The United States military confirmed on Tuesday that a guided missile cruiser is en route to the Black Sea as worries persist about the ongoing crisis between Ukraine and Russia.
“I can confirm the Vella Gulf, a Navy cruiser, will be going in to the Black Sea probably later this week,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told the press on Tuesday, AFP reported.
Earlier this week, RT reported that a military source had told Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency that the US Department of Defense was expected to deploy a ship towards the Black Sea this week as part of what Moscow is considering a wide build-up of NATO forces in the region. Now the Pentagon has confirmed that the Vella Guld will replace the USS Taylor, a frigate that was stationed in the Black Sea until May 12 and preceded by the presence of the USS Donald Cook.
The guided-missile frigate USS Taylor (Reuters/US NAVY)The guided-missile frigate USS Taylor (Reuters/US NAVY)
An US-authorized treaty, the Montreux Conventions of 1936, bars outside countries from keeping warships in the body of war for more than 21 days. Instead of retiring America’s naval presence from the region altogether, though, the DOD is again exchanging one ship for another in the midst of the growing tensions between Ukraine’s interim government and those wanting a stronger alliance with neighboring Russia.
The USS Donald Cook (AFP Photo)The USS Donald Cook (AFP Photo)
As RT reported previously, the Vella Gulf is 172 meters long, 16 meters wide and can carry two multipurpose helicopters. It is also equipped with an Aegis air and ballistic missile defensive system, Tomahawk cruise missiles, antisubmarine missiles and surface-to-air missiles.
Ahead of this week’s deployment, the Vella Gulf was expected to participate in a semi-annual, UK-led training exercise in the Mediterranean Sea “designed to provide NATO and allied forces a unique multi-warfare environment in which to prepare for global operations,” according to the ship’s newsletter.
Tomahawk cruise missile (Reuters/U.S. Navy photo)Tomahawk cruise missile (Reuters/U.S. Navy photo)
According to AFP, the Pentagon plans to maintain a military presence in Eastern Europe through the end of the years as the standoff between Moscow and Kiev continues.
May 9, 2014
Nigeria’s armed forces had more than four hours warning of the attack on the school by hardline Islamist group Boko Haram in which 270 girls were kidnapped, but failed to take any action, says Amnesty International.
The rights group Amnesty International has said that it has been told by several credible sources that the Nigerian military was given more than four hours warning of the raid by Boko Haram on the school but failed to do anything about it.
Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group, has said that it captured the girls in the April 14 raid because they should be married and not in school. In a video released earlier this week Abubakar Sekau, Boko Haram’s leader, threatened to sell the students.
Fifty three of the girls managed to escape just after they were captured.
According to a number of sources interviewed by Amnesty local civilian patrols in Gagilam, a village neighboring Chibok where the girls were abducted, were the first to alert the authorities.The patrols are known as vigilantes and were set up by military and local authorities to counter Boko Haram.
A vigilante patrol in Gaiglam raised the alarm when a group of armed men entered the village on motorbikes and said they were on their way to Chibok. Locals immediately phoned a number of officials to warn them including the Borno State Governor and senior military commanders based in the regional capital Maiduguri.
“At around 10:00 PM on the 14 April, I called several security officers to inform them about earlier information I had received from the vigilantes in Gagilam village. They had told us that strange people had arrived in their village on motorbikes and they said they were heading to Chibok. I made several other calls including to Maiduguri. I was promised by the security people that reinforcements were on their way,” one local official told Amnesty.
Another official said he was phoned up by herdsmen who said armed men had asked him where the Government Girls Secondary School was in Chibok.
At about 11:45 the convoy of Boko Harem fighters which by this time consisted of about 200 men on motorbikes and in trucks entered Chibok and a gunfight broke out with the small garrison of 17 police and soldiers who were based in the town.
Outnumbered and outgunned the small security force eventually fled the town in the small hours leaving the Boko Haram fighters free to proceed to the girl’s secondary school where they abducted 270 school girls.
