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Turkey rejects all meetings with outgoing US Ambassador as row deepens

Turkey has stated that outgoing US Ambassador John Bass, is no longer a legitimate representative of a foreign state.

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Turkey has rejected holding any meetings with outgoing US Ambassador to Turkey, John Bass. While outgoing ambassadors typically meet with ministers of state and even heads of states, President Erdogan and his leading ministers have instead taking the opportunity to slam the United States for refusing to cooperate with Ankara over the arrest of two US consular workers alleged to have ties with the terrorist organisation of Fethullah Gulen.

Turkey has been further infuriated that the US has closed its visa issuing facilities in Turkey as a result of the arrest of the two alleged terrorists who had worked for the United States.

Speaking in Belgrade where Turkey is currently looking at expanding economic opportunities with its old Serbian rival, President Erdogan said the following about the outgoing US Ambassador,

“The ambassador is currently paying farewell visits but neither our ministers, nor the parliament speaker, nor myself have accepted these farewell visits because we do not see him as the representative of the US in Turkey”.

Erodgan continued, accusing the US of directly aiding the alleged terrorists. He stated,

““How did those spies infiltrate into the US Consulate? If they did not infiltrate, who put them there? No state would allow such spies that could threaten it from the inside”.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim also spoke of Ankara’s rejection of the US Ambassador, stating,

“Turkey is a state of law. Does the fact that he who committed a crime or is accused of a crime is (a member) of an American mission give him any privileges? Does that mean we have to seek the permission of the (US Ambassador) gentlemen? Do we need their consent?”.

The Turkish PM then lashed out at the US restriction on visas for Turkish citizens, saying,

“Who are you punishing? You are making your citizens and ours pay the price, this is not being serious. You can’t run a country with emotional decisions”.

He added,

“Turkey is not a tribal state, we will retaliate against what has been done in kind”.

These are the strongest statements to-date, expressing Turkey’s anger at the US.

As I wrote previously in The Duran:

In Turkey, the US has picked a fight with a country not afraid to fight back

When Barack Obama seized Russian Embassy property and insultingly threw Russian diplomatic staff and their young families out of the United States at a moments notice in December of 2016, Russia responded by inviting the young children of US Embassy staff in Russia, to a Christmas party.

The idea was that in shaming Obama’s lack of grace and adherence to international law and protocol, Russia would be ‘taking the high road’ and pave the way for a quick rapprochement under the seemingly more amiable Donald Trump.

The high road turned out to be a road to nowhere as the Trump administration, far from working to solve the crisis, has only escalated the problem by seizing even more Russian diplomatic and consular property in the US.

When it comes to Iran, short of targeting US assets in the Middle East, there is little Iran can do to retaliate against the US as Iran’s economic system is not tied into that of the US and hasn’t been for decades. Likewise, the US no longer operates any diplomatic or consular facilities in Iran.

But with Turkey, the United States is going to understand what instant retribution feels like, from a nation that is uniquely placed to extract vengeance and one with a track record of doing so.

The proximate cause of the current Ankara-Washington row is as follows: Turkey arrested a US consular worker who allegedly has ties to the terrorist organisation of the exiled Turkey cleric Fethullah Gulen. After the arrest, the US withdrew its visa issuing consular services in Turkey.

US suspends visa services in Turkey citing “security concerns”

Hours later, Turkey decided to do the same in respect of Turkish consular services in the United States.

Now, Turkey has summoned the official Representative of the US Embassy in Ankara for urgent talks which will certainly be less than cordial.

Turkey has a long history of strongly reacting to real and perceived insults. Such Turkish reactions  often dwarf the responses of other nations in similar situations. Such an attitude, one expressed by both Kemalist and Islamist governments, cuts both ways. On the one hand, in 1974 the Turkish military invaded and occupied northern Cyprus in a move that was wildly in defiance of international law. Likewise, Turkey has a history of harassing, arresting and intimidating Armenian activists who  simply want the Turkish state to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide of 1915.

On the other hand, Turkey is a country that will rightly not tolerate any foreign interference in its internal affairs and whether after the Gaza Flotilla Raid of 2010 or Israeli meddling in Iraq’s Kurdish secession movement, Turkey is not afraid to take strong measures against a nuclear armed Israeli regime that many countries in the region seem to be frightened of.

Every country has an undeniable national character as well as a state character. Where Russia tends to respond with diplomatic rhetoric to insulting words and actions by other nations, Turkey acts with a far more blunt exactitude. The liberal western mainstream media for example, is constantly mocking the President of Russia and usually hardly any official says anything about this in Moscow.

