Contradiction blots Obama’s legacy with outdated Cold War mindset


Obama insurance conference call providers Russia and the U.S. are sending rather contradictory signals about their relationship.

US President Barack Obama belittled Russia as a nation that “doesn’t make anything” in an interview with the Economist on Sunday. He also said that the West must be “pretty firm” with China, as the latter will “push as hard as they can until they meet resistance.”

Obama downplayed Russia’s role in the international community by saying Moscow is unable to attract quality immigrants and Russia’s population is shrinking and aging. He described US tensions with China as “manageable,” but stressed that the West should be tough with China when China “breaches international norms,” and show China “the potential benefits over the long term.”

Condescending to China and Russia, Obama treats both nations separately. He wants to draw more Western attention to China, so there could be more efforts to contain China. Obama paying close attention to China resulted in his “rebalancing to Asia” strategy.

He hasn’t shown much belligerence to China and Russia since he took office, but apparently, he lacks strategic insight and the power to control his government and be a good decision-maker. His advocacy is always ambiguous and easily misguided by some emergency issues. Diplomacy will not be a proud part of his legacy.

In the Middle East, the US withdrawal from Iraq under his leadership has not helped sort out the mess in the region. He won’t be given a medal for the current situation.

In its relationship with Russia, the US wrongfully kept its momentum to squeeze Russia’s strategic space and caused Moscow’s intense countermeasures.

Washington and Moscow are now engaged in Cold-War-level tensions, and they will cost the US much resource and attention.

In US-China relations, Obama has also found it hard to fully achieve his “rebalancing to Asia” goals. When the new Chinese leadership proposed the concept of a new type of major power relationship, the Obama administration accepted the general idea, but hasn’t accepted the connotations.

Obama has not made constructive contributions to China-US relationships. He cannot make landmark progress if he still clings to an outdated Cold War mindset.

In the next two years before his last term ends, Obama could make himself remembered by making breakthroughs in the Sino-US relationship.

He could work with his Chinese counterparts to work out a framework for both countries, which would influence the entire picture of international relations.

In the early years of Obama’s administration, people were impressed by his less strident posture toward international affairs, and this is also why he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But now he has become more self-contradictory.

Perhaps that’s how the most powerful man plays his role, held back by many different forces. It seems that only recklessness and strident talk can make the US presidency function well, while forward thinking won’t get anywhere.

Source: Global Times

Who stands to gain from MH17, USA?


The general public should always ask this question to prevent ourselves from being deceived by ‘false flags’

THE Russian military has released military monitoring data which challenge allegations circulating in the media pertaining to the MH17 crash in the Donetsk Region of Eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. Questions have been raised about Kiev military jets tracking MH17, Ukrainian air traffic controllers and the deployment of Buk missile systems. Kiev should also release military data on the circumstances leading to the crash. So should the Pentagon which reportedly has relevant intelligence and satellite data.

Since military data is hardcore information, Kiev and Washington should be persuaded to be transparent and accountable. The UN Secretary-General can play a role in this since there is a specialised agency within the UN, the ICAO, dedicated to international civil aviation.

Military data from Moscow, Kiev and Washington should be scrutinised by the independent international panel that is supposed to probe the MH17 catastrophe.

Such data carries much more weight than videos purportedly revealing the role of the pro-Russian rebels and the Russian government in the crash. One such video showing a Buk system being moved from Ukraine to Russia is a fabrication. The billboard in the background establishes that it was shot in a town – Krasnoarmeisk – that has been under the control of the Ukrainian military since May 11. Similarly, a YouTube video showing a Russian General and Ukrainian rebels discussing their role in mistakenly downing a civilian aircraft was, from various tell-tale signs, produced before the event.

The public should be wary of fabricated “evidence” of this sort, after what we have witnessed in the last so many years. Have we forgotten the monstrous lies and massive distortions that accompanied the reckless allegation that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which led eventually to the invasion of that country in 2003 and the death of more than a million people? What about the Gulf of Tonkin episode of 1964 which again was a fabrication that paved the way for US aggression against Vietnam that resulted in the death of more than three million Vietnamese?

MH17-coffins

The “babies in incubators” incident in Kuwait in 1990 was yet another manufactured lie that aroused the anger of the people and served to justify the US assault on Iraq. Just last year we saw how an attempt was made by some parties to pin the blame for a sarin gas attack in Ghouta, Syria upon the Assad government when subsequent investigations have revealed that it was the work of some rebel group.

From Tonkin to Ghouta there is a discernible pattern when it comes to the fabrication of evidence to justify some nefarious agenda or other. As soon as the event occurs before any proper investigation has begun, blame is apportioned upon the targeted party. This is done wilfully to divert attention from the real culprit whose act of evil remains concealed and camouflaged.

The colluding media then begins to spin the “correct” version with the help of its reporters and columnists who concoct “fact” out of fiction. Any other explanation or interpretation of the event is discredited and dismissed derisively to ensure that the “credibility” of the dominant narrative remains intact.

