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Archive for februar 2015

Legendary Ambassador Roasts Washington’s Insane Russia Policy

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Legendary Ambassador Roasts Washington’s Insane Russia Policy

Jack Matlock makes the case for the United States reaching a practical compromise with Russia

James Carden

(The Nation)

6 hours ago | 720 6

This article originally appeared in The Nation

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Written by Mika

18. februara 2015. at 07:55

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NYT Tries to Rationalize Ridiculous Propaganda about Ukraine Civil War

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NYT Tries to Rationalize Ridiculous Propaganda about Ukraine Civil War

The best evidence the US has of a Russian invasion of Ukraine? Photographs from the Georgian War

Robert Mackey

(The New York Times)

Senator James Inhofe: “Russian tanks entered Ukraine…in Georgia"

This article originally appeared in The New York Times

Written by Mika

16. februara 2015. at 10:06

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Sergey Lavrov: Russia’s Priorities in Europe and the World

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http://www.cirsd.org/russias-priorities-in-europe-and-the-world-sergey-lavrov

Russia’s Priorities in Europe and the World

Sergey Lavrov


Sergey Lavrov is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

I APPRECIATE the opportunity to address the readers of Horizons, published by the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development (CIRSD). CIRSD makes valuable contributions to analyzing the most important issues of our time and to searching for effective ways to respond to common global challenges.

International relations are going through a complicated stage of development—as one historical epoch replaces the other, with a new polycentric world order now taking shape. It is a process accompanied by increasing instability—both at global and regional levels. Risks of deeper inter-confessional and inter-civilizational splits are growing. The world economy remains unstable, and might still relapse into crisis.

The global situation has been deteriorating recently, with new dangerous hotbeds of tension emerging, in addition to old conflicts. An upsurge of terrorism and extremism, both in the Middle East and North Africa, are causes of serious concern. The security situation in Europe is all but satisfactory.

We had hoped that a Europe that had endured two World Wars and then the Cold War would finally embark on a road to prosperity, mutually beneficial partnership, and peaceful sustainable development for the benefit of present and future generations. All the necessary prerequisites were in place. Irreconcilable ideological differences that had divided our continent in the twentieth century had been removed. In November 2014, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which had symbolized them.

Unfortunately, at that juncture the chance to overcome the dark legacy of the previous era, and decisively erase the dividing lines, was missed. The principles set forth in the Helsinki Final Act have not been translated into legally binding documents. Despite Russia’s repeated calls and decisions adopted by the OSCE and the NATO-Russia Council, the task of creating a common space of peace, security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area has not been accomplished.

The United States and its Western allies—having proclaimed themselves the “victors” of the Cold War—have repeatedly breached key provisions of international law—attempting to impose their own will across the world. They have since continued the vicious practice of dividing nations into “friends” and “foes,” whilst playing dubious zero-sum geopolitical games. Assurances that the North Atlantic Alliance would not expand eastward—which had been given to the leadership of the Soviet Union—turned out to be empty words, for NATO’s infrastructure has continuously drawn closer to Russian borders. Under the EU Eastern Partnership program, attempts were made to force the “focus states” to face artificial and false choices (“you’re either with us or against us”) and destroy their historically diverse ties with Russia. Moreover, visa barriers remain, as an anachronism that hampers the expansion of trade, economic, humanitarian, and cultural ties, and contacts between people. This is by no means Russia’s fault.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov conferring during the 2013 G20 Summit in St.Petersburg Photo: Guliver Image / Getty Images

Russia’s interests were often ignored—and Russia’s initiatives, including the elaboration of a treaty on European security, rejected or shelved. Yet historical experience shows that attempts to isolate Russia invariably had dire consequences for the whole of Europe, while our country’s active involvement in the continent’s affairs brought about long periods of peace and stable development.

This negative trend culminated in the Ukrainian crisis. We have repeatedly, and in various formats, warned that attempts to make Kiev choose one vector of its foreign policy—either West or East—bode most serious adverse consequences for Ukraine’s still fragile statehood. We were not heard.

