Friday 16th of April 2021

melting the ice of the cold war...


NATO chief: Melting Arctic ice could heat up geopolitics

With China and Russia expanding their military presence in the Arctic, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told DW melting ice could increase geopolitical tensions and show the "security impacts of climate change."


"The melting of the ice in the Arctic could lead to the heating up of geopolitical tensions between different powers in the world," Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told DW’s Alexandra von Nahmen in an exclusive interview ahead of an in-person meeting of NATO foreign ministers.  

"We have seen the increased military presence of Russia," Stoltenberg said when asked about concerns over a new cold war in the Arctic. "They’re opening up Soviet military facilities in the Arctic," he added. 

"We also see an increased Chinese presence," Stoltenberg said. In 2018, China declared itself a "near-Arctic" nation. He added that melting Arctic ice was already "changing the security landscape."

"For me, this demonstrates the security impacts of climate change," Stoltenberg said. "We need to engage with China on many issues, including climate change," he added. "At the same time, the rise of China also poses some serious challenges."

'Rising power' China  

Though NATO does not have a single unified strategy, Stoltenberg said, members are developing "more and more a common position on how to deal with China within the NATO alliance."

Stoltenberg said: "China is a rising power ... a power that doesn’t share our values. You can see that in the way they behave in Hong Kong, how they suppress opposition in their own country, but also the way they are undermining the rules-based order." 

"China is coming closer to us, investing in our critical infrastructure," Stoltenberg said. "There’s no way we can avoid addressing the security consequences for our regional alliance of the rise of China the shift in the global balance of power." 


New trans-Atlantic chapter 

NATO foreign ministers are set to meet in person in Brussels on Wednesday, for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic was declared. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to join the two-day meeting in what has been viewed as a show of support for the NATO alliance.  

"We have now a unique opportunity to open a new chapter in the relationship between North America — the United States — and Europe," Stoltenberg said.  


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Note: the russian coast along the arctic stretch more than 4,000 kms.  Alaska has about 750 kms on the Arctic. It is cheaper for the Chinese to travel the Northern Route than the Suez Canal (now blocked by a big ship aground 24/03/2021).


arctic map


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Unscrupulous used car dealers could learn a trick or two from America’s foreign policy mandarins when it comes to bait-and-switch tactics. Repeatedly, U.S. officials have invoked a specific justification—frequently an emotionally charged one with wide appeal—to obtain congressional and public support for a military intervention or other questionable policy initiative. When the original justification subsequently proves to be bogus, exaggerated, or no longer applicable, they simply create a new rationale to justify continuing the mission.


By Ted Galen Carpenter

That tactic is especially evident with respect to the seemingly endless war in Afghanistan. U.S. leaders justified the initial invasion of the country as a necessary response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Foreign fighters belonging to Al Qaeda had used the country as their primary safe haven, and the Taliban government had allowed Osama bin Laden and his organization to plan and execute the attacks from that sanctuary. Given the public’s emotional trauma from the 9/11 episode, the nearly total lack of opposition to launching the Afghanistan invasion was unsurprising. In statement after statement during the initial months and years that followed, American officials reiterated that defeating Al Qaeda—and, if possible, killing or capturing bin Laden—was the primary objective. Ousting the Taliban regime was a corollary to that goal, but no one advocated a long-term war against that indigenous Afghan faction, however odious its social policies might be.

Within a few years, though, the official justifications were quite different. Washington had moved from supposedly waging war against a foreign terrorist organization to explicitly taking sides in an Afghan civil war. U.S. political and military leaders routinely described the Taliban as the principal enemy as though that were always the case. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were scarcely mentioned at all. Indeed, by 2010, U.S. military commanders conceded that there were probably no more than a few dozen Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.

Along with that shift, there was a steadily increasing focus on nation-building objectives.  Bringing allegedly democratic governance, improved infrastructure, and social change to Afghanistan now became the primary rationale for perpetuating the U.S./NATO military occupation, rather than defeating terrorism. Today, even the military mission against the Taliban takes a distant second place in efforts to justify a mission that is about to enter its third decade.  A February 2021 Brookings Institution report is typical of the establishment’s current conventional wisdom. “A false step at this stage could essentially hand Afghanistan to the Taliban, which would risk massive repercussions,” including “a major setback for Afghan women’s rights and democracy. That would in turn reverse hard-won gains for a new generation of Afghans and at the same time seriously damage the credibility of a U.S. administration that champions these values.”  

