Archive for October, 2014

ARCTIC SHIPPING VOLUME RISES AS ICE MELTS

October 30, 2014

Wall Street Journal on October 29, 2014, reported that cargo shipping volume through the Northern Sea Route is rising as Arctic ice melts, according to a new report. Excerpts below:

The opening up of the Arctic for commercial cargo offers a faster route for some shipments between Europe and Asia, and holds the promise of increased trade for once icebound ports in the High North of Arctic countries such as Russia, Norway and Canada.

However, much of the new traffic through the Northern Sea Route is one-way shipments of fossil fuels from Northern Europe to Asia or is between Russian ports, according to a report to be released by the Arctic Institute, a Washington think tank.

The institute said 71 ships carried 1.35 million tons of goods through the route last year. That was up from 46 vessels with 1.26 million tons of cargo the previous year.

The majority of ships originated in Russia and many were from one Russian port to another in the country. Only 41 vessels traveled the full length of the Arctic shipping lane, and of those, 30 ships carried cargo, the report said.

The Arctic Institute report analyzed data from the Northern Sea Route Information Office, which is run by the Norway’s nonprofit Centre for High North Logistics.

The route, also known as the Northeast Passage, hugs Russia’s northern border and typically is easier to navigate and has less ice buildup than the Northwest Passage, another Arctic route that gets fewer ships and lies closer to Canada. Both routes are only traversable during a short season from late summer to early fall before freezing up again, though that season has lengthened because of climate change.

Of the international cargo-bearing voyages using the Northern Sea Route, the Arctic Institute’s report said 67% involved shipments oil products. More goods were shipped from Europe to Asia than the other way around, with more ballast than cargo heading from Asia to Europe, it said.

That Arctic route shaves close to two weeks off a typical voyage from China to Europe—a trip that usually requires sailing through the Suez Canal.

Last year, a coal-laden cargo ship became the first bulk carrier to traverse the Northwest Passage through Canadian Arctic waters. That journey cut four days of travel time from a trip between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Pori, Finland.

POLAND MOVING TROOPS TO THE EASTERN BORDERS

October 28, 2014

Washington Times on October 27, 2014, reported that Poland will move thousands of troops toward its eastern borders in a historic realignment of a military structure built in the Cold War, the country’s defense minister told The Associated Press. Excerpts below:

Tomasz Siemoniak said the troops are needed in the east because of the conflict in neighboring Ukraine. “The geopolitical situation has changed, we have the biggest crisis of security since the Cold War and we must draw conclusions from that,” Siemoniak said.

He said that at least three military bases in the east will see their populations increase from the current 30 percent of capacity to almost 90 percent by 2017, and that more military hardware will be moved to those bases as well.

…most of Poland’s 120,000-member army is based along the country’s western border, as a relic of its former status as a Soviet Bloc member.

A COMING GOP REVOLUTION IN THE UNITED STATES?

October 26, 2014

NewsMax on October 25, 2014, reported that the United States needs new energy to stay strong, and the government needs to “clean up the mess of debt and waste” moving forward, said GOP congressional candidate Will Hurd, who is running to represent Texas’ 23rd Congressional District.

“The president expects you to go to the polls and stick with the people who have stuck with him,” said Hurd. “To stick with the politicians who helped him push through Obamacare, [and] who helped him block solutions that would create jobs.”

Instead, said Hurd, the nation needs to elect leaders who will ‘take on tough issues and focus on getting things done.”

Hurd pointed out that he’s been in “real fights” as an officer overseas, where he “witnessed folks struggling for freedom and stared down those trying to end our way of life.”

And in the private sector, he sees how the government is threatening economic security.

“We need to clean up the mess of debt and waste by balancing our budget and simplifying our tax code,” said Hurd. “We need to reduce the burdens on middle class families and small business owners who are trying to achieve the American Dream.”

Further, the United States “needs to ensure our ability to be energy independent.”

CHINA’S ‘BLACK JAILS’: ‘THUGS COULD DO ANYTHING THEY WANTED’

October 25, 2014

Washington Times on October 24, 2014, reported that illegal detention centers known as “black jails” have proliferated in China, according to a new report, even as government officials deny their existence before a United Nations committee this week. Excerpts below:

The report by the activist group Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD)—titled “We Can Beat You to Death With Impunity”: Secret Detention & Abuse of Women in China’s “Black Jails”—documented more than 1000 individual cases of detention and abuse in hundreds of extralegal black jails in the past five years. About 80 percent of the detainees were women, who were often physically or sexually assaulted and deprived of food, water, and medical treatment.

“In the black jail, the door was locked 24 hours a day…Thugs could do anything they wanted [to detainees]—bully, torture, humiliate, and abuse them,” said a petitioner once held in a black jail in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, according to the report. “Some petitioners suffered back injuries while others were pulled into bathrooms, stripped naked, and doused with cold water. Thugs brazenly kicked female petitioners in the stomach.”

NATO JETS ‘INTERCEPT RUSSIAN SPY PLANE’ OVER BALTIC SEA

October 24, 2014

BBC News on October 23, 2014, reported that Danish F-16 jets chased a Russian spy plane away initially, according to NATO. Excerpts below:

A Russian spy plane has been intercepted by Nato jets over the Baltic Sea, the alliance says, amid heightened tensions in the region.

Estonia summoned Russia’s ambassador on October 22 after its military said the Ilyushin-20 plane had entered its airspace for about a minute.

Russia has been accused of several recent border violations in the region.

In the past week, non-Nato member Sweden has been searching for a submarine reportedly sighted in its waters in the southern Stockholm archipelago some 48km (30 miles) from the capital. The suspected submarine is widely assumed to be Russian.

Last month, Estonia accused Russia of abducting one of its security officials on the border.

Nato said the Ilyushin plane had taken off from the Russian Baltic coast enclave of Kaliningrad on Tuesday and was “first intercepted by Danish F-16 jets when it approached Denmark”, before flying north towards Sweden.

Intercepted by Swedish planes, the Ilyushin entered Estonian airspace for less than a minute and was escorted out by Portuguese F16s, the alliance said.

SWEDEN PREPARED TO USE ‘ARMED FORCE, IF NECESSARY’, ON SUSPECTED RUSSIAN SUBMARINE

October 23, 2014

Washington Times on October 22, 2014, reported Sweden suspects that a Russian submarine has illegally entered its waters and says it is prepared to force the craft to reveal itself. Excerpts below:

Meanwhile the Swedish corvette HMS Visby navigated on Mysingen Bay, as the search for a suspected foreign vessel entered its fifth day in the Stockholm archipelago.

“Our aim now is to force whatever it is up to the surface … with armed force, if necessary,” Supreme Commander General Sverker Goeranson said on October 22 of the unidentified vessel, International Business Times reported. The submarine is believed to be submerged in the Baltic Sea less than 30 miles from Stockholm.

Comment: The ongoing Russian operations outside Stockholm should be a reason for the West to reflect on Putin’s nuclear navy getting an upgrade regular upgrades. Russia recently christened a new top-secret submarine

The Swedish military has used over 200 troops and a variety of military assets to try and locate the submarine.

“This will continue until we consider that we are done,” Jesper Tengroth, press officer for the Swedish military, told reporters Oct. 18, IBT reported Swedish forces have been scouring the sea off Stockholm since Friday, after what the military called three credible reports of activity by foreign submarines or divers using an underwater vehicle. The vessels were unidentified, but during the 1980s the Swedish navy from time to time hunted suspected Soviet submarines in its waters.

Swedish forces have been scouring the sea off Stockholm since October 17, after what the military called three credible reports of activity by foreign submarines or divers using an underwater vehicle. The vessels were unidentified, but during the 1980s the Swedish navy from time to time hunted suspected Soviet submarines in its waters.

THE MYTH OF RUSSIAN HUMILIATION

October 22, 2014

The Washington Post on October 17, 2014, published an article by columnist Ann Applebaum on the false claim of Russian humiliation. Excerpts below:

But one Western policy stands out as a phenomenal success, particularly when measured against the low expectations with which it began: the integration of Central Europe and the Baltic States into the European Union and NATO. Thanks to this double project, more than 90 million people have enjoyed relative safety and relative prosperity for more than two decades in a region whose historic instability helped launch two world wars.

These two “expansions,” which were parallel but not identical (some countries are members of one organization but not the other), were transformative because they were not direct leaps, as the word “expansion” implies, but slow negotiations. Before joining NATO, each country had to establish civilian control of its army. Before joining the European Union, each adopted laws on trade, judiciary, human rights. As a result, they became democracies. This was “democracy promotion” working as it never has before or since.

For the record: No treaties prohibiting NATO expansion were ever signed with Russia. No promises were broken. Nor did the impetus for NATO expansion come from a “triumphalist” Washington. On the contrary, Poland’s first efforts to apply in 1992 were rebuffed. I well remember the angry reaction of the U.S. ambassador to Warsaw at the time. But Poland and others persisted, precisely because they were already seeing signs of the Russian revanchism to come.

When the slow, cautious expansion eventually took place, constant efforts were made to reassure Russia. No NATO bases were placed in the new member states, and until 2013 no exercises were conducted there. A Russia-NATO agreement in 1997 promised no movement of nuclear installations. A NATO-Russia Council was set up in 2002. In response to Russian objections, Ukraine and Georgia were, in fact, denied NATO membership plans in 2008.

Meanwhile, not only was Russia not “humiliated” during this era, it was given de facto “great power” status, along with the Soviet seat on the U.N. Security Council and Soviet embassies. Russia also received Soviet nuclear weapons, some transferred from Ukraine in 1994 in exchange for Russian recognition of Ukraine’s borders. Presidents Clinton and Bush both treated their Russian counterparts as fellow “great power” leaders and invited them to join the Group of Eight — although Russia, neither a large economy nor a democracy, did not qualify.

During this period, Russia, unlike Central Europe, never sought to transform itself along European lines. Instead, former KGB officers with a clearly expressed allegiance to the Soviet system took over the state in league with organized crime, seeking to prevent the formation of democratic institutions at home and to undermine them abroad. For the past decade, this kleptocratic clique has also sought to re-create an empire, using everything from cyberattacks on Estonia to military invasions of Georgia and now Ukraine, in open violation of that 1994 agreement — exactly as the Central Europeans feared.

Once we remember what actually happened over the past two decades, as opposed to accepting the Russian regime’s version, our own mistakes look different. In 1991, Russia was no longer a great power in either population or economic terms.

The crisis in Ukraine, and the prospect of a further crisis in NATO itself, is not the result of our triumphalism but of our failure to react to Russia’s aggressive rhetoric and its military spending. Why didn’t we move NATO bases eastward a decade ago?

Our mistake was not to humiliate Russia but to underrate Russia’s revanchist, revisionist, disruptive potential. If the only real Western achievement of the past quarter-century is now under threat, that’s because we have failed to ensure that NATO continues to do in Europe what it was always meant to do: deter.

Anne Applebaum writes a biweekly foreign affairs column for The Washington Post. She is also the Director of the Global Transitions Program at the Legatum Institute in London.

SVERIGES MILITÄRA BEREDSKAP MÅSTE ÖKA

October 21, 2014

Expressen (Stockholm) och Kvällsposten (Malmö) publicerade den 20 oktober 2014 en artikel av Katarina Tracz om behovet av bättre svensk militär beredskap. Utdrag nedan:

Även om det ännu inte är bekräftat vilken typ av verksamhet det rör sig om, eller vilket land som ligger bakom, tyder mycket på att det är Ryssland. Många tycks chockade över att ett så grovt intrång kan ske år 2014. Men om Ryssland är ansvarigt bör det inte förvåna. Kränkningen är i så fall en del av ett upptrappat och allt mer aggressivt mönster från rysk sida. Svenska beslutsfattare måste inse att Sverige påverkas av de ökade spänningarna i närom-rådet och agera därefter. Regeringen borde prioritera att kraftigt öka Sveriges militära beredskap.

I internationella säkerhetspolitiska kretsar har 2014 blivit ett märkesår. Ryssland har genom att invadera ett grannland omkullkastat den säkerhetspolitiska ordning som varit giltig sedan kalla krigets slut. Landets agerande bör dock inte komma som en överraskning för vare sig EU, Nato eller Sverige. I snart tio års tid har Ryssland genom ord och handling signalerat att landet återigen vill etablera sig som en militär stormakt.

Redan 2005 klargjorde president Putin sina ambitioner genom att hävda att Sovjetunionens kollaps var 1900-talets största geopolitiska katastrof.

Efter invasionen av Ukraina har Rysslands aggressiva beteende intensifierats. Främst har luftrumskränkningarna blivit fler.

Sammantaget pekar den [den ryska politiken] på hur [landet] försöker öka sitt inflytande i när- området. Utvecklingen den senaste tiden visar att Sverige inte på något sätt är undantaget dessa ambitioner.

Helgens händelser är en tydlig indikation på hur spänningarna i Östersjö- regionen har ökat. Sverige är i högsta grad en del av den nya miljön och måste stå berett att möta en allt mer alarmerande verklighet. Regeringen bör erkänna situationens allvar och fatta snabba och långtgående beslut därefter. En kraftig ökning av Sveriges militära beredskap bör vara närmast förestående.

