This contemporary romance thriller is book 4 of the Jay Gunner series.
Vengeance offers twists and turns and dramatic action.
Jay is injured in a terrorist attack that killed his girlfriend. When he recovers Jay has only one thing on his mind – Vengeance. He enlists the help of two mercenaries and starts the search for the killer and his gang of cutthroats. They’re aware of the risks but push on. Their chase leads him to Hong Kong, Macau, London, Istanbul, and Syria.
Jay develops a friendship with his hired guns. Their interaction and frank discussions spice up the dialogue. They become a team determined to take revenge on the killer. Jay’s attraction for beautiful women in exotic locations adds to the spice.
The thrilling action at the end of the chase is surprising and brings the series to its climax. This contemporary romance thriller is available for pre-order now and will be released on May 5th, 2015. See more at Amazon Vengeance
America’s privileged position since WW II with the dollar as the world’s reserve currency is coming to an end. Thanks to the Obama administration’s hubris and incompetence the dollar’s demise is accelerating. America’s friends and allies are tired of the bullying and ham fisted mishandling of foreign policy.
De-Dollarization Accelerates As More Of Washington’s “Allies” Defect To China-Led Bank
The global de-dollarization trend continues as it appears the UK’s move to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Development Bank has indeed shown other US “allies” that spurning Washington’s advice is actually acceptable and concerns about the institution’s “standards” may simply be a diversion aimed at undermining China’s attempt to exercise more influence in its own backyard. Here’s more from the NY Times:
Ignoring direct pleas from the Obama administration, Europe’s biggest economies have declared their desire to become founding members of a new Chinese-led Asian investment bank that the United States views as a rival to the World Bank and other institutions set up at the height of American power after World War II.
The announcement on Tuesday by Germany, France and Italy that they would follow Britain and join the Chinese-led venture delivered a stinging rebuke to Washington from some of its closest allies. It also called into question whether the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which grew out of a multination conference in Bretton Woods, N.H., in 1944 and established an economic pecking order that lasted 70 years, will find their influence diminished.
The announcement by Germany, Europe’s largest economy, came only six days after Secretary of State John Kerry asked his German counterpart, Frank Walter-Steinmeier, to resist the Chinese overtures until the Chinese agreed to a number of conditions about transparency and governing of the new entity. But Germany came to the same conclusion that Britain did: China is such a large export and investment market for it that it cannot afford to stay on the sidelines.
South Korea, another US ally that the Obama administration has not-so-subtly lobbied to stay out of the AIIB for the time being, is reportedly reconsidering a bid to join and although reports that Seoul had already committed to the venture appear to have been a bit premature, the country will make a decision this month and is expected to discuss specifics this weekend at a meeting with Chinese and Japanese officials. Here’s FT:
The foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea will meet in Seoul this weekend for the first time in three years, in an effort to calm tensions in the region.
The trio have strong economic ties but frosty relations. International angst about this state of affairs among the regional superpowers has been further piqued by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a Chinese-led initiative sparking alarm in Washington and proving divisive elsewhere.
Meanwhile, even Europe’s own “magical fairyland” is taking the plunge. Via Bloomberg:
Just as relations were improving the US government seems determined to create an enemy. The propaganda regarding Russia’s dealing with Ukraine has been relentless. While Putin is no angel, he is not the crazed power hungry take over the world monster pictured by Washington. He is a fierce Russian nationalist and will act in a way to protect Russia from further NATO expansion to Russia’s borders.
I was in college during the Cuban missile crisis. I remember well how ape shit the US government went when Russian missiles were located in Cuba. We came close to a nuclear war with Russia. Students stopped attending classes and glued themselves to watching TV news. Do we really expect the Russians and Putin to accept western missiles on their borders? The Ukraine plains served Russia well when Napoleon, then Hilter, invaded Russia. Russia will not stand by and see such a buffer occupied by NATO or become a puppet state dancing to a US tune.
Is the Obama administration foolish enough to ignore Russian history and push the Russians to war?