By contrast, when a German comedian wrote an insulting poem about the President of Turkey, Turkey requested the arrest of the offending comedian and the issue quickly spiralled into an all out diplomatic row between Ankara and Berlin, one whose entrails continue to smoulder.

Already Turkey has offered a rapid proportional response to the United States for its removal of visa services in the country and early reports indicate that this is just the beginning.

Whatever one’s feelings are about Turkey and for many Greeks, Armenians and Syrians, these feelings are negative, the fact remains that Turkey is not afraid to defend itself, using almost all means necessary, even for infractions as seemingly innocent as speaking out against the Turkish leadership using strong or provocative language.

To put it another way, when the far-right Russian provocateur Alexei Navalny holds unauthorised rallies, he is often arrested for a few hours at a time for common charges related to disturbing the peace or holding a rally that blocks streets without official permission from local authorities. If someone like Navalny did similar things in Turkey, one could easily imagine him arrested for terrorism charges as well as violating the law of ‘insulting Turkishness’ or even worse.

I previously wrote that in provoking Turkey over the Kurdish issue, Israel has picked a fight with an enemy that is not afraid to fight back. All of the Israeli propaganda in the world, will not make Ankara scared of using harsh words and even taking meaningful actions against Israeli meddling in the region. Furthermore, as Turkey has a centuries long history of protecting Jews from European antagonism, the nonsense the Israeli regime proffers, saying that somehow opposing Israel means opposing human rights for Jews, is exposed as the patent absurdity that it is.

Israel is on the verge of turning Turkey into an enemy

Likewise, now the United States, a country which bullies, threatens, invades and occupies countries with impunity, will now get a taste of Turkish anger. This is something far more intense than anything the US has recently received from docile Russia, businesslike China or moralistic Iran, let alone the countries America has succeeded in destroy like Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya.

Of course, the antecedents to the Ankara-Washington row date back to America’s total lack of concern for the fact that Turkey continues to blame the US for sheltering Fethullah Gulen, the man held responsible for organising the failed Turkish coup of 2016.

Since then, things have only deteriorated further. The difference now is that Turkey has gone from being disgusted with Washington, to being openly angry. Turkey may be in NATO, but then again so was Greece in the 1970s and this did not prohibit Turkey from invading Hellenic Cyprus.

The US is in for a very rude awaking if it continues to escalate its rows with Turkey. It is frankly, a rude awakening that is long overdue. Furthermore, if the US really does want to engineer another coup in Turkey, the US will have to realise that Turkey’s army has been purged of most of its anti-Erdogan leaders and that furthermore, Russia, Iran and even China are now Turkish partners. America’s rude awakening just got even more real”.

 

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

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Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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Crimea: The Geopolitical Jewel Russia Continues to Polish

As Putin continues to polish his Black Sea jewel, Europe has to decide if it is going to continue playing the U.S’s games over Ukraine or begin the next phase of its independence.

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Authored by Tom Luongo via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


With all that is happening in the world Crimea has taken a bit of a backseat recently. Yes, the US, EU and Canada just added more sanctions on Russia via the odious Magnitsky legislation but this is inconsequential.

There’s been a flurry of good news coming out of Crimea and the Black Sea recently that bears discussion. Let’s start with the most important. President Vladimir Putin was in Crimea earlier this week to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the peninsula’s reunification with Russia. There he also officially inaugurated two major upgrades to Crimea’s power grid.

Located in Simferopol and Sevastopol, two new power plants will produce 940 megawatts and secure Crimea’s energy needs for now and into the future.

Power has been Crimea’s Achilles’ heel since breaking off from Ukraine in 2014. It received almost 90% of its power from the mainland. In November 2015, the trunk lines into Crimea were sabotaged by Ukrainian nationalist radicals, encouraged by President Petro Poroshenko plunging it into darkness as winter took hold.

Does this sound familiar? A place that defies US edicts geopolitically is first hit with a full trade embargo, sanctions and threatened militarily by proxies before having its electricity shut off?

*Cough* Venezuela *Cough*

And there are reports that the US has game-planned a similar fate for Iran as well. For Crimea it was easy because of the single-point-of-failure, the trunks from the mainland. For Venezuela it was as well, with the Guri dam, which affected nearly 70 percent of the country.

So, Putin timing the fifth anniversary of reunification with the announcement of the plants moving to full operational status was yet another smooth bit of international political maneuvering.

A not-so-subtle poke in the eye of the Gang Who Can’t Sanction Straight in D.C. as well as lame duck Poroshenko. Elections are at the end of the month and this celebration by Russia and Crimea will not sit well with many Ukrainians, especially the diaspora here in the US which is virulently anti-Putin in my experience.

