A threat to the South Asian peace

Add to Google Buzz

Ali Sukhanver:

The war against Pakistan’s nuclear program seems more vibrant and more violent and certainly more popular than the international war against terrorism. These two wars are being headed by two different countries separately; one is the super power of today and the other is aspiring to be the super power of tomorrow. The most interesting fact is that both these countries, the USA and India are apparently fighting on different fronts but inwardly they have the same target; same aim and the same object; the one and the only Pakistan. It is a very common feeling in Pakistan that the US policies and the Indian conspiracies have joined hands together, simply to weaken Pakistan. On one hand USA is showing its concern over the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear assets and on the other hand India is encouraging and strengthening the extremist elements in Pakistan to proceed towards these assets. Ironically India has completely ignored the safety of its own nuclear program in its heat and haste and this nuclear program has become a security threat not only to all her neighbors but to the total peace in the South Asia. Neglecting the safety of its already existing nuclear arsenals, India is trying to add more to its nuclear strength by doing more pacts and by starting new nuclear plans.

According to the media reports, on December 7, 2009.an agreement was reached in Moscow between India and Russia, under which India would get four more nuclear reactors from Russia. At the same time, in New Delhi, a US Commercial Nuclear Mission told the media that, under the US-India nuclear deal, a minimum of 12 plants would be set up, with the work on them starting in 2010-2011. Some other nuclear agreements of the same type were also reported by the media; most important of them were between India and France, Kazakhstan, Namibia, Mongolia and Canada. According to many impartial analysts, it would have been much better if India had concentrated upon the safety of its already existing nuclear assets instead of doing new agreements in this respect. The Kaiga incident is the worst example of unsafe and insecure nuclear program of India. The Kaiga Nuclear plant is located near one of the biggest Indian naval bases, Project Seabird.

As per details provided by the Indian newspapers, a few months back , the authorities hit the alarm button when the staff and workers at the Kaiga nuclear plant began to show above normal radiation levels. The investigators began to urgently comb the Kaiga nuclear complex for any signs of a radiation leak that could have exposed the staff to radioactivity. After the detailed examination of urine samples of more than 50 workers at the plant, they came to the conclusion that all the workers had used a particular water cooler. Surprisingly the cooler was locked and sealed and almost unapproachable to a common man. So the investigation team pointed out the hidden presence of someone who injected heavy water into the machine by using a pump. On the other hand, J .P Gupta, the director of the plant, denied there was any security lapse and said the effect of the contaminated water was minimal. Among those affected were contract laborers who are hired out locally. The statement of Mr.Gupta seems showing that the lives of ‘locally hired out’ labourers are not important and it is nothing to be worried about if such labourers are affected by the contaminated water. There is another part of his statement which has added more irony to the situation. He said, “Whoever did it perhaps knew doping the water cooler would not kill those who drank the water. It could have been intended to disrupt the plant’s functioning.”
Read more of this post

Advertisements

Incessant targeting of Pakistan

Dr. Shireen M Mazari:

The US duplicity in its dealings with Pakistan continues unabated and I have always maintained that the scale of their enterprise in destabilising Pakistan can only be understood by finding linkages in seemingly unconnected events and publications. Just when the Pakistan military has taken a strong position on its military operations in FATA and the pull towards dialogue with the tribals is becoming evident, the US subversive activities against Pakistan are becoming more overt, and old CIA connections are taking centre stage again including so-called “experts” on Pakistan! Let us look at some recent developments and see the linkages.

First, after incessant cries from ignorant US officials and even more ignorant but imperialist minded media, of Pakistan not doing enough against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, when the Pakistanis captured a leading Taliban commander, suddenly the Americans – and their media and officialdom do have close connections – through their media led forth a new chant of why Pakistan had arrested this man! There were conspiracy theories that immediately began floating that somehow Pakistan arrested this Taliban commander to disrupt the dialogue that Karzai is seeking with the Taliban because Pakistan wants to remain in control of any such dialogue. Talk about bizarre assumptions! So, as some of us have always maintained, in the eyes of the US, Pakistanis will always find themselves in a position of “damned if we do and damned if we don’t.” It is time therefore to wash our hands off this whole US-led misguided “war on terror” and evolve our own strategies to deal with our own problem of violence and extremism which is multidimensional and cannot be straitjacketed into merely a Taliban framework.

