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Posts tagged ‘NATO’

Crimeans Overwhelmingly Vote for Secession.


SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — The head of the referendum committee in Ukraine’s Crimea region says more than 95 percent of voters have approved splitting off and joining Russia.

Mikhail Malishev said the initial result came after more than 50 percent of the ballots had been counted.

Speaking two hours after polls closed, Malishev said turnout was 83 percent — a high figure given that many who opposed the move had said they would boycott the vote.

Western powers and leaders in Kiev denounced it as a sham.

Underlining how Moscow’s military takeover of the peninsula two weeks ago has driven Russia and the West into a crisis with echoes of the Cold War, Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama spoke by telephone and, according to the Kremlin, the Russian and U.S. presidents agreed on a need to cooperate to stabilise Ukraine.

“This referendum is contrary to Ukraine’s constitution,” a White House spokesman said. “The international community will not recognise the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law.”

The Kremlin said Putin told Obama the referendum was legitimate and he expressed concern about the Ukrainian government’s failure to stamp out violence against Russian speakers in the country.

“Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin drew attention to the inability and unwillingness of the present authorities in Kiev to curb rampant violence by ultra-nationalist and radical groups that destabilise the situation and terrorise civilians, including the Russian-speaking population,” the Kremlin said.

It said Putin suggested European monitors should be sent to all parts of Ukraine because of the violence.

Kiev said Moscow’s build-up of forces in the Black Sea peninsula was in “crude violation” of an international treaty, and announced plans to arm and train 20,000 members of a newly-created National Guard.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Moscow that Washington would not accept the outcome of the vote in the region, which has an ethnic Russian majority and was transferred to Ukraine by Soviet rulers only 60 years ago.

The White House also warned Moscow to expect sanctions while foreign ministers from the European Union, which has major trade ties with Russia, will decide on possible similar action in Brussels on Monday.

But Putin rejected Western accusations that the referendum was illegal, saying it respected the will of the Crimean people, while his foreign ministry said it had agreed with the United States to seek a solution to the crisis through constitutional reform.

 

In Kiev, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk threatened dire consequences for the Crimean politicians who had called the vote, saying separatist “ringleaders” wanted to destroy Ukrainian independence “under the cover of Russian troops”.

“We will find all of them – if it takes one year, two years – and bring them to justice and try them in Ukrainian and international courts. The ground will burn under their feet,” he told a cabinet meeting.

Yatseniuk had just returned from a U.S. trip where he won expressions of moral support but no offers of weapons. Kiev’s pro-European rulers, who took power after last month’s fall of Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich to popular unrest, have been as powerless as Western governments to prevent the referendum or buildup of Russian forces on Ukrainian territory.

At a polling booth at a school in Simferopol, the Crimean regional capital, dozens of people lined up outside to cast their ballots early.

“I have voted for Russia,” said Svetlana Vasilyeva, 27, a veterinary nurse. “This is what we have been waiting for. We are one family and we want to live with our brothers.”

Vasilyeva voiced fears common among some of Ukraine’s native Russian-speakers about the consequences of Yanukovich’s exit after protests in which over 100 people were killed. “We want to leave Ukraine because Ukrainians told us that we are people of a lower kind. How can you stay in such a country?” she said.

But ethnic Tatars – Sunni Muslims who make up 12 percent of Crimea’s population – said they would boycott the vote despite promises by the regional authorities to give them financial aid and proper land rights.

“This is my land. This is the land of my ancestors. Who asked me if I want it or not? Who asked me?” said Shevkaye Assanova, a Crimean Tatar in her 40s. “For the rest of my life I will be cursing those who brought these people here. I don’t recognise this at all. I curse all of them.”

 

Crimea’s 1.5 million voters had two options: union with Russia or giving their region, which is controlled by pro-Kremlin politicians, the broad right to determine its own path and choose relations with whom it wants – including Moscow.

