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NATO to Set Up its First Air Base in Western Balkans

The EU has also gone on the offensive.

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NATO believes that the Western Balkans is a region of strategic importance. The summit that was held July 11-12 specifically expressed support for the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of the Balkan countries. Macedonia was officially invited to join the alliance.

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On the eve of the summit, Deputy Secretary General of NATO Rose Gottemoeller stressed that NATO supported the process of reform in Kosovo, including the creation of its own regular armed forces. That idea has strong support in Washington, although by establishing its own military, Kosovo would be in gross violation of the existing international agreements. UN Security Council Resolution 1244 states explicitly that no other military presence, with the exception of KFOR and the Serbian army, shall be permitted without the mandate of the UN Security Council.

The Florence Agreement (Article IV of the 1996 Dayton Peace Accords) affirms that regional stability should be maintained with the assistance of the OSCE, not NATO. The creation of a Kosovo military would mean that a regular force was being established within the territory of Serbia, which is a party to the Florence agreement.

NATO has already allowed Kosovo to set up a professional security force, which is to join the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program and then develop into a regular armed forces that is able to meet NATO standards. This idea is being floated at a time in which the concept of the creation of Greater Albania is gradually taking shape, which would include Kosovo, parts of Macedonia such as Tetovo, the Presevo Valley in Serbia, and parts of Montenegro such as Malesija.

The EU has also gone on the offensive. Croatia joined it in 2013. Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia are EU candidate states. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are signatories to Stabilization and Association Agreements with the bloc. In 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina formally submitted an EU membership application.

Efforts to reduce the region’s energy “dependence” on Russia are underway, as an element of the policy of “squeezing Moscow out.” The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project is in the construction phase and will eventually stretch from the Caspian Sea to Albania and northward to other Western Balkan countries, as well as Italy.

The next step is the building of a floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on Krk, a Croatian island, thus making the countries of the region pay much more for American sea-transported energy than Russia’s natural gas that is supplied by pipeline. The Krk project is to include Slovenia, Hungary, Bosnia, and Serbia.

The NATO-EU Statement on the Implementation of the Joint Declaration envisages close cooperation between the two groups, which will increase Western influence in the region. That’s what Russia opposes. It rejects the wisdom of an approach in which the region is viewed as a battlefield between the West and Russia (which is supposedly vying for influence), forcing the nations of the region to take sides. The truth is, they don’t have to. For instance, Serbia can derive significant benefits by promoting complementary relationships with the EU and the Russian-led EAEU.

The Atlantic Council’s report, titled “Balkans Forward: A New US Strategy for the Region,” which was released in late 2017, attracted a lot of attention. It calls on the West to double down on countering Russia’s influence in the region, including by means of a permanent American military presence in the Balkans that would “anchor the United States’ ability to influence developments.”

Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, which was built on Serbian soil without consulting that country’s own government, is not enough. The Heritage Foundation echoes this view, offering guidelines to spur US diplomatic, economic, and military efforts to drive Russia out while bringing the US in. The think tanks from the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and the East-West Institute chimed in with their joint report, titled “Time for Action in the Western Balkans,” which was published in May.

The think tanks’ recommendations are followed by suggestions from governments. Here is the latest example. On Aug. 4, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama announced that NATO plans to build its first air base in the Western Balkans near the municipality of Kucove in south-central Albania. Construction is to start this year. The new facility will be used for air supply, logistic support, air patrolling, and training. The base will also be used by the Albanian air forces. The US Army’s Bondsteel base in Kosovo is used by KFOR but it lacks an airstrip for planes.

On Aug. 2, Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci said in an interview with VOA’s Albanian Service, “Kosovo’s border with Serbia needs to be redefined, or corrected.” Whatever he meant, no mention was made of any need for Serbia’s consent or United Nations-approved procedures. Mr. Thaci feels free to make such statements because he senses the West’s support behind him.

Meanwhile, tensions in northern Kosovo are rising after the Aug. 4 deadline to establish Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo with limited autonomous powers was missed. The Kosovo provincial government has not kept its promises. Such a move is necessary in order meet the provisions of the EU-brokered 2013 Brussels Agreement, which is intended to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo.

The Kosovo Serbs say they would declare autonomy if Kosovo’s rulers’ fail to produce a draft statute of the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO). That agreement provides for the merger of the four Serb municipalities in the north (North Mitrovica, Zvecan, Zubin Potok and Leposavic), which are subject to Kosovo law. This urban district would have powers over economic development, education, healthcare, and town planning.