Nor is this all. A new campaign has begun in the US, published first in the Wall Street Journal where two American lawyers, David Rivkin and Lee Casey – both of whom served in the Justice Department during the Reagan and George Bush administrations – have accused Pakistan’s Chief Justice Chaudhry of being “the leading culprit in an unfolding constitutional drama.” Supporting Zardari, the lawyers make all manner of unsubstantiated accusations against Pakistan’s chief justice. What seems to have upset these Americans is the CJ’s popularity being far greater than Zardari’s in the eyes of the Pakistani people – by their own admission! But then the American anger at the CJ is understandable because he has fought the cause of the Pakistani people especially through the Missing Persons issue – many sold to the US – while President Zardari and his loyalists have continued to plead the US cause. But it should be unacceptable to any self-respecting Pakistani to have their CJ referred to in such a derogatory fashion. Look how Holbrooke reacted when Pakistanis protested at the miscarriage of justice in New York in the Dr Aafia case, despite the fact that the US has a record of such miscarriages of justice against African Americans and minorities, especially Muslims post 9/11.

A third line of attack is the revival of the Baloch separatist issue with that old Pakistan basher Selig Harrison reviving his fortunes again and taking the lead in targeting the Pakistani state. He first took up this passion when the Soviets went into Afghanistan and led the chorus of how Pakistan was not doing enough of the US bidding in Afghanistan. He was an “Afghan” expert at the time but once Afghanistan receded into the background he became a “Balochistan” expert and now he is deeply involved in aiding Baloch separatists in Iran and Pakistan. Various platforms have been used by him and the latest is the ongoing conference in Bangkok, Thailand, supposedly sponsored by an unknown group calling themselves the Baloch Voice Foundation (BVF) and supported by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) based in The Hague and, of course, Selig Harrison! The BVF interestingly is funded by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation which, according to information available on the internet, is controlled by Freedom House which in turn is linked to the CIA.
Read more of this post

NATO Expansion, Missile Deployments And Russia’s New Military Doctrine

Developments related to military and security matters in Europe and Asia have been numerous this month and condensed into less than a week of meetings, statements and initiatives on issues ranging from missile shield deployments to the unparalleled escalation of the world’s largest war and from a new security system for Europe to a new Russian military doctrine.

A full generation after the end of the Cold War and almost that long since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the past week’s events are evocative of another decade and another century. Twenty or more years ago war in Afghanistan and controversial missile placements in Europe were current news in a bipolar world.

Twenty years afterward, with no Soviet Union, no Warsaw Pact and a greatly diminished and truncated Russia, the United States and NATO have militarized Europe to an unprecedented degree – in fact subordinating almost the entire continent under a Washington-dominated military bloc – and have launched the most extensive combat offensive in South Asia in what is already the longest war in the world.

Of 44 nations in Europe and the Caucasus (excluding microstates and the NATO pseudo-state of Kosovo), only six – Belarus, Cyprus, Malta, Moldova, Russia and Serbia – have escaped having their citizens conscripted by NATO for deployment to the Afghan war front. That number will soon shrink yet further.

Of those 44 countries, only two – Cyprus and Russia – are not members of NATO or its Partnership for Peace transitional program and Cyprus is under intense pressure to join the second.

On February 4 and 5 all 28 NATO defense chiefs met for two days of deliberations in Istanbul, Turkey which concentrated on the war in Afghanistan, the bloc’s military deployment in Kosovo and accelerated plans for expanding a world-wide interceptor missile system to Eastern Europe and the Middle East. That gathering followed by eight days a two-day meeting of the NATO Military Committee in Brussels which included 63 military chiefs from NATO nations and 35 Troop Contributing Nations, as the bloc designates them, including the top military commanders of Israel and Pakistan. That conference focused on the Afghan war and NATO’s new Strategic Concept to be officially formalized at an Alliance summit later this year.

