Fonte Russia Today DI ANASTASIA CHURKINA 3 dicembre, 2013 attualità
L’inviata di RT (Russia Today, canale satellitare russo diffuso a livello mondiale, ndt) Anastasia Churkina si è diretta verso la sede della base militare della più scandalosa prigione americana e ha scoperto un potente meccanismo di copertura.
Il volo da Fort Lauderdale, in Florida, a Guantanamo è stato l’unico della mia vita che, decollando da un aeroporto pubblico, non fosse stato prima segnalato sul tabellone delle partenze. Solo una manciata di persone in attesa all’imbarco. Qualche soldato cupo e dall’aspetto stanco- giovani sui vent’anni – e i membri dello staff molto meno eccitati di noi, in quanto, ovviamente, saranno stati in questo posto completamente nascosto già dozzine di volte.
Non so se sia stato il nostro entusiasmo a generare la sensazione di mistero nelle nostre menti, ma quando un’addetta del Duty Free mi chiese dove ero diretta, alla mia risposta “Guantanamo”, replicò, con un sorriso vivace sulle labbra: “Oh, le Bahamas – giusto?” Io annuii. E così ebbe inizio l’occultamento.
Quando molti di noi sentono parlare della prigione di Guantanamo o la immaginano senza averla vista di persona, pensano ad un luogo oscuro e inquietante, circondato da filo spinato, con cancelli che si chiudono ma non si aprono, carcerati con tute arancioni e mani ammanettate dietro la schiena, torture, scioperi della fame e costrizioni alimentari. Immagini di prigionieri della guerra al terrorismo dell’America, che si sono formate nel corso di oltre un decennio. In realtà, gli ufficiali americani che gestiscono il sistema, lavorano duramente per assicurarsi che nessuna controversia possa essere testimoniata dai giornalisti in visita, o addirittura che nessuno dei dipendenti della base parli con loro. Lo staff del carcere fa tutto ciò che può per far sì che le testimonianze dei giornalisti siano tali da non aver realmente niente a che fare con quel luogo notoriamente scandaloso, come più volte denunciato da U.S. Human Rights fin dal 2002.
Nessuna delle interviste organizzate per noi sul posto dal team di Guantanamo che si occupa dei rapporti con i media, è stata accidentale. Gli ufficiali esperti hanno imparato a minimizzare eccessivamente qualsiasi accusa mossa contro la prigione e gli elementi dello staff recentemente assunti rispondono comunemente, alle domande riguardanti torture e costrizioni alimentari, con la frase “Sono arrivato solo il mese scorso”.
I programmi per i giornalisti vengono scritti fino all’ultimo dettaglio, prima che essi mettano piede qui dentro. Un lungo documento, che delinea cosa è concesso e cosa è vietato, deve essere firmato prima che venga approvata la visita. Così vediamo cucine dove il cibo è preparato sia per i detenuti che per i soldati, la biblioteca locale, le fantastiche attrezzature sportive introdotte per i militari che lavorano qui, un grande teatro open-air e così via. Però, ciò che interessa a noi – e presumo a molte delle persone che vengono in questo posto – è la vita reale dei detenuti e le loro storie – cosa da cui siamo tenuti a distanza.
Le visite nei due settori attivi in cui ci hanno condotti, sono state così brevi che, quando sono giunte al termine, ci siamo detti: “Aspetta, tutto qui?!”. Gli ufficiali, chiedendoci di rimanere anonimi ed impedendoci di filmare i loro volti, ci hanno mostrato velocemente celle vuote preparate precedentemente proprio per le visite dei media, tutte piene di pigiami puliti, libri nuovi, oggetti e prodotti utili per la igiene personale, letterature pre-selezionate e piccole boccette di shampoo “Maximum Security”. (Chiesi se fosse uno scherzo o se quello shampoo fosse veramente diverso da quello utilizzato dallo staff. Loro dissero che non lo sapevano, ma concordarono con me sul fatto che fosse un nome assurdo).
Osservando le presunte vite dei prigionieri mostrate dallo staff del campo di detenzione, è impossibile riuscire a capire se il tutto abbia qualcosa a che fare con il reale modo in cui loro passano il tempo rinchiusi qui dentro. Nonostante le ripetute richieste, non ci è stato concesso più di un minuto per dare un’occhiata veloce, attraverso una finestra con vetri oscurati, ad un detenuto. Siamo rimasti scioccati all’idea che sarebbe stato tutto quello che avremmo potuto vedere.
Nonostante le nostre richieste di poter documentare qualcosa in più, addirittura senza filmare, ci hanno comunicato che ci era già stato mostrato a sufficienza e che il nostro programma era fin troppo pieno rispetto ad altri. Un ufficiale di alto grado ci disse che non volevano che trattassimo i detenuti come “qualcosa di curioso”. Così avremmo dovuto fare un altro tour in una radio locale, per esempio, cosa che non aveva niente a che fare con il carcere.
Lo sfondo della scandalosa prigione è inaspettato. La Guantanamo Bay è una fantastica località tropicale. Fa parte dei Caraibi, dopotutto, quindi, mi chiedo, perché dovrebbe sembrare diversa rispetto alle Bahamas o alle Bermuda? Non è così. E certamente non è zeppa di interminabili campi di prigionia e combattenti nemici dell’America scortati da guardie.
La base militare fu affittata dal Governo degli Stati Uniti molto prima che George Bush e i suoi compari ideassero il concetto moderno della guerra al terrorismo americana. La base è in affitto dal 1903 (circa un secolo). Curiosamente, secondo un contratto con i cubani, gli Stati Uniti pagano un affitto mensile di circa 4.500$ in modo da poter usufruire di queste 45 miglia-quadrate di territorio. In realtà, i cubani hanno rifiutato il denaro per decenni, ma senza riuscire ad ottenere la dipartita degli americani. Secondo l’accordo iniziale, il contratto di affitto non può cessare finché entrambe le parti non concorderanno sulla decisione. Ciò è sempre stato, ovviamente, molto conveniente per gli U.S.A.
La struttura della base militare di Guantanamo è molto simile a quella di un qualsiasi campus universitario americano. Soldati e visitatori come noi alloggiano in semplici dormitori – per lo più in coppia. Coloro che vengono impiegati qui per 6-9 mesi arrivano da soli e devono condividere la stanza con un coinquilino dello stesso sesso. Quelli che invece devono stabilirsi qui per 2-3 anni, principalmente ufficiali militari uomini di alto grado, portano le loro famiglie.
Dato che non abbiamo mai avuto tempo per noi stessi tra uno scatto e l’altro e abbiamo sempre consumato i pasti con la nostra scorta militare, specializzata nell’accompagnare ovunque i media – ho avuto poche occasioni per poter chiedere loro in che modo questo tipo di lavoro abbia influenzato le vite private di ognuno. Uno dei sergenti di grado minore, una giovane donna recentemente assunta, mi ha detto che ai soldati è permesso avere appuntamenti tra loro, ma solo con quelli dello stesso grado – non con i superiori.
Per quanto riguarda il personale militare che lavora qui, gli unici che stanno a diretto contatto con i media e, tra loro, parecchi specificatamente designati a parlare coi giornalisti, sono tutt’altro che gli stereotipati impiegati di una struttura di detenzione. Affascinanti giovani ragazzi (la maggior parte tra i 20 e i 30 anni), pieni di sogni, ottimismo e obiettivi per il futuro. Quando abbiamo chiesto loro di testimoniare sul terribile impatto che ha Guantanamo sui diritti umani negli USA, molti ci hanno risposto che non la pensano allo stesso modo. Loro sono qui per lavorare. Molti hanno anche confermato di non aver personalmente mai rilasciato testimonianze controverse e che non conoscono nessuno che l’abbia fatto.
Spesso, possiamo presumere che alcune delle risposte alle domande che rivolgiamo al personale militare che lavora qui, non siano esattamente veritiere, ma piuttosto quelle ufficiali che hanno dovuto imparare a dare. Il lavoro è lavoro, immagino.
Qualcosa tipo questa potrebbe essere una comune conversazione:
– “Va bene se ci spostiamo per l’isola per i fatti nostri?”
– “Certo! Potete fare tutto quello che volete, ragazzi!”
– “Allora, stasera ci piacerebbe cenare da soli in quel ristorante vicino al nostro alloggio”.
– “Buona idea. Ma vi dispiace se Ben si unisce a voi? Non ha ancora cenato.”
– “Mmm… Ceeerto.”
Ben – senza la sua uniforme militare – ci accompagna a cena, siede a tavola con noi, non parla molto. Quando gli chiediamo se vuole ordinare qualcosa, risponde che ha già mangiato.
Ci è stato detto che ci sarebbe stato costantemente qualcuno all’ingresso del nostro alloggio – 24/7 – giusto in caso avessimo avuto bisogno di qualsiasi cosa. Realizzammo presto che non gli interessava assicurarsi che potessimo avere una ciambella nel mezzo della notte se ne avessimo ardentemente desiderata una (una richiesta che sarebbe indubbiamente stata accomodata, in caso si fosse verificata, perché tutti sono molto amichevoli e disponibili con i giornalisti in visita) – ma piuttosto per essere sicuri che non lasciassimo l’hotel non sorvegliati, girovagando per la base militare da soli. Vale la pena comunque far notare che gli effettivi campi di detenzione dove sono rinchiusi i prigionieri erano troppo lontani perché riuscissimo a raggiungerli a piedi con il nostro equipaggiamento. Ma anche se fossimo riusciti nell’impresa di andare in giro senza accompagnatori, i campi sono così ben protetti che qualsiasi speranza di raccogliere materiale extra sarebbe stata inutile.