As a result of the coup d’état supported by the West, and the subsequent armed seizure of power, Ukraine found itself on the brink of disintegration. Under these circumstances, the freely expressed will of the people of Crimea was simply a response to the actions of ultranationalists, who plunged their country into the abyss of civil war instead of striving to consolidate Ukrainian society.

Despite the complexity of the situation, it is our firm belief that peace and concord can still be reached in Ukraine. An inclusive national dialogue is vital for success, as stipulated in the April 17th, 2014 Geneva Statement by Russia, the European Union, the United States, and Ukraine. Obviously, the rights and interests of all regions and citizens must be fully guaranteed without exception. Russia has consistently supported ongoing efforts within the framework of the Minsk Process, which should primarily include direct contacts between Kiev, Lugansk, and Donetsk, as well as take into account the elections held in Donbass. In order to prevent the further disintegration of Ukraine, it is essential that the country retain its neutral status. We will continue to contribute in every way to a favorable climate for resolving large-scale problems with which the Ukrainian people have to deal. At the same time, it should be understood that attempts to put pressure on Russia through unilateral sanctions—which are illegitimate and have been condemned by the UN General Assembly—will not make us forego what we think is right and just.

Developments in Ukraine also affected the dynamics of Russia’s relations with the European Union. Brussels’ double standards in assessing the situation in Ukraine, continuing attempts to shift the blame for the tragedy in Ukraine to Russia, and its pursuit of a course of action based on restrictions and threats, have seriously undermined European stability—aggravating the situation through lack of confidence and the absence of a common vision of how to build a reliable Euro-Atlantic security architecture based on equality.

We expect that partners will find the strength to switch to a constructive and pragmatic search for solutions to the accumulated problems. We are convinced that the profound interdependence between European states leaves no reasonable alternative to continued constructive and fruitful cooperation between Russia and the EU.

The European Union is our major trade and economic partner. Russia will remain Europe’s key energy supplier for the foreseeable future. Our country has always complied, and will continue to strictly comply, with its obligations in this field.

It is obvious that, without pooling the capabilities of states situated in the Eastern and Western parts of the European continent, Europe will not be able to secure its rightful place in a new international system characterized by increased competition on all tracks. President Vladimir Putin introduced the idea of gradual harmonization of European and Eurasian integration processes—including the proposal to establish a Free Trade Area between the Eurasian Economic Union and the European Union by 2020.

There can be no doubt that it would be much easier to solve many European problems if we could agree to jointly promote our common strategic goal—namely, the gradual establishment of a common economic and humanitarian space from Lisbon to Vladivostok based on the principles of indivisible security and broad cooperation. We have all the necessary prerequisites to accomplish this challenging task, including common civilizational and cultural roots, a high degree of convergence between our economies, the commitment to a single set of trade rules based on WTO standards, and a shared interest in promoting innovation-driven growth.

For the time being, alas, we are witnessing the opposite trend. NATO’s instant shift to the rhetoric of confrontation and to curtailing its cooperation with Russia, along with an increased military presence in close proximity to Russia’s borders, clearly prove that the Alliance is unable to overcome Cold War stereotypes. Regrettably, today’s NATO essentially remains a vestige of the previous era.

In our opinion, the Helsinki +40 Process—launched on the occasion of the OSCE jubilee—could facilitate tackling systemic problems in this area, for the Organization was conceived precisely in order to dismantle barriers of any kind. Obviously, this will require a reaffirmation of the principles of respect for national sovereignty and non-interference in the domestic affairs of participating States—including the inadmissibility of subversive actions, and support for unconstitutional change of government.

It is our hope that the 2015 Serbian OSCE Chairmanship will act along these lines—that Belgrade will pursue a constructive and objective policy providing for a balance of interests of all the Organization’s participating States.