The commander of all 150,000 U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, attended both two-day meetings. Pentagon chief Robert Gates presided over the second and “Afghanistan and missile defense are examples of the new priorities that Gates wants NATO to focus on.” [1]

As indicated by the number of Chiefs of Defense Staff in attendance at the Brussels meetings – 63 – NATO’s reach has been extended far beyond Europe and North America over the past decade. Troops serving under the bloc’s command in Afghanistan come from every inhabited continent, the Middle East and Oceania: Australia has the largest non-member contingent with over 1,500 soldiers, and other non-European nations like Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Colombia, Egypt, Georgia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates have troops in Afghanistan or on the way there.

On the day the Istanbul NATO defense ministers meeting began Romanian President Traian Basescu announced that he had granted the Obama administration’s request to base U.S. interceptor missiles in his nation, following by five weeks the news that U.S. Patriot anti-ballistic missiles would be stationed in a part of Poland a half hour drive from Russia’s westernmost border.

The next day, February 5, which marked two months since the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the U.S. and Russia regulating the reduction of nuclear weapons and delivery systems expired, [2] the Russian Interfax news agency announced that “President Dmitry Medvedev has endorsed Russia’s military doctrine and basic principles of its nuclear deterrence policy in the period up to 2020….” [3]

The same source cited Security Council Deputy Secretary and former Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Yury Baluyevsky commenting on the new doctrine: “It is planned to develop the ground, sea, and aerial components of the nuclear triad….Russia needs to guarantee its consistent democratic development using such a stability guarantor as nuclear weapons, as a form of strategic deterrence….Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons only if its very existence as a state is endangered.” [4]

Commentary in the Indian daily The Hindu specified that “The doctrine details 11 external military threats to Russia, seven of which are traced to the West. NATO´s eastward expansion and its push for a global role are identified as the number one threat to Russia.”

The feature added: “The U.S. is the source of other top threats listed in the doctrine even though the country is never mentioned in the document. These include attempts to destabilise countries and regions and undermine strategic stability; military build-ups in neighbouring states and seas; the creation and deployment of strategic missile defences, as well as the militarisation of outer space and deployment of high-precision non-nuclear strategic systems.”

Regarding the timing of the authorization of Russia’s new military strategy, the report connected it with recent U.S. missile shield decisions and the START talks between Washington and Moscow still dragging on.

“The new defence doctrine was signed into law and published a day after Romania announced plans to deploy U.S. interceptor missiles as part of a global missile shield fiercely opposed by Russia. Earlier reports said the Kremlin had been holding back the doctrine, prepared last year, because it did not want to jeopardise talks with the U.S. on a new nuclear arms pact that are still going on.” [5]

A similar observation was made in a report from China’s Xinhua News Agency:

“Analysts say the Romanian decision came at a crucial moment when Washington and Moscow are about to sign a successor document to the expired Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1). Therefore, the move may upset the thawing Russia-U.S. relations and put their bilateral ties to test.” [6]

The new Russian Military Doctrine (in Russian at http://news.kremlin.ru/ref_notes/461) listed under the heading of “Main external threats of war” the following concerns, with the most pressing first: Read more of this post

Turkey’s affiliations are swinging from West to East.

Turkey’s affiliations under the leadership of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — a devout Muslim — are swinging from West to East. This is good news for the Arab world as Ankara is a major political and military player on the international stage with substantial clout. In recent times, Turkey has thawed the freeze with Syria by signing a slew of economic, cultural, social and strategic cooperation agreements and is mulling over lifting visa restrictions for Syrian and Lebanese nationals.

At the same time, Turkey is reaching out to Armenia by setting up a commission to study the World War I conflict that robbed the lives of over a million Ottoman-Armenians. Last October, Ankara and Yerevan signed protocols designed to establish ties that would result in the reopening of their border but the main sticking point is Armenia’s insistence that Turkey and the international community officially recognize the Armenian genocide. Turkey has always resisted that damning label and always insisted that those who died were casualties of conflict.