Katarina Tracz är International Research Fellow vid The McCain Institute for International Leadership i Washington DC och biträdande chef för tankesmedjan Frivärld.

DAMAGED RUSSIAN SUBMARINE IN STOCKHOLM ARCHIPELAGO?

October 19, 2014

Svenska Dagbladet (Stockholm) on October 19, 2014, reported that a distress signal in Russian preceded the submarine alarm in the archipelago of Stockholm. When the military search operation started radio communication between a transmitter in the archipelago and a transmitter in Kaliningrad was detected. This indicates that there could be a damaged russian submarine in Swedish waters. Excerpts below:

In the official version the operation started due to the reports from a “credible source” that had seen a suspicious object on October 17.

But what has not been revealed is that the National Defence Radio Establishment (“Försvarets radioanstalt”, FRA) detected radio communication in Russian a day before the operation started. It was transmitted on a special frequence, used by Russia in emergency situations.

Signal intelligence once again intercepted radio communication on October 17. This time it was encrypted but it was possible to determine the position of the transmitter and the reciever. The transmitter was situated somewhere in Kanholmsfjarden in the archipelago of Stockholm, and the reviever was in Kaliningrad, Russia.

This information has been confirmed by several persons with knowledge about the ongoing search operation, altough they can’t confirm that there is a damaged submarine in Swedish waters.

CAMBODIA’S GENOCIDE TRIAL OF KHMER ROUGE LEADERS TO SHOW BRUTAL RULE LED TO MASSIVE DEATHS

October 17, 2014

FoxNews on October 17, 2014, published an AP report on the first trial on charges of genocide against Cambodia’s brutal 1970s Khmer Rouge regime opening with a prosecutor saying it will show that Cambodians were enslaved in inhumane conditions that led to the deaths of 1.7 million people from starvation, disease and execution. Excerpts below:

Khieu Samphan, the regime’s head of state, and Nuon Chea, right-hand man to the communist group’s late leader, Pol Pot, already received life sentences in August after being found guilty of crimes against humanity, relating mostly to the group’s forced movement of millions to the countryside when it took power in 1975. They have appealed their convictions.

The U.N.-backed tribunal split the cases into two trials for fear that Khieu Samphan, 83, and Nuon Chea, 88, could die before any proceedings against them could be completed.

In addition to genocide against minorities, the second trial will address for the first time accusations of rape and forced marriages.

It will show that Cambodians at the cooperatives and work sites were “enslaved and subjected to inhumane conditions that led to countless deaths from starvation, overwork and disease,” Cambodian prosecutor Chea Leang told the court, as the two accused sat silently.

“We are here because of millions of Cambodian people who did not survive in this regime, for whom three years, eight months and 20 days … meant only suffering and grief, pain and deaths,” she said.

Vann Math, head of the Cambodia Islamic Association, said that the Khmer Rouge fiercely persecuted the Cham, destroying mosques and killing people. He said many Chams are now avidly following the tribunal’s proceedings.

Lyma Nguyen, a lawyer representing ethnic Vietnamese victims, said outside the hearing that the trial represents not only a rare chance to shed light on the genocide, but also on the lingering harm the mayhem has caused to survivors.

Those forced to flee retained no documentation proving their Cambodian origins, so when they returned they were plunged into statelessness, and remain targets of widespread discrimination and political scapegoats.

Bopha Om, a 59-year-old woman who lost members of her family in the genocide, said she was forced into marriage under threat of death.

“The Khmer Rouge tortured me. They forced me to dig my own grave. So I want to see them being prosecuted in court,” she said.

In its first trial, the tribunal sentenced Kaing Guek Eav, also known as “Duch,” the director of the notorious S-21 torture center, to life imprisonment. The second trial, in which Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea were convicted, opened in November 2011, but death and disability winnowed down the number of defendants.

Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary died in March last year, and his wife Ieng Thirith, the regime’s social affairs minister, was declared unfit for trial in September 2012 after being diagnosed with dementia. The group’s top leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998.

“We want justice, and this justice is not even for us who have survived the Khmer Rouge genocide, but it is for our children and many generations to come. This justice would help to prevent genocide to happen again here and elsewhere,” said Youk Chhang, head of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which has collected more than a million documents related to the Khmer Rouge terror.