Well worth watching. Carl Icahn knows a thing or two about investing.
American politicians have a poor understanding of Russian history. The Neocons must be in complete control. Blaming Russia and Putin for everything seems to be the new Washington insiders beltway game. Arrogance and hubris overcome common sense. A new cold war could become hot with the smallest of errors or miscalculations. The following article sums up the dangers.
Playing Chicken with Nuclear War
March 2, 2015
Exclusive: U.S.-Russian tensions keep escalating – now surrounding the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov – yet almost no one on the American side seems to worry about the possibility that the tough-guy rhetoric and proxy war in Ukraine might risk a nuclear conflagration, writes Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry (Updated with Washington Post editorial on March 3.)
The United States and Russia still maintain up vast nuclear arsenals of mutual assured destruction, putting the future of humanity in jeopardy every instant. But an unnerving nonchalance has settled over the American side which has become so casual about the risk of cataclysmic war that the West’s propaganda and passions now ignore Russian fears and sensitivities.
A swaggering goofiness has come to dominate how the United States reacts to Russia, with American politicians and journalists dashing off tweets and op-eds, rushing to judgment about the perfidy of Moscow’s leaders, blaming them for almost anything and everything.
These days, playing with nuclear fire is seen as a sign of seriousness and courage. Anyone who urges caution and suggests there might be two sides to the U.S.-Russia story is dismissed as a wimp or a stooge. A what-me-worry “group think” has taken hold across the U.S. ideological spectrum. Fretting about nuclear annihilation is so 1960s.
So, immediately after last Friday night’s murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, the West’s media began insinuating that Russian President Vladimir Putin was somehow responsible even though there was no evidence or logic connecting him to the shooting, just 100 meters from the Kremlin, probably the last place Russian authorities would pick for a hit.
But that didn’t stop the mainstream U.S. news media from casting blame on Putin. For instance, the New York Times published an op-ed by anti-Putin author Martha Gessen saying: “The scariest thing about the murder of Boris Nemtsov is that he himself did not scare anyone,” suggesting that his very irrelevance was part of a sinister political message.
Though no one outside the actual killers seems to know yet why Nemtsov was gunned down, Gessen took the case several steps further explaining how – while Putin probably didn’t finger Nemtsov for death – the Russian president was somehow still responsible. She wrote:
“In all likelihood no one in the Kremlin actually ordered the killing — and this is part of the reason Mr. Nemtsov’s murder marks the beginning of yet another new and frightening period in Russian history. The Kremlin has recently created a loose army of avengers who believe they are acting in the country’s best interests, without receiving any explicit instructions. Despite his lack of political clout, Mr. Nemtsov was a logical first target for this menacing force.”
So, rather than wait for actual evidence to emerge, the Times published Gessen’s conclusions and then let her spin off some even more speculative interpretations. Yet, basing speculation upon speculation is almost always a bad idea, assuming you care about fairness and accuracy.
Read More: Nuclear War
What could the Obama administration be thinking? The eastward expansion of NATO over the years alarmed Russian leaders, but cooperation between the US and Russia continued to grow. That is until the US and the EU tried to place the Ukraine firmly under western control.
With Obama, the provocation of the Russians reached a new level. One the Russians under Putin will not ignore. Doesn’t anyone in the Obama administration know the history of the Ukraine? That it was part of Russia for 500 years? That it is clearly viewed as a buffer nation, one that the Russians will not tolerate as a member of NATO. Whatever you may think of Putin, he is a clever, tough, and yes, ruthless leader. It is not wise to demonize such a man and to underestimate his ability.
According to the US, Russia is being isolated from the world community and punished by crippling sanctions. Let’s get real here. Sanctions have hurt the Russian economy, but have fueled Russian’s pivot to the east and to nations the world over who see Russia as a more dependable ally than the bullying US. Russia is busy building its own powerful group of trading partner nations including China, Iran, India, Brazil, and Egypt.
US policies of demonizing Russia and President Putin are dangerous. Especially since we had a heavy hand in organizing and financing a coup that overthrew a duly elected Ukrainian President to be replaced by our puppet, Petro Oleksiyovych Poroshenko. Picking a fight with a nuclear armed Russia over a nation within their sphere of influence is risky business that only Neocons could want.
Nuclear Specter Returns: ‘Threat of War Is Higher than in the Cold War’
By Markus Becker in Munich
The Ukraine crisis has dramatically worsened relations between NATO and Russia. With cooperation on nuclear security now suspended and the lack of a “red telephone,” experts at the Munich Security Conference warn any escalation in tensions could grow deadly.
The scientists had no idea that their experiment could spell the end of civilization. On Jan. 25, 1995, Norwegian and American researchers fired a rocket into the skies of northwestern Norway to study the Northern Lights. But the four-stage rocket flew directly through the same corridor that American Minuteman III missiles, equipped with nuclear warheads, would use to travel from the United States to Moscow.
The rocket’s speed and flight pattern very closely matched what the Russians expected from a Trident missile that would be fired from a US submarine and detonated at high altitude, with the aim of blinding the Russian early-warning system to prepare for a large-scale nuclear attack by the United States. The Russian military was placed on high alert, and then President Boris Yeltsin activated the keys to launch nuclear weapons. He had less than 10 minutes to decide whether to issue the order to fire.
Yeltsin left the Russian missiles in their silos, probably in part because relations between Russian and the United States were relatively trusting in 1995. But if a similar incident occurred today, as US arms expert Theodore Postol warned recently, it could quite possibly lead to nuclear catastrophe.
“Five or six minutes can be enough time, if you have trust, if you have communication and if you can put this machinery immediately to work,” former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on the sidelines of last weekend’s Munich Security Conference. Unfortunately, he argued, this machinery works very poorly today, and there is great mistrust.
When asked what would happen today if the 1995 missile incident happened again, Ivanov responded, “I cannot be sure if the right decision would be taken.”
Deep mistrust has developed between the West and Russia, and it is having a massive effect on cooperation on security matters.
In November 2014, the Russians announced that they would boycott the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in the United States. In December, the US Congress voted, for the first time in 25 years, not to approve funding to safeguard nuclear materials in the Russian Federation. A few days later, the Russians terminated cooperation in almost all aspects of nuclear security. The two sides had cooperated successfully for almost two decades. But that is now a thing of the past.
Instead, Russia and the United States are investing giant sums of money to modernize their nuclear arsenals, and NATO recently announced that it was rethinking its nuclear strategy. At the same time, risky encounters between Eastern and Western troops, especially in the air, are becoming more and more common, a report by the European Leadership Network (ELN) recently concluded.
“Civilian pilots don’t know how to deal with this,” explains ELN Chair Des Browne, a former British defense minister. “One of these incidents could easily escalate. We need to find a mechanism in which we can talk at the highest level.”
US General Philip Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, is calling for a new “red telephone” with Moscow. Zoom
US General Philip Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, is calling for a new “red telephone” with Moscow.
Brown, together with Ivanov and former US Senator Sam Nunn, a veteran of international disarmament policy, published an analysis in early February. The trio recommends “that reliable communication channels exist in the event of serious incidents.” In other words, these channels currently do not exist. Recently, Philip Breedlove, the head of NATO Allied Command Operations in Europe, even called for a new “red telephone,” alluding to the direct teletype connection established in 1963 between the United States and the Soviet Union after the Cuban missile crisis. A direct line had been set up between NATO and the Russian military’s general staff in February 2013, but it was cut as a result of the Ukraine crisis.
‘A Very Dangerous Situation’
“Trust has been eroded to the point of almost being destroyed,” said Nunn. “You got a war going on right in the middle of Europe. You got a breakdown of the conventional forces treaty, you got the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) treaty under great strain, you got tactical nuclear weapons all over Europe. It’s a very dangerous situation.”
In late January, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set its “Doomsday Clock” to three minutes to midnight. The last time it was set to that time was in 1983, “when US-Soviet relations were at their iciest point,” as the group of scientists explained. The only other time when the situation was even worse was in 1953, when the clock was set to two minutes to midnight. Unchecked climate change and the “nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals” pose “extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity,” the group’s statement read.