Simultaneously, the Erdogan government is cementing relations with Russia with trade and energy agreements; Russia currently supplies around 65 percent of Turkey’s natural gas requirements and may assist Turkey with the construction of a nuclear energy plant. This new closeness has resulted in plans to extend cooperation to the South Caucasus — traditionally within Russia’s sphere of influence — as well as visa-free travel for the citizens of both nations.

Likewise, Ankara currently enjoys good relations with Tehran. Earlier this month, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki held talks in Ankara with Prime Minister Erdogan involving the transportation of Iranian natural gas to Europe via Turkey, establishing a joint refinery, jointly constructing industrial centers and increasing bilateral trade from $10 billion annually to $30 billion. The Turkish minister of state said Turkey is keen to begin a “golden age” in Turkish-Iranian ties. While Turkey is against nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, it backs Iran’s right to nuclear energy and does not support anti-Iranian sanctions.

But there the love fest ends. Ankara’s relations with some of its traditional allies are strained to say the least.

Its important strategic alliance with Washington, which culminated in America’s Incirlik Air base was shaken when the US invaded Iraq in 2003. Turkey was against the Iraq war from the get-go and blames it for strengthening Kurdish secessionist ambitions. And when, in 2007, the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed a resolution in favor of Armenia’s stance on the alleged “genocide,” Turkey temporarily withdrew its ambassador from Washington.

However, for its part, the US government tends to tread softly with Turkey in light of its NATO role as a strong eastern bulwark and its hosting of Incirlik which was a crucial asset during the Cold War and the 1991 Gulf War. Turkey’s importance to Washington was reflected by President Barack Obama’s official visit, last April — criticized within some US circles as blessing a country embarked on establishing a powerful Islamic bloc contrary to American interests. The US has also fervently backed Turkey’s efforts to join the EU, which has been somewhat of an annoyance to European countries that are vehemently opposed. Linda Heard
—AN

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

After recruiting sex workers, Indian Army plans ban on mobiles’ use by soldiers

Ajay Mehta & Christina Palmer
The Daily Mail

Indian Army deployed around 200 prostitutes under the cover of Border Security Force’s constables in the Indian occupied Kashmir along with the Line of Control

NEW DELHI—As if the drive to recruiter sex workers to reduce stress and frustration level of the troops, deployed in Occupied Kashmir, was not enough, the Indian Army leadership has now decided to ban the use of mobile phones by troops to minimize their stress level, reveal the findings of The Daily Mail.


These findings indicate that senior medical officers of the Indian armed forces believe that just engaging the sex workers under the grab of female soldiers was not enough to rid the soldiers of frustration and mental stress but the use of mobile phone by troops was also a permanent source of stress and strain for the soldiers, deployed in the occupied valley.

“The problem is not the stress in the encounter, the problem is the cell phone and that should be banned,’’ said Lt-General Dipankar Ganguly, speaking on the occasion of the 246th anniversary of the Army Medical Corps here yesterday.

The top General said that cell phones allowed the soldiers to maintain regular contact with their families and get updated on their problems, which led to higher levels of stress among them.

Armed Forces Medical Services Director General Lt-Gen N K Parmar, in his observation, said that the armed forces had taken a number of steps to tackle stress-related issues among the troops. “A confidential move was made in September last by the Army High Command to minimize the level of mental stress and frustration of the soldiers posted in Kashmir,” said General N.K Parmar, referring to the move made under the recommendations of General Raj Kumar Committee, constituted by Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor.

But, as reported earlier, armed forces continue to grapple with stress-related deaths in the shape of suicide and `fragging’ (to kill a fellow soldiers) cases. In 2008, for instance, there were 151 suicide and four `fragging’ cases in the three Services.

While prolonged deployment in operations in Indian occupied part of J&K and North-East are exacting a heavy toll on the physical endurance and mental health of soldiers, they also undergo tremendous stress for not being able to take care of the problems facing their families back home. The problems could range from property disputes and harassment by anti-social elements to financial and marital problems.