The Afghanistan mission is hardly the first, much less the only, case in which U.S. officials and their media allies sold a military mission to Congress and the American people based on one justification only to discard it when events required a new excuse. A similar process occurred with the war in Iraq. Leading up to the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the overwhelming focus was on the supposedly dire menace that Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction” posed to U.S. security as well as regional and global peace. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice epitomized such panic-mongering when she warned that “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” A close second to that justification was the allegation that Saddam’s regime was in close cooperation with Al Qaeda.  

Both contentions proved to be false. The weapons of mass destruction rationale became an embarrassment when U.S. occupation forces failed to find such weapons, despite an exhaustive search. But ever-agile U.S. policymakers did not let such problems derail the Iraq mission. Instead, the emphasis shifted to the “need” to promote democracy in Iraq and establish that country as a model for liberal governance throughout the Middle East.

An incident in early 2020 illustrated how insincere U.S. leaders were about respecting post-Saddam Iraq’s sovereignty and political system. Following the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani during his visit to Baghdad, Iraq’s parliament passed a resolution calling on the prime minister to expel U.S. forces stationed in the county. President Donald Trump’s reaction was akin to a foreign policy temper tantrum.  He threatened Iraq with harsh economic sanctions if it dared take that step, warning that Washington would impose sanctions “like they’ve never seen before, ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.” 

It quickly became apparent that the sanctions threat was not just a spontaneous, intemperate outburst. Senior officials from the Treasury Department and other agencies began drafting specific sanctions that could be imposed. Washington explicitly warned the Iraqi government that it could lose access to its account held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Such a freeze would have amounted to financial strangulation of the country’s already fragile economy.  

So much for respecting Iraq’s sovereignty and democracy. That rationale for the continuing U.S. military presence proved to be as phony as the original justifications regarding weapons of mass destruction and countering terrorism. It was bait-and-switch with an additional dollop of hypocrisy.

Foreign policy bait-and-switch has had a long, dishonorable history. It even tainted Washington’s original commitment to NATO. When the United States dispatched air and ground forces to Europe in 1951 to bolster the Alliance’s defenses, it was supposed to be a temporary measure until Europe’s democratic powers could recover fully from World War II and deploy adequate numbers of their own troops. When he took command of NATO’s forces, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower stated: “If in 10 years, all American troops stationed in Europe for national defense purposes have not been returned to the United States, then this whole project [NATO] will have failed.”  

When he became president, Eisenhower promptly forgot that promise, as did all subsequent presidents. Indeed, even the demise of the Soviet Union itself has not dislodged the U.S. military presence in Europe. The trend is now in the opposite direction, with a new troop deployment to Poland, the dispatch of B-1 bombers to Norway, and other measures to “contain” a noncommunist Russia that seems more alarmed by Washington’s hostile moves than it appears intent on aggression and territorial expansion. The justifications for the perpetuation of the U.S. military presence in Europe also have become broader and more amorphous, with invocations of the alleged need to promote democracy and preserve U.S. “leadership.”

Bait-and-switch is a venerable tool in Washington’s foreign policy toolbox, and it is blatant fraud perpetrated on the American people. That track record should cause Americans to be triply skeptical the next time an administration cites an allegedly imperative reason for undertaking a new, “temporary” military mission. The odds are that the mission will prove to be neither imperative nor temporary.

Ted Galen Carpenter is a senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute and the author of 12 books and more than 900 articles on international affairs.



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NATO is dangerous...

London: NATO’s Secretary-General has vowed to back Australia in its disputes with China, saying the superpower “had behaved very badly against Australia” after it pushed for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus.

Jens Stoltenberg said he wanted to expand the trans-Atlantic body to non-members as a way for “like-minded democracies” to stand up to what he called bullying by Beijing.

Stoltenberg is pursuing an ambitious broadening of NATO’s mission in the next decade. His strategy focuses heavily on pushing back against authoritarian Russia and China and calls for greater involvement of non-NATO member countries from Asia Pacific.


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NATO  is a dangerous organisation that replaces diplomacy and entente with threats, bullying and blackmail... Not a way to do "business"...


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NATO = confidence?...

Twitter has announced it recently suspended dozens of accounts for undermining confidence in NATO. It was part of a broader purge of almost 400 Twitter accounts believed to have "ties to Russia, Armenia and Iran" state actors which were found to have "breached its platform manipulation policies," according to Reuters.

And further Twitter said according to the Reuters that "100 accounts with Russian ties were removed for amplifying narratives that undermined faith in NATO and targeted the United States and the European Union."

I'm sorry but, what?

— Vincent Bevins (@Vinncent) February 24, 2021

That's right, amid numerous examples of recent Twitter overreach and Silicon Valley's blatant attempts to crush speech deemed politically inconvenient or out of bounds, this one is arguably the most bizarre and blatant yet - the offending accounts were deemed to have not upheld "faith" in the NATO military alliance. (Did we miss the "oath" that was supposed to be taken upon setting up an account?...)

Some of the accounts appear to have been suspended in prior months, with Twitter now disclosing its fuller investigation results and rationale for taking action against the accounts.

Here's the official Twitter statement according to its full context:

"Today we’re disclosing two separate networks that have Russian ties. Our first investigation found and removed a network of 69 fake accounts that can be reliably tied to Russian state actors. A number of these accounts amplified narratives that were aligned with the Russian government, while another subset of the network focused on undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability. As part of our second investigation in this region, we removed 31 accounts from two networks that show signs of being affiliated with the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and Russian government-linked actors. These accounts amplified narratives that had been previously associated with the IRA and other Russian influence efforts targeting the United States and European Union."



In follow-up reporting by Russia's RT detailing some of the prominent accounts impacted by the ban, it's since been revealed that "One of the accounts targeted belonged to the Valdai Discussion Club. A leading Russian think tank, it hosts an annual event in Sochi, which has attracted dignitaries such as ex-Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, one time Finnish President Tarja Halonen, erstwhile South African President Thabo Mbeki, former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and China's richest man, Jack Ma."

This is absolutely fucking deranged. Twitter is deleting accounts that “undermine faith in NATO”.

Note that Gordon McMillan, a captain in the UK's 77th Brigade psychological warfare division, is a Twitter executive.

— Mark Ames (MarkAmesExiled) February 24, 2021


Valdai however has multiple accounts it operates, and this isn't the first time it's been targeted by a Twitter purge of state-affiliated 'nefarious' actors. 

"In addition, according to Twitter, 31 accounts were deleted for being allegedly associated with the Internet Research Agency, which some in the West claim is a state-connected hacker factory, and other Russian government structures. The company added that some of these were engaged in criticism of the EU," RT wrote further.

Twitter's latest "purge" has caught the attention of the Russian government, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Tuesday saying the Kremlin will launch its own investigation. Russia has recently passed legislation opening up US social media companies to fines, sanctions, or even the possibility of being blocked inside Russia should they be found to have engaged in unfair targeting of Russian users or entities (though it remains largely symbolic given it's unlikely the Kremlin would outright ban these apps which remain hugely popular among the Russian population).

If it wasn't already clear who Twitter serves, it is now suspending accounts for "undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability."

According to these US gov't Thought Police, if you don't support the NATO imperialist cartel, you're a Russian bot

— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) February 24, 2021


She referenced the latest events surrounding Navalny to highlight Twitter's hypocrisy and overly broad punitive measure: "Millions of users can fall under [this term]. Even Navalny and his associates – they certainly influence the US and the EU, given the speed with which anti-Russian sanctions have been rubber stamped," she said. "We will assess the grounds for blocking and give an expert response," Zakharova added.


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heating up in the arctic...


Russia and China will make Northern Sea Route become the new Suez Canal



Russia  » Economics   

As it can be seen from last year's experience of cargo transportation along the Northern Sea Route, the limits of navigation are expanding due to climate change. New opportunities are opening up for the development of the natural resources of the Arctic and the development of international shipping. At the same time, the risk of aggravation of rivalry between Russia and Western countries in the region is growing.

The volume of cargo transportation along the Northern Sea Route grows steadily from year to year. Even the pandemic did not stop it from gaining 4.7 percent in 2020 as compared to the previous year. The first shipment of liquefied gas from the port of Sabetta (the Yamal Peninsula) to the east took place already in May, although it usually happens in July. The Christophe de Margerie gas carrier carrying gas from the Yamal LNG plant traveled to China accompanied by an icebreaker. Many other ships followed.

The experiment with the passage of the Christophe de Margerie and the Nikolay Evgenov LNG tanker on the Northern Sea Route in January 2021 without accompaniment was a success too, although this has never happened before. 

