Harsh punishment helps China’s anti-drug campaign

publisched by the Observer

China’s Liaoning Provincial High People’s Court will accept and hear the case of appellant Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a Canadian citizen, on drug smuggling charges this Saturday. It is reported that the amount of drugs that he allegedly smuggled would astonish the public if announced.
The trafficking of drugs is a felony in China, especially when the amount is enormous. According to Chinese laws, anyone caught smuggling no less than 50 grams of heroin or methyl Benzedrine or smuggling more than 1 kilogram of opium may face death penalty.
That’s why the case has triggered large-scale debates over future fate of the Canadian. Yet how the debate goes on, felony is felony. Those who committed serious crimes in China are not entitled to mercy no matter where they came from.
Reports show that China seized 89.2 tons of drugs and solved 140,000 drug-related cases during 2017. “Over 5,500 drug production and trafficking gangs were busted, with 169,000 suspects arrested,” said Xinhua News Agency. The figures mirrored Beijing’s seriousness and accomplishments in anti-drug campaigns but also demonstrated the on-going threat of illegal drug trade and use that China is confronting.
Punishing harshly drug crimes showed China’s zero-tolerance on drug offenses, which extends the same treatment to both Chinese citizens and foreigners who crossed the red line on Chinese soil. Only in this way can the nation effectively stop illegal drug trafficking outside its doorstep.
After British man Akmal Shaikh was arrested in China for entering the country carrying 4 kilograms of heroin in 2007, he was executed despite appeals from British government. However, many British netizens hailed the move and one of them noted “Well done China. It’s a shame the UK doesn’t have the same courage to deal with people like that.” Hatred against drug traffickers is pretty much the same across the world.

Drug use is bringing about 500 billion yuan ($80 billion) direct economic losses annually in China. Crimes caused by drug abuse, such as suicide, self-destructing, sabotaging others, drug-driving and assaulting police occur from time to time.
A total of 362 policemen sacrificed their lives in cracking down on drug abuse in China in 2016, which means the country is losing one police every single day for drug crimes. When some people are still spending plenty of time talking about human right of drug smugglers, they are actually putting others lives, even the entire society at danger. When they care about the human right of those condemned criminals, what should people do to the human right of the victims and their families?
This is why China is resolutely fighting against drug traffickers, and why China still practices capital punishment against the crime. When the right of legal citizens can hardly be protected, any proposal to care about felons is equivalent to crimes.
China has not abolished the death penalty based on its own history and current conditions. It is China’s sovereignty and Beijing has the right to enact and enforce its own laws. Chinese courts are exercising increasing prudence in giving death penalty, yet it won’t give the wrongdoer a way out simply because the criminal is a foreigner.

Posted by Alfonso

 

World policeman? World terrorist!

The USA “can no longer be a world policeman,” said Donald Trump. “We no longer want to be exploited by countries that use us and our incredible military to protect themselves… We are spread all over the world. We are in countries of which most people have not even heard. Honestly, it’s ridiculous.”

What a blessing for humanity it would be if Trump would end the role of the USA as “world police”. But the empire will not allow that. Whether Trump understood it or not, the US has orbited 800 to 1000 military stations around the globe, aircraft carriers on the oceans and Russia and China to secure its world domination. They wage trade wars, covert wars, drone wars and bomb wars over raw materials and markets. After the Second World War, the USA left a trail of blood all around the globe with an estimated 20 to 30 million dead and are the “world terrorist”.

It is therefore only crying if the Western community of states fears that terrorism will increase again if the USA withdraws its troops from Syria. Conversely, it becomes a shoe. Terrorism will only be defeated if the “Western community of values” stops colonizing other countries, exploiting them and covering them with wars. The prerequisite is that the USA and the Western states understand that the wars they are waging with millions of deaths are the terrorism under which humanity suffers. And that the late actor Peter Ustinov was right: “Terrorism is the war of the poor and war is the terrorism of the rich”.

The “world police” can only be the UN, which, as it was intended when it was founded, would have police forces that could be deployed worldwide. Even if the USA comes up with the idea of attacking a country. One recognizes: Worldwide disarmament, above all of the superpowers, is the condition of the establishment of a “world police”.

by Oskar Lafontaine

Translated from German by Alfonso

It´s official. We lost the Cold War.

By Dana Milbank in the Washington Post.

Perhaps the timing of George H.W. Bush´s death last month was merciful. This way he didn´t have to see America lose the Cold War.

Bush presided over the Soviet Union´s collapse in 1991. But the triumph he and others earned with American blood and treasure over 71 years, defeating the Soviet Union and keeping its successor in check, has been squandered by President Trump in just two.