Clueless In The Oval Office: Obama’s Shameful Tolerance Of Staff Bellicosity And Lies
By Ray McGovern, ex-CIA analyst
CIA Director John Brennan told TV host Charlie Rose on Friday that, on assuming office, President Barack Obama “did not have a good deal of experience” in intelligence-related matters, adding – with remarkable condescension – that now “he has gone to school and understands the complexities.”
If that’s the case, I would strongly suggest that Obama switch schools. Judging from his foreign policy team’s inept and increasingly dangerous actions regarding Ukraine and the endless stream of dubious State Department and senior military cry-wolf accusations of a Russian “invasion,” Obama might be forgiven for being confused by the “complexities.”
He should not be forgiven, though, if he remains too timid to bench his current foreign policy team and find more substantively qualified, trustworthy advisers without axes to grind. He is, after all, President. Has he no managerial skill … no guts?
This U.S. pattern of exaggeration – making scary claims about Ukraine without releasing supporting evidence – has even begun to erode the unity of the NATO alliance where Germany, in particular, is openly criticizing the Obama administration’s heavy-handed use of propaganda in its “information warfare” against Russia.
The German magazine Der Spiegel has just published a highly unusual article critical of the NATO military commander, Air Force General Philip Breedlove, entitled “Breedlove’s Bellicosity: Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine.”
It is becoming clearer day by day that the Germans are losing patience with unsupported and alarmist U.S. statements on Ukraine, particularly in the current delicate period when a fledgling ceasefire in eastern Ukraine seems to be holding tenuously.
The Spiegel story was sourced to German officials who say Breedlove and his breed are making stuff up, adding that the BND (the CIA equivalent in Germany) “did not share” Breedlove’s extreme assessment of Russian actions. Spiegel continued:
“For months now, many in the Chancellery simply shake their heads each time NATO, under Breedlove’s leadership, goes public with striking announcements about Russian troop or tank movements. … False claims and exaggerated accounts, warned a top German official during a recent meeting on Ukraine, have put NATO — and by extension, the entire West — in danger of losing its credibility.”
Scaring the Europeans
The Obama administration’s erratic and bellicose approach to Ukraine caused German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande to take matters into their own hands in February to press for a ceasefire and an agreement on how to resolve the crisis politically, rather than following the U.S. strategy of having the regime in Kiev escalate its “anti-terrorist operation” against ethnic Russian rebels in the east who are supported by Moscow.
Fearing the conflict was spinning out of control – with the prospects of a showdown between nuclear-armed Russia and the United States on Russia’s border – Merkel traveled to the White House on Feb. 9 seeking assurances from President Obama that he would not fall in line behind his tough-talking aides and members of Congress who want advanced weaponry for Ukraine.
Though Obama reportedly assured Merkel that he would resist the pressure, he continues to keep slip-sliding into line behind the war hawks and letting his subordinates feed the propaganda fires that could lead to a more dangerous war, especially Gen. Breedlove and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, a former adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 4, 2015, Nuland presented her usual black-and-white depiction of the Ukrainian civil war, claiming Russia had “manufactured a conflict controlled by the Kremlin, fueled by Russian tanks and heavy equipment.” She added that Crimea and eastern Ukraine live under a “Reign of Terror.”
Of course, the core problem with how Nuland and pretty much the entire U.S. establishment present the Ukraine crisis is that they ignore how it got started. Nuland, Sen. John McCain and other U.S. officials egged on western Ukrainians to destabilize and overthrow the elected President Viktor Yanukovych, whose political base was in the south and east, including Crimea.
The coup opened historic fissures in this deeply divided country where hatreds between the more European-oriented west and the ethnic Russian east go back many generations, including the unspeakable slaughter during World War II when some western Ukrainians joined with the Nazis to fight the Red Army and exterminate Jews and other minorities.
Despite the U.S. claims over the past year about unprovoked “Russian aggression,” Russian President Vladimir Putin was not the instigator of the conflict, but rather he was reacting to a violent “regime change” on his border and to Russian fears that NATO would seize the historic Russian naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea.