Secure and stable power generation is a hallmark of a first world territory. Without that economic growth and stability are impossible. This is why to first help stabilize the situation in Crimea after the blackout Russia brought in 400 MW of power across the Kerch Strait from Krasnodor.

Tying Crimea to the mainland via the Kerch Strait bridge was a masterstroke by Putin. The initial power lines were simply a necessity. For those that complain he isn’t doing enough to counter US and European aggression need only look at the Kerch Strait bridge.

Not only did the Russians not seek international approval given the nearly universal refusal to recognize Crimea as Russian they built the thing in a time frame that defies description.

Imagine if this had been an EU project. They would still be debating the initial engineering plans and the political effects on some protected minority.

Not only does it open up the Eastern Black Sea to trade via Crimea but it ends the use of the Sea of Azov as a potential staging ground for naval provocations as last fall’s incident proved. Ukraine is cut off from acting aggressively and cannot count on any help from the US and Europe.

Moreover, Crimea is now permanently Russia’s. And every bit of infrastructure Russia builds there ties the two further together and weakens any bonds Crimea had with Ukraine. The resultant growth and modernization will make its way, economically and culturally back into southern Ukraine and erode the hard border over time.

This is far more important than striking out and metaphorically punching Poroshenko in the mouth, that many of Putin’s detractors wish for.

Presidents change, after all. Patience and attrition is how you beat an aggressive, distant enemy like the US

To remind everyone just how insane the Trump White House has become on matters international, no less than Vice President Mike Pence lobbied Germany to provoke another naval incident at the Kerch Strait.

If there was ever an example of how little Trump’s gang of moldy neocons think of Europe it is this bit of news. In effect, Pence was saying, “We can’t start a war with Russia because it would go nuclear, but you can because Russia can’t live without your trade.”

This coming after the US unilaterally pulled out of the INF treaty and is now flying nuclear bombers to eastern Europe. The message is clear. If the EU doesn’t get with this open-ended belligerent program against Russia and China of John Bolton’s they will be the ones paying the price when chaos breaks out.

On the other side there is Putin; building bridges, pipelines, power plants and roads.

He’s making it clear what the future holds not only for Europe but the Middle East, central Asia and India. We will defend Crimea at all costs, develop it not only into a tourist destination but also a major trade hub as well.

You are more than welcome to join us. But, we don’t need you.

These power plants will raise Crimea’s power output well beyond its current needs, allowing first export of power as well as providing the foundation for future growth.

And as if it weren’t coordinated in any way, the Chinese, on the morning of Putin’s speech, announced that Crimea would be an excellent fit for investment projects attached to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

That’s according to the head of the association of Chinese compatriots on the peninsula, Ge Zhili. “Our organization is bolstering cooperation ties, exchanges and friendly contacts with the Crimean society,” he said at an event dedicated to the fifth anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia, which was held in the Russian Embassy in Beijing on Monday.

It is also ready to contribute to the establishment of “reliable partner ties” and the explanation of legal details of business cooperation with Crimea, Ge Zhili said. “The Chinese society hopes for the development of friendly cooperation with Crimea; we are ready to overcome difficulties for fruitful results.”

Again this is a direct challenge to the US who has Crimea under strict sanctions in the West. China is happy now to move forward with integrating Crimea into its plans. It’s just another example of how Russia and China simply ignore Trump’s fulminations and move on.

I can’t wait until I get to write this article all over again, this time about North Korea, now that Bolton has thrown Russian and Chinese assistance in getting North Korea to the negotiating table back in their face by destroying the Hanoi talks.

This announcement is not to be underestimated given that Chinese Premier Xi Jinping is in Rome this week to open up relations with the new Italian government. Five Star Movement’s Leader Luigi Di Maio said he would welcome becoming a part of BRI, much to the consternation of Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as his coalition partner Lega Leader Matteo Salvini.

It’s already well known that Salvini is interested in ending sanctions on Crimea and re-opening trade with Russia. Italy is desperate for new markets and opportunities, currently stifled under the euro itself as well as Germany’s insistence on austerity hollowing out Italy’s economy and its future prospects.

These issues as well as energy security ones are coming to a head this year with Brexit, the European Parliamentary elections in May and the completion of the Nordstream 2 pipeline later this year.

As Putin continues to polish his Black Sea jewel, Europe has to decide if it is going to continue playing the U.S’s games over Ukraine or begin the next phase of its independence. Salvini will lead a Euroskeptic revolt within the European Parliament in May. It may be big enough to finally defy Merkel and end EU sanctions on Russia over Crimea.

At that point the US will also have a choice, burn down the world economy with even more sanctions, tariffs and acts of war or accept the facts on the ground.

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