Trump unraveling of the post-war order accelerated this week when he announced a willy-nilly pullout from Syria, leaving in the lurch scores of allies who participated in the campaign against the Islamic Stat, throwing our Kurdish partners to the wolves, isolating Israel, and given Russia and Iran free rein in the Middle East. Then word emerged that Trump is ordering another hasty withdrawal, from Afghanistan. Trump´s defense secretary, retired Gen. Jim Matti’s, resigned in protest of the president´s estrangement of allies and emboldening of Russia and China.

The TV series “The man in the High Castle” imagines a world in which Nazis won World War II. But we don´t need an alternative-history show to imagine a Soviet victory in the Cold War. We have Trump.

Mattis, in his memorable resignation letter (a bookend to George Kennan´s “long telegram” of 1946 wrote: “We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances. Because you have the right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”

Mattis spelled out the views of his that are apparently not “aligned” with Trump´s: “treating allies with respect”, believing in the 29 NATO democracies (Trump has repeatedly raised questions about NATO´s utility); respecting the 74-nation “defeat-ISIS coalition” (now to be abandoned in Syria); and recognizing threats from China and Russia, which “want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model ….at the expense of neighbors, America and our allies.

Republicans now profess to be alarmed. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has enabled Trump at every step, says he´s “particularly distressed.” Sem. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) sees “chaos.” But that is too little, too late. Turkey says it will postpone an invasion of Syria as U.S. forces leave – the better to “bury” our Kurdish allies. And Russian President Vladimir Putin exults: “American troops should not be in Syria and have been there illegally.

Indeed, a Soviet leader hardly could have outlined a better scenario than Trump has created for Putin: A rift between the United States and NATO allies over the future of the alliance.

A U.S. demand that Russia be returning to the Group of Seven, as Russia continues provocations in Ukraine.

A U.S. threat to pull out of the World Trade Organization, and a round of U.S.-imposed tariffs that severely weakened it.

A U.S. president abandoning human rights, accepting Saudi Arabia´s murder of a U.S.-based journalist and embracing repressive leaders around the globe.

A U.S. president creating a rift with Europe over Iran (the nuclear agreement) and climate change (the Paris accord).

A U.S. president embracing as “very honorable” North Korea´s brutal dictator without any tangible concessions on nuclear weapons.

A U.S.- launched trade war that, the Federal Reserve said this week, is partially responsible for cooling worldwide growth.

Lost confidence among Americas in elections, the Justice Department, the FBI, the courts and the free press.

And the loss of a bipartisan consensus against the Russian threat. Forty percent of Republicans called Russia an ally or friend in a Gallup poll, up from 22 percent in 2014.

Way has Trump squandered so much for so little? Maybe it´s because, during the 2016 campaign, Russia was privately negotiating a business deal in Moscow with him and releasing stolen documents that hurt his Democratic opponent. (Meanwhile, Trump was praising Putin and his campaign was softening the GOP platform on Russia.) Whether special counsel Robert Mueller III concludes there was a quid pro quo, Putin clearly has benefited from Trump´s presidency.

In Helsinki, in front of the world, Trump accepted Putin´s word over that of U.S. intelligence agencies. Trump has chafed at aide’s insistence on Russia sanctions, and the few who could resist Trump´s pro-Putin instincts are gone: H.R. McMaster, Rex Tillerson, John Kelly and now Mattis.

Generations of Americans paid any price and bore burden, from Berlin to Saigon to Havana. Now, 29 years after the wall fell, Trump is handing Moscow the Cold War victory it could never win.

Comment on the journalist´s work:

This article shows how different the US is looking at itself. It wants to be the indispensable nation, which means that the only country on this earth is the United States of America. All other counties can go to hell, only we, the U.S. can do the right thing. This article shows the mainstream media, in the U.S. is so far out of thatch, that it will be almost impossible to go back to journalistic reporting, which means that you investigate before you make your conclusions.

by Alfonso

 

 

Putin has little understanding for Gorbachev’s decision in 1987 to sign the INF treaty

When Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signed the INF Treaty in 1987, this led to the unilateral disarmament of the Soviet Union. This opinion was expressed on Tuesday by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In his own words, Putin does not quite understand what this was done for.

“Only God knows why the leadership of the USSR agreed to this unilateral disarmament, but that was done,” Putin said.

The Russian President recalled that the Soviet Union at that time had only ground-based medium and short-range missiles, while the US had also had sea- and airborne missiles of this kind. While the Soviet Union was disarming, the U.S. had continued to develop its systems not covered by the INF Treaty.