But Nuland and other neocon hardliners have never been interested in a nuanced presentation of reality. Instead, they have treated Ukraine as if it were a testing ground for the latest techniques in psychological or information warfare, although the propaganda is mostly aimed at the U.S. and European publics, getting them ready for more war.
As for Merkel and her peace efforts, Nuland was overheard during a behind-closed-door meeting of U.S. officials at a security conference in Munich last month disparaging the German chancellor’s initiative, calling it “Merkel’s Moscow thing,” according to Bild, a German newspaper, citing unnamed sources.
Another U.S. official went even further, the report said, calling it the Europeans’ “Moscow bullshit.”
The tough talk behind the soundproof doors at a conference room in the luxurious Bayerischer Hof hotel seemed to get the American officials, both diplomats and members of Congress, worked into a lather, according to the Bild account.
Nuland suggested that Merkel and Hollande cared only about the practical impact of the Ukrainian war on bread-and-butter issues of Europe: “They’re afraid of damage to their economy, counter-sanctions from Russia.”
Another U.S. politician was heard adding: “It’s painful to see that our NATO partners are getting cold feet” – with particular vitriol directed toward German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen as “defeatist” because she supposedly no longer believed in a Kiev victory.
Sen. McCain talked himself into rage, declaring “History shows us that dictators always take more, whenever you let them. They can’t be brought back from their brutal behavior when you fly to Moscow to them, just like someone once flew to this city,” Munich, a reference to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s “appeasement” of Adolf Hitler.
According to the Bild story, Nuland laid out a strategy of countering Merkel’s diplomacy by using strident language to frame the Ukraine crisis in a way that stops the Europeans from backing down. “We can fight against the Europeans, we can fight with rhetoric against them,” Nuland reportedly said.
NATO Commander Breedlove was quoted as saying the idea of funneling more weapons to the Kiev government was “to raise the battlefield cost for Putin, to slow down the whole problem, so sanctions and other measures can take hold.”
Nuland interjected to the U.S. politicians present that “I’d strongly urge you to use the phrase ‘defensive systems’ that we would deliver to oppose Putin’s ‘offensive systems.’” But Breedlove left little doubt that these “defensive” weapons would help the Ukrainian government pursue its military objectives by enabling more effective concentration of fire.
“Russian artillery is by far what kills most Ukrainian soldiers, so a system is needed that can localize the source of fire and repress it,” Breedlove reportedly said. “I won’t talk about any anti-tank rockets, but we are seeing massive supply convoys from Russia into Ukraine. The Ukrainians need the capability to shut off this transport. And then I would add some small tactical drones.”
Before the Ukraine coup in February 2014, Nuland was overheard in a phone conversation with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who should become the country’s new leaders – “Yats is the guy,” she said about Arseniy Yatsenyuk who became the post-coup prime minister – while also criticizing the less aggressive European approach with the pithy phrase, “Fuck the EU.”
Nuland’s tough-gal rhetoric continues, including her bellicose testimony before Congress this month, along with the alarmist (and unproven) reports from Gen. Breedlove, who claimed that “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery’ having been sent to the Donbass” in eastern Ukraine.
The Nuland-Breedlove allies in Kiev are doing their part, too. Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko recently claimed that around 50 tanks, 40 missile systems and 40 armored vehicles entered east Ukraine’s breakaway Luhansk region from Russia via the Izvaryne border crossing.
This “rhetoric” strategy follows the tried-and-true intelligence gambit known as the Mighty Wurlitzer, in which false and misleading information is blasted out by so many different sources – like the pipes of an organ – that the lies become believable just because of their repetition.
The Ukraine story has followed this pattern with dubious claims being made and repeated by U.S. and Ukrainian officials and then amplified by a credulous Western news media, persuading people who otherwise might know better — even when supporting evidence is lacking.
Similarly, Official Washington’s chorus of loud demands for ignoring Merkel and sending sophisticated weapons to Ukraine continues to build with the latest member of the choir, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
On March 4, Clapper broke the important ethos of professional intelligence officers scrupulously avoiding policy advocacy when he told an audience in New York that the U.S. should arm the Ukrainians “to bolster their resolve and bolster their morale that, you know, we are with them.”