A local Tatar television channel broadcast the count at one small polling station. It took just a few minutes for officials to stack up the papers, virtually in a single pile. One gave the result as: “166 for, 2 against, 1 spoiled”. By “for” she clearly meant the first option on the paper, for union with Russia.

Russia has the right to keep forces on the Black Sea peninsula, including at its naval base in the port of Sevastopol, under a treaty signed after Ukraine gained independence from the wreckage of the Soviet Union in 1991.

But Ukrainian acting defence minister Ihor Tenyukh accused Moscow of going far beyond an agreed limit on servicemen – which he said was 12,500 for 2014.

“Unfortunately, in a very short period of time, this 12,500 has grown to 22,000. This is a crude violation of the bilateral agreements and is proof that Russia has unlawfully brought its troops onto the territory of Crimea,” he said.

This figure had risen from 18,400 on Friday. “Let me say once again that this is our land and we will not be leaving it,” he told Interfax news agency.

Tenyukh later said that the defence ministries in Kiev and Moscow had declared a truce until March 21 during which Russian forces, who have been arriving by boat and helicopter, would leave Ukrainian military facilities untouched.

Many Crimeans hope union with Russia will bring better pay and make them citizens of a country capable of asserting itself on the world stage. But others saw the referendum as a land grab by the Kremlin from Ukraine, whose new rulers want to move the country towards the European Union and away from Russia’s sway.

Putin defended the vote in a phone call on Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying it complied with international law, including Article 1 of the U.N. Charter which states the principle of self-determination of peoples. “It was emphasized that Russia will respect the choice of the Crimean people,” a Kremlin statement said.

Putin has said he must protect the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine from “fascists” in Kiev who ousted Yanukovich. Western powers largely dismiss his characterisation of the new authorities as successors of Nazi-allied Ukrainian forces which fought the Red Army in World War Two.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Kerry on Sunday to encourage authorities in Kiev to stop what he called “massive lawlessness” against the Russian-speaking population.

In their second phone conversation in two days, Lavrov and Kerry agreed to seek a solution to the crisis by pushing for constitutional reforms in Ukraine, Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

However, Kerry told Lavrov that the United States would not accept the referendum result and said Russia must pull back its forces to their bases, a senior State Department official said.

The White House also warned Putin that he faces international isolation that will hurt Russia’s economy. “You can expect sanctions designations in the coming days,” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told NBC’s Meet the Press.

The administration is preparing to identify Russians whom the United States will seek to punish with visa bans and asset freezes that President Obama authorised last week.

At the United Nations, 13 Security Council members voted for a draft resolution on Saturday saying the Crimea result should not be recognised internationally, but Moscow exercised its veto while China abstained.

Tensions over Crimea appear also to be spreading in cyberspace. Unidentified hackers brought down several public NATO websites with attacks on Saturday, the alliance said.

Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said on Twitter that the attacks, which began on Saturday evening, continued on Sunday, although most services had now been restored.

“It doesn’t impede our ability to command and control our forces. At no time was there any risk to our classified networks,” another NATO official said.

A group calling itself “cyber berkut” – named after riot police formally disbanded by the central powers in Kiev – said the attack had been carried out by patriotic Ukrainians angry over what they saw as NATO interference in their country.

Apart from Crimea, tension is also running high in parts of the Russian-speaking industrialised east of Ukraine near the border with Russia, with clashes between rival demonstrators that Moscow has seized on to support its case that ethnic Russians are being victimised.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

McCain: Ukraine Crisis Exposes Obama’s ‘Disturbing Lack of Realism’.


Image: McCain: Ukraine Crisis Exposes Obama's 'Disturbing Lack of Realism'

 

By Joe Battaglia

A day after calling Barack Obama “the most naive president in history,” Arizona Sen. John McCain continued his assault on the president’s foreign policy in an op-ed piece in Friday’s New York Times.

Specifically addressing Russia’s invasion of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, McCain wrote that the United States’ response “has exposed the disturbing lack of realism” of the Obama administration and made the country look weak in the eyes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the rest of the world.