With a view to the planned withdrawal of the USA from the treaty, the Russian head of state warned against the “collapse of the entire security architecture”. At the same time, he allowed other countries to be included in the agreement.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had declared at the beginning of December that Russia had two months to “return to compliance with the INF Treaty”. If this does not happen, Washington will suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty, Pompeo said. US Deputy Secretary of State Andrea Thompson, for her part, said the US would call on Russia to abandon the 9M729 (SSC-8) missile or modify this system so that its range would not violate the provisions of the INF Treaty.

Moscow and Washington have repeatedly accused each other in recent years of violating the INF Treaty. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov remarked, Moscow has serious questions to the US regarding American compliance with the INF Treaty.

Moscow points out, among other things, that the US is deploying Tomahawk offensive cruise missiles in Romania and Poland, which the treaty prohibits. The Russian side also points out that the USA has developed attack drones and financed the research work for the construction of a land-based cruise missile.
Translatet from German to English by aöfonso

Pompeo’s arrogance apparent in intervention to press China to release two Canadians

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said two Canadian citizens being kept in custody by China are unlawfully detained and they should be returned. Pompeo made the accusation on Friday during a joint press conference after the US-Canada 2+2 ministerial meeting.

Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland also defended the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, as a decision made according to law not politics.

Earlier this week US President Donald Trump said he might step in if it is good for his country, implying that Meng’s case could be leveraged as a bargaining chip, which turns out to be an embarrassment for the Canadian government.

Canada is clamoring about how “unacceptable” it is for China to keep its people in custody, and still insisted that Meng’s arrest under US request was based on law. Ottawa is seeking support from the US, and also hopes other allies will join and step up the pressure on Beijing.

China’s judiciary is different from the US and Canada, so how could both countries be so sure that China’s detention of the two Canadians is illegal? Jurisdiction is an essential component of a country’s sovereignty. All foreign citizens in China, instead of holding the illusion that they can be protected by the laws of their home countries, must abide by the laws of China. Canadian and US foreign ministers must be fully aware of the basic principle.

The most important principle for communication between countries of different systems is mutual respect, without which there won’t be effective conversations. The US has been relentlessly employing long-arm jurisdiction, and Canada is willing to be its accomplice. Ottawa should reflect on its decision instead of blaming Beijing.

The world order is not an expansion of the legal systems and values embraced by the US and Canada. Different systems should be integrated in an inclusive environment. Insolence and arrogance, represented by the US and Canada through their blatant accusation of China, is the worst detriment to the world order.

The US and Canada have strong capability of using laws as weapons against other countries. Their propaganda machines and the Western media networks have the power to distort anything in their field. However, facts and principles are more powerful than any headline or frontpage story. China, a mega country, must make sure its national interests and security are strongly defended against any external forces.

Without compromising the bottom line, China also needs to make its law enforcement more transparent to the outside.

The US and Canada make an uproar that China’s detention of the two Canadians will jeopardize the country’s business environment. But Meng’s arrest makes a far bigger impact on the global business environment.

Canada should know that having the US’ support won’t make much difference. Fiddling with the Taiwan question is unlikely to put any pressure on Beijing. Ottawa must be aware that China has many cards to play, and going against Beijing is a bad idea. Staying away from the tensions between China and the US should be what it seeks.

By Alfonso

70 years of the UN Human Rights Charter

The commitment to basic human rights, for many a great hope after the Second World War, is now instrumentalized for political, economic and military interests. It was 10 December 1948 when the UN Declaration of Human Rights (1) was adopted in Paris. 48 states voted in favour, nobody voted against, 8 states (2) abstained. In 30 points comprehensive rights were established for all people who – according to Article 1 – were all “born free and equal in dignity and rights” and “gifted with reason and conscience”. They “shall meet one another in the spirit of brotherhood”.

70 years later, globalization shook the power structure of the post-war period, in which the USA – after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989 – thought to have asserted itself as “the only world power” (3). Today other powerful poles are present: Russia, China, India and various regional powers oppose the submission to the world order which the USA created with its allies in Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and others.

A new multipolar world order is called for. The USA does not want to give up its leading role. The previous US partners are looking for a way between national, transatlantic and international positioning – the world is out of joint. The price for the fight for a new world order is paid by the people in whose countries this power struggle is fought. The human rights agreed in 1948 are being disregarded as never before. The UN, its organisations and UN resolutions are openly disregarded, circumvented and defamed by the USA and some of its allies. International law, as adopted in the UN Charter of 26 June 1945 in San Francisco, is broken for its own interests. Those who insist on its observance are declared enemies or “eternally yesterday”. Crises and wars have increased, almost 70 million people are on the run. The concept of “human rights” has – as in the time of the “Cold War” – become a combat concept. In order to put his opponent under pressure, one warns him first to respect the human rights. In the next step one accuses him of violating human rights, whereby international human rights organizations often support this procedure with campaigns, which are taken up and spread by media and politics.