Clapper offered this endorsement as his “personal opinion,” but who cares about James Clapper’s personal opinion? He is Director of National Intelligence, for God’s sake, and his advocacy immediately raises questions about whether Clapper’s “personal opinion” will put pressure on his subordinates to shape intelligence analysis to please the boss.
We saw a possible effect of this recently when journalist Robert Parry contacted the DNI’s office to get an updated briefing on what U.S. intelligence has concluded about who was at fault for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.
Blaming the Russians
In prepared testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Assistant Secretary Nuland had insinuated that the Russians and the ethnic Russian rebels were to blame. She said, “In eastern Ukraine, Russia and its separatist puppets unleashed unspeakable violence and pillage; MH-17 was shot down.”
This may have been another example of Nuland using “rhetoric” to shape the debate, but it prompted Parry to ask the DNI’s office about what evidence there was to support Nuland’s finger-pointing in this tragic incident that killed 298 people.
Kathleen Butler, a DNI spokesperson, insisted that the U.S. intelligence assessment on MH-17 had not changed since July 22, 2014, five days after the shoot-down when the DNI’s office distributed a sketchy report suggesting Russian complicity based largely on what was available on social media.
Parry then sent a follow-up e-mail saying: “are you telling me that U.S. intelligence has not refined its assessment of what happened to MH-17 since July 22, 2014?” Butler responded: “Yes. The assessment is the same.” To which, Parry replied: “That’s just not credible.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “US Intel Stands Pat on MH-17 Shoot-down.”]
But the DNI’s response does make sense if later U.S. intelligence analysis contradicted the initial rush to judgment by Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior officials blaming Russia and the rebels. The Obama administration might not want to surrender a useful propaganda club to bash Moscow, or as Nuland might say, an important piece of anti-Russian “rhetoric.”
As for Brennan and his appearance before the stuffy Council on Foreign Relations fielding questions posed by Charlie Rose as the “presider,” the CIA director seemed more concerned about the flak his agency has been getting for having a cloudy crystal ball and not anticipating how the Ukraine crisis would unfold, saying:
“Now I know that many would like the CIA to predict the future — answering questions such as ‘will Crimea secede and be annexed by Russia’ and ‘will Russian forces move into Eastern Ukraine.’ But the plain and simple truth is that … virtually all events around the globe, future events — including in Ukraine — are shaped by numerous variables and yet-to-happen developments as well as leadership considerations and decisions.”
But the prospect of CIA analysts seeing events clearly – both understanding what may have caused an event in the past and perceiving the complex forces that may shape the future – are diminished when the U.S. intelligence community becomes politicized and exploited for propaganda purposes, when it gets enlisted into “information warfare.”
Obama could surely use some experienced, mature help in putting an end to this potpourri of you-pick-your-favorite-statement about “Russian aggression.” The disarray and deceit on such an important issue does nothing to bolster confidence that he has been tutored well, that he understands the value of sober intelligence work, or that he is in control of U.S. foreign policy.
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.
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.
The same crowd of Neocons who are responsible for the worst foreign policy decision ever made by American leaders are at it again. Not content with the regime change they achieved in Iraq, and the resulting continuing chaos, they are now demonizing Putin and picking a fight with Russia.
Russia may not be as powerful as it once was at the peak of the Cold War, but it is plenty powerful enough to terrify European NATO leaders. The possibility of a hot war with Russia should terrify the US. Russia generals are already discussing the use of tactical nuclear weapons should NATO forces move against their motherland. Russia will press claims to Ukraine lands that have been part of the Russian’s sphere of influence for 500 years. They will defend themselves against the further eastern spread of NATO.
Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill
President Obama is being foolish in demonizing, threatening and abusing Putin and Russia. Anyone that knows anything about Russia history and Vladimir Putin should know that the Russians and Putin are not ones to back down. Diplomacy should be carried out in a respectful way.