Io e il mio cameraman Nick concordammo presto sul fatto che uno degli aspetti più estenuanti dei nostri 4 giorni di viaggio (2 intere giornate sul campo e 2 di viaggio), non è stata la sveglia alle 5 del mattino o le 12 ore passate filmando in tempi serrati e con 40°, ma la costante compagnia della nostra scorta.
Ribadisco, bravi ragazzi, ma non ci era mai capitato di lavorare così in nessun altro luogo – osservati ad ogni passo, ad ogni scatto. Alla fine di ogni giornata lavorativa, il team dei media esamina assolutamente tutto il materiale raccolto – video, audio, foto, e addirittura scenette – e cancella qualsiasi cosa che ritiene essere una violazione della sicurezza.
Una delle cinque parti del nostro servizio si focalizza nello specifico sulle regolamentazioni riguardo alla condotta dei giornalisti sul campo, ma non intendo dilungarmi oltre su tale questione. Se osservate le storie, vedrete che ci è stato permesso di filmare il volto di un solo un residente. Per tutti gli altri – dai negozianti, a chi fa jogging, fino alle giovani mamme con i bambini nei passeggini – rivelare le loro identità in qualsiasi modo era fuori questione. Ma parlando con chiunque viva alla base, tutti sostengono di amare quel luogo e che non ci sia assolutamente niente da nascondere o di cui preoccuparsi.
Gli ufficiali che gestiscono Guantanamo parlano orgogliosamente degli intrattenimenti che hanno reso disponibili per i detenuti: parecchi libri in dozzine di lingue, DVD, videogiochi, riviste che i prigionieri hanno il permesso di richiedere. Tutti questi sono accuratamente censurati prima di essere distribuiti; gli addetti alla biblioteca si assicurano che niente di estremo – dalla violenza alla sessualità – capiti tra le loro mani. È come se tutti gli svaghi celassero il fatto che molti dei detenuti qui passino la maggior parte del loro tempo senza nessuna occupazione – solamente aspettando qualcosa che non accadrà mai.
Allo stesso tempo, gli uomini di servizio alla base non hanno accesso a molte delle informazioni. Ancora più importante, è a malapena consentito qualsiasi accesso a internet, e nel caso ci fosse, ai militari è vietato visitare certi siti web come, ad esempio, WikiLeaks. Per loro, qualcosa di riservato resta sempre riservato, anche se le informazioni rilasciate da WikiLeaks sono state rese pubbliche da tempo.
Mi domando se gli uomini di servizio si ritrovino a cercare tali informazioni prima o dopo il loro impiego nella base o se preferiscano restare nell’ignoranza.
Dal 2002, la struttura di detenzione di Guantanamo ha accolto un totale di 779 prigionieri. La maggior parte di questi presunti combattenti nemici sono stati rilasciati senza nessun precedente capo d’accusa. 164 rimangono dietro le sbarre di Guantanamo, per più della metà è stato da tempo approvato il rilascio o il trasferimento. Solo 6 detenuti sono attualmente sotto processo – dei quali solo 2 sono in corso. Tutti gli altri sono in attesa. Ogni singolo giorno trascorre senza sapere cosa accadrà loro in futuro e quanto tempo ancora dovranno passare qui.
Un avvocato che lavora coi prigionieri ci ha rivelato che non c’è niente che essi desiderino maggiormente che poter condividere le loro storie con i giornalisti, poter parlare apertamente delle proprie lotte ed informare il mondo su ciò che realmente succede. Questo è, tuttavia, impossibile, perché a nessun detenuto – finché si trova nella struttura – è mai stato permesso di parlare con un giornalista. Possono trasmettere qualsiasi messaggio solo attraverso gli avvocati, o ancora, devono aspettare a raccontare le loro vicende finché non saranno stati scarcerati.
Anche se, negli ultimi anni, l’amministrazione di Obama è stata quasi sempre silenziosa riguardo Guantanamo, fatto principalmente dovuto ai miseri passi avanti per chiudere il campo, il lungo sciopero della fame di inizio anno ha riportato l’attenzione mondiale sulla prigione. Ma appena la protesta di massa è cessata, il dialogo pubblico sulla chiusura di questo posto è svanito nuovamente. Nel mentre, ci sono stati detenuti che hanno portato avanti scioperi della fame per anni, però giornalmente forzati a nutrirsi. Gli ufficiali di Gitmo (altro modo per riferirsi alla prigione, ndt) sostengono che sia il loro modo di attirare l’attenzione dei media. Qualsiasi siano le ragioni, gli scioperi della fame qui portano alla dolorosa, quanto non-etica, procedura (in accordo con illustri associazioni mediche) di avere un tubo spinto a forza, attraverso una narice, giù per lo stomaco.
Inoltre, questi ufficiali fingono di non aver mai sentito le critiche, confidandoci che il massimo che gli sia stato detto dai “pazienti” è “è fastidioso”. La mia indagine per provare queste possibili costrizioni alimentari è stata rifiutata.
La scusa ufficiale per non aver chiuso il campo di prigionia – come Obama aveva promesso proprio nel suo primo giorno di mandato – e che la Casa Bianca ha citato, è che il Congresso si è opposto. Numerosi esperti legali con cui abbiamo parlato, comunque, sostengono che basterebbe il potere decisionale del Presidente. Se veramente Barack Obama volesse la chiusura di Guantanamo, potrebbe farlo oggi stesso. Ma anche in tale caso, il detto “lontano dagli occhi, lontano dal cuore” non sarebbe applicato: dopo oltre un decennio passato a deturpare l’immagine dell’America con questo discutibile capitolo della storia moderna, il concetto di Guantanamo rimarrà impresso a lungo, perseguitando Washington per ancora molti anni a venire.
Anastasia Churkina, corrispondente internazionale di RT
Affermazioni, punti di vista e opinioni espresse in questo articolo sono esclusivamente legate all’autore e non necessariamente rappresentano quelli di RT.
Traduzione per http://www.comedonchisciotte.org a cura di ILEA BONGI
– See more at: http://www.altrainformazione.it/wp/2013/12/03/quello-che-non-vorrebbero-farci-vedere-a-guantanamo/#sthash.mx2xZrOk.dpuf
The Guardian, Sunday 2 June 2013 actuality
The Bilderberg group’s meeting will receive greater scrutiny than usual as journalists and bloggers converge on Watford
When you’re picking a spot to hold the world’s most powerful policy summit, there’s really only one place that will do: Watford. I guess the Seychelles must have been booked up.
On Thursday afternoon, a heady mix of politicians, bank bosses, billionaires, chief executives and European royalty will swoop up the elegant drive of the Grove hotel, north of Watford, to begin the annual Bilderberg conference.
It’s a remarkable spectacle – one of nature’s wonders – and the most exciting thing to happen to Watford since that roundabout on the A412 got traffic lights. The area round the hotel is in lockdown: locals are having to show their passports to get to their homes. It’s exciting too for the delegates. The CEO of Royal Dutch Shell will hop from his limo, delighted to be spending three solid days in policy talks with the head of HSBC, the president of Dow Chemical, his favourite European finance ministers and US intelligence chiefs. The conference is the highlight of every plutocrat’s year and has been since 1954. The only time Bilderberg skipped a year was 1976, after the group’s founding chairman, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, was caught taking bribes from Lockheed Martin.
It may seem odd, as our own lobbying scandal unfolds, amid calls for a statutory register of lobbyists, that a bunch of our senior politicians will be holed up for three days in luxurious privacy with the chairmen and CEOs of hedge funds, tech corporations and vast multinational holding companies, with zero press oversight. “It runs contrary to [George] Osborne’s public commitment in 2010 to ‘the most radical transparency agenda the country has ever seen’,” says Michael Meacher MP. Meacher describes the conference as “an anti-democratic cabal of the leaders of western market capitalism meeting in private to maintain their own power and influence outside the reach of public scrutiny”.
But, to be fair, is “public scrutiny” really necessary when our politicians are tucked safely away with so many responsible members of JP Morgan’s international advisory board? There’s always the group chief executive of BP on hand to make sure they do not get unduly lobbied. And if he is not in the room, keeping an eye out, then at least one of the chairmen of Novartis, Zurich Insurance, Fiat or Goldman Sachs International will be around.
This year, there will be a great deal more “public scrutiny” of Bilderberg. Pressure from journalists and activists has won concessions from the venue: for the first time in 59 years there will be an unofficial press office, staffed by volunteers, on the grounds. Several thousand activists and bloggers are expected, along with photographers and journalists from around the world.