Two senior officers in the Nigerian military confirmed to Amnesty that they were aware of the attack even before the phone calls from local officials but were unable to mobilize reinforcements.
One officer told the rights group that his soldiers were fearful of engaging the militants who were often better equipped.
“There’s a lot of frustration, exhaustion and fatigue among officers and [troops] based in the hotspots. Many soldiers are afraid to go to the battle fronts,” he said.
Amnesty’s requests for a reaction from military headquarters in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, have not been answered.
“The fact that Nigerian security forces knew about Boko Haram’s impending raid, but failed to take the immediate action needed to stop it, will only amplify the national and international outcry at this horrific crime,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa director.
Amnesty was also critical of efforts to try and secure the girls’ release, which have been hampered by an atmosphere of confusion and suspicion.
“The climate of suspicion and lack of transparency about the rescue effort has been unhelpful – all authorities must work together to ensure the girls are brought home safely and more must be done to protect civilians in the future,” said Belay.
Boko Haram, which in the Hausa Language means ‘western education is forbidden’, began their insurgency in Borno state in north east Nigeria in 2009. At least 1,200 people are estimated to have been killed in the violence so-far this year.
This article was posted: Friday, May 9, 2014 at 1:15 pm
The USA Freedom Act, which is designed to reform the National Security Agency, will proceed out of committee and be debated by the full House of Representatives. Drafted by the House Judiciary Committee, the bill won unanimous approval by the committee’s members, beating out a less stringent bill from the House Intelligence Committee. This news comes on the heels of an announcement that the German parliament will hear testimony directly from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. While German Chancellor Angela Merkel tried to stop the move, opposition parties have pushed-back forcefully in their effort to hear from Snowden. RT’s Lindsay France has more details on these NSA related developments.
With $1.7 quadrillion debt and the present bailout policy that will inflate prices, we’ll see the West collapsing while China and Russia will not be responsible for it or able to help, Lawrence Freeman from Executive Intelligence Review Magazine told RT.
RT: The EU and the US are once again considering sanctions against Russia over mass protests in eastern Ukraine. Can Europe and the States actually afford to lose billions of dollars worth of contracts with Russia?
Lawrence Freeman: No, in fact the real victim is going to be the American and the European people because the Western financial system based in the city of London and Wall Street is going through a bailing, collapse, bankruptcy, and therefore the conditions in the West are horrible and will get far worse as a result of these kinds of economic policies imposed on Russia.
RT: If Europe and America freeze trade with Russia, Moscow will likely just turn to its biggest trading partner, China. Who’s going to win in such a scenario?
LF: I think I would look at it a bit more strategically. There is actually an alliance – very deep alliance – between Russia and China, together with India, South Korea to actually go forward with economic development and especially space exploration, nuclear energy and high-speed rail infrastructure. This alliance, which Russia and China are the leaders of, is what is terrifying the Western countries, which is driving this confrontation, which could go all the way to the thermo-nuclear war because the Western system is collapsing and accelerate rate in Russia-China alliance with others is moving forward in a completely different direction.
So really Russia and China will form greater ties and cooperation. You’ll see this with a visit of Lavrov to Beijing on Wednesday and President Putin next month.
RT: How much will China benefit from this, considering that all the sides will be forced to step up their co-operation Beijing?
LF: I don’t look at this in that way. If you look at the remarks that President Obama has made concerning China and the recent visit of Secretary of Defense Hagel through the China Pivot policy, they are beginning to make the same threats against China that they are making against Russia and in fact the State Department for Asia, a fellow by the name of Daniel Russel, threatens China to not try a Crimea by allegedly taking over territory in the China Sea.
China is under the gun and under attack as well because the Western economies are going to collapse. China is not, Russia is not. The amount of debt $1,7 quadrillion in derivative gambling debt cannot be sustained in the present bailing policy, it is going to inflame prices massively, we are going to see a very severe destruction of the Western system. China and Russia are not going to be responsible for that, nor can they save the West from that.