The flames of fire flaring up to the south of the OSCE area clearly underscore the necessity of urgent measures aimed at rehabilitating the mechanisms of security, confidence, and cooperation in Greater Europe. Russia has long drawn attention to the threat of a spread of extremism and terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa. Having gained in strength, radical groups jeopardize the future of entire countries—as is clearly seen in the case of Iraq, Syria, and Libya. In many respects, this situation is a result of the weakening of public institutions in a number of the region’s countries (including through external actions); imposing alien transformation formulas on these peoples, whilst ignoring their traditions and national customs; and the dangerous practice of dividing terrorists into ‘good’ and ‘bad.’

Success in combatting terrorists can only be achieved through the joint efforts of the international community, based on the principles of international law and with the UN adopting the central coordination role. We propose that a comprehensive analysis of all the aspects of the problems that have contributed to strengthening extremism and terrorism in the region should be carried out under the auspices of the UN Security Council—including the Arab-Israeli conflict. Such a discussion would help design adequate measures to support the peoples of the region in ensuring peace and prosperity.

Recent experience makes it clear that the chances of success multiply when the international community manages to overcome its disagreements and consolidate its potential to solve existing problems. This is convincingly demonstrated by the successful conclusion of the process of chemical demilitarization in Syria, and by joint efforts to fight the Ebola virus.

Russia’s initiatives aimed at finding a solution to the situation surrounding Iran’s nuclear program—based on a phased approach and the principle of reciprocity—gained broad international support. It is, therefore, obvious that progress in this area would have a positive influence on the situation in the region, and would promote efforts to establish a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. At the November 23rd and 24th, 2014 meetings in Vienna, the Foreign Ministers of the P5+1 group noted that considerable progress had been made in this respect; this alone, however, is not sufficient for a final agreement. A sequence of further steps was also specified. We intend to continue intensive negotiations in order to achieve a comprehensive settlement as soon as possible.

The situation in Afghanistan also requires joint actions, in part because the ISAF mission is coming to an end. The country is quite unstable and remains a source of serious threats—such as terrorism and drug trafficking—to the territories of neighboring states, including those in Central Asia. We hope that common sense will help overcome irrational obstacles to starting practical cooperation between NATO and the Collective Security Treaty Organization. It is important to increase efforts on the Afghan issue in other formats as well, namely within the frameworks of the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Russia is trying to do its best to promote positive and unifying trends in international affairs. That is the main objective of our efforts to foster Eurasian integration processes. The January 1st, 2015 launch of the Eurasian Economic Union, comprising Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia—Armenia will join soon, to be followed later by Kyrgyzstan—is a major contribution to the development and stability of the post-Soviet space and neighboring regions.

With considerable attention being paid to ensuring the sustainability of global growth, Russia is taking an active part in various multilateral fora. In 2013 our country chaired the G20, and a number of our innovative initiatives on ways to accelerate economic growth were approved. The priorities of Australia’s G20 Chairmanship in 2014 were largely based on decisions taken at the St. Petersburg Summit.

In 2015 Russia will chair the BRICS—a group playing an increasingly significant role in world affairs. The outcomes of the Fortaleza BRICS Summit enhanced global stability across its diverse dimensions. The establishment of the New Development Bank, with initial authorized capital of $100 billion, as well as the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement of the same initial size, is designed to maintain a balance within the complicated situation of today’s international monetary and financial system. A commitment to enhanced, full-fledged, open, and inclusive cooperation—in particular within the economic and financial domains—was reaffirmed at the meeting held by BRICS leaders in Brisbane on the sidelines of the recent G20 Summit. We are making preparations to host the next BRICS Summit in Ufa in July 2015.

Lately, a lot has been said about Russia’s pivot to the East. It was, among other things, portrayed as an alternative to the development of our contacts with the West, which have seen a downturn.

In this context, I would like to emphasize the importance of the multiple-vector principle that is the backbone of our country’s foreign policy—which is quite natural for a state with a vast territory, history, and traditions, such as ours.