Finally, there are legal criminal proceedings and indictments, including before the International Criminal Court. Since the large global international media companies are almost exclusively in the hands of the USA or its allies – AP in the USA, Reuters in Great Britain, AFP in France, dpa in Germany – such campaigns attract worldwide attention. Since other media such as Al Jazeera in Qatar, RT in Russia, CCTV in China, Press TV in Iran have been able to make themselves heard worldwide in English or Spanish, such campaigns have been questioned or confronted with other representations.

With the so-called “social media” on Facebook, Twitter and others, countless new blogs and portals have emerged that claim to work neutrally and scientifically, or they want to spread “truth”. They claim to “explain history”, “enlighten” or “find facts”, but usually spread interpretations and/or views. This is justified in the context of freedom of the press and freedom of speech, but it does not mean that the representations do justice to the actual history or an event. The USA, EU and NATO have invented a new concept of struggle. “Fake news” is spread by Russian and Iranian media, a reporter from Spiegel-Online recently stated at a panel discussion in Frankfurt/Main. The EU and NATO have set up special task forces to stop such “propaganda”.

An example: The Middle East

The Middle East is the area where the struggle between a unipolar world order à la USA and a multipolar world order rages most fiercely. Here international law is broken systematically and sustainably, human rights are disregarded, states are prevented from their independent development and destabilized. It began at the end of the First World War with the division of the region into French and British interests, according to the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, intensified with the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which the British government promised the Zionist World Federation support for the establishment of a “national home in Palestine”. It continued with the formation of new states, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon, Iraq, at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919/20, which disregarded the results of the King Crane Commission.

The Commission (4) had received petitions in 1875 in which the local population had expressed their opinion: they did not want a French mandate and they wanted a United Syria, i.e. no division of Syria and Palestine. The “Zionist programme” could “only be implemented by force”, according to the Commission’s report. The League of Nations, forerunner of the United Nations, confirmed the division of the region against the will of the people living there. The injustice continued after the Second World War on 29 November 1947 with a partition plan between Israel and Palestine adopted by the UN General Assembly, which was disregarded by the violent establishment of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948 and led to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland (Nakba) (5).

One day after the adoption of the UN Charter of Human Rights, on 11 December 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 194, Article 11 of which recognises the right of the Palestinians to return and/or compensation (6). The decision is based on the UN Declaration of Human Rights. It says, among other things:

Article 13.2: Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 17.2: No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her property.

In December 1949, the UN Organisation for the Support of Palestinian Refugees, UNWRA, was founded. When it began its work in May 1950, 914,221 Palestinian refugees were registered. Palestinian refugees were and are “persons whose place of residence was in Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 and 15 May 1945 and who lost both their home and livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict”. This status also applies to the descendants of male Palestinian refugees, including adopted children (7). No UN resolution in favour of Palestinian or other Arab refugees, which has lost health, homeland, work, relatives in crises and wars with Israel since the foundation of the State of Israel, has ever been observed by Israel. This applies to Lebanese, whose land was occupied again and again by Israel, as well as to Syrians, who lost everything during the occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights in 1967 and their annexation by Israel in 1981 in violation of international law. 70 years after the adoption of the UN Charter of Human Rights, Israel’s neighbours have nothing to celebrate. Some of the Palestinian refugees have been expelled several times by Israel, and many live as refugees in their own country, the Gaza Strip. For 11 years, the coastal strip of Israel has been sealed off from land, sea and air and repeatedly attacked militarily. Since 30 March, the 70th anniversary of their expulsion in 1948, the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip have organised the “March of Return”, in which thousands of people, young and old, take part every Friday. They march along the fences set up by Israel, which prevent the Palestinians from reaching other parts of Palestine or Israel.

Amnesty International (8) reports that more than 150 people were killed in these marches by Israeli soldiers beyond the fences. At least 10,000 were injured, including 1849 children, 424 women, 115 nurses with clear identification and 115 journalists, also marked as press. 5814 of the injured were therefore hit by live ammunition. One Israeli soldier was injured, another soldier was killed.

A short video clip by Amnesty International (9) allows Palestinians – women and men – from the Gaza Strip to speak. They say they have been deprived of their rights. The right to education, freedom of movement and travel, social, economic and political security. There is no electricity, no clean water, says one woman. There is a lack of secure health care, of work, of income. A man reports that he was shot three times because he protested against the siege. His wife says she was injured in the leg. Now she is wearing a cast and hopes to be able to walk again one day. “Come visit us,” says one man. “See for yourself how we have to live here. Beautiful words are not enough, something has to be done. The Israeli blockade was imposed in 2007 on the land, water and air routes. Gaza airport, which was built with EU money, has been bombed. Ships trying to approach Gaza from the sea are upset, boarded and confiscated by the Israeli navy. Fishermen who go further than 3 nautical miles out to sea are fired at. The border crossings to land are closed again and again. To date, hardly any material for reconstruction has reached the Gaza Strip. People are denied access to medical treatment, to universities or to leave the country.