Back in 2009 there were barely a dozen witnesses – harassed and arrested by heavy-handed Greek police. This year there is a press zone, police liaison, portable toilets, a snack van, a speakers’ corner – all the ingredients for a different Bilderberg. A “festival feel” has been promised. If you are concerned about transparency or lobbying, Watford is the place to be next weekend. Whether the delegates reach out to the press and public remains to be seen. Don’t forget, they’ve got their hands full carrying out the good works of Bilderberg. The conference is, after all, run as a charity.
If you’ve been wondering who picks up the tab for this gigantic conference and security operation, the answer arrived last week, on a pdf file sent round by Anonymous. It showed that the Bilderberg conference is paid for, in the UK, by an officially registered charity: the Bilderberg Association (charity number 272706).
According to its Charity Commission accounts, the association meets the “considerable costs” of the conference when it is held in the UK, which include hospitality costs and the travel costs of some delegates. Presumably the charity is also covering the massive G4S security contract. Fortunately, the charity receives regular five-figure sums from two kindly supporters of its benevolent aims: Goldman Sachs and BP. The most recent documentary proof of this is from 2008 (pdf), since when the charity has omitted its donors’ names (pdf) from its accounts.
The charity’s goal is “public education”. And how does it go about educating the public? “In furtherance of these objectives the International Steering Committee organises conferences and meetings in the UK and elsewhere and disseminates the results thereof by preparing and publishing reports of such conferences and meetings and by other means.” Cleverly, it disseminates the results by resolutely keeping them away from the public and press.
The charity is overseen by its three trustees (pdf): Bilderberg steering committee member and serving minister Kenneth Clarke MP; Lord Kerr of Kinlochard; and Marcus Agius, the former chairman of Barclays who resigned over the Libor scandal.
Labour MP Tom Watson remarks: “If the allegations that a cabinet minister sits on the board of a charity that discreetly funds a secretive conference of elites are true then I hope the prime minister was informed. It was David Cameron who heralded the new age of transparency. I hope he asks Kenneth Clarke to adhere to these principles in future.” At the very least, George Osborne and Clarke may consider adhering to the ministerial code when it comes to Bilderberg and declare it in their list of “meetings with proprietors, editors and senior media executives” as they’ve failed to do in the past. Of course, with the lobbying scandal in full spate it’s possible our ministers will steer clear of such a major corporate lobbying event. We’ll find out on Thursday
Multibillion Dollar War Budgets: Proponents of ‘First Strike’ Nuclear War against Iran Rob billions from their own Citizens
While the Pentagon’s modernization budget for the pre-emptive nuclear option is a modest ten billion dollars (excluding the outlay by NATO countries). the budget for upgrading the US arsenal of “strategic nuclear offensive forces” is a staggering $352 billion over ten years. (See Russell Rumbaugh and Nathan Cohn,“Resolving Ambiguity: Costing Nuclear Weapons,” Stimson Center Report, June 2012).
These multi-billion military outlays allocated to develop“bigger and better nuclear bombs” are financed by the massive economic austerity measures currently applied in US and NATO countries.
The war economy is largely funded by compressing all categories of civilian government expenditure. In the US, these refurbished state of the art nuclear bombs are largely funded by the dramatic cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Humanity is at a dangerous crossroads. America is a “Killer State”. The gamut of economic austerity measures impoverish the American people while generously funding the “Killer State” through multi-billion dollar contracts with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon et al.
War preparations to attack Iran are in “an advanced state of readiness”. Hi tech weapons systems including nuclear warheads are fully deployed.
At the height of an Economic Depression, “War is Good for Business”.
Escalation is part of the military agenda. While Iran, is the next target together with Syria and Lebanon, the US-NATO military agenda also threatens Russia, China and North Korea.
The Western media, the Washington Think Tanks, the scientists and politicians, in chorus, obfuscate the untold truth, namely that war using nuclear warheads threatens the future of humanity.
The real threat to global security emanates from the US-NATO-Israel alliance.
The main actors in the Iran pre-emptive nuclear warfareThermo-nuclear weapons are deployed by the three “official” Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) of the Atlantic Alliance, namely the US, the UK and France. The official NWS status is established under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Five other NATO member countries (categorized under the NPT as“non-nuclear states”), namely Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey, possess an arsenal of B61 tactical nuclear warheads or “mini-nukes” (Made in America) which are deployed under national military command and are targeted at Iran. The B61 can be delivered by a variety of different aircraft.
Are these five countries in violation of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty of which they are signatories?
In relation to ongoing war plans, the US-NATO-Israel military alliance includes a total of nine countries which possess a nuclear weapons arsenal:
The three official NWS (US, UK, France) plus the five“Undeclared Nuclear States” (Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Turkey) plus the State of Israel (Undeclared Nuclear State). With the exception of Israel, these countries are signatories of the NPT.
Pre-emptive Nuclear WarfareWhile reports tend to depict the tactical B61 bombs as a relic of the Cold war, the mini nukes are the preferred weapons system for pre-emptive nuclear war. Were an attack directed against Iran to be launched involving the deployment of B61 bunker buster nuclear bombs, these five countries, with Turkey and Italy in the forefront, would play a major strategic role.
The involvement of these five “non nuclear states” as major actors in a US sponsored pre-emptive nuclear war raises the issue of definition and categorization of nuclear weapons states. In the words of Time Magazine:
“Is Italy capable of delivering a thermonuclear strike?…
Could the Belgians and the Dutch drop hydrogen bombs on enemy targets?…
Germany’s air force couldn’t possibly be training to deliver bombs 13 times more powerful than the one that destroyed Hiroshima, could it?…
Nuclear bombs are stored on air-force bases in Italy, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands — and planes from each of those countries are capable of delivering them.” (“What to Do About Europe’s Secret Nukes.” Time Magazine, December 2, 2009)
The Time report is careful not to address the fundamental question. Are Turkey and Italy nuclear weapons states? The B61s are described as a leftover from the Cold War. The issue of post 9/11 pre-emptive warfare is not mentioned:
“These weapons are more than a historical oddity, says Time. They are a violation of the spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) … that provides a legal restraint to the nuclear ambitions of rogue states.” (Ibid).
While Iran does not possess nuclear weapons capabilities as confirmed by the latest US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the nuclear weapons potential of these five countries –including delivery procedures– are formally acknowledged.
These five countries possess WMDs, yet they do not constitute–in the eyes of public opinion– a threat to global security. Moreover, at no time have these five countries been designated as “rogue states” or “undeclared nuclear weapons states”.
US and NATO military documents attest to the fact that the B61 is the weapon of choice of pre-emptive nuclear war as opposed to the larger thermo-nuclear bombs of the Cold War era. Moreover, were military action to be launched against Iran, these five countries would play a key role in the delivery of B61 bunker buster bombs with nuclear warheads.
The US had originally supplied some 480 B61 thermonuclear bombs to these five “non-nuclear states”, as well as to the United Kingdom, which is categorized as a Nuclear Weapons State (NWS). (See map below)
Casually disregarded by the Vienna based UN Nuclear Watchdog (IAEA), the US has actively contributed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons in Western Europe and Turkey. While, some of these bombs were decommissioned as a result of political pressures, particularly in Belgium and Germany, the US –in liaison with NATO– has launched a multi-billion dollar modernisation program of its tactical nuclear weapons arsenal.
According to the National Resources Defense Council (August 2007), the number of B61 nuclear bombs in Europe has been reduced from 480 to 350, following the removal of 130 bombs from the Ramstein airbase in Germany.
As part of this European stockpiling and deployment, Turkey, which is a partner of the US-led coalition against Iran along with Israel, possesses some 90 thermonuclear B61 bunker buster bombs at the Incirlik air base. (National Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons in Europe, February 2005). This is all the more significant in view of the “reconciliation” and renewed bilateral military cooperation between Ankara and Tel Aviv in the wake of President Obama’s March visit to Israel.
The stockpiling and deployment of tactical B61 (including the B61-11 earth penetrating warhead) in these five “non-nuclear states” are intended for targets in the Middle East. In accordance with “NATO strike plans”, these thermonuclear B61 bunker buster bombs (stockpiled by the“non-nuclear states”) could be launched against Iran, Syria and Russia:
“The approximately 480 nuclear bombs in Europe [350 according to 2007 estimate] are intended for use in accordance with NATO nuclear strike plans, the report asserts, against targets in Russia or countries in the Middle East such as Iran and Syria.
The report shows for the first time how many U.S. nuclear bombs are earmarked for delivery by non-nuclear NATO countries. In times of war, under certain circumstances, up to 180 of the 480 nuclear bombs would be handed over to Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey for delivery by their national air forces. No other nuclear power or military alliance has nuclear weapons earmarked for delivery by non-nuclear countries.”
Does this mean that Iran or Russia, which are potential targets of a nuclear attack originating from one or other of these five so-called non-nuclear states should contemplate defensive pre-emptive nuclear attacks against Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey? The answer is no, by any stretch of the imagination.
While these “undeclared nuclear states” casually accuse Tehran of developing nuclear weapons, without documentary evidence, they themselves have capabilities of delivering nuclear warheads, which are targeted at Iran. To say that this is a clear case of“double standards” by the IAEA and the “international community” is a understatement.