Soldiers, of course, also have to grapple with paltry salaries, lack of basic amenities, ineffectual leadership, humiliation at the hands of their officers, and the constant fear of being accused of human rights violations.

It is worth mentioning here that earlier last year, in another bid to relieve the soldiers of the mental stress and sexual frustration, the Indian Army deployed around 200 prostitutes under the cover of Border Security Force’s constables in the Indian occupied Kashmir along with the Line of Control in September 2009. The decision of recruiting prostitutes for deployment in the held valley was taken in around February 2009 and Indian Army Chief General Kapoor finally approved it. This decision was taken as result of discussions and consultancies regarding the alarmingly increasing incidents of suicides and killing colleagues by soldiers of Indian army that are deployed in the Indian Occupied Kashmir to fight insurgency.

The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that the factor of suicides and random shoot outs on colleagues by Indian soldiers in the held valley had become a big dilemma for the Indian army top brass. When this exercise gained momentum earlier this year, the army leadership approached different consultants and analysts. The consultants and analysts reached to the conclusion that Indian soldiers, deployed in the valley were committing suicides and killing colleagues out of acute frustration and depression. Medical and psychological consultants and analysts were of the view that since majority of the soldiers, deployed in the valley were married and were away from their wives for very long time, they were gripped by sexual frustrations which ultimately transformed into mental frustration.

These consultants suggested that the soldier posted in the valley should be sent on leaves to be with their wives once a month. This came as another dilemma for the Indian Army’s top brass as it was not possible at all to send such huge number of soldiers on leaves with regular intervals. The Daily Mail’s investigations further reveal that upon this a Major General was sent to Moscow to get some solution to the problems as Russians have been having some sort of similar problems around 2 decades back. This General, identified as General Kumar, returned with a very strange solution. The Russian consultants told the Indian army that the since the soldiers in the valley were women starving, they should be provided with women to meet their genuine and natural needs.

The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that at this stage, the Indian Army Chief constituted a committee under the command of Lt.General. Raj Kumar Karwal who currently posted as Director General of a training facility of the Indian army while Major General. Sanjeev Loomba, Brigadier. Anil Sharma, Colonel. N K Khunduri and Colonel.

Sanjay Rai were members of the committee. The committee finally came up with the solution that since it was not possible to provide street whores directly to the soldier thus professional prostitutes should be recruited with title of sex workers and than they should be given basic military training and should be posted in Kashmir sector as soldiers so that the male soldiers can establish relations with them. It was also decided that the recruitment should not be made publicly but RAW’s help should be sought as RAW was having a huge network of prostitutes in different cities of India. The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that RAW completed the assignment successfully and provided a batch of some 300, semi educated prostitutes to the General Raj Kumar committee after proper medical checkup of every individual. The committee then approached the Army Chief and it was decided that these new recruit should not be made part of mainstream army but should be adjusted in Border Security Force (BSF) and from there their services would be made available for Northern Command. The project was completed by the end of August when the new recruited batch of 300 completed a basic military training and Army Chief was informed that recruits were ready for deployment in the valley.

When contacted by The Daily Mail, Inspector General of BSF Himmat Singh confirmed that a batch of 178 female soldiers was sent to Northern Command where they were deployed along with Indo-Pak border to check the border violations by women, working in the field. Mr. Singh further stated that these women were not fully trained for operational military duties however in the next phase, after further training, they would be given the duties of operational Border security. Mr. Singh refused to admit that these female soldiers were actually prostitutes and were dispatched to the valley as undercover sex workers.


Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Pentagon Confronts Russia In The Baltic Sea

Rick Rozoff | Twelve months ago a new U.S. administration entered the White House as the world entered a new year.

Two and a half weeks later the nation’s new vice president, Joseph Biden, spoke at the annual Munich Security Conference and said “it’s time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia.”