As the narrative unfolds, the target often embodied in a certain personality is demonised to such a degree that he arouses the ire of the public and becomes an object of venom.

The pattern described here is typical of what is known as a “false flag” operation in which blame for some dastardly deed is consciously transferred to one’s adversary. It has happened right through history and many contemporary nation-states – and not just the United States – are guilty of flying false flags.

To protect ourselves from being deceived by such operations, the general public should always ask: who stands to gain from a particular episode? Cui Bono is in fact an important principle in the investigation of a crime. In the case of the MH17 carnage, the pro-Russian rebels do not benefit in any way from downing a civilian airliner. Their goal is independence from the Kiev government which is why they are fighting Kiev through sometimes violent means including shooting down its military planes. Massacring 298 passengers in a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur does not serve their cause. Moscow which backs the rebels to an extent also gains nothing from involving itself in such a diabolical carnage.

10 days after the carnage, it is now clear who is trying to reap benefits from that terrible tragedy in the skies. The demonisation of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, orchestrated from various Western capitals, including Kiev, after Crimea voted to join the Russian Federation, thus thwarting one of the primary strategic goals of Nato’s eastward expansion, has now reached its pinnacle.

MH17 has helped the elite in Washington in yet another sense. It has strengthened its push for tougher sanctions against Russia which began after the Crimea vote.

It is obvious that those who seek to punish Russia and the pro-Russian rebels, namely, the elite in Washington and Kiev, are poised to gain the most from the MH17 episode. Does it imply that they would have had a role in the episode itself? Only a truly independent and impartial international inquiry would be able to provide the answer.

In this regard, we must admit that while elites in Kiev and Washington may stand to gain from MH17, those who actually pulled the trigger may be some other group or individual with links to the powerful in the two capitals. It is quite conceivable that a certain well-heeled individual equipped with the appropriate military apparatus and with access to air-control authorities in the region may have executed the act of evil itself.

MH17 down

Because of who he is, and where his loyalties lie, that individual may have also decided to target Malaysia. Was he giving vent to his anger over our principled stand on the question of justice for the Palestinians? Was he also attempting to divert public attention from Israel’s ground offensive against Gaza which time-wise coincided with the downing of the Malaysian airliner?

As we explore MH17 from this angle, would we be able to connect the dots between MH17 and MH370, between July 17 and March 8, 2014? We should not rest till the whole truth is known and the evil behind these two colossal catastrophes punished severely.

We owe this to every soul who perished on those fateful flights.

This article is dedicated to the cherished memory of all those on MH17 – especially the 80 children who were on board.

By comment: Dr Chandra Muzaffar

Dr Chandra Muzaffar is the President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST).

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MH17 black boxes handovered to Malaysia to be passed to AAIB UK via Dutch investigators


Malaysian experts hand over MH17 black boxes to Dutch investigators
MH17 black Boxes

THE HAGUE, July 22 — The black boxes from the crashed flight MH17 have been handed over to Dutch investigators in Ukraine, the Dutch Foreign Ministry announced late Tuesday.

“The black boxes from flight MH17 have been handed over by Malaysian experts to the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) that is leading the international investigation,” the ministry said.

According to local media, the black boxes will be sent to Farnborough in Britain, where experts can read the data stored in the black boxes and try to find the exact cause of the crash.

The ministry said, the experts from the Dutch safety board will travel with other experts from several countries together, to send the black boxes to Farnborough.

For now, the Dutch side is in charge of the investigation of the crash, which caused 193 Dutch citizens’ lives.

The Boeing 777 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed near the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk Thursday, killing all 298 people on board.

The Dutch government announced early Tuesday that a flight with the first victims’ bodies will arrive in Eindhoven, the Netherlands on Wednesday.   Xinhua

Malaysian official: MH17’s black boxes to be passed to AAIB

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said Wednesday in a statement that the international investigation team, led by the Netherlands, had decided to pass the black boxes to the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) for forensic analysis.

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MH17 probe must steer clear of politics


MH17 Carton

The whirling aftermath of the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is now upon us, with Western-led international opinion turning the spotlight on Russia. We believe that the entire case must be investigated fairly and thoroughly. The United Nations or the International Civil Aviation Organization must play a leading role, and all sides must coordinate without preconditions or preconceptions.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have agreed that all evidence from the downed plane should be made available for international investigation, and that experts should be given access to the site.

This is good news. Moscow must take a proactive stance toward this investigation.

The West has fingered Russia as the main suspect in the tragedy. Under such circumstances, any hesitation on Russia’s part will provoke more blame from the West. If there is no result to the investigation, Russia will, by default, be named the perpetrator. Therefore, letting the facts of the case speak suits Russia’s interests.