The catastrophic human rights situation for the Palestinians is the result of the failure of international politics. Israel acts as an occupying power without complying with its obligations under international law. Israel builds on Palestinian soil, destroys Palestinian houses and schools (10), expels, arrests, insults the Palestinians in their own country, where they remain to this day. In the occupied territories of the West Bank, Israel has developed an apartheid system with places, schools, streets for settlers where Palestinians are not allowed to move. The attempt to annex the whole of Palestine, to expel the Palestinians across the Jordan to Jordan and into the desert of the Sinai Peninsula is supported by the White House in Washington as a “century deal”. Not only is the Palestinians’ right to return to their homeland not respected 70 years after the adoption of the UN Charter of Human Rights and the corresponding UN resolutions, but Israel is mocking it. And with the Palestinians, the UN organization that was founded in 1949 to help the Palestinian refugees is mocked and defamed.

“UNRWA Circus”, Avivel Schneider, editor-in-chief of “Israel Today”, recently commented in a commentary that the Palestinian refugees could inherit “their refugee status to their children”. This is not granted to “any other refugee in the world,” Schneider said. The Palestinians “maintain their refugee status” (11). He was pleased with US President Donald Trump’s decision to cut UNRWA funding. It is “absolute nonsense” to maintain a refugee organisation “exclusively for the Palestinians”. At a meeting with 50 foreign ambassadors and diplomats (12), Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely declared that UNRWA was “a problem, not the solution”. The aim of Israeli policy is to “close UNRWA”, Hotovely continued. The assembled diplomats should also work towards this goal with their governments. The internet portal “Mena Watch”, which presents itself as an independent think tank, is scandalously agitating against people and organisations that point to the rights of the Palestinians and their disregard by the Israeli occupying power. Authors of the Internet portal speak at events about the “myth Nakba” or publish books about the fact that the United Nations wanted to deny all rights to the “Jewish state” (13).

UN resolutions denouncing the illegal construction of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and the violent actions of the Israeli army against the Palestinians are reinterpreted as “anti-Semitic” and “anti-Israel” propaganda.

In Germany this falls on fertile ground. The civil society Palestinian “boycott, disinvestment and sanctions for Palestine” campaign, BDS, (14) was recently even stigmatized as “clearly anti-Semitic” in the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia. Public institutions were asked not to give any space to such events (15). Not only in North Rhine-Westphalia, but also in Baden-Württemberg, Israeli politics are subject to discussion bans.

On 6 December 2018, journalist Andreas Zumach was to speak on the topic of “Israel – its true and false friends” (16) at a Protestant adult education event (EEB). The event was cancelled due to the intervention of the Jewish Cultural Community in Karlsruhe. Reason: Andreas Zumach was involved in the “Alliance to End Israeli Occupation, BIB” (17). This was similar to the BDS campaign “anti-Semitic”.

Sources and comments:

 

(1) https://www.amnesty.de/alle-30-artikel-der-allgemeinen-erklaerung-der-menschenrechte

(2) Yugoslavia, Poland, Saudi Arabia, the Soviet Union, South Africa, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine and Belarus.

(3) Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Only World Power: America’s Strategy of Dominance (Fischer Nonfiction).

(4) The King Crane Commission travelled through the Levant from June 10 to July 21, 1919. The report was not discussed at the Paris Peace Conference and later disappeared in the USA. Only in 1963 it was published in Beirut: Harry N. Howard, The King Crane Commission.

(5) Ludwig Watzal, Enemies of Peace, The Endless Conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Aufbau-Taschenbuch-Verlag, 2001

(6) http://www.lib-hilfe.de/mat/ausstellung/Ausstellung_Nakba.pdf

(7) https://www.unrwa.org/who-we-are

(8) https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2018/10/gaza-great-march-of-return/

(9) https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2018/10/gaza-great-march-of-return/

(10) https://www.palestinechronicle.com/israel-demolishes-a-palestinian-school-in-west-bank/

(11) (30.11.2018; Israel Today) http://www.israelheute.com/Nachrichten/Artikel/tabid/179/nid/34572/Default.aspx)

(12) (26.11.2018) https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20181129-israel-urges-countries-to-stop-funding-unrwa/

(13) https://www.amazon.de/Vereinte-Nationen-gegen-Israel-delegitimiert/dp/3955652491

(14) http://bds-kampagne.de/

(15) https://www.landtag.nrw.de/portal/WWW/dokumentenarchiv/Dokument/MMD17-3577.pdf

(16) https://bnn.de/lokales/karlsruhe/shitstorm-nach-absage-thomas-schalla-will-verhaeltnis-zur-juedischen-gemeinde-nicht-belasten

(17) https://www.bib-jetzt.de/

Translated from German

by Alfonso

The demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era

by Mairead Maguire

In examining the future, we must look to the past.