(Source: National Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons in Europe , February 2005)
While political pressures have been exerted in recent years towards decommissioning the stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons, the arsenal of B61 bunker buster bombs with nuclear warheads remains fully operational. In the case of a conflict with Iran, mini nukes in the five non nuclear states would be actively deployed in liaison with NATO, which has fully endorsed the doctrine of nuclear pre-emption. According to the Pentagon:
… keeping these weapons in Europe is that they allow NATO members to participate in shaping alliance nuclear policy [i.e. pre-emptive nuclear doctrine]. In this view, transatlantic ties are strengthened when the risks and costs of deploying and securing nuclear weapons are shared between the US and the respective host nations. (Quoted in “Parting words: Gates and tactical nuclear weapons in Europe”. Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 14 July 2011)
Modernising the Mini-Nukes ArsenalThe decommissioning of the B61 nukes stockpiled in Western Europe and Turkey is a smokescreen. The European tactical nuclear weapons project is not being phased out as some reports have suggested. Quite the opposite. In 2010, the US National Nuclear Security Administration initiated a program “to refurbish and extend the life of the B61 bomb” at an initial estimated cost of 4 billion dollars (Ibid). By 2012, the mini nukes refurbishing program had skyrocketed to $10 billion. (US Department of Defence, Case Independent Cost Assessment for B61 LEP, Washington, July 13, 2012)
Described by the Federation of American Scientists, as “a gold plated nuclear bomb project”, this initiative consists in modernizing the existing pre-emptive nuclear arsenal of B61 tactical nuclear weapons deployed in the five undeclared nuclear states. Moreover, a new version of the B61 bunker buster bomb is envisaged: the B61-12. The latter is to be developed for deployment in Western Europe and Turkey with the backing of NATO and the German government, (Federation of American Scientists, November 2012).
The Obama administration and Congress have pushed the program forward despite the enormous cost … of refurbishing such complex weapons … Advocates, including the Obama administration..
Germany: Nuclear Weapons ProducerAmong the five “undeclared nuclear states”, “Germany remains the most heavily nuclearized country with three nuclear bases (two of which are fully operational) and may store as many as 150 [B61 bunker buster ] bombs” (National Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons in Europe. In accordance with “NATO strike plans”, these tactical nuclear weapons are also targeted at the Middle East.
While Germany is not categorized officially as a nuclear weapons state, it produces nuclear warheads for the French Navy. It stockpiles tactical nuclear weapons (Made in America) and it has the capabilities of delivering nuclear weapons. Moreover, The European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company – EADS , a Franco-German-Spanish joint venture, controlled by the powerful Daimler Group is Europe’s second largest military producer, supplying France’s M51 nuclear missile.
Dangerous Cross RoadsThe tactical nuclear weapons deployed by the five non declared nuclear states are under national command and could be used in a pre-emptive US-NATO sponsored nuclear attack against Iran.
Tactical nuclear weapons are also deployed by Israel.
While it is unlikely that nuclear weapons would be used at the outset of an attack, they could be envisaged as part of a scenario of military escalation.
It is, therefore, important that public opinion in Western Europe, Turkey and Israel be made aware of the consequences of pre-emptive warfare and that political pressures be exerted on the governments of these 5 countries, with a view to blocking the deployment of the B61 nuclear warheads in their respective military bases as well as withdrawing outright from ongoing US-NATO pre-emptive war plans directed against Iran.
Tactical nuclear weapons are in essence slated to be used against non-nuclear states in the middle East. Their use was contemplated in both the Iraq war in 2003 as well against Libya in 2011.
The focus on tactical nuclear weapons (mini-nukes) as part of the conventional war arsenal, does not mean that the the US and its allies have scrapped the idea of using their arsenal of larger strategic thermonuclear weapons. While the latter would not be used against a non-nuclear state in the Middle East, they are deployed and targeted against Russia, China and North Korea.
For those who believe the use of thermonuclear nuclear weapons belongs to a bygone era, think twice.
For further details on the dangers of Nuclear War, see the author’s most recent book: Towards a World War III Scenario:The Dangers of Nuclear War, Global Research, Montreal, 2011.
Originally published by RT-Edge. The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT
BREAKING: European Commission to criminalize nearly all seeds and plants not registered with government
A new law proposed by the European Commission would make it illegal to “grow, reproduce or trade” any vegetable seeds that have not been “tested, approved and accepted” by a new EU bureaucracy named the “EU Plant Variety Agency.”
It’s called the Plant Reproductive Material Law, and it attempts to put the government in charge of virtually all plants and seeds. Home gardeners who grow their own plants from non-regulated seeds would be considered criminals under this law.
The draft text of the law, which has already been amended several times due to a huge backlash from gardeners, is viewable here.
“This law will immediately stop the professional development of vegetable varieties for home gardeners, organic growers, and small-scale market farmers,” said Ben Gabel, vegetable breeder and director of The Real Seed Catalogue. “Home gardeners have really different needs – for example they grow by hand, not machine, and can’t or don’t want to use such powerful chemical sprays. There’s no way to register the varieties suitable for home use as they don’t meet the strict criteria of the Plant Variety Agency, which is only concerned about approving the sort of seed used by industrial farmers.”
Virtually all plants, vegetable seeds and gardeners to eventually be registered by governmentAll governments are, of course, infatuated with the idea of registering everybody and everything. Under Title IV of the proposed EU law:
Title IV Registration of varieties in national and Union registers
The varieties, in order to be made available on the market throughout the Union, shall be included in a national register or in the Union register via direct application procedure to the CVPO.
Gardeners must also pay fees to the EU bureaucracy for the registration of their seeds. From the proposed law text:
The competent authorities and the CPVO should charge fees for the processing of
applications, the formal and technical examinations including audits, variety denomination, and the maintenance of the varieties for each year for the duration of
While this law may initially only be targeted at commercial gardeners, it sets a precedent to sooner or later go after home gardeners and require them to abide by the same insane regulations.
Government bureaucracy gone insane“This is an instance of bureaucracy out of control,” says Ben Gabel. “All this new law does is create a whole new raft of EU civil servants being paid to move mountains of papers round all day, while killing off the seed supply to home gardeners and interfering with the right of farmers to grow what they want. It also very worrying that they have given themselves the power to regulate and licence any plant species of any sort at all in the future – not just agricultural plants, but grasses, mosses, flowers, anything at all – without having to bring it back to the Council for a vote.”
As a hint of the level of insane bureaucracy that gardeners and vegetable growers will be subject to under this EU law, check out this language from the proposed EU law:
Specific provisions are set out on the registration in the Union variety register and with regard to the possibility for the applicant to launch an appeal against a CPVO decision. Such provisions are not laid down for the registration in the national variety
registers, because they are subject to national administrative procedures. A new obligation for each national variety examination centre to be audited by the CPVO will be introduced with the aim to ensure the quality and harmonisation of the variety registration process in the Union. The examination centre of the professional operators will be audited and approved by the national competent authorities. In case of direct application to the CPVO it will audit and approve the examination centres it uses for variety examination.
Such language is, of course, Orwellian bureaucraticspeak that means only one thing: All gardeners should prepare to be subjected to total government insanity over seeds, vegetables and home gardens.
RealSeeds.co.uk warns about any attempt to actually try to understand the law by reading it:
You cannot just read the first 5 pages or so that are an ‘executive summary’, and think you know what this law is about. The executive summary is NOT what will become the law. It is the actual Articles themselves that become law, the Summary has no legal standing and is just tacked on as an aid to the public and legislators, it is supposed to give background information and set the proposed legislation in context so people know what is going on and why.
The problem with this law has always been that the Summary says lots of nice fluffy things about preserving biodiversity, simplifying legislation, making things easier etc – things we all would love – but the Articles of the law actually do completely the opposite. And the Summary is not what becomes the law.
For example, the Summary of drafts 1, 2 & 3 talked about making things easier for ‘Amateur’ varieties. But the entire class of Amateur vegetables – which we have spent 5 years working with DEFRA to register – was actually abolished entirely in the Articles right from the start. Yet the Summary , and press releases based on it, still talked about how it will help preserve Amateur varieties! The Summary is completely bogus. Do not base your views of the law on it!
So, be warned. By all means, read it yourself. But you have the ignore the Summary as that is not the Law, and does not reflect what is in the Law.
As you might suspect, this move is the “final solution” of Monsanto, DuPont and other seed-domination corporations who have long admitted their goal is the complete domination of all seeds and crops grown on the planet. By criminalizing the private growing of vegetables — thereby turning gardeners into criminals — EU bureaucrats can finally hand over full control of the food supply to powerful corporations like Monsanto.
Most heirloom seeds to be criminalizedNearly all varieties of heirloom vegetable seeds will be criminalized under this proposed EU law. This means the act of saving seeds from one generation to the next — a cornerstone of sustainable living — will become a criminal act.
In addition, as Gabel explains, this law “…effectively kills off development of home-garden seeds in the EU.”
This is the ultimate wish of all governments, of course: To criminalize any act of self-reliance and make the population completely dependent on monopolistic corporations for their very survival. This is true both in the USA and the EU. This is what governments do: They seize control, one sector at a time, year after year, until you are living as nothing more than a total slave under a globalist dictatorial regime.
An online petition has already been started on this issue and has garnered nearly 25,000 signatures so far.
NOAH’S ARK and 240 other organizations from 40 European countries have also initiated an “open letter” appealing to Brussels bureaucrats to stop the insanity. Click here for a translated version of their petition.
I saw this comingBy the way, I am on the record predicting this exact scenario. Read Chapter Three of my fiction book, “Freedom Chronicles 2026.” (Read it FREE, online.) It depicts a seed smuggler living in a time when seeds are criminalized and people earn a living as professional seed smugglers.
In my book, a woman uses a specially-crafted breast prosthesis to smuggle seeds to “underground gardeners” in full defiance of laws crafted by Monsanto. A vast underground network of grassroots gardeners and scientists manage to put together a “seed weapon” to destroy GMOs and take back the food supply from evil corporations.
Mark my words: Seeds are about to become contraband. Anyone who grows their own food is about to be targeted as a criminal. The governments of the world, conspiring with corporations like Monsanto, do not want any individual to be able to grow their own food.
This is about total domination of the food supply and the criminalizing of gardeners. And this is what big government always does after centralizing sufficient power. All governments inherently seek total control over the lives of everyone, and if you don’t set boundaries and limits for government (i.e. the Bill of Rights), it eventually runs roughshod over all freedoms and liberties, including the freedom to grow your own food.
The Spoils of War: Afghanistan’s Multibillion Dollar Heroin Trade
by Michel Chossudovsky
Since the US led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, the Golden Crescent opium trade has soared. According to the US media, this lucrative contraband is protected by Osama, the Taliban, not to mention, of course, the regional warlords, in defiance of the “international community”.
The heroin business is said to be “filling the coffers of the Taliban”. In the words of the US State Department:
“Opium is a source of literally billions of dollars to extremist and criminal groups… [C]utting down the opium supply is central to establishing a secure and stable democracy, as well as winning the global war on terrorism,” (Statement of Assistant Secretary of State Robert Charles. Congressional Hearing, 1 April 2004)
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), opium production in Afghanistan in 2003 is estimated at 3,600 tons, with an estimated area under cultivation of the order of 80,000 hectares. (UNODC at http://www.unodc.org/unodc/index.html ).An even larger bumper harvest is predicted for 2004.
The State Department suggests that up to 120 000 hectares were under cultivation in 2004. (Congressional Hearing, op cit):
”We could be on a path for a significant surge. Some observers indicate perhaps as much as 50 percent to 100 percent growth in the 2004 crop over the already troubling figures from last year.”(Ibid)
In response to the post-Taliban surge in opium production, the Bush administration has boosted its counter terrorism activities, while allocating substantial amounts of public money to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s West Asia initiative, dubbed “Operation Containment.”
The various reports and official statements are, of course, blended in with the usual “balanced” self critique that “the international community is not doing enough”, and that what we need is “transparency”.
The headlines are “Drugs, warlords and insecurity overshadow Afghanistan’s path to democracy”. In chorus, the US media is accusing the defunct “hard-line Islamic regime”, without even acknowledging that the Taliban –in collaboration with the United Nations– had imposed a successful ban on poppy cultivation in 2000. Opium production declined by more than 90 per cent in 2001. In fact the surge in opium cultivation production coincided with the onslaught of the US-led military operation and the downfall of the Taliban regime. From October through December 2001, farmers started to replant poppy on an extensive basis.
The success of Afghanistan’s 2000 drug eradication program under the Taliban had been acknowledged at the October 2001 session of the UN General Assembly (which took place barely a few days after the beginning of the 2001 bombing raids). No other UNODC member country was able to implement a comparable program:
“Turning first to drug control, I had expected to concentrate my remarks on the implications of the Taliban’s ban on opium poppy cultivation in areas under their control… We now have the results of our annual ground survey of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. This year’s production  is around 185 tons. This is down from the 3300 tons last year , a decrease of over 94 per cent. Compared to the record harvest of 4700 tons two years ago, the decrease is well over 97 per cent.
Any decrease in illicit cultivation is welcomed, especially in cases like this when no displacement, locally or in other countries, took place to weaken the achievement” (Remarks on behalf of UNODC Executive Director at the UN General Assembly, Oct 2001, http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/speech_2001-10-12_1.html )
United Nations’ Coverup
In the wake of the US invasion, shift in rhetoric. UNODC is now acting as if the 2000 opium ban had never happened:
“the battle against narcotics cultivation has been fought and won in other countries and it [is] possible to do so here [in Afghanistan], with strong, democratic governance, international assistance and improved security and integrity.” ( Statement of the UNODC Representative in Afghanistan at the :February 2004 International Counter Narcotics Conference, http://www.unodc.org/pdf/afg/afg_intl_counter_narcotics_conf_2004.pdf , p. 5).
In fact, both Washington and the UNODC now claim that the objective of the Taliban in 2000 was not really “drug eradication” but a devious scheme to trigger “an artificial shortfall in supply”, which would drive up World prices of heroin.
Ironically, this twisted logic, which now forms part of a new “UN consensus”, is refuted by a report of the UNODC office in Pakistan, which confirmed, at the time, that there was no evidence of stockpiling by the Taliban. (Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah. 5 October 2003)
Washington’s Hidden Agenda: Restore the Drug Trade
In the wake of the 2001 US bombing of Afghanistan, the British government of Tony Blair was entrusted by the G-8 Group of leading industrial nations to carry out a drug eradication program, which would, in theory, allow Afghan farmers to switch out of poppy cultivation into alternative crops. The British were working out of Kabul in close liaison with the US DEA’s “Operation Containment”.
The UK sponsored crop eradication program is an obvious smokescreen. Since October 2001, opium poppy cultivation has skyrocketed. The presence of occupation forces in Afghanistan did not result in the eradication of poppy cultivation. Quite the opposite.
The Taliban prohibition had indeed caused “the beginning of a heroin shortage in Europe by the end of 2001″, as acknowledged by the UNODC.
Heroin is a multibillion dollar business supported by powerful interests, which requires a steady and secure commodity flow. One of the “hidden” objectives of the war was precisely to restore the CIA sponsored drug trade to its historical levels and exert direct control over the drug routes.
Immediately following the October 2001 invasion, opium markets were restored. Opium prices spiraled. By early 2002, the opium price (in dollars/kg) was almost 10 times higher than in 2000.
In 2001, under the Taliban opiate production stood at 185 tons, increasing to 3400 tons in 2002 under the US sponsored puppet regime of President Hamid Karzai.
While highlighting Karzai’s patriotic struggle against the Taliban, the media fails to mention that Karzai collaborated with the Taliban. He had also been on the payroll of a major US oil company, UNOCAL. In fact, since the mid-1990s, Hamid Karzai had acted as a consultant and lobbyist for UNOCAL in negotiations with the Taliban. According to the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan:
“Karzai has been a Central Intelligence Agency covert operator since the 1980s. He collaborated with the CIA in funneling U.S. aid to the Taliban as of 1994 when the Americans had secretly and through the Pakistanis [specifically the ISI] supported the Taliban’s assumption of power.” (quoted in Karen Talbot, U.S. Energy Giant Unocal Appoints Interim Government in Kabul, Global Outlook, No. 1, Spring 2002. p. 70. See also BBC Monitoring Service, 15 December 2001)
History of the Golden Crescent Drug trade
It is worth recalling the history of the Golden Crescent drug trade, which is intimately related to the CIA’s covert operations in the region since the onslaught of the Soviet-Afghan war and its aftermath.
Prior to the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-1989), opium production in Afghanistan and Pakistan was directed to small regional markets. There was no local production of heroin. (Alfred McCoy, Drug Fallout: the CIA’s Forty Year Complicity in the Narcotics Trade. The Progressive, 1 August 1997).
The Afghan narcotics economy was a carefully designed project of the CIA, supported by US foreign policy.
As revealed in the Iran-Contra and Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI) scandals, CIA covert operations in support of the Afghan Mujahideen had been funded through the laundering of drug money. “Dirty money” was recycled –through a number of banking institutions (in the Middle East) as well as through anonymous CIA shell companies–, into “covert money,” used to finance various insurgent groups during the Soviet-Afghan war, and its aftermath:
“Because the US wanted to supply the Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan with stinger missiles and other military hardware it needed the full cooperation of Pakistan. By the mid-1980s, the CIA operation in Islamabad was one of the largest US intelligence stations in the World. `If BCCI is such an embarrassment to the US that forthright investigations are not being pursued it has a lot to do with the blind eye the US turned to the heroin trafficking in Pakistan’, said a US intelligence officer. (“The Dirtiest Bank of All,” Time, July 29, 1991, p. 22.)
Researcher Alfred McCoy’s study confirms that within two years of the onslaught of the CIA’s covert operation in Afghanistan in 1979,
“the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands became the world’s top heroin producer, supplying 60 per cent of U.S. demand. In Pakistan, the heroin-addict population went from near zero in 1979 to 1.2 million by 1985, a much steeper rise than in any other nation.”
“CIA assets again controlled this heroin trade. As the Mujahideen guerrillas seized territory inside Afghanistan, they ordered peasants to plant opium as a revolutionary tax. Across the border in Pakistan, Afghan leaders and local syndicates under the protection of Pakistan Intelligence operated hundreds of heroin laboratories. During this decade of wide-open drug-dealing, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Islamabad failed to instigate major seizures or arrests.
U.S. officials had refused to investigate charges of heroin dealing by its Afghan allies because U.S. narcotics policy in Afghanistan has been subordinated to the war against Soviet influence there. In 1995, the former CIA director of the Afghan operation, Charles Cogan, admitted the CIA had indeed sacrificed the drug war to fight the Cold War. ‘Our main mission was to do as much damage as possible to the Soviets. We didn’t really have the resources or the time to devote to an investigation of the drug trade,’ I don’t think that we need to apologize for this. Every situation has its fallout. There was fallout in terms of drugs, yes. But the main objective was accomplished. The Soviets left Afghanistan.’”(McCoy, op cit)
The role of the CIA, which is amply documented, is not mentioned in official UNODC publications, which focus on internal social and political factors. Needless to say, the historical roots of the opium trade have been grossly distorted.
According to the UNODC, Afghanistan’s opium production has increased, more than 15-fold since 1979. In the wake of the Soviet-Afghan war, the growth of the narcotics economy has continued unabated. The Taliban, which were supported by the US, were initially instrumental in the further growth of opiate production until the 2000 opium ban.
This recycling of drug money was used to finance the post-Cold War insurgencies in Central Asia and the Balkans including Al Qaeda. (For details, see Michel Chossudovsky, War and Globalization, The Truth behind September 11, Global Outlook, 2002, http://globalresearch.ca/globaloutlook/truth911.html )
Narcotics: Second to Oil and the Arms Trade
The revenues generated from the CIA sponsored Afghan drug trade are sizeable. The Afghan trade in opiates constitutes a large share of the worldwide annual turnover of narcotics, which was estimated by the United Nations to be of the order of $400-500 billion. (Douglas Keh, Drug Money in a Changing World, Technical document No. 4, 1998, Vienna UNDCP, p. 4. See also United Nations Drug Control Program, Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 1999, E/INCB/1999/1 United Nations, Vienna 1999, p. 49-51, and Richard Lapper, UN Fears Growth of Heroin Trade, Financial Times, 24 February 2000). At the time these UN figures were first brought out (1994), the (estimated) global trade in drugs was of the same order of magnitude as the global trade in oil.
The IMF estimated global money laundering to be between 590 billion and 1.5 trillion dollars a year, representing 2-5 percent of global GDP. (Asian Banker, 15 August 2003). A large share of global money laundering as estimated by the IMF is linked to the trade in narcotics.
Based on recent figures (2003), drug trafficking constitutes “the third biggest global commodity in cash terms after oil and the arms trade.” (The Independent, 29 February 2004).
Moreover, the above figures including those on money laundering, confirm that the bulk of the revenues associated with the global trade in narcotics are not appropriated by terrorist groups and warlords, as suggested by the UNODC report.
There are powerful business and financial interests behind narcotics. From this standpoint, geopolitical and military control over the drug routes is as strategic as oil and oil pipelines.
However, what distinguishes narcotics from legal commodity trade is that narcotics constitutes a major source of wealth formation not only for organised crime but also for the US intelligence apparatus, which increasingly constitutes a powerful actor in the spheres of finance and banking.
In turn, the CIA, which protects the drug trade, has developed complex business and undercover links to major criminal syndicates involved in the drug trade.
In other words, intelligence agencies and powerful business syndicates allied with organized crime, are competing for the strategic control over the heroin routes. The multi-billion dollar revenues of narcotics are deposited in the Western banking system. Most of the large international banks together with their affiliates in the offshore banking havens launder large amounts of narco-dollars.
This trade can only prosper if the main actors involved in narcotics have “political friends in high places.” Legal and illegal undertakings are increasingly intertwined, the dividing line between “businesspeople” and criminals is blurred. In turn, the relationship among criminals, politicians and members of the intelligence establishment has tainted the structures of the state and the role of its institutions.
MOSCOW – The United States, Germany, Turkey and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies think they have almost all the ordnance required to produce regime change in Syria, as they had in Libya. But they don’t appear to have the 5 billion euros (US$6.5 billion) required to do the trick in Cyprus, after the regime change the Cypriots themselves had voted into power a month ago.
Saturday’s gambit, to seize this money from Russian and other depositors in Cyprus banks, appeared a safe bet in Brussels because apparently influential Russians – First Deputy Prime
Minister Igor Shuvalov, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov – had signaled their willingness to go along. But Shuvalov and Siluanov are clerks, no-counts politically. The one Russian who counts has now been presented by the Western alliance with an opportunity to effect a strategic power shift in the Mediterranean at minimal cost upfront and little forward risk. It’s an object lesson in the greater value of money over arms in grand strategy.
It’s also a shift which the Western powers and the Ottoman empire fought for three centuries to prevent. They succeeded against Empress Catherine II and Count Alexei Orlov’s fleet in 1770; he won the Battle of Chesme; then betrayed the Daskalogiannis revolt against the Turks in Crete, and ultimately lost the war in the Med.
The allies succeeded against Stalin between 1945 and 1949 because his priorities were further north. In 1974, NATO encouraged and preserved the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus because Leonid Brezhnev’s Politburo couldn’t resolve its internal differences, feared to offend Turkey, and made one mistake of intelligence assessment after another.
The way this story is told in Greek history, the Hellenes remember – they are reminded often enough – that in their direst hour, Russian promises of help against the infidels don’t materialize. There is even a Russian name in Greek for this betrayal. The failure to arrive in time in Crete and the bloody Turkish reprisals of 1770 are known in Greek by Orlov’s name as ????????.
Let’s see how much better President Vladimir Putin has it within his power to do: the new Ottomans have presented him an opportunity to counter-attack and win. But what are the concrete Russian interests now at stake, and are they large enough to stake on a grand strategy of sweeping the board?
The Russian media have been unusually slow in assessing the news from Cyprus, and the Kremlin unusually silent. The latter explains the former (see here). Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev didn’t allow breath to pass on the subject until after Putin issued his condemnation (see here), the only head of government or state to do so in the world.
After meeting with the board of Vneseheconombank (VEB) Medvedev said
“This looks like confiscation of someone else’s money. I don’t know who came up with this idea, but this is how it seems. Regrettably, we have been aware of this practice during the Soviet times, when money was exchanged with a coefficient and not returned to people in full. But Cyprus is a country with a market economy and is supposed to be a member of the European Union. Of course, we will have to draw certain conclusions from this because we have our own relations with Cyprus and we will continue the consultations. But we will have to make certain adjustments in our position even with the understanding that in general it would be better to keep the money in Russian banks.”
After the board finished its session, VEB chief executive Vladimir Dmitriev said there had been no discussion of the Cyprus situation after Medvedev’s opening remark. Asked what he or VEB thought of the position, Dmitriev ducked. ”I’m not sure I can say it any better than the prime minister and the chairman of our Supervisory Board.”
An Uralsib bank report issued on Monday was sanguine. ”At this point, risks to the Russian economy and businesses appear insignificant, provided that any run on banks in Cyprus does not result in a new full-scale European debt crisis.We highlight that among traded banks VTB has the largest exposure, while Novatek and Lukoil’s share buyback programs may be affected. Potential M&A [mergers and acquisition] activity of entities that are Cyprus residents may suffer.”
The capital outflow that is likely to follow from Cyprus will take Russian money elsewhere: ”Russia is unlikely to become a harbor for this money.”
The deposit levy itself would, if implemented to the 9.9% level initially proposed, be too small for a serious impact. According to the Uralsib research team, led by Konstantin Chernyshev. ”The Russian banking sector would lose just 1% of their interbank-related assets (0.1% of the total sector’s assets), which looks rather immaterial.”
The bigger risk for Russia, Uralsib calculates, would follow if the bailout fails altogether, and the Cyprus banks default.
There are indirect implications including the hit that Russian depositors could take (Cyprus banks hold $19 bln in non-banking Russian deposits according to Moody’s, or 2% of the sector’s total deposits). Also, with a final decision on the bailout still pending, the risk of bankruptcy in Cyprus is not completely out of question. In the worst case, the Russian banking sector risks payments on $40 bln of loans to Cyprus entities being suspended (6% of the sector’s corporate portfolio), with a chain reaction possible via rising NPLs [non-performing loans] ($40 bln in loans is 130% of total corporate overdue loans); this would stall lending and deposit activity and damage profitability. Roughly assuming that the sector would need to fully provision $40 bln of loans (though this is unlikely), it could end up with a net loss for the year (2012 net income amounted to $33 bln). Sberbank denies Cyprus-related lending, while other banks with the largest exposure according to Moody’s include VTB, Alfa-Bank and Gazprombank.
Moody’s has issued a report by Evgeny Tarzimov, claiming the proposed deposit levy would trigger an outflow of Russian client funds from the Cyprus banks. That in turn might oblige Russian banks to resupply their Cyprus subsidiaries with cash.
VTB, the second-largest of the state lenders after Sberbank, appears to be exposed more than others through its subsidiary, Russian Commercial Bank (RCB); Moody’s reports it had assets of $13.8 billion and equity of $374 million at the end of 2011. There are unverified reports that VTB’s Cyprus deposits amount to $3 billion, with risk of loss up to $300 million, though no direct liability for VTB or RCB.
VTB has been playing down its concern, at least to protect its share price, which has dropped 9% so far this week. Whether it has been saying the same thing to Putin is another matter. According to the Uralsib report,
the Cyprus arm [of VTB] paid RUB2.8 bln (US$100 mln) in dividends for 2011, with 60% of this going to VTB – meaning that even if the group completely loses its earnings from Cyprus, which does not appear to be the case for now, it will lose less than 2% of net income. VTB does not disclose the amount of loans to Cyprus-based corporates as well as interbank deposits, while holdings of Cyprus bonds are immaterial. The bank itself does not see a major threat from this situation and believes there is little reason for concern at this point.
VTB’s board chairman, Sergei Dubinin, has announced a Soviet-style scheme of nationalization for rescue. Dubinin has been sacked twice already for presiding over financial disaster – the rouble collapse of 1994 and the government bond default of 1998.
”The responsibility for the state of the banking business,” he said of Cyprus, ”must lie primarily with those who took the risks of the business, that is, the owners and shareholders of the banks.”
If they are obliged to cede control to the state, then, he implied, the Russian government may be in a position to refinance the Cyprus government, with sovereign security instead of commercial. To prevent a run on the banks, Dubinin also said Cyprus bank deposits should be split into portions subject to delayed withdrawal regulation.
An analysis by Ivan Tchakarov of Renaissance Capital, released on Monday morning, counted just $3.1 billion in Russian funds directly exposed to loss – $1.9 billion of non-bank Russian depositors in the Cypriot banking system, and $1.2 billion of Russian bank cash placed on deposit with Cyprus banks. Altogether, this sums to 0.24% of Russia’s 2012 gross domestic product (GDP) – ”a trivial amount from a Russian macro perspective”.
But ”the costs could rise to non-trivial levels (2% of GDP) if Cyprus imposed capital controls,” according to the RenCap report.
Strictly speaking, the USD40bn of outstanding loans should not be impacted by the deposit haircut as: 1) these are loans and not deposits; and 2) the loans are generally used for financing activities that are outside Cyprus and thus unrelated to the macro situation in Cyprus. Of course, if Cyprus were to impose capital controls, this would not be the case and Russian banks could face significant losses amounting to almost 2% of GDP.
Uralsib assesses the impact on the major Russian metals companies as slight.
Almost all of them have subsidiaries registered in Cyprus, but the main trading operations are carried out through trading companies registered in other countries, especially Switzerland. Although the major beneficiary shareholders reportedly often own stakes in Russian metals names via Cyprus-registered off-shore companies, the ownership/registration structure is irrelevant at the operating level for the companies.
The Uralsib analysts appear not to be aware of how much Cyprus banking (as well as Latvian) is done off the main Rusal accounts by associated companies. On the other hand, Rusal’s chief executive Oleg Deripaska spent last week publicly attacking Russia’s state banks for over-charging Rusal on interest rates. By something resembling a coincidence, the chairman of Rusal’s board of directors, Matthias Warnig, is also a director on the VTB board.
Deripaska appears now to be begging the state banks to refinance Cyprus bank debt. Another Rusal board member, Dmitry Afanasiev, who doubles as Deripaska’s personal lawyer, announced in Moscow that Vnesheconombank (VEB), the same state unit that saved Rusal in November 2008, should go to Cyprus’s rescue. He is quoted in a Moscow newspaper as urging VEB to secure its bailout loan with rights to Cypriot gas reserves, as well as real estate and bank stocks. ”VEB could then issue securities backed with the assets. The plan is common for developing economies that seek to raise money,” Afanasiev said.
Other Russian corporate interests impacted by the proposed Cyprus exaction include Novatek, LUKoil, and TNK-BP (now part of Rosneft). TNK-BP told Uralsib ”the balance of Novy’s Cyprus accounts is negligible. It [Novy Investments Ltd] appears to be an intermediate company, set up to minimize the tax on dividends received from TNK-BP Holding. There is no indication that the deposit tax will affect Rosneft’s purchase of TNK-BP. … We doubt that Lukoil has more than $2.5 bln in cash with a Cyprus bank, so in the worst case, it could lose $250 mln from the tax, or 1% of 2013E EBITDA.”
In Russia’s transportation sector, Uralsib reports that
Global Ports [owned by Nikita Mishin, Andrei Filatov, and Konstantin Nikolaev] and Globaltrans [same] are registered as Cypriot legal entities. The companies’ representatives have said that the impact from the deposit tax being imposed by Cyprus’s government will not be material for either company. Globaltrans and Global Ports maintain negligible cash positions in Cypriot banks, as their operating activities are outside Cyprus.
One real estate company, AFI, may lose money, but not much:
AFI Development appears to be the most affected by the planned one-off tax on bank deposit. However, the company says that the size of its potential losses from the unexpected tax imposition in Cyprus looks to be very small, as it only has about $5 mln on its bank accounts in Cyprus. The rest of the money, which is booked as cash and cash equivalent, is classified as open bank facilities and therefore is not subject to the new tax initiatives. In the event that the new tax levy is approved by Cyprus’s parliament, AFI Development could lose $0.5 mln in the worst case, which is equivalent to 0.04% of its NAV.
AFI, though publicly listed in London, is controlled by Lev Leviev. He has appointed three Cypriot politicians to the AFI board; one of them, Michalis Sarris, is the current finance minister responsible for accepting the bank deposit levy.
Russian business media have reported Alisher Usmanov, who runs his personal asset holding Gallagher, as well as Mail.ru and Megafon holding companies in Cyprus, as telling Vedomosti – a business newspaper competing with Kommersant, which Usmanov owns – that he won’t lose a kopeck. Usmanov claims he keeps all his cash in Russian banks, the newspaper reported.
According to Uralsib Bank, ”Mail.ru Group uses subsidiaries in Cyprus to hold some of its assets, the company said that it only has limited cash exposure there.”
Sources in Cyprus report that in negotiations with the Cyprus government stretching back over several months, Gazprom and other Russian entities had offered to buy and recapitalize the Cyprus banks. But the Cypriots had refused to accept the Russian terms.
”The Cypriots did not want a fair valuation of their loan portfolios nor fork out [offshore] gas blocks in advance,” says one Cyprus-based business source. He believes the local Cypriot businessmen, who have borrowed heavily from the Cyprus banks and cannot repay their loans as the value of the real estate has plummeted, are in favor of Russian depositors carrying the liability, relieving themselves. This is a powerful constituency for President Nicos Anastasiades, who has been in office for just one month.
”The German and Dutch move was well planned”, the Cyprus source believes. ”They ambushed the new president. But he has been dishonest – he should have packaged the bank loans and assets and sold them at a discount. We have to see if Nicos still thinks Berlin and [Chancellor Angela] Merkel are his friends. His parliament and his people are not going with him on this. It could be the shortest presidency ever.”
Now the source says Cyprus sentiment is moving towards nationalizing the banks, leaving the euro zone, and renegotiating an entirely different scheme with Moscow. But if the financial exposure is relatively small, are there other, larger Russian strategic interests at this point?
One of them, acknowledged by Finance Minister Siluanov after Putin made his announcement on Monday and Siluanov had recovered his voice, is that the European Union’s terms had been delivered to the Cypriots without the advance notice and consultation promised with the Russians. If Siluanov and his anti-Cyprus deputy Anton Shatalov were told last week what was likely to be decided, and while they were concurring they blindsided Putin, they are now trying to protect their behinds.
The upshot is that the EU plan is an intended strike against Russian interests. If the Kremlin were to be viewed to be as tame and submissive as Siluanov and Shatalov are by nature, Putin appears to have decided already that that is bad strategy for him. Monday’s verbal attack said as much. If Putin fails to follow through with action during the negotiations with the Cypriots today, he will compound the damage.
What of the money-laundering and tax evasion claims, and the Kremlin policy of de-offshorization? Putin’s statement of Monday, as amended by spokesman Dmitry Peskov, emphasized that saving the Cyprus banks and their depositors isn’t about protecting Russian law-breaking. Putin, followed by Medvedev, reiterated that they see the short-term solution in negotiated data transfer and accountability between Russian and Cyprus regulators; the long-term solution, improving Russian trust in Russian financial institutions.
Because the latter is a non-starter right now, Putin, plus everyone else, acknowledge that if the current EU attack succeeds in knocking out Cyprus, it will be beneficial for the biggest money-laundering centre in the world – London.
The London newspapers that have campaigned hardest in their columns against Russia in Cyprus – the Financial Times and The Economist, both owned by Pearson – have been keeping their own interests hidden. Both have been highlighted in Private Eye, the London investigative magazine, as moving their profit and loss accounts and evading taxes through schemes licensed by the UK’s tax authority and based in Luxembourg. The media attack on Russian deposits in Cyprus is coming from fronts like Pearson Luxembourg Finance no.2 Ltd., Embankment Finance Ltd (Luxembourg), and Luxembourg Holdings SeNC.
What Putin does next isn’t going to go down well in London and Luxembourg. But if he has the opportunity to rerun the Battle of Chesme, and this time rescue the Hellenes from sinking, along with Russian money, Putin will be doing more for the strategic Russian interest in the Mediterranean than Catherine and Orlov managed in 1770.
More, too, than ordering a squadron of six frigates and cruisers out of the Black Sea to sail round the Mediterranean on a permanent patrol.
John Helmer has been a Moscow-based correspondent since 1989, specializing in the coverage of Russian business.
Fonte wsi Italia 24/02/2013 attualità
Ora tutta la Ue dovrebbe riflettere sui suoi errori. Gli italiani hanno bocciato una politica troppo dipendente dall’influenza di Berlino, che vuole imprre politiche di austerita’ in un’economia gia’ in difficolta’.
NEW YORK (WSI) – Commentando il voto italiano sul New York Times, l’economista Paul Krugman fa un’analisi molto critica della situazione. Gli italiani, dice il premio Nobel, di fatto hanno bocciato una politica troppo dipendente dall’influenza di Berlino.
Il grande sconfitto è Monti, “il proconsole installato dalla Germania per imporre l’austerità fiscale su un’economia già in difficoltà”. E con Monti, aggiunge, è punito tutto l’establishment della Ue, che sta imponendo politiche di austerity eccessive e ricattatorie a tutti i paesi dell’Europa meridionale.
Il punto è che il termine “maturità” sempre usato dai media internazionali per invitare di fatto l’Italia a seguire la strada segnata dall’Europa, dalla Germania e da Monti, non è un termine neutro, per Monti. “Vorrei porre un’ovvia domanda – scrive l’economista – che cos’è, esattamente, ciò che attualmente viene fatto passare per maturo realismo in Italia o in Europa?”
La risposta non lascia adito a dubbi. “Per il signor Monti, il proconsole installato dalla Germania per imporre l’austerità fiscale su un’economia già in difficoltà, in effetti, ciò che definisce la rispettabilità nei circoli politici europei era la volontà di perseguire l’austerità senza limiti. Questo andrebbe bene se le politiche di austerità avessero effettivamente funzionato, ma non è così. E più che sembrare maturi o realistici, i sostenitori dell’austerità sembrano sempre più petulanti e deliranti”.
Quanto alle conseguenze internazionali del voto italiano e alle sue incognite, Krugman non nasconde la sua apprensione ma ricorda che l’Italia non è un caso isolato.
“Gli osservatori esterni sono terrorizzati dalle elezioni italiane, ed è giusto così: anche se l’incubo di un ritorno di Berlusconi al potere non si materializzasse, una dimostrazione di forza da parte di Berlusconi, o di Grillo, o di entrambi destabilizzerebbe non solo l’Italia ma tutta l’Europa…
Ma l’Italia non è unica nel suo genere: i politici poco raccomandabili sono in aumento in tutta l’Europa meridionale.
E la ragione per cui questo accade è che i funzionari europei non ammettono che le politiche che sono state imposte ai debitori sono un fallimento disastroso. Se questo non cambia, le elezioni italiane saranno solo un assaggio della pericolosa radicalizzazione che verrà”. (TMNews).VOTA L’ARTICOLO
By Shiney Varghese
February 09, 2013 “IATP” — Writing in National Geographic in December 2012 about “small-scale irrigation techniques with simple buckets, affordable pumps, drip lines, and other equipment” that “are enabling farm families to weather dry seasons, raise yields, diversify their crops, and lift themselves out of poverty” water expert Sandra Postel of the Global Water Policy Project cautioned against reckless land and water-related investments in Africa. “[U]nless African governments and foreign interests lend support to these farmer-driven initiatives, rather than undermine them through land and water deals that benefit large-scale, commercial schemes, the best opportunity in decades for societal advancement in the region will be squandered.”
That same month, the online publication Market Oracle reported that “[t]he new ‘water barons’—the Wall Street banks and elitist multibillionaires—are buying up water all over the world at unprecedented pace.” The report reveals two phenomena that have been gathering speed, and that could potentially lead to profit accumulation at the cost of communities and commons —the expansion of market instruments beyond the water supply and sanitation to other areas of water governance, and the increasingly prominent role of financial institutions.
In several instances this has meant that the government itself has set up public corporations that run like a business, contracting out water supply and sanitation operations to those with expertise, or entering into public–private–partnerships, often with water multinationals. This happened recently in Nagpur and New Delhi, India. In most rural areas, ensuring a clean drinking water supply and sanitation continues to be a challenge. For-profit companies such as Sarvajal have begun setting up pre-paid water kiosks (or water ATMs) that would dispense units of water upon the insertion of a pre-paid card. It is no surprise that these are popular among people who otherwise have no access to clean drinking water.
With climate change, however, the water crisis is no longer perceived as confined to developing countries or even primarily a concern related to water supply and sanitation. Fresh water commons are becoming degraded and depleted in both developed and developing countries. In the United States, diversion of water for expanded commodity crop production, biofuels and gas hydro-fracking is compounding the crisis in rural areas. In areas ranging from the Ogallala aquifer to the Great Lakes in North America, water has been referred to as liquid gold. Billionaires such as T. Boone Pickens have been buying up land overlying the Ogallala aquifer, acquiring water rights; companies such as Dow Chemicals, with a long history of water pollution, are investing in the business of water purification, making pollution itself a cash-cow.
But chemical companies are not alone: GE and its competitor Siemens have extensive portfolios that include an array of water technologies to serve the needs of industrial customers, municipal water suppliers or governments. (In the last year and a half two Minnesota based companies have become large players in this business—Ecolab, by acquiring Nalco and Pentair by merging with Tyco’s Flow Control unit—both now belonging to S&P’s 500.)
The financial industry has also zeroed in on water. In the summer of 2011, Citigroup issued a report on water investments. The much quoted statement by Willem Buiter (chief economist at Citigroup) gives an inkling of Citigroup’s conclusion: “Water as an asset class will, in my view, become eventually the single most important physical-commodity based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and precious metals.” Once again, several others had already seen water as an important investment opportunity, including GE’s Energy Financial Services, Goldman Sachs and several asset management firms that are involved investing in farmland in Asia, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe.
Given these recent trends, initiatives that track the water use of companies or map information regarding water related risks could be double edged. Some examples include the ‘water disclosure project’ and the ‘water-mapping project’. Both are initiated by non-profits/ think-tanks, the former by UK-based Carbon Disclosure Project and the latter by the US-based World Resources Institute. While distinct, they are linked by their shared constituency: global investors concerned about water-related risks. These initiatives could help companies identify and reduce their water footprint, or could lead to company investments that follow water and grab it.
The Carbon Disclosure Project’s water disclosure project seeks to help businesses and institutional investors understand the risks and opportunities associated with water scarcity and other water-related issues. According to its most recent report, issued on behalf of 470 investors with assets of $50 trillion USD, over half the respondents to their survey have experienced water-related challenges in the preceding five years, translating into disruptions in operations, increases in expenses and other detrimental impacts.
Aqueduct Alliance and its water mapping project, which aims to provide companies with an unprecedented level of detail on global water risks, seems at one level a direct response to the findings of the global water disclosure reports by CDP. General Electric, Goldman Sachs and the Washington-based think tank World Resources Institute are the founding members of the Aqueduct Alliance. All of them identify water-related risks as detrimental to profitability, continued economic growth and environmental sustainability. The water maps, with their unprecedented level of detail and resolution, seek to combine advanced hydrological data with geographically specific indicators that capture social, economic, and governance factors. But this initiative has given rise to concerns that such information gives companies and investors unprecedented details of water-related information in some of the world’s largest river basins.
Many of these investors, described as the “new water barons” in Jo-Shing Yang’s article “Profiting from Your Thirst as Global Elite Rush to Control Water Worldwide,” are the same ones who have profited from speculating on agricultural contracts and contributing to the food crisis of the past few years. The food crisis and recent droughts have confirmed that controlling the source of food—the land and the water that flows under or by it—are equally or even more important.
A closer look at the land-related investments in Africa, for example, show that land grabbing is not simply an investment, but also an attempt to capture the water underneath. At the recent annual Global AgInvesting Conference (with well over 370 participants), the asset management groups and global farm businesses showcased their plans, including purchases of vast tracts of lands in varying locations around the globe. With tools such as water maps, such investors are further advantaged. The global rush for land grabbing, as well as the resistance to it, shows that all stake-holders—pension funds, Wall Street or nation-states on the one hand or the people who currently use these lands and waters, and their advocates on the other—are well aware of the life-and-death nature of land (and water) grabbing, especially in the case of developing countries.
National and international regulatory mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that basic resources such as land, water and the means for accessing fresh water do not become merely the means for profit accumulation for the wealthy, but are governed in a way that ensures the basic livelihood of those most dependent on it. The last session of the Committee on World Food Security (a United Nations mechanism set up to address the food crisis) was a good starting point, and has set in motion a series of consultations on principles for agricultural investments. Civil Society Organizations are tracking the various ways in which regulations may develop in national contexts: simply facilitate land grabbing, mitigate negative impacts and maximize opportunities or block (or roll-back) land grabbing altogether. Ultimately, any policy approaches must prioritize local communities’ access to food and water: Any water-related investments needs to be about allaying their livelihood risks and enhancing their ability to realize their rights, whether it is in developing countries or developed countries.