Incongruously to any who expected a change in tact if not substance regarding strained U.S.-Russian relations, in the same speech Biden emphasized that, using the “New World Order” shibboleth of the past generation at the end, “Two months from now, the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will gather to celebrate the 60th year of this Alliance. This Alliance has been the cornerstone of our common security since the end of World War II. It has anchored the United States in Europe and helped forge a Europe whole and free.” [1]

Six months before, while Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he rushed to the nation of Georgia five days after the end of the country’s five-day war with Russia as an emissary for the George W. Bush administration, and pledged $1 billion in assistance to the beleaguered regime of former U.S. resident Mikheil Saakashvili.

To demonstrate how serious Biden and the government he represented were about rhetorical gimmicks like reset buttons, four months after his Munich address Biden visited Ukraine and Georgia to shore up their “color revolution”-bred heads of state (outgoing Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is married to a Chicagoan and former Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush official) in their anti-Russian and pro-NATO stances.

While back in Georgia he insisted “We understand that Georgia aspires to join NATO. We fully support that aspiration.”

In Ukraine he said “As we reset the relationship with Russia, we reaffirm our commitment to an independent Ukraine, and we recognize no sphere of influence or no ability of any other nation to veto the choices an independent nation makes,” [2] also in reference to joining the U.S.-dominated military bloc. Biden’s grammar may have been murky, but his message was unmistakeably clear.

Upon his return home Biden gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal, the contents of which were indicated by the title the newspaper gave its account of them – “Biden Says Weakened Russia Will Bend to U.S.” – and which were characterized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies as “the most critical statements from a senior administration official to date vis-a-vis Russia.” [3]

It took the Barack Obama government eight months to make its first friendly gesture to Russia. In September of last year the American president and Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that they were abandoning the Bush administration’s plan to station ten ground-based midcourse interceptor missiles in Poland in favor of a “stronger, smarter, and swifter” alternative.

The new system would rely on the deployment of Aegis class warships equipped with SM-3 (Standard Missile-3) missiles – with a range of at least 500 kilometers (310 miles) – which “provide the flexibility to move interceptors from one region to another if needed,” [4] in Gates’ words.

The first location for their deployment will be the Baltic Sea according to all indications.

The proximity of Russia’s two largest cities, St. Petersburg and Moscow, especially the first, to the Baltic coast makes the basing of American warships with interceptor missiles in that sea the equivalent of Russia stationing comparable vessels with the same capability in the Atlantic Ocean near Delaware Bay, within easy striking distance of New York City and Washington, D.C.

Although Washington canceled the earlier interceptor missile plans for Poland, on January 20 the defense ministry of that country announced that not only would the Pentagon go ahead with the deployment of a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 anti-ballistic missile battery in the country, but that it would be based on the Baltic Sea coast 35 miles from Russia’s Kaliningrad district. [5]

The previous month Viktor Zavarzin, the head of the Defense Committee of the Russian State Duma (the lower house of parliament), said “Russia is concerned with how rapidly new NATO members are upgrading their military infrastructure” and “that Russia was especially concerned with the reconstruction of air bases in the Baltic countries for NATO’s purposes which include signal and air intelligence radio of Russian territory.” [6]

As it should be.

Since the Baltic Sea nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were ushered into NATO as full members in 2004, warplanes from Alliance member states have shared four-month rotations in patrolling the region, with two U.S. deployments to date.

Shortly before the patrols began almost six years ago the Russian media reported that “Relations between Russia and Estonia have been tense ever since NATO built a radar station on the Russian-Estonian border last year. On March 23, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko warned Russia would retaliate ‘if NATO planes fly over Russian borders after the Baltic nations join the alliance.'” [7] Read more of this post

Russia, Turkey and the Great Game: Changing teams

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev’s visit to Turkish last month shows that Turkey and Russia are rapidly developing close economic and political ties.

For all intents and purposes, Turkey has given up on the European Union, recognising it as a bastion of Islamophobia and captive to US diktat. As Switzerland bans minarets and France moves to outlaw the niqab, the popular Islamist government in Istanbul moves in the opposite direction — supporting the freedom to wear headscarfs, boldly criticising Israel and building bridges with Syria. This is nothing less than a fundamental realignment of Turkish politics towards Turkey’s natural allies — the Arabs … and the Russians.