The Western rush to judge Russia is not based on evidence or logic. Russia had no motive to bring down MH17; doing so would only narrow its political and moral space to operate in the Ukrainian crisis. The tragedy has no political benefit for Ukrainian rebel forces, either.

Russia has been back-footed, forced into a passive stance by Western reaction. It is yet another example of the power of Western opinion as a political tool.

Politically speaking, shooting down a passenger jet would be ridiculous. It could have been an error, the precondition for which is the chaos within Ukraine.

The truth is the most persuasive tool of all. As the targeting of civilian air traffic is a mortal threat to all air passengers, a fair investigation is in the interest of all sides. The investigation process must steer clear of any political interference. The truth must be made public once it is found out.

Without a doubt, we live in a highly politicized world. Political zealotry has always been part and parcel of revolutionary passions.

The West has successfully put itself in a position to dictate “political correctness” in international discourse. Those unwilling to work with Western interests will often find themselves in a tough position.

The crash of MH17 is a tragedy of immense proportions. But the discussion swirling around this event has centered around three positions: shock at and condemnation of the event itself, quibbling over the Ukrainian crisis, and defining the opposition between Russia and the West. The first seems to be overwhelmed by the latter two, disrupting any investigation into the tragedy.

We sincerely hope the investigation will stick to factual and technological questions. People need the truth rather than another geopolitical rivalry.

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-7-21 0:13:01

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[2014-07-19 06:47] The cause of the downing of the aircraft, a Boeing 777-200, must be found as soon as possible, and those responsible must be identified and brought to justice.

WW2 D-Day remembered in Normandy France; China praises Germany, slams Japan for denial of its brutal history


China praises Germany, slams Japan

(Reuters) – China used the 70th anniversary of World War Two’s D-Day landings on Friday to praise Germany for its contrition over its wartime past and slam Japan for what Beijing views as Tokyo’s continued denial of its brutal history.

China has increasingly contrasted Germany and its public remorse for the Nazi regime to Japan, where repeated official apologies for wartime suffering are sometimes undercut by contradictory comments by conservative politicians.

Ties between the two Asian rivals worsened on Dec. 26 when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which China sees as a symbol of Tokyo’s past militarism because it honors war criminals along with millions of war dead.

“Germany’s sincere remorse has won the confidence of the world,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing, when asked about the D-Day anniversary.

“But in Asia on the Asian battlefield, the leaders of Japan, which caused harm and which lost the war, are to this day still trying to reverse the course of history and deny their history of invasion,” Hong added.

“What Japanese leaders are doing has been widely condemned in the international community. We again urge Japan’s leaders to face up to and deeply reflect on the history of invasion and take real steps to correct their mistakes to win the trust of its neighbors in Asia and in the international community.”

Japan’s government and Abe himself have repeatedly said that Japan has faced up to its past sincerely.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Japan urged to correct mistakes as D-Day remembered

BEIJING, June 6 (Xinhua) — China on Friday urged Japan to reflect on its aggression past and correct mistakes with practical actions, as international D-Day commemorations were held.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily press briefing, “We again urge Japanese leaders to face up to and remember its aggression past, correct mistakes with tangible actions and win the trust of Asian neighbors and the international community.”

Among international commemorations of the 70th anniversary of D-Day being held, one was in Normandy, France.

Hong said as far as the Second World War is concerned, Europe has turned over a new page. Quoting an old Chinese saying, he said, “Past experience, if not forgotten, is a guide for the future.”

Hong said, “Germany has won world respect by sincerely apologizing for its wrong-doing.

“Yet leaders of Japan, a defeated country in World War II, are still attempting to deny its past and challenge the post-war international order, thus their acts are widely condemned by the international community.”

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HMS Bulwark (library photograph) HMS Bulwark will be part of a flotilla heading to France from Portsmouth

Friday marks 70 years since the allied troops in the Second World War landed in Normandy. Ceremonies large and small have been taking place on both sides of the English Channel.

WWII veterons attend a Drumhead Service on Southsea Common in commemoration of the D-Day landings on June 5, 2014 in Portsmouth, England.
WWII veterons attend a Drumhead Service on Southsea Common in commemoration of the D-Day landings on June 5, 2014 in Portsmouth, England.

In the southern English naval base of Portsmouth, which was the departure point for troops heading to Sword Beach, one of the main landing points, British Royal Marines acted out military exercises for thousands of veterans who gathered on Thursday to make the crossing for the commemorations.

While over in northern France, 300 soldiers from the US, UK, Canada and France parachuted in tandem over the village of Ranville, and World War II planes flew over Utah Beach. Thousands of Allied troops flew or parachuted onto the German-occupied French soil during the early hours of June 6th, in 1944, catching the German army by surprise. But the price was high, nearly 4,500 were dead by the end of the day.

With many D-Day veterans now in their 90s, this year could be the last time that many of those who took part in the battle, will be able to make the long journey back to Normandy and tell their stories. The main D-Day ceremony will be held in Ouistreham, a small port that was the site of a strategic battle on D-Day. Some 18 heads of state are expected to attend the commemorations.

