presence along with his allies.

Possibly Haftar was simply fed up. Twice in the past two years he has attended previous peace talks, hosted each time in Paris, giving the nod to declarations that Libya’s militias would dissolve. Yet the militias remain as strong as ever in Tripoli.

Haftar is detested by the militias and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) but supported by a large segment of the population – 68 percent, according to an opinion poll by America’s USAID. His popularity is based on a single policy – his demand that security be in the hands of regular police and military, not the militias.

Not everyone is happy, certainly not Turkey, which is backing Islamist, MB and Misratan forces in western Libya who detest Haftar. Yet Turkey’s greatest statesman, the great Kamal Ataturk, was a champion of secularism: After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War One Turkey faced the prospect of utter disintegration, and it was Attaturk who rose to the challenge, defending the country’s borders, while ordering that the mullahs, while responsible for spiritual welfare, have no political power.

Political Islam is not popular in Libya either. Libya is a Muslim country, its people know their faith, and most want government to be decided through the ballot box.

The problem for Libya is what happens next with the peace process broken. Haftar has in the past threatened to move on Tripoli and rid the militias by force if they refuse to dissolve, and it may come to that – a fierce escalation of the civil war.

The second possibility is that Libya will split. The east is, thanks to the LNA, militarily secure. It also controls two thirds of the country’s oil and operates as a separate entity, down to it banknotes, which are printed in Russia while the Tripoli government’s are printed in Britain. A formal split would be an economic boon for the lightly populated east, but a disaster for Tripolitania, its population losing most of the oil, its only source of export income.

Yet with the failure of peace talks, and no sign of Tripoli militias dissolving, military escalation or breakup seem more likely than ever.

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