This new alignment with Russia began in 2001 when Turkish and Russian foreign ministers signed the Eurasia Cooperation Action Plan. It went into high gear in February 2009, when Turkish President Abdullah Gul made a state visit to Russia, including a visit to the Russian Federation’s thriving and energy-rich Autonomous Republic of Tatarstan, populated by a majority of Muslim Turks, with pipelines, nuclear energy and trade the focus of attention.

In the past, Russia had poor relations with Turkey, which since its founding as a republic in 1922 was firmly in the Western camp and seen by Moscow as a springboard for infiltration into the Caucasus and its Turkic southern republics. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Yeltsin’s Russia acquiesced to US hegemony in the region, and as part of this opening to the West, Turkish schools, construction firms and traders came in great numbers to the ex-Soviet “stans” (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan). 9/11 convinced Russian president Vladimir Putin to go so far as welcoming US military bases in the most strategic “stans”. The old Great Game appeared to be over, lost resoundingly by Russia.

But as the world tired of the US-sponsored “war on terrorism”, it seemed the Great Game was not over after all. A NATO member, Turkey was soon joined by Bulgaria and Romania, making the Black Sea a de facto NATO lake, alarming a now resurgent Russia.

Ukraine’s Western-backed “Orange Revolution” in 2004 further tilted the balance away from Russia, with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko defiantly vowing to join NATO and kick the Russian fleet out of Crimea. He even armed Georgia in its war with Russia in 2008.

However, not only Russia was fed up with the new pax americana. Over 90 per cent of Turks had an unfavourable view of the US by 2007. It is no surprise that Turkey began to back away from unconditional support of NATO and the US, notably, during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, by its refusal in 2008 to allow US warships through the Bosphorus Strait to support Georgia, and by its outspoken criticism of Israel following the invasion of Gaza that year.

In contrast to the US-sponsored colour revolutions in the ex-socialist bloc, Turkey’s “Green Revolution” brought the religious-oriented Justice and Development Party to power in 2002. Its political direction has been in search of balance in the region and peaceful relations with its neighbours, including Armenia and the Kurds. In 2004 Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a joint declaration of cooperation in Ankara, updated in February 2009 by Gul and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Moscow. Gul declared, “Russia and Turkey are neighbouring countries that are developing their relations on the basis of mutual confidence. I hope this visit will in turn give a new character to our relations.”

Key to this is Turkey’s proposal for the establishment of a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform. Following Gul’s visit, Turkish media even described Turkish-Russian relations as a “strategic partnership”, which no doubt set off alarm bells in Washington.

None of this would be taking place without solid economic interests. Turkish-Russian economic ties have greatly expanded over the past decade, with trade reaching $33 billion in 2008, much if it gas and oil, making Russia Turkey’s number one partner. They may soon use the Turkish lira and the Russian ruble in foreign trade.

This is the context of Medvedev’s visit 13 January to Ankara, which focussed primarily on energy cooperation. Russia’s AtomStroiExport had won the tender for the construction of Turkey’s first nuclear plant last year, and Medvedev was eager to get final approval on Turkish cooperation in Gazprom’s South Stream gas pipeline to Europe. Turkey will soon get up to 80 per cent of its gas from Russia, but this dependency is no longer viewed as a liability in light of the two countries’ new strategic relations.

Just what will happen to the West’s rival Nabucco pipeline, also intended to transit Turkey, is now a moot point. Nabucco hopes to bring gas from Iran and Azerbaijan to Europe through Turkey and Georgia. Given the standoff between the West and Iran and the instability of Georgia, this alternative to Russia’s plans looks increasingly unattractive. Azerbaijan, shrewdly, has already signed up with South Stream.