RT: Experts predict China will become the world’s biggest economy in just over a decade. Do you think what’s happening in Ukraine and similar situations will bring it about?
LF: Well, certainly. If fact you have these comments from the official Dmitry Rogozin who said, “Look, the 21st century is going to revolve round Russia, China, South Korea, Japan and India. This is going to be the pivot for the future of the 21st century.” And that is going to take place. But the problem is that the Western financial system, the British financial empire, doesn’t want to give up its power, it doesn’t want to allow this other political bloc control the planet. That is why they are committed to go to war to prevent Russia and China and others from moving for real economic development and prosperity on the planet, but their system is in a state of collapse.
That’s the friction that is leading to this confrontation in Ukraine. It is not Ukraine, that is not even Russia, it’s breaking the back of this commitment by Russia and China for economic development while the West is collapsing.
Russia has to stop gas subsidies to Ukraine as it cannot keep supporting the bankrupt anti-Russian regime in Kiev, energy asset manager Eric Kraus told RT, adding that it will be the EU’s problem if Ukraine eventually starts stealing their transit gas.
RT: Ukraine says it wants heavily discounted gas from Russia. Does it have grounds to ask for that?
Eric Kraus: I think it is fairly absurd considering that you have a strongly anti-Russian regime which has been brought into place by the Europeans and by the Americans in Kiev. You can’t really ask the Russians to fund this regime, can you?
RT: On the other hand, Russia has doubled prices in the span of just a few months, perhaps some calling that too harsh?
EK: It is harsh, but basically what they did is not double prices. What they did is they removed subsidies.
Russia has been very heavily subsidizing Ukraine, since Ukraine became independent, because they needed a friendly, at least a neutral state at their border. Now if Ukraine wants to align itself with NATO and basically anti-Russian countries, then they are going to have to pay their own way.
RT: The US says Russia’s blackmailing Ukraine and Europe and says Moscow should not use gas as a political weapon. And president Putin reacted to the statements joking, it is bad to read other people’s correspondence. What is your reaction?
EK: First of all for the Americans to accuse anyone of using economic blackmail is a major case of the pot calling the kettle black. They have been threatening illegal sanctions against Russia for weeks. So, who is using the blackmail here? And secondly, yes, the letter was not addressed to the American president.
RT: Ukraine hasn’t paid for gas in three months. What are Russia’s options now?
EK: Try not paying your gas bill for three months and then see what happens. Basically at some point Russia says it sells gas for money and at some point if the client does not pay, they have to close it off.
The problem is then, the danger is that Ukraine will start siphoning off the Russian gas which is being provided to Europe. And the Europeans brought this upon themselves. It is a European problem. They’re going to have to solve it. They can simply pay for Ukraine’s gas if they wish.
RT: There have been reports that several petroleum companies have allegedly discovered a mother lode of shale gas in Western Ukraine, near the European border. What kind of implications could that bring to the table?
EK: We have been hearing about the Ukrainian shale gas for a long time. All of the attempts to produce thus far have been failures, as has been the case for Polish shale gas. The geology is somewhat different. I don’t know if this time it is for real, but it will have major implications for the European, at least for Ukrainian gas supply. But I would be very skeptical until we see this confirmed.
RT: Who do you think is to blame at the end of the day for the crisis in Ukraine?
EK: I think it has started as a democratic movement against particularly corrupt and incompetent president who was never Mr. Putin’s choice by the way. Mr. Putin never liked Yanukovich.
Unfortunately as the revolutionary movement progressed, it was replaced by a vanguard of neo-fascists of far right wing parties which then took power by violence ,and are now complaining of eastern Ukrainians seeking to take power by that same violence.
The problem has been that the Europeans and the Americans have been attempting to use this. They are not concerned with the interests of the Ukrainian people. There is a game of power politics here and they are trying to push Russia into a corner and Ukraine provides convenient means of doing so.