Turning our country towards the Pacific is a national priority for the twenty-first century, and is directly linked to the dynamic development of Russia’s eastern regions. We would, of course, prefer to take this step in tandem with steps to strengthen our links with Europe, rather than instead of that. On this issue, however, we cannot but take into consideration the decisions adopted by our European partners.

A positive example of building productive, future-oriented relations is the intense development of Russian-Serbian cooperation, which has by now grown into a strategic partnership. President Putin’s October 16th, 2014 visit to Belgrade was the occasion to reach new agreements. Once again, total coincidence or similarity of our approaches to the agenda under discussion was manifest. The profound and durable nature of the historical ties between the peoples of our two countries was reaffirmed by the official visit of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to Serbia, which took place a month later, on November 14th to 16th, 2014.

In this regard, I would like to comment on increasing attempts to impose on Belgrade the false choice of opting for either the EU or Russia. We proceed from the fact that Serbia is a sovereign state pursuing an independent foreign policy, including in respect to the European integration.

It is clear that there are numerous obstacles along the way to potential membership, from unresolved issues stemming from the Yugoslav conflict (which are being felt across Serbian society), to major and painful reforms being undertaken in various fields. Hence, these and other questions come to mind: to what extent can the European Union—growing weary of its own enlargement—take all these aspects into account, and to what extent can it show patience and tact? The Kosovo problem remains a serious challenge, since Priština’s patrons view Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo statehood as the “price of admission” to the EU. Belgrade should make independent decisions on all these aspects.

As for Russia, we have said candidly to our partners—in both Serbia and the EU—that, as a matter of principle, Belgrade’s advancement towards European integration is not rejected on the premise that this must not undermine Russian-Serbian relations and our joint projects—all the more so since they constitute no threat to Brussels.

The choice to which Serbian leaders refer means both EU membership and maintaining relations of friendship and cooperaton with Russia. This is a sovereign choice which deserves respect. It is based on the opinion of the majority of Serbia’s citizens, and fully meets the country’s political and economic interests.

We call on our partners in Brussels to behave adequately, and to avoid linking progress in the accession negotiations to breaking Serbia’s natural bonds with Russia. Rather, we believe that respectful dialogue and constructive cooperation involving all stakeholders, including contacts between Moscow and Brussels, would help eliminate unnecessary tension, whilst ensuring that Serbia’s EU integration process is beneficial for everyone. Should this approach prevail, rather than being perceived as an apple of discord, Serbia could become a bridge linking the West and the East of our continent.

I am convinced that centuries-long traditions of our peoples’ kinship, deep mutual feelings of friendship, understanding and trust—which we highly appreciate—will further contribute to developing cooperation between
Russia and Serbia, while enhancing our joint participation in finding solutions to the numerous problems of the modern world on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

In conclusion, I would like to wish the staff of Horizons further success in their creative work, as well as to wish all the best to the magazine’s readership.

Written by Mika

8. februara 2015. at 10:20

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Kosovo: Set the Trojan Horse on Fire

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Dispatch

Set the Trojan Horse on Fire

As Serbian influence creeps back into Kosovo, protests have rocked the young nation — and may bring its government to a grinding halt.

  • By <img width="60" height="61" src="cid:image001.png

PRISTINA, Kosovo — This is the winter of discontent in Kosovo. The lingering euphoria over independence in 2008 has given way to frustration with economic stagnation and political squabbling. Unemployment sits at 45 percent, and an estimated 500,000 of Kosovo’s 1.8 million citizens — the vast majority of whom are ethnic Albanians — live on less than $2 a day. On Jan. 24 and Jan. 27, some 15,000 Kosovars took to the streets to protest corruption and poverty. But they also wanted to register their frustration with what they see as the outsized role Serbia still plays in the country more than 15 years after a war fought so that Kosovo could secede from its larger neighbor.