Kommersant quoted Gazprom officials as saying that Turkey could soon join Italy and Germany as Russia’s “strategic partner”. Italy’s ENI is co-funding the South Stream project. The other arm of Gazprom’s pincer move around Ukraine is Nord Stream, and Germany late last year gave its final approval for Nord Stream. A Polish minister compared the Russia-Germany Nord Stream project to the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentropp pact, because the pipeline allows Russia to deliver gas to Western Europe and “turn off the taps” to Ukraine in case it stops paying or starts stealing gas as happened several times under the Orange revolutionaries.

Turkey is very much a key player in this new Great Game, only it appears to have changed sides. The Russian and Turkish prime ministers voiced the hope that their trade would triple by 2015, and announced plans to for a visa-free regime by May this year. “In the end, without doubt, [a visa-free regime] will lead to activating cooperation between our countries,” said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.

The presidential elections now in progress in Ukraine could take some of the wind out of the sails of South Stream. Its rationale could be brought into question if the new Ukrainian president succeeds in convincing Moscow that s/he will make sure no further hanky-panky takes place. Ukraine, in dire economic straits, needs the transit fees, which would disappear if current plans go ahead. But the damage the Orange revolutionaries did to Ukraine’s economy and relations with Russia is already a fait accompli. Says Alexander Rahr at the German Council on Foreign Relations, “Under every leadership, Ukraine will try to make use of its geographical position and the Russians realised this some time ago. This is why they desperately need a way to circumvent Ukraine.”

Even if Ukraine, too, changes teams and rejects NATO expansion plans, it will still have to thrash out a new role, most likely minus its gas transit commissions. Contender Viktor Yanukovich has signalled he would sign up to an economic cooperation agreement with Russia and smooth over existing political problems like the question of the Russian fleet and possibly the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Turkey could well follow suit. “If any Western country is going to recognise the independence of Abkhazia, it will be Turkey because of a large Abkhazian diaspora there,” says Rahr.

There is no reason why Ukraine couldn’t join the budding Russian-Turkish alliance, founded on regional stability and peace, unlike the current NATO-led one of confrontation and enmity. This would leave only the mad Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili quixotically fighting his windmills, dictator of a rump state — the very opposite of his intended role as NATO’s valiant knight leading its march eastward. Even inveterate Turkish foe Armenia seems eager to join the new line-up, as last year’s exchange of ambassadors demonstrated.by Eric Walberg

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

China’s another leap forward

CHINA has successfully tested a missile intercept system to shoot down missiles in mid-air. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Beijing said the January 11 test of ground-based, mid-course missile intercepting technology had achieved what she described as the expected result and at the same time emphasised the test is defensive in nature and is not targeted at any country.


The Chinese missile intercept test is yet another leap forward, mastery of a very difficult and complicated technology and speaks volumes of advances the country is making in different sectors. The test was conducted not long after the United States approved a sale of advanced missiles to Taiwan, despite strong opposition from Beijing. Missile Defence system is seen as an integral part of national security by many countries which increases deterrent against those nations that would threaten their homelands. China as a premier world power substantially validates the necessity of missile defence as a policy. Earlier China conducted a successful anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons test on 11 January 2007 when a kinetic kill vehicle launched by a medium range ballistic missile destroyed an inactive Chinese weather satellite. The US is the leading power, which had developed surface to air guided missile defence system designed to detect, target and destroy incoming ballistic missiles flying three to five times the speed of sound. It first deployed the anti missile Patriot system during the 1991 Gulf War and shot down some of the Iraqi Scud missiles. In doing so, Patriot became the first anti-missile system to eliminate hostile warheads in combat. After the war it also began to develop the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3). The PAC-3 is a “hit-to-kill” system and destroys its targets by the kinetic energy released in a head-on collision. Anyhow the successful test of the missile intercept system by Beijing is a proof of the vision of Chinese leadership which is focussing to achieve mastery in hi-tech. Unfortunately this vision and approach is lacking in Pakistan and it is time that we should learn from the Chinese experience and focus on Research and Development not only for further strengthening the defence of the country but also in meeting our energy and other needs.
(Pakobserver) Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: