NATO chief eyes more bases in E. Europe to confront Russia

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Under the pretext of an ‘overt’ Russian threat, NATO is pushing for a ‘readiness action plan’ that will bring the Cold War military bloc closer to Russian borders than ever – even despite objections from some NATO members.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the 28-nation military bloc, which meets next week in Cardiff, Wales, would attempt to overcome internal opposition and agree to the deployment of military bases near the Russian border.

Two NATO warships heading to Black Sea

Amid the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, which is fracturing the country along east-west ideological lines, NATO is preparing to install for the first time military “reception facilities” in Eastern European countries, including Poland and the three Baltic countries: Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

“We have something already called the NATO response force, whose purpose is to be able to be deployed rapidly if needed,” Rasmussen said in an interview with several European newspapers. “Now it’s our intention to develop what I would call a spearhead within that response force at very, very, high readiness. In order to be able to provide such rapid reinforcements you also need some reception facilities in host nations. So it will involve the pre-positioning of supplies, of equipment, preparation of infrastructure, bases, headquarters.”
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The bottom line, according to the NATO chief, is that there will be “a more visible NATO presence in the east.”

Asked whether there would be permanent NATO presence in Eastern Europe, he said, “The brief answer is ‘yes’. To prevent misunderstanding, I use the phrase ‘for as long as necessary’. Our eastern allies will be satisfied when they see what is actually in the readiness action plan.”

Rasmussen, whose term expires on September 30, said the new NATO forces in Eastern Europe could be “deployed within hours.”

Needless to say, NATO’s militarization of the region will not sit well with Moscow, which has watched with increasing alarm since the collapse of the Soviet Union – despite pledges from the Western military bloc not to expand further east – as NATO continues its march towards Russia’s western border.

Currently, the Polish port city of Szczecin, which military experts anticipate will serve as one of NATO’s new “reception facilities,” represents NATO’s easternmost military presence.

Ironically, NATO’s latest enlargement plans are being opposed not just by Russia, but by its very members, some of whom do not see the point in aggravating tensions with Moscow.

It should come as no surprise that the United States and the United Kingdom, distant as they are from any potential fireworks on the European-Russian border, favor a military escalation in Eastern Europe. Other major NATO members, however, including France, Spain and Italy, have expressed serious reservations to the plans.

Meanwhile, Germany, NATO’s second strongest member, remains uncommitted to the expansion plans.

This should come as no surprise considering the recent deterioration in relations between Washington and Berlin.

Paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team participate in training exercises with the Polish 6 Airborne Brigade soldiers at the Land Forces Training Centre in Oleszno near Drawsko Pomorskie, north west Poland, May 1, 2014. (Reuters/Kacper Pempel)Paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team participate in training exercises with the Polish 6 Airborne Brigade soldiers at the Land Forces Training Centre in Oleszno near Drawsko Pomorskie, north west Poland, May 1, 2014. (Reuters/Kacper Pempel)

Germany was forced to take a critical new look at its powerful American partner following Edward Snowden’s shocking NSA revelations, which showed massive US and UK spying on German citizens. Even Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal mobile phone was caught up in the international surveillance net.

Remarkably, Rasmussen asserted that Russia “does not consider NATO a partner,” when it was NATO that flat-out refused Russian participation in the controversial US missile defense system, also planned for Eastern Europe. Such cooperation, had it been given the green light, would have sealed the so-called reset between the two Cold War-era foes, bringing to end years of mutual suspicion and antagonism. Instead, the US and NATO opted to keep Russia on the sidelines, ensuring nothing less than another full-blown arms race.

Speaking on the subject of Crimea’s decision to hold a referendum to join the Russian Federation under the threat of military attack by pro-Kiev forces, Rasmussen commented that “nobody had expected Russia to grab land by force.”

At the same time, the outgoing NATO chief reiterated claims – surprisingly without providing any sort of unassailable proof, in this age of advanced surveillance equipment – that Russia is actively participating in the Ukrainian upheaval.

“We have seen artillery firing across the border and also inside Ukraine. We have seen a Russian military buildup along the border. Quite clearly, Russia is involved in destabilizing eastern Ukraine … You see a sophisticated combination of traditional conventional warfare mixed up with information and primarily disinformation operations. It will take more than NATO to counter such hybrid warfare effectively,” Rasmussen was quoted as saying.

NATO officials, however, have admitted their intelligence is not perfect.

“We can only watch from 23 miles (37km) up,” one official told the Guardian.

Ukrainian servicemen rest in the shade next to an armoured vehicle topped with a Ukrainian flag as they take up a position near the eastern city of Debaltceve, in the region of Donetsk, on July 30, 2014. (AFP Photo/Genya Savilov)Ukrainian servicemen rest in the shade next to an armoured vehicle topped with a Ukrainian flag as they take up a position near the eastern city of Debaltceve, in the region of Donetsk, on July 30, 2014. (AFP Photo/Genya Savilov)

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko is to attend the NATO summit, where the 28-member bloc has prepared four ‘trust funds’ to finance Ukraine’s military logistics, command structures, and cyber defense forces, and to pay overdue military pensions.

Yet somehow Rasmussen was able to say of Russia’s embattled neighbor.

“Ukraine follows its own path…It is actually what we will decide to do at the summit, to help them build the capacity of their security sector, modernize it,” he said.

Meanwhile, it looks as if Rasmussen will be passing around the proverbial hat during next week’s summit, looking to collect more money from NATO members, even as their own countries are facing economic turmoil amid IMF-enforced austerity measures.

“Since the end of the Cold War we have lived in relatively good weather. Now we are faced with a profound climate change. That requires more investment,” said the NATO chief.

It will be interesting to see how many member states take up this latest challenge, which threatens to ratchet up European-Russian tensions to levels not seen since the Cold War.

Meanwhile, there is no question as to how Russia views NATO’s relentless eastward encroachment.

“No matter what our Western counterparts tell us, we can see what’s going on,” President Putin said in July at an emergency Security Council meeting in Moscow. “As it stands, NATO is blatantly building up its forces in Eastern Europe, including the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea areas. Its operational and combat training activities are gaining in scale.”

Putin stated that NATO’s military build-up near Russia’s border, which includes the US-built missile defense system, is not just for defensive purposes, but is an “offensive weapon” and an “element of the US offensive system deployed outside the mainland.”

Turkey: ‘We’re ready to increase food exports to Russia’

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As Moscow banned food imports from the West, Turkey voiced its readiness to increase its exports of agricultural products to Russia, Turkish economy minister has said.

“Turkey is a major supplier of food and agricultural produce to Russia. It is ready to increase its food exports to Russia if necessary,” Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said in an interview with Itar-Tass.

The two countries have recently reached an agreement to increase the number of Turkish food suppliers to Russia. A delegation from Russia’s agricultural watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor (the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phyto-Sanitary Control), visited Ankara for negotiations in the search for alternative food supply sources following the sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU, Russia’s top food supplier, the US, the EU, Australia and Canada.

To reciprocate, on August 6 Russia introduced a full ban for imports of beef and pork (fresh, chilled, refrigerated, pickled, dried or smoked meat), poultry and any poultry edible products, fish, cheese, milk, dairy products, vegetables, including root vegetables and tuber crops, and fruit from Australia, Canada, the EU, the US and Norway.

Moscow is now set to ensure country’s food supply security by finding new suppliers in countries that have not joined the sanctions against Russia. Some of the country’s closest neighbors, China and Turkey, have been among the first candidates for a lucrative offer to extend their share of the Russia market.

Reuters / Alessandro GarofaloReuters / Alessandro Garofalo

Turkish food suppliers would do their best to ensure sufficient good quality, inexpensive food products to Russia to replace European food supplies, the Turkish minister said.

Last year, Turkey’s agricultural export to Russia reached $1.18 billion, with fruits and vegetables making up nearly 75 percent ($877 million) of the total turnover. In 2014, Turkish agricultural exports to Russia have so far totaled $409 million.

Zeybekci said that Turkey exported $17 billion worth of agricultural products in 2013, of which fresh fruit and vegetables accounted for less than 14 percent ($2.3 billion). Russia bought 6.9 percent of Turkey’s global exports of agricultural products.

Reuters / Umit BektasReuters / Umit Bektas

The head of the Russian agricultural watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, Sergey Dankvert, announced on Thursday that his agency has held talks with 16 countries as alternative supply sources for the Russian food market. Moscow has been talking to Argentina, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Paraguay, Peru, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Uruguay to replace American, Australian, Canadian and European food suppliers.

The EU Council has already demanded that third countries not to take advantage of the new trade opportunities brought by the conflict between Russia and western states, and to resist seeking to replace European food on the Russian market, in what it is claiming is a move to promote international unity and compliance with international law.

The European Commission is now assessing the losses from Russia’s countersanctions in anticipation of a special meeting of 28 EU agriculture ministers to be held in September to discuss possible countermeasures.

Moscow has been warning Western countries for months that sanctions are counterproductive, and has said it will first and foremost strike back against countries imposing them.

According to Russian customs data, Western imports now affected by sanctions totaled $9.1 billion in 2013. The EU, with its $6.5 billion worth of now-sanctioned products, would suffer the most, with non-EU member Norway following, with $1.2 billion worth of mostly fish products. The other countries that joined the sanctions would lose less, as the US has a $843.8 million food trade turnover with Russia. Canada’s bilateral trade is $373.6 million and Australian agricultural exports to Russia were estimated at $182 million.

UKRAINIAN FORCES DESTROY RUSSIAN CONVOY

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Ukraine says destroys Russian armour as NATO slams ‘incursion’

Kiev (AFP) – Ukraine said on Friday it had destroyed part of a Russian military convoy that crossed onto its territory in an incursion that has sent cross-border tensions soaring.

The two countries have also been wrangling for days over a Russian convoy that Moscow says is carrying aid for besieged rebel-held cities but which Kiev suspects could be a “Trojan horse” to provide military help to the insurgents.

Fears that the border clash could spill into all-out war between Kiev and Moscow sent major share markets tumbling across Europe and the United States.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told British Prime Minister David Cameron that government artillery had destroyed a “considerable part” of a small military convoy that entered the country, the presidency said in a statement.

The European Union demanded that Russia put an “immediate stop” to hostilities on the border, while Britain summoned Moscow’s ambassador to Ukraine to “clarify” the situation.

“If there are any Russian military personnel or vehicles in Ukraine they need to be withdrawn immediately or the consequences will be very serious,” Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.

Moscow has rejected the charges it sent military hardware across the border, its latest denial of Western accusations it is funnelling weapons to the pro-Kremlin separatists who launched an insurgency against Kiev in April.

View galleryA pro-Russian 122-mm self-propelled howitzer moves …
A pro-Russian 122-mm self-propelled howitzer moves along a street in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine on Aug …
But NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen backed reports of the “Russian incursion”.

“It just confirms the fact that we see a continued flow of weapons and fighters from Russia into the eastern Ukraine,” he said.

“It is a clear demonstration of continued Russian involvement in the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine.”

- ‘Attempts to derail aid’ -

Russia’s foreign ministry ominously accused Ukraine of “attempts to derail the supply of humanitarian aid” as doubts swirled over what will happen next to almost 300 Russian trucks parked up some 30 kilometres (20 miles) from Ukraine’s border.

Moscow accused Kiev of stepping up military operations with the “obvious goal” of blocking the agreed route.

It had appeared earlier that the two countries might reach a deal to allow the convoy into Ukraine to help people in the east who are without water, food or power.

View galleryA Russian military haulage truck transporting a self-propelled …
A Russian military haulage truck transporting a self-propelled howitzer 2S19 – MSTA-S seen along a r …
But the ICRC said they were still ironing out details over the shipment.

“People are struggling to cope with limited access to basic services such as water and electricity, so speed is of the essence,” said Laurent Corbaz, ICRC head of operations for Europe and Central Asia.

Ukraine fears the convoy could be used as a pretext to invade, as a pro-Moscow rebellion shows signs of unravelling after four months of fighting that has left more than 2,000 people dead including children and sent around 285,000 fleeing their homes.

Moscow has insisted the white-tarpaulin trucks are hauling aid and officials tried to prove that by showing off the contents of 10 lorries baby formula, rations and bottled water to journalists.

“We’ve shown you everything. You see that we have nothing to hide — these trucks are carrying nothing but humanitarian aid,” said Sergei Karavaytsev, from Russia’s emergency situations ministry.

- ‘Deeply concerned’ -

British newspapers reported Thursday that their correspondents had seen a column of some 20 armoured personal carriers and military trucks crossing into Ukraine

Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said the EU — which with the United States has imposed a raft of sanctions against Russia — was “deeply concerned by Russian behaviour over the last months but also the last hours.”

“We think that the Russian authorities should be aware that both in the EU and the US we have a very strong commitment to respond to any new aggression from Russia,” he said.

Meanwhile Ukraine said it was forging on with an offensive that has sent rebel forces reeling, retaking three small town overnight.

Top rebel military chief Igor Strelkov and another key commander announced Thursday they were quitting after Ukraine’s military said it had completely surrounded Lugansk, cutting all links to the border with Russia.

An AFP journalist in the main rebel-held city of Donetsk in the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine heard sporadic shelling from a suburb and saw rebels driving howitzer cannons into the city centre.

The death toll continues to climb, with mortar fire in Donetsk killing 11 civilians over the past 24 hours, local authorities said. Five soldiers were also killed in fighting over the same period.

As the Russian aid sat at the border Ukrainian officials say their own aid convoys to the east — some 75 lorries with 800 tonnes of aid — had also started to arrive at a government-held town some 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Lugansk.

Western media inspect Russia’s Ukraine aid trucks and find… aid

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A Russian convoy to deliver humanitarian aid has reached the Ukrainian border. Some western journalists were given the opportunity to monitor its progress, as well as being allowed to see what they were carrying.

The Ukrainian government had been adamant that this was little more than a ‘Trojan Horse’ being used to transport Russian military hardware to anti-government troops in the east of the country. Trucks ‘inspection’ showed they were carrying quiet a different load.

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The convoy is long – with 270 trucks in all. They are trying to bring much needed supplies to the city of Lugansk, which has been without electricity, gas and water for weeks, following constant shelling from Ukrainian government forces.

The “tan men” are the volonteers who have been helping to deliver the supplies in the convoy. They have had a long journey, travelling from outside Moscow, all the way to the Ukrainian border.

The journalists say that there are members of the Red Cross on site, but they are not talking to journalists at the moment. According to the Guardian’s Shaun Walker, the convoy has stopped about 25 kilometers from the Ukrainian border and the volunteers are currently setting up camp. There are some comforts available for the workers, with showers having been provided.

There are two military helicopters escorting the convoy, which also contained some military hardware at the rear, while the western journalists said there was almost no security to hinder them doing there work and they were allowed free reign to look at anything they wanted.

Ecuador: We don’t need permission to trade with Russia

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Ecuador doesn’t need anybody’s permission to export agricultural products to Russia, which now has a big gap that needs to be filled after it banned supplies from a number of western countries, said President Rafael Correa.

“I want to immediately say that we don’t need to get anybody’s permission to sell products to friendly countries: as far as we know Latin America isn’t a part of the European Union,” as RIA cites Correa’s Tuesday comments to the Andes press agency.

His comments come a day after the Financial Times said the EU was going to persuade Latin American countries not to replace its agricultural exports to Russia.

READ MORE: EU to urge Latin America not to export food to Russia

“Let’s wait for the official complaint from [from the EU] and we’ll give a response to that,” Correa said.

At present, bananas, cut flowers, coffee, and tea are the key goods exported by Ecuador to Russia. Data from the country’s embassy in Moscow says that revenue from sale of bananas and roses are the second biggest outside of oil. In the first five months of 2014 Ecuador exported 580,000 tons of bananas and 9,300 tons of roses.

NATO BAITING RUSSIA INTO WAR

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West continues attempt to manipulate the public

by TONY CARTALUCCI | INFOWARS.COM | AUGUST 12, 2014

Russia is consistently portrayed in the Western media as the “aggressor” amid the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, however, it is clear through overt moves by NATO’s proxy regime in Kiev, that attempts are being made to intentionally provoke, not defend against Moscow’s ire.

The New York Times, in a recent article admits that the military campaign Kiev is carrying out against its own citizens in eastern Ukraine is overt brutality carried out by literal flag-waving Nazis, with the all but stated goal of provoking a Russian invasion.
Brutal Provocations
The New York Times in an article titled, “Ukraine Strategy Bets on Restraint by Russia,” states:

Buoyed by successes against the separatists over the past two months — and noting that the Russians have threatened an invasion in the region before without following through — Ukrainian commanders have pressed ahead with an offensive to drive the rebels from their stronghold in Donetsk in the east.
The army continued to fire artillery into the city nightly, and paramilitary groups raided outlying villages despite warnings from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that he could intervene at any time to protect Ukrainians who favor closer ties with his country. And the Ukrainians have flaunted their victories.

Shelling populated centers and raiding villages far from its tenuous base of support, does not appear to be Kiev “defending itself,” nor in line with the “international norms” frequently cited by Washington, London, and Brussels when justifying “humanitarian interventions” elsewhere throughout the world.

The NYT also notes that Russia “threatened” to intervene amid Kiev’s brutality, but never did – calling into question the notion that Russia is being “aggressive.”The NYT continues, with what appears to be language designed to provoke Russia into crossing its border with Ukraine to intervene:

But Western leaders and analysts remain unconvinced Mr. Putin will be willing to be taunted endlessly or to permit extensive deaths of pro-Russian civilians. The United Nations said recently that at least 1,543 civilians and combatants on both sides have died since mid-April.
And in this statement, the NYT admits that indeed the Banderite Nazis NATO is aiding, funding, and soon to be training and arming , are carrying out a campaign of brutality causing “extensive deaths of pro-Russian civilians.”Nazis and Western Complicity The NYT also explicitly admits that Nazis line the ranks of the “militias” fighting for NATO’s regime in Kiev, and carrying out this campaign of provocation:

Officials in Kiev say the militias and the army coordinate their actions, but the militias, which count about 7,000 fighters, are angry and, at times, uncontrollable. One known as Azov, which took over the village of Marinka, flies a neo-Nazi symbol resembling a Swastika as its flag.
While the NYT attempts to cast as an ambiguous light as possible upon the connections Azov has with Nazism, the Azov Battalion does not simply fly a “neo-Nazi symbol resembling a Swastika as its flag.” The symbol is in fact the Wolfsangel used by Adolf Hitler’s various SS military divisions during World War II and is as good as saluting Hitler himself to affirm allegiance to his toxic ideology and to celebrate the Nazis’ numerous, notorious atrocities.