As we watch the media today, we are spoon fed more and more propaganda and fear of the unknown, that we should be afraid of the unknown and have full faith that our govern- ment is keeping us safe from the unknown. But by looking at media today, those of us who are old enough will be reminded of the era of Cold War news articles, the hysteria of how the Russians would invade and how we should duck and cover under tables in our kitchens for the ensuing nuclear war. Under this mass hysteria, all Western governments were convinced that we should join Westernallies to fight the unknown evil that lies tothe east. Later through my travels in Russia during the height of the Cold War with a

peace delegation, we were shocked by the poverty of the country and questioned how we ever were led to believe that Russia was a force to fear. We talked to the Russian stu- dents who were dismayed by their absolute poverty and showed anger against NATO for leading their country into an arms race that they could not win. Many years later, when speaking to young Americans in the U.S., I was in disbelief about the fear the students had of Russia and their talk of invasion. This is a good example of how the unknown can cause a deep-rooted paranoia when manipu- lated by the right powers.

All armies must have an enemy to deem them necessary. An enemy must be created, and the people must be convinced that there is a need for action to safeguard the freedom of their country.

All military is expensive, and we can see in Europe that the countries are reluctant toexpand their military spending and find ithard to justify this to their people. In looking at this scenario, we can ask ourselves what isbeneficial about this hysteria and fear causedon both sides. All armies must have an enemy to deem them necessary. An enemy must be created, and the people convinced that there is a need for action to safeguard the freedom of their country. Right now, wecan see a shifting of financial power fromold Western powers to the rise of the Middle East and Asia. Do we honestly believe that the Western allies are going to give up their power? My suggestion is: not easily. Theold dying empires will fight tooth and nail to protect their financial interests such as the petrol dollar and the many benefits that

come through their power over poverty-stricken countries.

Firstly, I must say, that I believe that Russia is not by any means without faults. But the amount of anti-Russian propaganda in our media today is a throwback to the Cold War era. We must ask the question: Is this leading to more arms, a bigger NATO? Possibly to challenge large powers in the Middle East and Asia, as we see the U.S. approaching the South China seas, and NATO Naval games taking place in the Black Sea. Missile com- pounds are being erected in Romania, Poland, and other ex-Soviet countries, while military games are set up in Scandinavia close to the Rus- sian border to practice for a cold climate war scenario. At the same time, we see the U.S. President arriving in Europe asking for increased military spending. At the same time, the USA has increased its bud- get by $300 billion in one year.

The demonization of Rus- sia is, I believe, one of the most dangerous things that are happening in our world today. The scapegoating of Russia is an inexcusable game that the West is indulging in. It is time for political leaders and each individual to move us back from the brink of catastrophe to begin to build relationships with our Russian brothers and sisters. Too long has theelite financially gained fromwar while millions are moved into poverty and desperation. The people of the world have

been subjected to war propaganda based on lies and misinformation, and we have seen the results of invasions and occupations by NATO disguised as “humanitarian inter- vention” and “right to protect.” NATO has destroyed the lives of millions of people and purposely devastated their lands, causing the exodus of millions of refugees.

The people around the world must not be misled yet again. I believe that the U.S., the UK, and France are the most military minded countries, whose inability to use their imagination and creativity to solveconflict through dialogue and negotiation isastonishing to myself and many people. In a highly militarized, dangerous world it is important we start to humanize each otherand find ways of cooperation and build fra- ternity amongst the nations. The policies of demonization of political leaders as a means of preparing the way for invasions and wars must be stopped immediately, and serious effort put into the building of relationships across the world. The isolation and mar- ginalization of countries will only lead to extremism, fundamentalism, and violence.

During our visit to Moscow, we had the pleasure of attending a celebration of mass at the main Orthodox Cathedral. I was very inspired by the deep spirituality and faith of the people as they sang the entire three- hour mass. I was moved by the culture of the Russian people, and I could feel that their tremendous history of suffering and persecution gave them sensitivity and pas- sion for peace.

Surely it is time that we in Europe refuse to be put in a position where we are forced to choose between our Russian and American brothers and sisters. The enormous problems that we are faced with, such as, due to cli- mate change and wars, mass migration and movement of peoples around the world, need to be tackled as a world community. The lifting of sanctions against Russia and the setting up of programs of cooperation will help build friendships amongst the nations.