The protests were sparked by Aleksandar Jablanovic, an ethnic Serb minister in Kosovo’s government, who called members of an ethnic Albanian association of war victims “savages” after they blocked the path of ethnic Serb pilgrims who were trying to celebrate Orthodox Christmas. The area where the pilgrims were traveling saw some of the strongest fighting in the 1998-1999 Kosovo War, and thousands of people from the region remain missing. Adding fuel to the fire, Jablanovic later publicly questioned the well-documented record of war crimes committed by Serbian forces, saying he “didn’t know” whether they had occurred.

Shortly thereafter, Kosovo’s recently installed prime minister backtracked on a plan to nationalize Trepca, a mine rich in zinc, silver, and lead, in the face of opposition from Serbia, which also has a claim to Trepca because Belgrade managed it during Yugoslavia’s final years. The decision was seen as a blow to both the economic prospects and the national pride of Kosovo’s Albanians.

“We’re protesting against the general situation in the country, both economic and social, but also against the statements made by Jablanovic and for the protection of Trepca,” protester Latif Selmani, 48, a salesman, said at the Jan. 27 protest. “Shame on the government for allowing the honor of the war martyrs to be desecrated,” said Drita Berisha, a nurse. “We want the removal of Jablanovic!”

One hundred seventy people were injured on the second day of unrest as protesters threw rocks at the building housing the prime minister’s cabinet and the Foreign Ministry. Police responded with tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets.

The scene reminded many of the massive protests of the 1980s and 1990s against the regime of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

The scene reminded many of the massive protests of the 1980s and 1990s against the regime of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic. The recent protests, which occupied the center of Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, represent the worst unrest since Kosovo declared independence seven years ago.

Kosovo is Europe’s greatest experiment in post-World War II state-building. After the war ended in 1999, the country was administered by the United Nations until a unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008. Then, the European Union deployed its most expensive mission to date on the continent — the EU Rule of Law Mission — to run Kosovo’s judicial system and oversee its rule of law. Until 2012, the tiny country remained supervised by an international diplomat. To date, it has been officially recognized by 110 countries, but tensions with Serbia, which argues vociferously that Kosovo remains within its sovereign borders, still run high.

In April 2013, Kosovo and Serbia signed an agreement, brokered by the European Union, that would finally put four northern municipalities, which seek unification with Serbia, under Pristina’s control. Recently, Serbia received, via another Brussels-brokered deal that falls under the 2013 agreement, a renewed role in running Kosovo. (Kosovo and Serbia are in ongoing negotiations with the EU about their relations, and talks on implementation of the 2013 agreement are set to resume on Feb. 9 after a 10-month hiatus.) Kosovo’s four northern municipalities, which are predominantly Serbian, participated in the country’s elections for the first time, sending representatives whose allegiance remains with Belgrade to the central government in Pristina — and thus effectively giving Serbia a voice in Kosovo’s administration.

The development has made the normalization of relations between the two countries — a key requirement for EU accession for both — highly unpopular in Kosovo.Pristina-based political analyst Leon Malazogu said Kosovars are losing hope of true independence. “As long as there is Brussels, and dialogue open, you can swallow it for a while, but … I don’t think Kosovo has done all this to go from being a province of Serbia to a colony.”

The agreement has also added fuel to the mission of Serbian List, a political party founded last year in Kosovo that refuses to recognize statehood. Supported by Belgrade and led by Jablanovic, the party won several municipal and national seats in elections last summer thanks to the ethnic Serb vote in Kosovo’s north; members also hold ministerial positions, including the role of deputy prime minister.

Serbian List’s presence in the government has spurred, in turn, a backlash all its own: Many ethnic Albanians are angry that they now have government ministers supportive of — and supported by — Belgrade, and they believe that Kosovo’s government is kowtowing to Serbia in EU talks. “People have started to realize that with this never-ending dialogue with Serbia, Kosovo is just becoming worse and worse,” said Visar Ymeri, a leader in the opposition party Vetevendosje (“Self-Determination”), the primary organizer of the recent protests.