On Aug. 4, Kosovo PM Ramush Haradinaj warned Serbs in the northern section of the province that their potential “attempt to proclaim autonomy” would be met with a response, obviously meaning the use of force. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic vowed action to protect his compatriots residing in Kosovo. KFOR is in a state of combat readiness, because NATO has failed to prevent a conflict between Kosovo and Serbia.

KFOR entered Kosovo in 1999. The Albanian government of the Serbian province fully depends on the West. As recent events convincingly illustrate, after all these years, nothing has been done to solve the problems of the Serb minority or even to get closer to a solution. The ethnic divisions in Macedonia and Montenegro remain. Bosnia Herzegovina is still a divided country on the brink of armed conflict.

The Western Balkans has not become a second Hong Kong or Singapore, even after some of the regional countries joined the EU. Neither the ethnic nor the religious divisions were successfully addressed after several Balkan nations joined NATO. If there is any outside security threat, it comes from the North Atlantic Alliance, which has proven its readiness to use force to reach its goals in the region.

A NATO air force base in Albania will hardly make the life of ordinary people living in the Western Balkans better or more secure, but it will certainly bring the concept of Greater Albania closer to reality.

Via Strategic Culture

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Joolz ArtSpitAM Hants Recent comment authors
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Joolz Art

As much as l like reading the Duran, this story has so many holes in it and is just another bit of Serbian propaganda against Kosovo. Headline say first NATO airbase in Balkans and then goes on to speak about Kosovo, without saying where the airbase will be, could be in Macedonia, Montenegro or Albania, but not in Kosovo. Kosovo already has the largest military base outside of the US so there is no need, or space for another one. The article shows an Albanian flag with and ISIS flag, but no description of what the photo is about. The… Read more »

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Spit

“The EU has also gone on the offensive.” This war, America cannot win, You should focus on Freedom of speech, not Russia, not China not those Papers even the Indians wont wipe their holes with.
The EU has a Russia right next door, a Russia that is ripe.
The EU has also gone on the offensive.
I hope not.

AM Hants
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AM Hants

The UN Charter, when first discussed in Yalta, Crimea, Russia, back in 1945, was based on ‘self determination/will of the people’. The argument is explained in Resolution 26/2625. The same argument, NATO used in their final report of Kosovo. THE KOSOVO CRISIS IN AN INTERNATIONAL LAW PERSPECTIVE: SELF-DETERMINATION, TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY AND THE NATO INTERVENTION… https://www.nato.int/acad/fellow/99-01/kumbaro.pdf There was no vote in Kosovo, whilst NATO members, ignored the wishes of the people of Crimea, following their referendum. Yet, they both used the same argument? So why would the NATO members, ignore the wishes of the people of Crimea? Was it because NATO… Read more »

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Ukraine Wants Nuclear Weapons: Will the West Bow to the Regime in Kiev?

Efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation are one of the few issues on which the great powers agree, intending to continue to limit the spread of nuclear weapons and to prevent new entrants into the exclusive nuclear club.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The former Ukrainian envoy to NATO, Major General Petro Garashchuk, recently stated in an interview with Obozrevatel TV:

“I’ll say it once more. We have the ability to develop and produce our own nuclear weapons, currently available in the world, such as the one that was built in the former USSR and which is now in independent Ukraine, located in the city of Dnipro (former Dnipropetrovsk) that can produce these kinds of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Neither the United States, nor Russia, nor China have produced a missile named Satan … At the same time, Ukraine does not have to worry about international sanctions when creating these nuclear weapons.”

The issue of nuclear weapons has always united the great powers, especially following the signing of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The decision to reduce the number of nuclear weapons towards the end of the Cold War went hand in hand with the need to prevent the spread of such weapons of mass destruction to other countries in the best interests of humanity. During the final stages of the Cold War, the scientific community expended great effort on impressing upon the American and Soviet leadership how a limited nuclear exchange would wipe out humanity. Moscow and Washington thus began START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) negotiations to reduce the risk of a nuclear winter. Following the dissolution of the USSR, the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances persuaded Ukraine to relinquish its nuclear weapons and accede to the NPT in exchange for security assurances from its signatories.