Read more: Nuclear Conflict
Alexis Taipras seems to be that rarest of politicians. He seems determined to keep campaign promises. Five years of suffering under IMF and EU reforms is enough. According to Tsipras Greece will no longer be humiliated by Eurozone austerity measures.
For Taipras and the Greeks Febuary 28, 2015 is the big day. That is the day the present agreement with the EU expires. All hell will break loose if Alexis Taipras has the nerve to stand up to the EU and IMF pressure and threats and refuses to renew austerity measures.
It could be the beginning of the end of the Eurozone experiment. Should Greece leave the Eurozone and the Euro other nations, think Italy and Spain, may follow. US investors should take note . Chaos and turmoil will spill over into our financial markets.
Only days before the election, which Tsipras won by a landslide, Tsipras told thousands of people at a campaign rally in Athens: “On Monday, our national humiliation will be over. We will finish with orders from abroad.”
Germans in shock as new Greek leader starts with a bang
BY NOAH BARKIN AND ANDREAS RINKE
(Reuters) – In his first act as prime minister on Monday, Alexis Tsipras visited the war memorial in Kaisariani where 200 Greek resistance fighters were slaughtered by the Nazis in 1944.
The move did not go unnoticed in Berlin. Nor did Tsipras’s decision hours later to receive the Russian ambassador before meeting any other foreign official.
Then came the announcement that radical academic Yanis Varoufakis, who once likened German austerity policies to “fiscal waterboarding”, would be taking over as Greek finance minister. A short while later, Tsipras delivered another blow, criticising an EU statement that warned Moscow of new sanctions.
The assumption in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s entourage before Sunday’s Greek election was that Tsipras, the charismatic leader of the far-left Syriza party, would eke out a narrow victory, struggle to form a coalition, and if he managed to do so, shift quickly from confrontation to compromise mode.
Instead, after cruising to victory and clinching a fast-track
coalition deal with the right-wing Independent Greeks party, he has signalled in his first days in office that he has no intention of backing down, unsettling officials in Berlin, some of whom admit to shock at the 40-year-old’s fiery start.
“No doubt about it, we were surprised by the size of the Syriza victory and the speed with which Tsipras clinched a coalition,” said one senior German official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Another said Tsipras’s choice of coalition partner and finance minister were “not good signs”, while a third admitted to being “stunned” by the Greek leader’s first days in office.
Officials close to Merkel say they still believe Tsipras will ultimately change course, dropping his more radical election pledges and signing up to the economic reforms that Berlin and its European partners have insisted on as a condition for handing over more aid that Athens desperately needs by next month to service its debt.
But the past days have sown doubts about this hypothesis.
Even as Greek stocks plunged and bond yields soared on Wednesday, Tsipras continued to promise “radical” change.
Over the past 24 hours, his government has put two big privatisations, of Piraeus port and Greece’s biggest utility, on ice, and his ministers have pledged to raise pensions and rehire fired public sector workers.
In response, German economy minister and deputy chancellor Sigmar Gabriel criticised Athens on Wednesday in unusually stark terms for halting the privatisations without consulting, and he issued a warning to Tsipras that the euro zone could survive without Greece.
“We no longer have to worry like we did back then,” Gabriel said, when asked about contagion if Greece were to exit the single currency bloc.
Marcel Fratzscher, head of the DIW economic institute in Berlin and a former official at the European Central Bank, said Tsipras was playing a “very dangerous game” by coming out with all guns blazing.
“If people start to believe that he is really serious, you could have massive capital flight and a bank run,” Fratzscher said. “You are quickly at a point where a euro exit becomes more possible.”
Officials point to a Brussels summit of European Union leaders on Feb. 12-13 as a first key test of Tsipras.
The other major area of concern for Germany is a new Greek government’s stance on Russia.