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Asians can and must think strategically, not to be dominated by the West


Can Asians think?

CAN Asian Think is a provocative book written in 1998 by the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, Kishore Mahbubani, a prolific and brilliant thinker.

The book is a combative rebuttal of the idea that the dominant Western (read American) ideas are universalist, arguing that the Rest (of the World) has a lot to teach the West.

Re-reading it after more than 16 years, the questions raised by Mahbubani are as relevant as ever. Personally, I found the title rather condescending – of course Asians can think! The real issue is whether Asians can think strategically in their own interest, or whether they think that the dominant Western philosophy and values are so comfortable and relevant that they simply accept that the West is best.

The intellectual tide is going full circle. Since 1998, we have experienced two full-scale crises – the Asian financial crisis of 1998-1999 in which some Western polemicists gloated over Asian hubris, and the Great Recession of 2007-2009, when even Western intellectuals questioned whether unfettered capitalism was a dead end.

As one Asian leader said, when our teacher stumbles, what does the student do? This strategic question has not been completely answered, or at least the answers are different for different Asian countries.

Now that the West has begun to recover, we are going through a reversal of fortunes. Emerging economies are going to bear the brunt of global adjustment. At least three Asian economies are counted among the Fragile Five (India, Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil and South Africa), and there is considerable worry that China may be going through a hard landing.

President Obama’s trip to Asia was a belated personal confirmation of his “Pivot to East Asia” policy, first articulated in 2012 by then Secretary of State and Presidential wannabe Hillary Clinton. As the United States began to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and its discovery of shale oil making it less dependent on the Middle East, the Pivot strategy involved strengthening bilateral ties with allies in East Asia, and working relationships with emerging powers, such as China. The immediate unintended consequence of the Pivot policy was the eruption of the Ukraine crisis, whereby Russia took advantage of European weakness and diversion of US attention to effectively bring Crimea back to the Russian sphere of influence.

All of a sudden, the Cold War, defined as the struggle between Big Powers, re-emerged into the global risk equation.

Russian  Victory Day parade
Russian soldiers march at the Red Square in Moscow during a Victory Day parade. Thousands of Russian troops marched in Red Square to mark 69 years since victory in World War II in a show of military might amid tensions in Ukraine following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. -AFP

The word “pivot” originally arose from a paper “The Geographical Pivot of History”, delivered exactly 110 years ago by Sir Halford Mackinder (1861-1947), then director of the London School of Economics. In his second book in 1919, Mackinder, considered the father of geopolitics and geostrategy theory, enscapsulated his theory of the Heartland in a dictum: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island commands the World.”

The Heartland is of course Central Asia, previously part of the Soviet Union, and the World-Island is the largest landmass of Euroasia, from Atlantic Europe to the East Asian Pacific coast, which commands 50% of the world’s resources. Many of today’s areas of geopolitical risk are at the frontiers of the Heartland – Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and the South China Sea.

Mackinder’s innovation was to examine national strategy on a global scale, recognising that the British empire must use geography and strategic policy to its advantage against competing great powers.

Former British colonies understood very well the British strategy of “divide and rule”, playing off one faction against the other, so that Britain could rule a subcontinent like India without expending too much resources. But Britain did not hesitate to apply gunboats or cannon to maintain the strategic balance. Similarly, Britain played off one European power against another, until weakened by two world wars, her former colony, the United States emerged as the global superpower.

Seen from the long lens of history, we are in the second Anglo-Saxon empire, with America being the new Rome. Just as the Roman empire shifted its capital from Rome to Constantinople (now Istanbul) in the 20th century, power shifted westward from London to Washington DC.

In the 20th century, two island economies, Britain and Japan, played leading roles in intervening in the continents of Europe and Asia through maritime power, but by the 21st century, air and technological power through size and scale changed the game in favour of the United States. The United States is a continental economy defended by two oceans, the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic, without a military rival within the Americas.

In contrast, Asia has been historically riven by war and territorial disputes.

In his new book, the Revenge of Geography, geostrategist Robert Kaplan argued how politics and warfare were determined throughout history largely by geography.

Even though the arrival of air travel and Internet suggest that the world may become borderless, the reality is that the world is becoming more and more crowded.

When the First World War broke out in 1914, the global population was only 1.7 billion, with a death count of 16 million. By the Second World War, the death count reached as high as 85 million, when world population was only 2.3 billion.

The next World War will be fought over water and energy resources, because there are limits to natural resources even as the global population exceeds 7 billion, going towards 9 billion by 2030.

For the world to avoid global conflict will require great skills and mutual understanding, because the geopolitical risks of political miscalculation and accidents are extremely high in an age of rising tensions due to inequality, chauvinism, religious and ethnic polarisation. As an old African saying goes, when elephants fight, the grass gets trampled. In the next big fight between the nuclear powers, there will be no winners.