I call on all people to encourage their political leaders in the U.S., EU, and Russia to show vision and political leadership and use their skills to build trust and work for peace and nonviolence.

Mairead Corrigan Maguire won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Reprinted from Common Dreams.

by Alfonso

Behind Ukraine-Russia naval tensions, a more brutal economic war

Trade ties with western Europe haven’t matched Ukraine’s hopes. That gives Russia extra leverage over a neighbor with whom historic bonds run deep, even amid the current situation off the shores of Crimea.

By Fred Weir, Correspondent NOVEMBER 26, 2018

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attends a meeting at the state-owned gas pipeline operator Ukrtransgaz in Kiev, Ukraine, on March 3. (Mykhailo Markiv/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters)

Moscow Russia’s conflict with Ukraine is back in the headlines after Russia seized three Ukrainian military vessels and their crews near Crimea, triggering a declaration of martial law in Ukraine and a fresh escalation of tensionsbetween the two formerly friendly neighbors.

But very little attention has been paid to the economic slugfest between the two, which has caused far more destruction than Russia’s sanctions war with the West over the past five years, and will leave lasting consequences even if they manage to resolve the present, seemingly intractable, political conflict.

Russia and Ukraine were joined at the hip as part of a single state for more than three centuries. Both countries were hard hit by the rupture of traditional ties when the Soviet Union collapsed almost three decades ago, but that greatly intensified after a pro-Western government came to power in Kiev in early 2014, and Russia responded by annexing Crimea and promoting a separatist war in eastern Ukraine. The fallout from all that, plus repeated waves of bitter mutual sanctions, has caused Russian-Ukrainian trade to collapse by two-thirds in the past five years. Fresh sanctions levied this month by Moscow against leading Ukrainian politicians and companies suggest the rift may be solidifying into permanence.

But it is a remarkable fact that Russia remains Ukraine’s biggest single trading partner by a wide margin, while most individual countries of the European Union – the community aspired to by Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution – remain far down the list. The stubborn persistence of age-old economic ties in the face of harsh new political animosities is a reality that frustrates hardliners in both countries. But those ties also contain shreds of fading hope, amid the mutual acrimony, that differences might be peacefully bridged one day.

Pressure, and wait for change

The latest barrage of Russian sanctions, targeting 322 Ukrainian individuals and 68 companies, appears to be aimed at inducing a pro-Russia outcome in the upcoming Ukrainian parliamentary and presidential elections. Several leading Ukrainian politicians – including outspokenly anti-Russia presidential contender Yulia Tymoshenko and former prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk – are on the list, as are many top Ukrainian businesspeople. Curiously, some powerful eastern Ukrainian oligarchs such as Rinat Akhmetov and Ihor Kolomoisky are not, nor is Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who owns a chocolate factory in the Russian city of Lipetsk. That selectivity is clearly deliberate.

“The Russian strategy is to wait until something changes in Ukraine,” says Sergei Markov, a former Kremlin adviser. “We know that some Ukrainian politicians would like to make a peace deal with Russia, but they are not able to in the present environment. We regard the present Ukrainian government as being under the control of Washington, and it is not able to make a free choice. When American influence fades in Ukraine – and it will – we believe our relations with the friendly Ukrainian people can be restored.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed repeatedly that Mr. Poroshenko’s government is the key obstacle to implementing the European-backed Minsk accords, which would mandate political decentralization in exchange for re-integrating eastern Ukraine’s separatist statelets into the country. Poroshenko’s exclusion from the current sanctions list – although his son is on it – is a signal to the Ukrainian president that Moscow expects him “not to push past any of our red lines,” says Mr. Markov.

For its part Ukraine has sanctioned almost 2,000 Russian individuals and more than 700 companies since 2014, dealing a crippling blow to the operation of Russian banks in Ukraine. Commercial flights between Ukraine and Russia have been banned. Although it is still possible to travel between the two countries by train, the operation of state-owned Russian Railways has been prohibited on Ukrainian territory. The once-extensive cooperation between former-Soviet military industries was stopped in 2014. Ukraine has also moved to curb the penetration of Russian media in the largely Russian-speaking country, blaming it for spreading disinformation about the ongoing conflict.

“If not for the fact that Russia seized Crimea, things might be very different between our countries,” says Alexander Okhrimenko, president of the independent Ukrainian Analytical Center in Kiev. “Maybe we will get over it in several decades, but right now Ukrainians perceive Russia as a hostile state and any Ukrainian politician, like it or not, has to take an anti-Russian stand.”