Tsipras’s meeting on Monday with the Russian ambassador, who handed over a personal letter of congratulations from Vladimir Putin, and the new Greek leader’s howls of protest at the EU statement on Ukraine, have raised questions about whether the bloc’s fragile consensus towards Moscow can hold.
Even before Tsipras took power, officials in Berlin were worried about keeping countries like Italy on board for Russia sanctions, which must be renewed in mid-2015.
Now the fear is that Tsipras, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and sceptical eastern European countries like Slovakia and Hungary, could band together against an extension, and a ratcheting up of sanctions in response to a new advance by pro-Russian rebels on the strategic Ukrainian port of Mariupol.
Prying Tsipras away from his European partners on the Ukraine issue would be a coup for Putin. Some officials fear the Russian president could go so far as to offer Greece the financial support it needs to meet its debt obligations as a carrot.
One senior German official described Tsipras as part of a brash new generation of European leaders, including Italy’s Renzi, who weren’t afraid to stand up to Merkel and challenge the assumptions that have shaped policy in the euro zone and Ukraine crises in recent years.
“He doesn’t come from the establishment, he’s unvarnished, confident and capable of rallying the public behind his course,” the official said. “It clearly not going to be easy with him.”
No one can say the signs weren’t there in the run-up to the election.
Only days before the vote, Tsipras told thousands of people at a campaign rally in Athens: “On Monday, our national humiliation will be over. We will finish with orders from abroad.”
In the background loudspeakers blared lyrics from the Leonard Cohen song “First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin”.
Will 2015 bring even more protest and chaos? Will citizens around the world finally realize there will be consequences to the actions of their politicians and they won’t be pretty?
The first of the year always brings efforts to look ahead, to predict the future. Forecasters pretend they can look ahead accurately and governments and politicians pretend they can control events. We live in a world of lies and accept them as truth. The average citizen has no good way to filter the constant flow of information and to separate lies and spin from fact.
Governments have always lied to their citizens. With the Internet and TV, and the 24 hour news cycle, lying and spin have reached a whole new level. No one except a few well placed elite really knows what is truth and what is fiction. The stories the elite wish to present are largely reported by brought and paid for media outlets or don’t rock the boat reporters.
However, the technology works both ways. Due to advances in technology, citizens, especially younger ones, have begun to receive news outside of traditional news channels and to organize into groups protesting the actions of governments and politicians. With the rise of social media, like Facebook and Twitter, the elite is losing control. Many citizens no longer trust their governments.
Who can blame young citizens for being dissatisfied? The debt burden run up by those now in power is being passed to the younger generation as prospects for a stable well paid employment decrease. Young citizens of many western nations face a future that will be harsher than the lives enjoyed by their parents.
Where will this trend lead? I don’t presume to know. I do expect the year 2015 to be filled with large-scale protests and chaos. Large numbers of dissatisfied youth around the world, communicating and organizing by using social media, pretty much guarantees a volatile 2015.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the nature of world events in 2015? The Bloomberg News Service has given both optimists and pessimists plenty to think about in its guide to possible world hotspots in 2015.
Are we about to enter one of histories black holes? The common view, at least for Americans, is that any difficulties will be of short duration and living standards will continue to gradually improve. Overall, things will just get better and better.
However, this view flies in the face of history, which measures human progress as a series of two steps forward and one or more steps back. Consider the dark ages in Europe which lasted for hundreds of years. Or consider the present war in Syria, which has reduced towns which survived for thousands of years to rubble and destroyed the comfortable lives of millions of Syrians.
Human strife has often made the world an unstable place. The year 2015 may bring instability to a fever pitch.
The Long Crisis appears to be entering a critical stage.
A Pessimist’s Guide to the World in 2015
By Bloomberg News
Skirmishes in the South China Sea lead to full-scale naval confrontation. Israel bombs Iran, setting off an escalation of violence across the Middle East. Nigeria crumbles as oil prices fall and radicals gain strength. Bloomberg News asked foreign policy analysts, military experts, economists and investors to identify the possible worst-case scenarios, based on current global conflicts, that concern them most heading into 2015.
Read More:2015 Flash Points