Now that is something that not just Asians must seriously think about.

- Contributed by Tan Sri Andrew Sheng

Tan Sri Andrew Sheng is Distinguished Fellow of the Fung Global Institute. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

New China-US military ties: agree to disagree


Military_China Chang-US HagelChinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Chang Wanquan (L) and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (R) review the guard of honor at a welcoming ceremony before their talks in Beijing, capital of China, April 8, 2014. (Xinhua/Liu Weibing)

China-US military: agree to disagree – CCTV News – CCTV.com English

< Video China-US military: agree to disagree

Chinese President Xi Jinping (second right) shakes hands with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (second left) during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called on China and the US to build a new model of military relations in a meeting with visiting US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

As an important part of Sino-US ties, military relations should be advanced under the framework of building a new type of major power relations, Xi, who is also chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, told Hagel.

The two countries need to effectively manage their differences and sensitive issues to ensure major power relations always go forward on the right track, Xi said.

The new type of China-US military ties are in the initial phase and the two sides have different understandings but they are looking for ways to advance, said Liu Weidong, an expert on US studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

Hagel is wrapping up his first visit to China since he became defense chief in February last year. His visit came after a stop in Japan, with which China has been embroiled in territorial disputes over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

The defense chief’s exchanges with Chinese military officials saw both blunt exchanges and handshakes, said an opinion piece by the Xinhua News Agency on Wednesday.

Before coming to China, Hagel said the goal for his Asia visit was to assure US allies of commitment to “our treaty obligations.” He openly welcomed Japan’s attempt to ease the ban on its collective self-defense in a written response to Japan’s financial newspaper Nikkei and reassured Tokyo that the Diaoyu Islands fall under the US-Japan Security Treaty.

He was received with frank and outspoken comments from Chinese military officials before the public, which is rarely seen, said analysts.

Before reporters, Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, said Tuesday that Hagel’s remarks on China made at the US-ASEAN defense ministers meeting in Hawaii last week and to the Japanese politicians were “tough.”

“The Chinese people, including myself, are dissatisfied with such remarks,” Fan noted.

Also in the presence of the press, China’s defense minister Chang Wanquan called on the US to keep Tokyo within bounds and not be permissive. He said China would not take pre-emptive action, but its armed forces are ready to respond.

It’s rare that Chinese military officials publicly express such attitudes and language, said Niu Xinchun, a research fellow with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, noting that China has been angered by US rhetoric.

“The strong remarks display the diplomatic style of China’s new leadership and China’s increasing confidence,” he told the Global Times.

It’s also a tactic with which China wants to press the US to take China’s feelings seriously, Liu noted.

Hagel also faced sharp questions when giving a speech at the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s National Defense University. One Chinese officer voiced his concern that the US was stirring up trouble in the East China Sea and the South China Sea to hamper China’s development out of fear of China as a challenge, Reuters reported.

“These questions are prepared by the organizer to deliver China’s worries about a possible threat from the US-Japan alliance,” said Liu.

Reuters reported China appeared to be getting anxious that the recent tough talk by US officials over China’s territorial disputes with its neighbors could be a preview of what US President Barack Obama would say when he visits Asia later this month.

China’s defense ministry Wednesday also voiced strong opposition to a bill passed by the US House of Representatives that called on the Obama administration to sell Perry-class frigates to Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Hagel was the first foreign official allowed onboard China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in Qingdao, East China’s Shandong Province.

This was seen as a gesture of China’s sincerity and transparency by analysts.

With outspoken expressions and openness occurring at the same time, the exchanges between China and the US military indicate the wisdom of communication and the art of balance, said the Xinhua opinion piece.

An Obama administration official acknowledged that the tone was sharper on issues surrounding the South China Sea and the East China Sea than it had been on the last visit by a US defense secretary to China, which was in 2012.

“But in other areas the tone was actually improved,” the official said, pointing to discussions on Sino-US military cooperation and even North Korea, according to Reuters.

Hagel said at the university that with the modernization and expanding presence in Asia and beyond of the Chinese army, forces from the two countries will have closer proximity, “which increases the risk of an incident, an accident, or a miscalculation.”

“But this reality also presents new opportunities for cooperation,” he said.

China and the US can enhance their mutual understanding when the divides are frankly discussed, although it’s not likely to eradicate the mistrust between the two sides in just one visit, said Tao Wenzhao, an expert on US studies also with CASS.

By Sun Xiaobo Global Times

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Double standards on Ukraine and Crimea


 

Whichever superpower wins, Ukraine will be the loser of this East-West tug of war.

THE Russian incursion into Ukraine’s region of Crimea has, understandably, drawn strong critical response from the United States and the European Union. However, an impartial observer cannot fail to note the staggering hypocrisy evident in the Western response to Russia’s military actions.