According to McCain, President Obama’s belief that “the tide of war is receding” around the world so the United States can afford to scale back its military presence is a miscalculation.

That “reset” policy, coupled with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crossing of Obama’s “red line” without consequence, has emboldened Chinese and Iranian loyalists, al-Qaida terrorists, and aggressive actors like Putin, whom he called “an unreconstructed Russian imperialist and KGB apparatchik.”

“To people like Mr. Putin, weakness is provocative,” McCain wrote.

He added, “What is most troubling about Mr. Putin’s aggression in Crimea is that it reflects a growing disregard for America’s credibility in the world.”

McCain echoed that sentiment in a fundraising letter penned for the Republican National Committee on Thursday.

“A secure world relies on a strong America. And a strong America relies on a robust military,” McCain wrote, according to The Washington Examiner. “Yet, sadly under President Obama, America’s military strength has been weakened and our country’s leadership in the world has been questioned. As a result, the world’s most dangerous players are flexing their muscles. Extremists are gaining ground. And these conflicts are becoming more dangerous by the day for our allies — and for us.”

Earlier in the day, McCain told Phoenix radio station KFYI, “The naivete of Barack Obama and [Secretary of State] John Kerry is stunning,” adding that Putin, whom he described as “amoral,” “cold,” “distant,” and “tough,” had “played us so incredibly.”

While McCain condemned Obama’s stance on Crimea to date, he outlined a plan he believes would change the course of events in Ukraine and regain global standing for the United States.

The first step McCain called for was a shoring up of Ukraine and reassuring of the Baltic states that the United States and the world will not stand for Putin bringing Russia’s neighbors “back under Moscow’s dominion.” McCain did not call for military action, but suggested an increased military presence by NATO in the region.

He also said Russia should be ostracized through a boycott of the G-8 summit scheduled for April 24-25 in Sochi, suggesting a Group of 7 meeting be convened elsewhere.

McCain added that the United States should “support and resupply Ukrainian patriots, both soldiers and civilians, who are standing their ground in government facilities across Crimea” as a way to stand with the Ukrainian people in defiance of the dismemberment of their country.

“We need to work with our allies to … show Mr. Putin a strong, united front, and prevent the crisis from getting worse,” McCain wrote. He added that the United States needs to “rearm ourselves morally and intellectually” to prevent Putin from attempting to occupy other nations along Russia’s borders.

McCain remains convinced that strong U.S.-led support of Ukraine will expose Putin’s Russia as being “not a great power on par with America,” but “a gas station run by a corrupt, autocratic regime.” Eventually, he said, the Russian people will revolt against him the same way the Ukrainians ousted Viktor Yanukovych.

“If Ukraine can emerge from this crisis independent, prosperous, and anchored firmly in Europe, how long before Russians begin to ask, ‘Why not us?'” McCain wrote.

While McCain said that there is still hope for a reversal of course in the region, he cautioned that “hopes do not advance themselves.”

“The darkness that threatens [Ukraine] will not be checked by an America in denial about the world as it is,” McCain wrote. “It requires realism, strength and leadership. If Crimea does not awaken us to this fact, I am afraid to think what will.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Kissinger Offers Blueprint for Defusing Crisis in Ukraine.


Image: Kissinger Offers Blueprint for Defusing Crisis in Ukraine

By Elliot Jager

Resolving the Ukrainian crisis requires Moscow to accept that Ukraine will not again become its satellite, and for the West to accept that Ukraine is too integral to Russian civilization to be treated as just another independent country, Henry Kissinger wrote in a commentary published in The Washington Post.

Kissinger, 90, was U.S. secretary of state from 1973 to 1977 under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He is associated with the realpolitik school of political science, which prefers finding solutions based on diplomacy and power not ideology.

He warned against demonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Doing so is no basis for policy but is “an alibi for the absence of one,” he wrote.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

On Ukraine, Kissinger cautioned against confrontation between Russia and the West.

“In my life, I have seen four wars begun with great enthusiasm and public support, all of which we did not know how to end and from three of which we withdrew unilaterally.”

Do not force an “either-or” choice on the parties, Kissinger argued. “If Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them.”

“Ukraine can never be just a foreign country” to Russia, the former secretary of state wrote. It is where “Russian history began.” It’s “polyglot composition” means that “any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other” would result in “civil war or breakup.”

Ukraine has known only 23 years of independence and hundreds of years of foreign rule, he wrote. One part of the country is Russian-speaking and Orthodox Christian; the other is Catholic and Ukrainian-speaking.

The former diplomat offered four principles for diplomats wanting to defuse the crisis:

  • Let Ukraine choose its economic and political associations.
  • Don’t bring the country into NATO.
  • Encourage Ukrainian leaders to create a system of government that reconciles its two parts.
  • Crimea mustn’t be annexed to Russia; it needs autonomy within Ukraine.

Kissinger does not expect either side would find these principles to its absolute satisfaction.

“The test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction,” he wrote.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Intelligence Estimate: Bleak Outlook for Afghanistan After US Drawdown.


Image: Intelligence Estimate: Bleak Outlook for Afghanistan After US DrawdownU.S. soldiers inspect the site of a car bombing outside Kabul, Afghanistan on Dec. 11

By Elliot Jager

When American troops leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014, the Taliban will gain ground and the country will probably descend into chaos, according to a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, the Washington Post reported.

The gains achieved by the 2009 troop surge will likely be wiped out.

With Afghan President Hamid Karzai refusing to sign a security agreement that would authorize a contingent of American and international troops to conduct counterterrorism operations and continue training Afghan forces beyond 2014, the estimate takes a bleak view of Afghanistan by 2017.

This downbeat intelligence prognosis is not unanimously shared.

Pessimists see years of U.S. gains being squandered with the Kabul government ultimately losing the big cities. Even if several thousand troops stay behind to conduct counter-terror operations and for training purposes and even if Congress continues to bankroll the country. The intelligence estimate could bolster those who would like to see the U.S. pullout accelerated, the Post reported.

Optimists — including some in the Obama administration — say the capabilities of the Afghan army are being underestimated and that the Taliban will be pressured to sue for peace. One administration official said the intelligence estimate is intended only to highlight “potential upsides and downsides” to U.S. policy.

Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations sees continued stalemate in the years ahead depending on how much financial backing the U.S. provides the Kabul government.

If Karzai ultimately agrees to a deal regulating the U.S. and international presence, the country would continue to receive billions in U.S. and other aid.

As of December 28 the number of service personnel killed this year in Afghanistan stands at 127 for a total of 2,301 since America’s longest war began in 2001.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Putin Envies Obama: ‘He Can Get Away With’ Spying Revelations.


President Vladimir Putin says Moscow isn’t controlling National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, who has asylum in Russia.

Putin said at a news conference Thursday that any revelations published by Snowden must have come from materials he provided before landing in Russia.

He reaffirms that Russia made providing refuge to Snowden conditional on his halting what he called ant-American activities.

ObamaCareYou Can Win With The Facts 

Putin says he hasn’t met with Snowden and insists that Russian security agencies haven’t worked with him and have not asked him any questions related to NSA activities against Russia.

He says that NSA surveillance is needed to fight terrorism, but that rules and norms must be followed. He says that he “envies” President Obama because — referring to the Snowden revelations — “he can get away it it.”

Putin says that Russia hasn’t deployed missiles to its westernmost Baltic exclave, but sees it as a possible way of countering the U.S.-led missile defense system in Europe.

Putin was asked at a Thursday news conference about a report claiming that Moscow stationed its state-of-the art Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad region that borders NATO and EU members Poland and Lithuania.

Both nations have expressed concern, and Washington warned Moscow against making destabilizing moves.