Vetevendosje, considered a radical movement by many Western embassies because of its protest tactics, is against the Brussels-mediated dialogue and advocates closing the northern border with Serbia until Belgrade gives Kosovo full recognition. With echoes of Greece’s Syriza party, Vetevendosje has rejected the meddling of big Western powers in Kosovo, opposing independence with international oversight and raising concerns over murky business dealings with Western corporations. Despite having placed third in national elections last year, its opposition to dialogue with Serbia, which has yet to bear much fruit for ordinary Kosovars, has contributed to its rising popular approval. And as anger over Serbian List grows, Vetevendosje’s base has extended to older, more traditional voters. One of its key functionaries recently became mayor of Pristina.

“Serbian List is directly tied to the politics of [Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s] Serbian Progressive Party,” said Pristina-based political analyst Belul Beqaj. “It plays the role of the Trojan horse in the Kosovar political scene.”

Jablanovic’s “savages” remark gave an uncertain and scared population exactly what it feared — and expected — from the new party. If his remark was the spark, the announcement that Prime Minister Isa Mustafa was backtracking on a plan to nationalize the Trepca mine was the wind that stoked the fire.

Trepca is a rambling complex of 40 mines, including a few minor sites in Serbia; its deposits could be worth 10 billion euros, according to Kosovo’s Independent Commission for Mines and Minerals. The mine is also steeped in the history of Kosovo’s struggle for independence. Disputes over Trepca in 1989 resulted in 1,000 employees striking in pursuit of more autonomy for Kosovo, one of the first episodes of unrest as Yugoslavia began to unravel. “Yugoslavia started falling apart in those mines,” said Beqaj, emphasizing the sentimental connection both Serbs and Kosovars have with Trepca.

The mine has floundered in the postwar era due to ownership disputes between Kosovo and Serbia and a lack of investment. It is a source of tension because both Pristina and Belgrade lay claim to it. Trepca’s operational center is in the divided northern city of Mitrovica — Serbs live on one side of a bridge, Albanians on the other — and the mine remains one of the most potent symbols of Kosovo’s schisms. Nationalization, many of Kosovars believe, would symbolize Pristina’s power to counter Serbian economic and political influence.

Like the protests at Trepca in the 1980s, the unrest today “could serve as a catalyst for re-examination” of contemporary policies, Beqaj said.

Nenad Rasic, a Serb who recognizes Kosovo as his country and served in the last government as minister of labor and social welfare, said he worries that, because of the protests, ethnic relations will worsen and there may be a renewed flight of Serbs from the country. “For the first time, I am not optimistic for the maintenance of the Serb community in Kosovo,” he said. Malazogu, the Pristina-based political analyst, shares his concern.

“We haven’t seen retribution. Thankfully, no Serb has been attacked,” he said. “But the climate will deteriorate.”

“We haven’t seen retribution. Thankfully, no Serb has been attacked,” he said. “But the climate will deteriorate.”

Vetevendosje delivered an ultimatum to Prime Minister Mustafa to dismiss Jablanovic by the afternoon of Tuesday, Feb. 3, or else a planned 48-hour protest would go ahead starting Wednesday. The minister was fired Tuesday, but he intimated that there would be trouble: “The Serbian List did not enter the government so it could consider the requests and stances of Vetevendosje,” said Jablanovic, vowing that his party would respond after a consultation with the Serbian prime minister, on Thursday. The party may decide to leave the governing coalition, which could handicap Mustafa’s ability to lead.

Ousting Jablanovic also didn’t quell the anger that Vetevendosje has harnessed. Following his dismissal, the party said that the protests, while momentarily postponed, will ultimately continue until Serbia relinquishes its claim to Trepca. “Serbia’s requests for Kosovo are never-ending,” said Ymeri. “There must be a stopping point. Otherwise, we are not going to be an independent country.”

Una Hajdari contributed reporting.

Written by Mika

6. februara 2015. at 23:55

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