International law: It is alleged that the Russian military intervention is a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty under international law. It probably is.

This is despite the fact that the Russian expedition was at the behest of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s democratically elected and unlawfully deposed President.

What is noteworthy is that Russia acted under grave provocation and in circumstances that the US would never tolerate.

Background: Since the end of the Cold War, the US has been encircling Russia with military and missile sites including one in Ukraine.

Nato has enlisted many former Soviet republics into its fold.

Russia is understandably sensitive about its Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine and Nato’s presence on its borders.

This is no different from President John F. Kennedy’s alarm when the USSR, under Nikita Khruschev, ins­talled missiles in Cuba in the Sixties.

In addition to military encirclement, a US organisation, namely the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), was operating in Ukraine and funding 65 projects, grooming replacements for President Yanuko­vych and resorting to psychological warfare.

The NED was founded in America in 1983 to promote its foreign policy objectives abroad.

In recent times Ukraine was mired in an economic crisis and Russia and the EU were in a bidding war to salvage it. Russia earmarked US$15bil (RM49bil) in economic assistance. The EU offered US$800mil (RM2.6bil) plus access to EU goods and services.

When Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych aligned with Russia against the EU proposal, the Western backed opposition took to the streets.

The US-funded National Endowment for Democracy was complicit in fuelling the disorder. Radical forces gained ascendency and violence begat violence. 

Yanukovych, Ukraine’s democratically elected President, offered to set up a unity government, bring electoral reform, effect constitutional changes and call early elections.

Unfortunately, negotiations broke down. He was then ousted in a US-supported coup and replaced with US chosen stand-ins.

The Ukrainian Parliament then acted foolishly to enact a series of draconian laws offensive to ethnic Russians in provinces that were carved out of the old Soviet Union. Yanukovych sought Russia’s help to protect the ethnic Russian population.

Under these circumstances, the Russian Parliament authorised Russian President Vladimir Putin to deploy troops inside Ukraine to protect the Russians living there.

US exceptionalism: The US has a long history of similar and even bloodier interventions as Russia’s. It has bombed or invaded 30 countries since World War Two.

In the last decade itself, there were full-scale invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq on trumped up charges plus bombing of Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

US drones blow up “enemy combatants” in many parts of the world with sickening regularity.

The US keeps Syria and Iran under constant threats.

It refuses to join the International Criminal Court lest its international crimes be prosecuted.

Despite its professed belief in democracy, Washington has a sordid record of collaborating with right-wing military officers to overthrow elected leaders who do not do Washington’s bidding.

A partial list would include Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran (1953), Jacobo Arbez in Guatemala (1954), Salvador Allende in Chile (1973), Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti twice, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela (2002), Manuel Zelaya in Honduras (2009), Mohammed Morsi in Egypt (2013) and now Yanukovych in Ukraine (2014).

A close parallel to the Russian intervention was President Bill Clinton’s invasion of Haiti in 1994 to reinstall Haiti’s elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Russia has not gone that far regarding Yanukovych.

Besides the US, France is notable for its recent military interventions in its former colonies of Mali and Central African Republic.

Unconstitutionality: The US alleges that the Crimean referendum that resulted in an overwhelming vote to join Russia was contrary to the Ukrainian Constitution.

In fact, the trampling of the Ukrainian Constitution was equally evident in the ouster of the democratically elected President, which the US lustily cheered.

Under the Constitution of 1996 (which was restored by Yanukovych in 2010) Parliament has the right to impeach a President for treason or other crimes by a three-fourths majority.

This majority was not obtained. The impeachment must be reviewed by a Constitutional Court and it is not clear whether this mandatory procedure was complied with.

Also, it is the PM and not the Speaker of the House, who should under the Constitution fill the vacant presidency.

Secession: If Crimea’s secession is illegal, can the US explain its support for the secession of Bosnia, Kosovo, Slovakia, the Falkland Islands, East Timor, Scotland and Catalonia?

In fact the West was delirious about the break-up of Sudan.

One could point to Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) that “all people have the right of self-determination”.

Cold war: The Crimean crisis reignites the Cold War between Russia and the West. At stake is Ukraine’s return to the Russian sphere of influence or its drift towards the West.

Alternatively, the country will split into two – its Western part drifting towards a reluctant Europe and the South and the East remaining aligned with Russia.

Whichever superpower wins, Ukraine will be the loser of this East-West tug of war.

The Crimean Tartars face an uncertain future in Russia.

In the meantime, one cannot but marvel at the breathtaking hypocrisy of all sides – the US and EU on Ukraine and Russia on Chechnya.

William Blum puts it well: “Hypocrisy of this magnitude has to be respected”!