Ukraine has in recent years begun entertaining the possibility of returning to the nuclear fold, especially in light of North Korea’s recent actions. Kim Jong-un’s lesson seems to be that a nuclear deterrent remains the only way of guaranteeing complete protection against a regional hegemon. The situation in Ukraine, however, differs from that of North Korea, including in terms of alliances and power relations. Kiev’s government came into power as a result of a coup d’etat carried out by extremist nationalist elements who seek their inspiration from Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. The long arm of NATO has always been deeply involved in the dark machinations that led to Poroshenko’s ascendency to the Ukrainian presidency. From a geopolitical point of view, NATO’s operation in Ukraine (instigating a civil war in the wake of a coup) follows in the footsteps of what happened in Georgia. NATO tends to organize countries with existing anti-Russia sentiments to channel their Russophobia into concrete actions that aim to undermine Moscow. The war in the Donbass is a prime example.

However, Ukraine has been unable to subdue the rebels in the Donbass region, the conflict freezing into a stalemate and the popularity of the Kiev government falling as the population’s quality of life experiences a precipitous decline. The United States and the European Union have not kept their promises, leaving Poroshenko desperate and tempted to resort to provocations like the recent Kerch strait incident or such as those that are apparently already in the works, as recently reported by the DPR authorities.

The idea of Ukraine resuming its production of nuclear weapons is currently being floated by minor figures, but it could take hold in the coming months, especially if the conflict continues in its frozen state and Kiev becomes frustrated and desperate. The neoconservative wing of the American ruling elite, absolutely committed to the destruction of the Russian Federation, could encourage Kiev along this path, in spite of the incalculable risks involved. The EU, on the other hand, would likely be terrified at the prospect, which would also place it between a rock and a hard place. Kiev, on one side, would be able to extract from the EU much needed economic assistance in exchange for not going nuclear, while on the other side the neocons would be irresponsibly egging the Ukrainians on.

Moscow, if faced with such a possibility, would not just stand there. In spite of Russia having good relations with North Korea, it did not seem too excited at the prospect of having a nuclear-armed neighbor. With Ukraine, the response would be much more severe. A nuclear-armed Ukraine would be a red line for Moscow, just as Crimea and Sevastopol were. It is worth remembering the Russian president’s words when referring to the possibility of a NATO invasion of Crimea during the 2014 coup:

“We were ready to do it [putting Russia’s nuclear arsenal on alert]. Russian people live there, they are in danger, we cannot leave them. It was not us who committed to coup, it was the nationalists and people with extreme beliefs. I do not think this is actually anyone’s wish – to turn it into a global conflict.”

As Kiev stands on the precipice, it will be good for the neocons, the neoliberals and their European lackeys to consider the consequences of advising Kiev to jump or not. Giving the nuclear go-ahead to a Ukrainian leadership so unstable and detached from reality may just be the spark that sets off Armageddon.

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Mike Pompeo lays out his vision for American exceptionalism (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 158.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda take a look at Mike Pompeo’s shocking Brussels speech, where the U.S. Secretary of State took aim at the European Union and United Nations, citing such institutions as outdated and poorly managed, in need of a new dogma that places America at its epicenter.

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Speaking in Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unwittingly underscored why nobody takes the United States seriously on the international stage. Via The Council on Foreign Relations


In a disingenuous speech at the German Marshall Fund, Pompeo depicted the transactional and hypernationalist Trump administration as “rallying the noble nations of the world to build a new liberal order.” He did so while launching gratuitous attacks on the European Union, United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund (IMF)—pillars of the existing postwar order the United States did so much to create. He remained silent, naturally, on the body blows that the current administration has delivered to its erstwhile allies and partners, and to the institutions that once upon a time permitted the United States to legitimate rather than squander its international leadership.

In Pompeo’s telling, Donald J. Trump is simply seeking a return to the world that former Secretary of State George Marshall helped to create. In the decades after 1945, the United States “underwrote new institutions” and “entered into treaties to codify Western values of freedom and human rights.” So doing, the United States “won the Cold War” and—thanks to the late President George H. W. Bush, “we won the peace” that followed. “This is the type of leadership that President Trump is boldly reasserting.”

That leadership is needed because the United States “allowed this liberal order to begin to corrode” once the bipolar conflict ended. “Multilateralism has too often become viewed as an end unto itself,” Pompeo explained. “The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done.” What is needed is a multilateralism that once again places the nation-state front and center.

Leave aside for the moment that nobody actually believes what Pompeo alleges: that multilateralism should be an end in itself; that paper commitments are credible absent implementation, verification, and enforcement; or that the yardstick of success is how many bureaucrats get hired. What sensible people do believe is that multilateral cooperation is often (though not always) the best way for nations to advance their interests in an interconnected world of complicated problems. Working with others is typically superior to unilateralism, since going it alone leaves the United States with the choice of trying to do everything itself (with uncertain results) or doing nothing. Multilateralism also provides far more bang for the buck than President Trump’s favored approach to diplomacy, bilateralism.

Much of Pompeo’s address was a selective and tendentious critique of international institutions that depicts them as invariably antithetical to national sovereignty. Sure, he conceded, the European Union has “delivered a great deal of prosperity to the continent.” But it has since gone badly off track, as the “political wake-up call” of Brexit showed. All this raised a question in his mind: “Is the EU ensuring that the interests of countries and their citizens are placed before those of bureaucrats and Brussels?”

The answer, as one listener shouted out, is “Yes!” The secretary, like many U.S. conservative critics of European integration, is unaware that EU member states continue to hold the lion’s share of power in the bloc, which remains more intergovernmental than supranational. Pompeo seems equally unaware of how disastrously Brexit is playing out. With each passing day, the costs of this catastrophic, self-inflicted wound are clearer. In its quest for complete policy autonomy—on ostensible “sovereignty” grounds—the United Kingdom will likely have to accept, as the price for EU market access, an entire body of law and regulations that it will have no say in shaping. So much for advancing British sovereignty.

Pompeo similarly mischaracterizes the World Bank and IMF as having gone badly off track. “Today, these institutions often counsel countries who have mismanaged their economic affairs to impose austerity measures that inhibit growth and crowd out private sector actors.” This is an odd, hybrid critique. It combines a shopworn, leftist criticism from the 1990s—that the international financial institutions (IFIs) punish poor countries with structural adjustment programs—with the conservative accusation that the IFIs are socialist, big-government behemoths. Both are ridiculous caricatures. They ignore how much soul-searching the IFIs have done since the 1990s, as well as how focused they are on nurturing an enabling institutional environment for the private sector in partner countries.

Pompeo also aims his blunderbuss at the United Nations. He complains that the United Nations’ “peacekeeping missions drag on for decades, no closer to peace,” ignoring the indispensable role that blue helmets play in preventing atrocities, as well as a recent Government Accountability Office report documenting how cost-effective such operations are compared to U.S. troops. Similarly, Pompeo claims, “The UN’s climate-related treaties are viewed by some nations simply as a vehicle to redistribute wealth”—an accusation that is both unsubstantiated and ignores the urgent need to mobilize global climate financing to save the planet.

Bizarrely, Pompeo also turns his sights on the Organization of American States (OAS) and the African Union (AU), for alleged shortcomings. Has the OAS, he asks, done enough “to promote its four pillars of democracy, human rights, security, and economic development?” Um, no. Could that have something to do with the lack of U.S. leadership in the Americas on democracy and human rights? Yes. Might it have helped if the Trump administration had filled the position of assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs before October 15 of this year? Probably.

Equally puzzling is Pompeo’s single line riff on the AU. “In Africa, does the African Union advance the mutual interest of its nation-state members?” Presumably the answer is yes, or its members would be headed for the door. The AU continues to struggle in financing its budget, but it has made great strides since its founding in 2002 to better advance security, stability, and good governance on the continent.

“International bodies must help facilitate cooperation that bolsters the security and values of the free world, or they must be reformed or eliminated,” Pompeo declared. Sounds reasonable. But where is this “free world” of which the secretary speaks, and what standing does the United States today have to defend, much less reform it? In the two years since he took office, Donald Trump has never expressed any interest in defending the international order, much less “returning [the United States] to its traditional, central leadership role in the world,” as Pompeo claims. Indeed, the phrase “U.S. leadership” has rarely escaped Trump’s lips, and he has gone out of his way to alienate longstanding Western allies and partners in venues from NATO to the G7.

When he looks at the world, the president cares only about what’s in it for the United States (and, naturally, for him). That cynicism explains the president’s deafening silence on human rights violations and indeed his readiness to cozy up to strongmen and killers from Vladimir Putin to Rodrigo Duterte to Mohammed bin Salman to too many more to list. Given Trump’s authoritarian sympathies and instincts, Pompeo’s warnings about “Orwellian human rights violations” in China and “suppressed opposition voices” in Russia ring hollow.

“The central question that we face,” Pompeo asked in Brussels, “is the question of whether the system as currently configured, as it exists today—does it work? Does it work for all the people of the world?” The answer, of course, is not as well as it should, and not for nearly enough of them. But if the secretary is seeking to identify impediments to a better functioning multilateral system, he can look to his left in his next Cabinet meeting.