Putin says Russia has long considered the move, but adds that “we haven’t made the decision yet” on deploying them.

ObamaCare: You Can Win With The Facts 

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Six US Troops Killed in Afghanistan Aircraft Crash.


KABUL, Afghanistan — Six U.S. soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, NATO said, the largest death toll in a single incident to hit the international force in months.

“The cause of the crash is under investigation; however, initial reporting indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time,” a NATO statement said.

U.S. defense officials said the soldiers killed in the crash, which occurred in Afghanistan’s southern Zabul province, were American. One person survived the crash but suffered injuries.

Zabul’s deputy governor, Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar, said a crash had taken place in the Shah Joy district of Zabul.

A Taliban spokesman claimed on Twitter that Taliban militants had shot down a helicopter on Tuesday in the same district. The Taliban often claims responsibility for incidents in which it is not involved.

Aircraft crashes are not uncommon in mountainous Afghanistan.

The worst such incident was in August 2011 when the Taliban shot down a transport helicopter, killing all 38 people on board, including 25 U.S. special operations soldiers.

The Pentagon said that about 67,000 NATO-led troops remain in Afghanistan, including about 43,000 from the United States. Foreign forces are looking to curtail their decade-long fight there.

The United States continues to press Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign a bilateral security deal that would allow Washington to keep some troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of next year.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Karzai Unmoved by US Troop Withdrawal Threat if Afghan Pact Unsigned.


NEW DELHI — Afghan President Hamid Karzai Saturday dismissed U.S. talk of a total military withdrawal from Afghanistan if he didn’t sign a security agreement as brinkmanship and said he wouldn’t back down on his conditions for the deal.

Karzai was in New Delhi in a burst of regional diplomacy as his ties with Washington have come under renewed strain over his refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that will shape U.S. military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 when most international troops will leave.

He told reporters that the United States would have to stop the practice of raiding Afghan homes and help restart a peace process with the Taliban as necessary conditions for the security pact.

“We do believe that the BSA is in the interest of Afghanistan and the Afghan people have given their approval. But we also believe that protection of Afghan homes and the launch of a peace process are absolute prerequisites,” he said.

If Karzai doesn’t sign the deal, Washington says it will have to withdraw its entire force of some 44,500 troops by the end of 2014. Other NATO nations could follow suit leaving Afghan forces to fight the Taliban insurgency on their own.

The complete withdrawal, called the “zero option,” would be similar to the pull-out of U.S. troops from Iraq two years ago. Violence there is now at its highest level in at least five years, and more than 8,000 people have been killed this year, the United Nations says.

“I don’t think America is thinking of the zero option , its brinkmanship they play with us, and even if they did, then come what may,” the Afghan leader said.

U.S. officials have appeared exasperated by Karzai’s stance on the security agreement, which they say is needed to help them plan a future mission that will assist Afghan forces fight militants and that will allow for future aid crucial for the impoverished nation.

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week that the delay in finalizing the deal — which U.S. officials had hoped Karzai would sign weeks ago — would impose “damages and costs” on Afghans.

But he added that the Obama administration was not on the verge of abandoning its effort to extend its troop presence in the country.

The security agreement would allow for the presence of nearly 15,000 U.S. and other NATO troops at nine locations around the country, Karzai said.

The agreement includes a provision allowing military raids on Afghan homes in exceptional circumstances — when an American life is directly under threat — but it would not take effect until 2015.

The issue is particularly sensitive among Afghans after a dozen years of war between Afghan and foreign forces and Taliban militants.

Karzai said he also wanted the United States to help him start an open and public peace process with the Taliban, rather than the secret diplomacy it had engaged in in the past.

“Secret talks won’t help,” he said. “U.S. and Pakistan have enough influence over the Taliban to relaunch the peace process.”

Karzai, who discussed the U.S. security deal with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has also held talks with the leaders of Iran and Pakistan this month.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

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