The Russians lost between 20,000,000 and 28,000,000 people in WW2. Historians still disagree on the exact number, but all agree to come back from such losses the Russians are a resilient people. Just as Stalin outmaneuvered Roosevelt and Churchill near the end of WW2, Obama, the Neocons, and EU leaders will likely underestimate the clever and tough Putin and the resilience of the Russian people in the face of hardships. Sanctions are not going to work.
The Neocons seem to have control of Obama, the Washington chicken hawks, and our reckless administration. Should the new cold war turn hotter the world will pay a terrible price.
The Neocons — Masters of Chaos
America’s neoconservatives, by stirring up trouble in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, are creating risks for the world’s economy that are surfacing now in the turbulent stock markets, threatening another global recession, writes Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
If you’re nervously watching the stock market gyrations and worrying about your declining portfolio or pension fund, part of the blame should go to America’s neocons who continue to be masters of chaos, endangering the world’s economy by instigating geopolitical confrontations in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
Of course, there are other factors pushing Europe’s economy to the brink of a triple-dip recession and threatening to stop America’s fragile recovery, too. But the neocons’ “regime change” strategies, which have unleashed violence and confrontations across Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran and most recently Ukraine, have added to the economic uncertainty.
This neocon destabilization of the world economy began with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 under President George W. Bush who squandered some $1 trillion on the bloody folly. But the neocons’ strategies have continued through their still-pervasive influence in Official Washington during President Barack Obama’s administration.
The neocons and their “liberal interventionist” junior partners have kept the “regime change” pot boiling with the Western-orchestrated overthrow and killing of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the proxy civil war in Syria to oust Bashar al-Assad, the costly economic embargoes against Iran, and the U.S.-backed coup that ousted Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych last February.
All these targeted governments were first ostracized by the neocons and the major U.S. news organizations, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, which have become what amounts to neocon mouthpieces. Whenever the neocons decide that it’s time for another “regime change,” the mainstream U.S. media enlists in the propaganda wars.
The consequence of this cascading disorder has been damaging and cumulative. The costs of the Iraq War strapped the U.S. Treasury and left less government maneuvering room when Wall Street crashed in 2008. If Bush still had the surplus that he inherited from President Bill Clinton – rather than a yawning deficit – there might have been enough public money to stimulate a much-faster recovery.
President Obama also wouldn’t have been left to cope with the living hell that the U.S. occupation brought to the people of Iraq, violent chaos that gave birth to what was then called “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” and has since rebranded itself “the Islamic State.”
But Obama didn’t do himself (or the world) any favors when he put much of his foreign policy in the hands of Democratic neocon-lites, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Bush holdovers, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus. At State, Clinton promoted the likes of neocon Victoria Nuland, the wife of arch-neocon Robert Kagan, and Obama brought in “liberal interventionists” like Samantha Power, now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
In recent years, the neocons and “liberal interventionists” have become almost indistinguishable, so much so that Robert Kagan has opted to discard the discredited neocon label and call himself a “liberal interventionist.”
Obama, in his nearly six years as president, also has shied away from imposing his more “realistic” views about world affairs on the neocon/liberal-interventionist ideologues inside the U.S. pundit class and his own administration. He has been outmaneuvered by clever insiders (as happened in 2009 on the Afghan “surge”) or overwhelmed by some Official Washington “group think” (as was the case in Libya, Syria, Iran and Ukraine).
Once all the “smart people” reach some collective decision that a foreign leader “must go,” Obama usually joins the chorus and has shown only rare moments of toughness in standing up to misguided conventional wisdoms.
The one notable case was his decision in summer 2013 to resist pressure to destroy Syria’s military after a Sarin gas attack outside Damascus sparked a dubious rush to judgment blaming Assad’s regime. Since then, more evidence has pointed to a provocation by anti-Assad extremists who may have thought that the incident would draw in the U.S. military on their side. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Was Turkey Behind Syrian Sarin Attack?”]
It’s now clear that if Obama had ordered a major bombing campaign against Assad’s military in early September 2013, he might have opened the gates of Damascus to a hellish victory by al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists or the even more brutal Islamic State, since these terrorist groups have emerged as the only effective fighters against Assad.