“Principled realism” is the label Pompeo has given Trump’s foreign policy. Alas, it betrays few principles and its connection to reality is tenuous. The president has abandoned any pursuit of universal values, and his single-minded obsession to “reassert our sovereignty” (as Pompeo characterizes it) is actually depriving the United States of joining with others to build the prosperous, secure, and sustainable world that Americans want.

“Bad actors have exploited our lack of leadership for their own gain,” the secretary of state declared in Belgium. “This is the poisoned fruit of American retreat.” How true. Pompeo’s next sentence—“President Trump is determined to reverse that”—was less persuasive.

 

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Russia calls on US to put a leash on Petro Poroshenko

The West’s pass for Mr. Poroshenko may blow up in NATO’s and the US’s face if the Ukrainian President tries to start a war with Russia.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Russia called on Washington not to ignore the Poroshenko directives creating an active military buildup along the Ukrainian-Donbass frontier, this buildup consisting of Ukrainian forces and right-wing ultranationalists, lest it “trigger the implementation of a bloody scenario”, according to a Dec 11 report from TASS.

The [Russian] Embassy [to the US] urges the US State Department to recognize the presence of US instructors in the zone of combat actions, who are involved in a command and staff and field training of Ukraine’s assault airborne brigades. “We expect that the US will bring to reason its proteges. Their aggressive plans are not only doomed to failure but also run counter to the statements of the administration on its commitment to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine by political and diplomatic means,” the statement said.

This warning came after Eduard Basurin, the deputy defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic noted that the Ukrainian army was massing troops and materiel for a possible large-scale offensive at the Mariupol section of the contact line in Donbass. According to Basurin, this action is expected to take place on 14 December. TASS offered more details:

According to the DPR’s reconnaissance data, Ukrainian troops plan to seize the DPR’s Novoazovsky and Temanovsky districts and take control over the border section with Russia. The main attack force of over 12,000 servicemen has been deployed along the contact line near the settlements of Novotroitskoye, Shirokino, and Rovnopol. Moreover, more than 50 tanks, 40 multiple missile launcher systems, 180 artillery systems and mortars have been reportedly pulled to the area, Basurin added. Besides, 12 BM-30 Smerch heavy multiple rocket launchers have been sent near Volodarsky.

The DPR has warned about possible provocations plotted by Ukrainian troops several times. Thus, in early December, the DPR’s defense ministry cited reconnaissance data indicating that the Ukrainian military was planning to stage an offensive and deliver an airstrike. At a Contact Group meeting on December 5, DPR’s Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova raised the issue of Kiev’s possible use of chemical weapons in the conflict area.

This is a continuation of the reported buildup The Duran reported in this article linked here, and it is a continuation of the full-scale drama that started with the Kerch Strait incident, which itself appears to have been staged by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko. Following that incident, the president was able to get about half of Ukraine placed under a 30-day period of martial law, citing “imminent Russian aggression.”

President Poroshenko is arguably a dangerous man. He appears to be desperate to maintain a hold on power, though his approval numbers and support is abysmally low in Ukraine. While he presents himself as a hero, agitating for armed conflict with Russia and simultaneously interfering in the affairs of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, he is actually one of the most dangerous leaders the world has to contend with, precisely because he is unfit to lead.

Such men and women are dangerous because their desperation makes them short-sighted, only concerned about their power and standing.

An irony about this matter is that President Poroshenko appears to be exactly what the EuroMaidan was “supposed” to free Ukraine of; that is, a stooge puppet leader that marches to orders from a foreign power and does nothing for the improvement of the nation and its citizens.

The ouster of Viktor Yanukovich was seen as the sure ticket to “freedom from Russia” for Ukraine, and it may well have been that Mr. Yanukovich was an incompetent leader. However, his removal resulted in a tryannical regíme coming into power, that resulting in the secession of two Ukrainian regions into independent republics and a third secession of strategically super-important Crimea, who voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.

While this activity was used by the West to try to bolster its own narrative that Russia remains the evil henchman in Europe, the reality of life in Ukraine doesn’t match this allegation at all. A nation that demonstrates such behavior shows that there are many problems, and the nature of these secessions points at a great deal of fear from Russian-speaking Ukrainian people about the government that is supposed to be their own.

President Poroshenko presents a face to the world that the West is apparently willing to support, but the in-country approval of this man as leader speaks volumes. The West’s blind support of him “against Russia” may be one of the most tragic errors yet in Western foreign policy.

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