As representatives of Novatek noted, the ships independently passed the ice-covered part of the NSR along the routes recommended by Atomflot's headquarters of marine operations and the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute. The voyages took place two months after the traditional completion of the navigation season in the eastern part of the Arctic.



Gas in exchange for technology


The congestion of the Suez Canal and the prospects for the development of a shorter Arctic route arouse increasing interest in the Northern Sea Route on the part of large foreign companies and many countries of the world. In particular, Japan would like to actively cooperate with Russia in trade and economic spheres in the Far East and the Arctic. Japan developed and presented a concept of such cooperation aimed at expanding interaction in the field of energy, logistics, port and transport infrastructure, fish processing industry, urban environment and tourism.

Japan's plans also include active participation in the development of the Northern Sea Route. Mitsui and Jogmec consortiums have been participating in the Arctic LNG 2 project since 2019 - they already use the NSR for the supply of liquefied gas. Japanese Ambassador to Russia, Toyohisa Kozuki, is convinced that the Northern Sea Route logistics is 40 percent more efficient than traditional shipping routes. Within the framework of Russian-Japanese cooperation in the Arctic, it is planned to launch a regular container line on the Northern Sea Route.

Against the backdrop of Western sanctions, Russia's and China's interest in mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation has been growing. In particular, the two powers are interested in the development of oil and gas resources in the Arctic. The two powers are determined to work on the implementation of the Ice Silk Road megaproject. China could provide new technologies, equipment and investments for the development of the Arctic, the creation of the infrastructure of the Northern Sea Route and ice-class ships. Russia could provide China with energy resources in return.

Interest of global investors

Leonid Mikhelson, chairman of the board of Novatek, noted that new technologies for the construction of LNG lines and the further development of the NSR give Russia an opportunity to dominate on the world's LNG market, primarily in the Asia-Pacific region. At the same time, it is important to achieve competitive transportation costs to the growing Asian market. The Novatek management proposes to decrease icebreaker assistance tariffs and port fees as cargo turnover grows.

The development of the Northern Sea Route is an additional impetus to the LNG industry, says Leonid Mikhelson. Each new LNG project attracts more than 1.5 trillion rubles in investments.

To implement the Northern Sea Transit Corridor project, it is planned to set up joint ventures with the participation of foreign investors, transshipment hubs and a fleet of Arctic container ships. According to Alexander Neklyudov, CEO of Rusatom Cargo (part of Rosatom State Corporation), transport and logistics complexes are necessary for the transshipment of container cargo from small capacity feeder ships to Arctic-class container ships. One of the world's largest port operators – DP World and Creon Energy Fund investment company – intend to act as strategic investors and participants of the would-be joint venture.

The head of DP World, Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, sees many advantages over the Suez Canal in the Northern Sea Route: navigation through the waters of multiple countries, narrow straits, sea areas controlled by pirates - all this is fraught with excessive risks and threats. If provided with all necessary modern infrastructure, the Northern Sea Route could become a much more attractive path for cargo transportation.

Russia's plans to develop the riches of the Arctic and create a northern trade artery of global importance bother aggressive political circles in the United States and their uncomplaining partner countries. US Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite stated bluntly that warships of the United States and its allies would be patrolling off the Russian shores in the Arctic to prevent Moscow's advance in the North.

According to experts, the region contains as much as 30 percent of undiscovered natural gas and 13 percent of oil reserves of the entire planet. The US worries that the Arctic will show a disproportionately large influence on global economy in the future while taking six percent of the surface of the planet. The United States and its NATO partners have been building up their military presence in the Arctic lately, which is fraught with future conflicts.

  • US Marines and British troops are permanently deployed in Norway;
  • B-1B strategic bombers have also been deployed there;
  • NATO allies also increase the quantity of naval manoeuvres in the Arctic waters close to Russia.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, NATO submarines have doubled the frequency of their visits to Norwegian ports over the past ten years.

The demonstrative activities of NATO allies in the Arctic have inevitably provoked a response from the Russian military. Russia's Northern Fleet plans to carry out a number of Arctic missions and conduct various tactical exercises this year. 

To protect the Northern Sea Route, the Pacific Fleet practiced the quick deployment of its forces in the region. In late March, the whole world could watch the footage of three Russian nuclear submarines simultaneously emerging from under the ice during exercises in the Arctic. There is no doubt that Russia's decisive actions to protect its interests in the Arctic will cool down the hot heads of NATO hawks.

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This will only make the hot heads of NATO hawks go HOTTER !


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