Contributed by Shad Saleem Faruqi Reflecting On The Law

> Shad Faruqi, Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM, is a passionate student and teacher of the law who aspires to make difficult things look simple and simple things look rich. Through this column, he seeks to inspire change for the better as every political, social and economic issue ultimately has constitutional law implications. He can be reached at prof.shad.saleem.faruqi@gmail.com. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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The hypocrisy of some nations


Hypocrites_US-Russia-ukraine

Video:U.S. Hypocrisy? Telling Russia To Stay Out of Ukraine

Double standards are on display as Western leaders attack Russia regarding Ukraine, while they themselves commit or endorse worse aggression on other countries.

WORLD attention has focused on Ukraine recently. With President Victor Yanukovych making his exit and a new government formed, events shifted to Crimea, with accusations that the Russian military took over the region.

Yanukovych, resurfacing in a Russian town, said he left as his life was at risk, the new regime is illegitimate, and he is still the president.

Sizeable crowds in Crimea (many of whose population are ethnic Russian) are showing anti-Kiev and pro-Russian feelings and the Crimean Parliament had decided to hold a referendum on whether to remain in Ukraine or break away and be part of Russia.

Western leaders have attacked Russian President Vladimir Putin for his alleged invasion of Crimea.

The Russian argument is that it has not invaded, that in any case it has a legitimate interest in Crimea due to historical links and the ethnic Russians who live there have asked for protection against the new and illegitimate Kiev regime.

Whatever the merits or otherwise of Russia’s position and actions, it is clear that there has been a long historical Russian-Crimea-Ukraine relationship. The complex condition requires a correspondingly complex solution.

The rhetoric of some Western leaders is aggressive. They accused Russia of violating sovereignty and international law, among other things.

The United States plans to ban visas for selected Russian officials, followed by sanctions on Russian banks, freezing assets of its companies, and possibly trade measures.

US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have accused Putin of making use of false claims for its invasion, that Crimea is in danger.

“This is the 21st century and we should not see nations step backwards to behave in a 19th or 20th century fashion,” said Kerry. “It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve.”

Obama said “Russia cannot with impunity put its soldiers on the ground and violate basic principles that are recognised around the world”, adding that Russia is “on the wrong side of history”.

Listening to the American leaders lecturing Russia in their self-righteous tone, one is struck by the double standards and hypocrisy involved.

They don’t seem to realise how they have violated the same principles and behaviour they demand of Russia.

It was after all the United States that invaded Iraq in 2003, massively bombing its territory and killing hundreds of thousands, on the grounds that Saddam Hussein had amassed weapons of mass destruction.

The UN Security Council would not give the green light. No weapons of mass destruction were found. Many experts considered the war against Iraq a violation of international law, a view also expressed in a media interview by the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal in 2011 found former US president George W. Bush and former British prime minister Tony Blair guilty of crimes against humanity and genocide as a result of their roles in the Iraq war.

The United States also waged war in Afghanistan, changing the regime, resulting in thousands of deaths. In Libya, the US and its allies carried out massive bombing, which aided opposition forces and led to the killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Even now there are sanctions and the threat of military action against Iran on the suspicion it wants to develop nuclear weapons, which Iran has denied.

In contrast, the US turns a blind eye on Israel’s ownership of nuclear weapons. And when Israel conducted the blanket bombing of Lebanon and Gaza in recent years, with thousands of deaths, there was no condemnation at all from the US, which has also blocked UN Security Council resolutions and actions on its ally.

The US has also come under attack from human rights groups for its use of drones against suspected terrorists but which has also killed many civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

Last week, the UN Human Rights Council published a Special Rapporteur’s report which detailed the deaths of civilians caused by US drone attacks, and raised many questions of possible violations of international human rights law.

All these actions were done in the 21st century, which adds to many other actions in the 20th century.

It’s thus remarkable that Obama and Kerry could with a straight face accuse Russia of not acting in a 21st century manner, and being on the wrong side of history.

There appears to be still one law for the most powerful, and another for others. The former can invade and kill, while lecturing self-righteously to others.

Whatever one thinks of Russia’s action in Crimea, it should be noted that no one has been killed because of it, at least not yet. Compare that to the hundreds of thousands or millions, who have died and suffered from past and present wars of the US and other Western countries.

Though much of the mainstream media also takes the establishment view, some Western journalists have also pointed out their leaders’ hypocrisy.

In an article, “America’s Staggering Hypocrisy in Ukraine,” the well-known American journalist Robert Parry remarked: “Since World War II, the United States has invaded or otherwise intervened in so many countries that it would be challenging to compile a complete list …

“So, what is one to make of Secretary of State John Kerry’s pronouncement that Russia’s military intervention in the Crimea section of Ukraine – at the behest of the country’s deposed president – is a violation of international law that the United States would never countenance?

“Are Kerry and pretty much everyone else in Official Washington so lacking in self-awareness that they don’t realise that they are condemning actions by Russian President Vladimir Putin that are far less egregious than what they themselves have done?”

Parry concludes that the overriding hypocrisy of the media, Kerry and nearly all of Official Washington is their insistence that the United States actually promotes the principle of democracy or, for that matter, the rule of international law.