Passenger planes under construction are seen at the Antonov aircraft plant in Kiev, Ukraine, on July 25. VALENTYN OGIRENKO/REUTERS

Friendly views of people, more or less 

Mr. Okhrimenko is describing political realities. But one of the many counterintuitive peculiarities of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, which politicians in Kiev describe as a war of national defense against Russian aggression, is that substantial numbers of people in both countries continue to hold friendly views of the other. A joint survey conducted in September by Russia’s only independent pollster, the Levada Center, and the Kiev International Institute of Sociology (KIIS), found that Ukrainian views of Russia have slightly improved since the last survey in July, while Russian attitudes toward Ukraine have somewhat worsened.

Asked “how do you regard Ukraine in general,” 55 percent of Russians answered in the negative (up from 49 percent), and 33 percent in the positive (down from 37 percent). Asked the same question about Russia, 48 percent of Ukrainians answered “good” or “mostly good” (up from 45 percent), while 32 percent said “bad” or “mostly bad” (down from 38 percent). The same poll also found that 45 percent of Russians believe that Ukraine and Russia “should be independent, but friendly states, with open borders, without visas and customs,” with 32 percent advocating closed borders. Fully 50 percent of Ukrainians preferred open borders with Russia, while 39 percent favored a closed regime.

“The attitude of many Ukrainians toward Russia is something I always find quite surprising; it’s a kind of unrequited love,” says Vladimir Paniotto, director of KIIS. “But it’s not that simple. When asked about their attitude toward the Russian leadership, only 11 percent of Ukrainians say it’s positive. If you ask about Russian people in general, up to 70 percent say their attitude is good. It seems that Ukrainians do not know, or are prepared to ignore, the fact that around 80 percent of Russians support Putin’s course.”

Unique products made for Russia 

The mutual economic blows of the past few years have done irreparable harm to what was once a largely integrated Russian-Ukrainian economic space. Most of the damage has fallen upon Ukraine, which lost about 15 percent of its industrial potential and most of its once rich coal resources through the destruction of war and separatism in the east Ukraine; it seems increasingly unlikely it will ever be recovered. In addition, most of the great industries of eastern Ukraine have been idled through the loss of Russian markets for their unique products – things like giant turbines, railroad carriages, helicopter engines, tractors, and missile parts.

“You can call it de-industrialization,” says Alexander Kirsch, a liberal deputy of the Ukrainian parliament from the industrial city of Kharkiv. “We also have a huge outflow of labor resources. People are leaving to find work elsewhere. That’s not politics, it’s the consequence of war.”

Ukraine still earns as much as $3 billion annually in fees for transiting Russian gas to Europe through the old Soviet Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline. But that is set to end, or be deeply scaled back, when the current contract expires next year and alternative Russian pipelines like Nord Stream II under the Baltic Sea, and another under the Black Sea to Turkey, come online.

Some 4 million Ukrainians, or 16 percent of the working-age population, have left the country to find work abroad. Ironically, many of them go to Russia, where they now number about 2 million.

One of Ukraine’s most promising industries, the legendary aviation firm Antonov, has virtually ceased working. After 2014 it closed down several joint projects with Russian firms, and ended cooperation with the Russian military to build a powerful new medium-range transport plane, the An-70. New orders for Antonov aircraft, or offers of collaboration, have not materialized from the West, leaving the sprawling Antonov works in Kiev almost empty and reduced to repairing old aircraft to remain in business.

“It should be pointed out that many of those big industries, concentrated in eastern Ukraine, had no future anyway. They were inefficient and wasteful,” says Mr. Okhromenko. “But of course they need to be replaced by smaller, effective industries, and there are still very few of those.”

Russia has suffered too, and is still scrambling to find substitutes for some of the high-quality Ukrainian goods – particularly military components – that it once depended upon.

“A lot of Ukrainians would like to continue doing business with Russia, but it’s impossible now,” says Alexander Paraschiy, an economic expert with Concorde Capital, a Kiev-based brokerage. “We do see some increase in trade turnover with the EU countries, but those markets severely restrict our agricultural goods. We are refocusing on markets in the Middle East and Asia, but it is slow going.”

The failure of the West to significantly help Ukraine as it slugs it out with Russia is the source of some bitterness. And it may be something the Kremlin is counting on as it continues to apply politically-selective sanctions on leading Ukrainians, and waits for next year’s round of Ukrainian elections.

“The West made promises to us, but it seems they understood that in a different way from us,” says Mr. Kirsch, the parliamentarian. “We expected more support from the West, because there is no place in the world where people have sacrificed as much for the sake of a European choice as the people of Ukraine have.”

Thid article was presented in the Christian Science Monitor Nov. 29th.

by Alfonso