The BBC would elaborate on the nature of militias like “Azov,” who are undoubtedly the recipients of US, British, and other NATO member states’ aid, cash, and political support, in its article, “Ukraine conflict: ‘White power’ warrior from Sweden.” In it, it profiles a member of Azov Battalion, Mikael Skillt, and states:

“I have at least three purposes in the Azov Battalion: I am a commander of a small reconnaissance unit, I am also a sniper, and sometimes I work as a special coordinator for clearing houses and going into civilian areas.”
As to his political views, Mr Skillt prefers to call himself a nationalist, but in fact his views are typical of a neo-Nazi.
Dismissed by the West as “Russian propaganda,” it is clear that even the most “Western” media outlets cannot report on the Ukrainian conflict without coming across literal Nazis fighting for Kiev and operating in “civilian areas” in eastern Ukraine. The BBC would admit the Azov Battalion is far from a fringe group and was raised by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry itself. When NATO members announce “aid” to the regime in Kiev, they are also, by default, announcing aid to literal Neo-Nazi militant groups raised by Kiev’s Interior Ministry, like the Azov Battalion.

Using Humanitarian Concerns to Provoke War

It was in 2011 that the US, UK, NATO, and its regional partners carried out a coordinated propaganda campaign including the fabrication of atrocities to justify the military invasion of Libya and Syria. It would later turn out that the “civilians” the Libyan and Syrian governments were fighting were in fact heavily armed terrorists hailing from Al Qaeda. The deceit in Libya unraveled but not before NATO began military operations in support of these terrorists.

In Syria, the deception was exposed and attempts by the West to intervene directly have thus far failed.Conversely, in Ukraine, the West is backing literal Nazis who are admittedly mass murdering civilians in eastern Ukraine, in an attempt to intentionally provoke Russia into war.On one hand, humanitarian catastrophes are fabricated by the West to justify its own military interventions, while on the other, real humanitarian catastrophes are created to provoke military action from the West’s enemies.

While the NYT notes that Russia has thus far not taken the bait, “experts” it interviewed for its story claim such patience is not likely to last. In reality, Moscow has weighed its strengths, weaknesses, and the strategic lay of not only Ukraine, but the region and the world, and has made the decision that will, in the long-term based on reason, produce the best outcome for Russia, the Russian people, and its compatriots beyond its borders.

While the West continues its attempts to manipulate the public and the political circles intersecting amid the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow has already proven it will not take the bait unless it is sure it can swallow the fisherman as well.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Spain seeks EU compensation over Russian food ban

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Spain will meet with EU officials Thursday to discuss offsetting the country’s estimated €337 million in food and agriculture losses due to blocked access to the Russian market.

Spanish Agriculture Minister Isabel Garcia Tejerina said the restrictions have prompted her ministry to convene a meeting with the European Commission in Brussels on Thursday.

Last week Russia announced a ban on agricultural imports from the EU, US, Canada, Australia and Norway.

READ MORE: Moscow’s food ban could cost EU $16bn, spark crisis in Europe

The Spanish Agriculture Ministry will analyze the impact of the Russian trade embargo and try to address possible solutions.

“The ministry will perform specific monitoring of each of the sectors to see how they evolve their markets and to ask, in the event of disruption, compensation for these measures from the European Union,” Tejerina said, as quoted by Spain’s Region Digital.

To prepare for the meeting in Brussels, local Spanish industry representatives will meet to discuss and share data.

“We will carry out a detailed follow-up on the progress of our industries in relation to the restriction on the Russian market,” Tejerina said.

The Spanish government has estimated that agricultural losses will amount to €337 million, or about 1.8 percent of Spanish exports. Other groups, like Spain’s opposition Socialist Party, have estimated the losses to be higher- €581 million.

Last year, 37,000 tons of tomatoes, 35,000 tons of peaches, and 33,000 tons of mandarin oranges were exported from Spain to Russia, according to Spain’s Small Farmer’s Association (UPA).

“The decision that was adopted involves many political issues that exist between Russia and the European Union, and not just the EU. As a result, it may be necessary to compensate us for these political decisions – the producers who work all year and want to at least be paid enough at least to cover production costs,” Lorenzo Ramos, Secretary General of UPA, told RT.

A quarter of Spain’s €111 million meat exports were bound for Russia until the ban, and it will be difficult for Spanish farmers and meat producers to quickly find alternative markets for their products, since all other EU countries are in the same boat