But the neocons and the “liberal interventionists” seemed oblivious to that danger. They had their hearts set on Syrian “regime change,” so were furious when their dreams were dashed by Obama’s supposed “weakness,” i.e. his failure to do what they wanted. They also blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin who brokered a compromise with Assad in which he agreed to surrender all of Syria’s chemical weapons while still denying a role in the Sarin attack.
By late September 2013, the disappointed neocons were acting out their anger by taking aim at Putin. They recognized that a particular vulnerability for the Russian president was Ukraine and the possibility that it could be pulled out of Russia’s sphere of influence and into the West’s orbit.
So, Carl Gershman, the neocon president of the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy, took to the op-ed page of the neocon-flagship Washington Post to sound the trumpet about Ukraine, which he called “the biggest prize.”
But Gershman added that Ukraine was really only an interim step to an even bigger prize, the removal of the strong-willed and independent-minded Putin, who, Gershman added, “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad [i.e. Ukraine] but within Russia itself.” In other words, the new neocon hope was for “regime change” in Kiev and Moscow. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons’ Ukraine/Syria/Iran Gambit.”]
Destabilizing the World
Beyond the recklessness of plotting to destabilize nuclear-armed Russia, the neocon strategy threatened to shake Europe’s fragile economic recovery from a painful recession, six years of jobless stress that had strained the cohesion of the European Union and the euro zone.
Across the Continent, populist parties from the Right and Left have been challenging establishment politicians over their inability to reverse the widespread unemployment and the growing poverty. Important to Europe’s economy was its relationship with Russia, a major market for agriculture and manufactured goods and a key source of natural gas to keep Europe’s industries humming and its houses warm.
The last thing Europe needed was more chaos, but that’s what the neocons do best and they were determined to punish Putin for disrupting their plans for Syrian “regime change,” an item long near the top of their agenda along with their desire to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,” which Israel has cited as an “existential threat.”
Putin also had sidetracked that possible war with Iran by helping to forge an interim agreement constraining but not eliminating Iran’s nuclear program. So, he became the latest target of neocon demonization, a process in which the New York Times and the Washington Post eagerly took the lead.
To get at Putin, however, the first step was Ukraine where Gershman’s NED was funding scores of programs for political activists and media operatives. These efforts fed into mass protests against Ukrainian President Yanukovych for balking at an EU association agreement that included a harsh austerity plan designed by the International Monetary Fund. Yanukovych opted instead for a more generous $15 billion loan deal from Putin.
As the political violence in Kiev escalated – with the uprising’s muscle supplied by neo-Nazi militias from western Ukraine – neocons within the Obama administration discussed how to “midwife” a coup against Yanukovych. Central to this planning was Victoria Nuland, who had been promoted to assistant secretary of state for European affairs and was urging on the protesters, even passing out cookies to protesters at Kiev’s Maidan square.
According to an intercepted phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland didn’t think EU officials were being aggressive enough. “Fuck the EU,” she said as she brainstormed how “to help glue this thing.” She literally handpicked who should be in the post-coup government – “Yats is the guy,” a reference to Arseniy Yatsenyuk who would indeed become prime minister.
When the coup went down on Feb. 22 – spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias who seized government buildings and forced Yanukovych and his officials to flee for their lives – the U.S. State Department quickly deemed the new regime “legitimate” and the mainstream U.S. media dutifully stepped up the demonization of Yanukovych and Putin.
Although Putin’s position had been in support of Ukraine’s status quo – i.e., retaining the elected president and the country’s constitutional process – the crisis was pitched to the American people as a case of “Russian aggression” with dire comparisons made between Putin and Hitler, especially after ethnic Russians in the east and south resisted the coup regime in Kiev and Crimea seceded to rejoin Russia.
Starting a Trade War
Pressured by the Obama administration, the EU agreed to sanction Russia for its “aggression,” touching off a tit-for-tat trade war with Moscow which reduced Europe’s sale of farming and manufacturing goods to Russia and threatened to disrupt Russia’s natural gas supplies to Europe.
While the most serious consequences were to Ukraine’s economy which went into freefall because of the civil war, some of Europe’s most endangered economies in the south also were hit hard by the lost trade with Russia. Europe began to stagger toward the third dip in a triple-dip recession with European markets experiencing major stock sell-offs.
The dominoes soon toppled across the Atlantic as major U.S. stock indices dropped, creating anguish among many Americans just when it seemed the hangover from Bush’s 2008 market crash was finally wearing off.
Obviously, there are other reasons for the recent stock market declines, including fears about the Islamic State’s victories in Syria and Iraq, continued chaos in Libya, and exclusion of Iran from the global economic system – all partly the result of neocon ideology. There have been unrelated troubles, too, such as the Ebola epidemic in western Africa and various weather disasters.
But the world’s economy usually can withstand some natural and manmade challenges. The real problem comes when a combination of catastrophes pushes the international financial system to a tipping point. Then, even a single event can dump the world into economic chaos, like what happened when Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008.
It’s not clear whether the world is at such a tipping point today, but the stock market volatility suggests that we may be on the verge of another worldwide recession. Meanwhile, the neocon masters of chaos seem determined to keep putting their ideological obsessions ahead of the risks to Americans and people everywhere.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
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”.
Three years ago The Swiss National Bank stated that pegging the Swiss Franc to the Euro at 1.20 was a policy that was in place forever. Forever lasted until the cost of maintaining the peg became too great.
Anne Van Praagh, managing director of Moody’s Investors Service, said by phone from New York on Jan. 15. “The Swiss economy is significantly stronger than the European economy as a whole, so the peg didn’t make much sense and it exposed the Swiss National Bank to big valuation risks.”
By announcing the end of the 1.20 peg the SNB actually returned to reality. It also seriously damaged the credibility of all Central Banks. The SNB was widely regarded as being a well run Central Bank. If you can’t trust the SNB to keep its word who can you trust?
The SNB action caused tremendous losses for many retail and professional forex traders, including big names like Goldman Sachs and Barclays Bank. Total losses are far into the billions. Many speculators short Swiss Francs lost their entire equity plus, going into overloss.
Central Banks Upside Down
From TheAutomaticEarth. Link Below.
The Swiss have unleashed a pretty wild storm in financial markets. All sorts of companies and people today are licking their wounds, and quite a few will simply have to fold. It’s no exception to be so leveraged in foreign exchange wagers that a move of a few percent can wipe you out, let alone one of 30%. Leverage makes sure that right off the bat a whole bunch of foreign exchange brokers, including FXCM, the biggest, are literally dead in the water – FXCM stock fell 90% -.
We’ll hear about the real losses in the days and weeks to come, but rest assured they’ll be very substantial. Banks like Goldman, Deutsche and Barclays were heavily short the franc, and therefor of course, so were their clients. Many private investors have lost everything and then some. As if the losses from oil’s jump off the cliff weren’t damaging enough yet to the realm of finance. But, you know, the CHF franc was pegged to the slumping euro, so what did everybody really expect? The timing may have been a surprise, but come on ..
There’s number of lessons in this, but I don’t feel confident that they will be learned. If only because we’ve gotten so used to living in an upside down world that it has become a solid new normal, especially for those who’ve made a killing off of it. But everything, says physics, tends back to equilibrium. And we were many miles removed from that.
The world of finance decries the fact that the Swiss central bank didn’t ‘telegraph’ beforehand that they were going to get rid of the euro peg. And that’s completely upside down, right there. Even apart from the fact that the SNB move wouldn’t have worked if it had indicated it beforehand, what’s the idea behind central banks having to tell you anything at all? Just look at this from Bloomberg:
SNB Officials Eating Words Risk Lasting Investor Aches
Switzerland’s central bank officials have just eaten their words, risking lingering indigestion in financial markets. Just three days after Swiss National Bank (SNBN) Vice President Jean-Pierre Danthine called the franc cap a “pillar” of monetary policy, the SNB yesterday dropped the minimum exchange rate of 1.20 per euro. The shock abandonment of the SNB’s primary policy of the past three years may now leave investors warier of taking officials’ words at face value, according to economists including Karsten Junius, chief economist at Bank J. Safra Sarasin. By scrapping one tool, the franc cap, SNB President Thomas Jordan risks blunting the effects of another. “The SNB’s credibility has suffered a bit,” said Junius, a former economist at the International Monetary Fund.
“Statements will get read in the future with a bit more caution. Verbal interventions will hardly work any more.” The central bank’s regular pledge to defend the franc cap with “utmost determination” had become part of the institution’s brand, not least because of the success of that policy in protecting the country’s domestic economy. “They’ve lost part of their credibility, I think, ”Han De Jong, chief economist at ABN Amro told Angie Lau on Bloomberg TV. “Whatever they will say, markets will not trust them very much.” George Buckley at Deutsche also argues the SNB’s words are hard to reconcile with the SNB’s new policy stance. “Their commentary now means nothing,” he said. “This is not utmost determination, is it?”
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has suffered similar criticism. He was labeled an “unreliable boyfriend” by one U.K. lawmaker last year for giving conflicting messages on the possible timing of interest-rate increases in the U.K. SNB President Jordan yesterday defended his surprise move, saying that a tool like the cap would always need to be abandoned unexpectedly. Anatoli Annenkov at SocGen agrees. “It’s something we aren’t used to anymore because most central banks are talking about warning markets, improving communication, not surprising anymore,” Annenkov said by phone from London. “But in such circumstances, there’s basically no other way to do this. Markets would have speculated, positioned themselves beforehand.”
There’s this sense of entitlement seeping through from this that makes you want to, I don’t know, shout, puke? Traders and journalists that chide a central bank for not giving them what they want, when they want it? On what logical basis? That Greenspan and Bernanke did it for years, and so screwed up the entire US financial system? That information from central banks is now some god-given right for traders and bankers? Are you nuts? Are we all? We now know the Swiss are not, or let’s say that for whatever reason they did what they did, they’re not completely off their rockers.
So how about other central bankers? Everyone seems to be sure now that Draghi at the ECB has more reason than ever, after the SNB move, to launch full tilt QE. And I’m thinking, I don’t know kiddos, perhaps he has less reason now, because the markets’ faith in central banks has taken a jolt, because the effectiveness of that QE, which has been in the works forever, has already been priced in by those markets, and because the Germans are sure to contest it all throughout their court system(s). What use would a Draghi QE be at this point? Close to zero. He might still do it, but that would just expose him as a tool. And he can resign and become Italy’s new president right after. And it’s not just Draghi:
The Swiss Just Made Japan’s Job Harder
Haruhiko Kuroda’s monetary “bazooka” just got outgunned by the Swiss. Since April 2013, Japan’s central banker has been pumping trillions of dollars into the economy in an attempt to generate 2% inflation. But in a mature, aging economy like Japan’s, the effort is 95% about confidence. In order to “drastically convert the deflationary mindset,” as Kuroda puts it, the Bank of Japan must transform sentiment among households and businesses. Kuroda’s massive bond purchases mean little if the Japanese don’t trust that better days lay ahead. The Swiss National Bank’s move to abandon the franc’s cap against the euro may have blown a hole in Kuroda’s strategy.
By reneging on a promise made time and time again that he wouldn’t ditch the policy, SNB President Thomas Jordan “has undermined the credibility of central banks,” says Simon Grose-Hodge of LGT. Now, at central banks around the globe, he adds, “the unthinkable is entirely possible. You can’t rule anything out.” Even if the BOJ issues another blast of quantitative-easing after its two-day policy meeting next week, the question is how effective the move would be. Kuroda’s Oct. 31 shock-and-awe stimulus announcement worked for a time by bolstering perceptions that steady inflation was within reach. But this time, with even Economy Minister Akira Amari admitting “it will probably be difficult” for the BOJ to succeed, markets are likely to be more skeptical of the bank’s staying power.