Global Trends – By Martin Khor

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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Nation of Hypocrites 

America is tragically becoming a “Nation of Hypocrites”. How is this so? Is it any wonder then that some people look down upon us rather than respect us?

Western hegemony & violence: ousting democratically-elected leaders in Ukraine and elsewhere!


Ukraine_chandramuzaffarCity on fire: Anti-government protesters clashing with police in the centre of Kiev in Ukraine. — AFP

The ousters of democratically-elected leaders have often been carried out directly or indirectly by champions of democracy themselves.

IF Ukraine is on the brink of a catastrophe, it is mainly because the present regime in Kiev and its supporters, backed by certain Wes­tern powers, violated a fundamental principle of democratic governance. They ousted a democratically-elected president through illegal means.

President Viktor Yanukovich, who had come to power through a free and fair election in 2010, should have been removed through the ballot box.

His opponents not only betrayed a democratic principle. They subverted a “Peace Deal” signed between them and Yanukovich on Feb 21 in which the latter had agreed to form a national unity government within 10 days that would include opposition representatives; reinstate the 2004 Constitution; relinquish control over Ukraine’s security services; and hold presidential and parliamentary elections by December.

According to the deal, endorsed by Germany, France and Poland, Yanu­kovich would remain president until the elections.

His co-signatories had no intention of honouring the agreement.

Without following procedures, the parliament – with the backing of the military – voted immediately to remove Yanukovich and impeach him. The parliamentary speaker was elected interim president and after a few days a new regime was in­­stalled.

One of the first acts of parliament was to proclaim that Ukrainian is the sole official language of the country, thus downgrading the Russian language, the mother tongue of one-fifth of the population.

Anti-Russian rhetoric which had become more strident than ever in the course of the protest against the Yanukovich government has reached a crescendo in the wake of the overthrow of the government.

The protest gives us an idea of some of the underlying issues that have brought Ukraine to the precipice.

There was undoubtedly a great deal of anger in the western part of the country, including Kiev, over the decision of the Russian-backed Yanu­kovich to reject closer economic ties with the European Union (EU) in favour of financial assistance from Moscow.

It explains to some extent the massive demonstrations of the last few months. Police brutality, corruption within the government and cronyism associated with Yanu­kovich had further incensed the people.

But these legitimate concerns tell only one side of the story. The protest movement had also brought to the fore neo-Nazis and fascists sworn to violence. Armed and organised groups such as the Svoboda and the Right Sector provide muscle power to the protest.

They are known to have targeted Jewish synagogues and Eastern Orthodox Christian churches.

It is the militias associated with these groups that are in control of street politics in Kiev.

Elites in Germany, France, Britain, the United States and within the Nato establishment as a whole are very much aware of the role of neo-Nazi and fascist elements in the protest and in the current Kiev regime.

Indeed, certain American and European leaders had instigated the demonstrators and were directly involved in the machinations to bring down Yanukovich.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland had in her infamous telephone conversation with the US Ambassador to Ukraine admitted that her country had spent US$5bil (approximately RM16bil) promoting anti-Russian groups in Ukraine.

For the United States and the Euro­pean Union, control over Ukraine serves at least two goals.

It expands their military reach through Nato right up to the doorstep of Russia, challenging the latter’s time-honoured relationship with its strategic neighbour. It brings Ukraine within the EU’s economic sphere.

Even as it is, almost half of Ukraine’s US$35bil (RM115bil) debt is owed to Western banks, which would want the country to adopt austerity measures to remunerate them.

It is largely because of these geopolitical and geo-economic challenges that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin is flexing his military muscles in Crimea, in the eastern Ukraine region, which not only has a preponderantly Russian-speaking population but is also home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Besides, Ukraine is the cradle of Russian civilisation.

This is why Putin will go all out to protect Russian interests in Ukraine, but at the same time, there is every reason to believe that he will avoid a military confrontation and try to work out a political solution based upon the Peace Deal.

The catastrophe in Ukraine reveals five dimensions in the politics of the ouster of democratically-elected governments:

  •  The determined drive to overthrow the government by dissidents and opponents, which is often un­­compromising;
  •  The exploitation of genuine people-related issues and grievances;
  •  The mobilisation of a significant segment of the populace behind these mass concerns;
  •  The resort to violence through militant groups often with a pronounced right-wing orientation; and
  •  The forging of strong linkages between domestic anti-government forces and Western governments and other Western actors, including banks and non-governmental organisations, whose collective aim is to perpetuate Western control and dominance or Western hegemony.

Some of these dimensions are also present in Venezuela where there is another concerted attempt to oust a democratically-elected government.

Some genuine economic grievances related to the rising cost of living and unemployment are being manipulated and distorted to give the erroneous impression that the Maduro government does not care for the people.

President Nicolas Maduro, it is alleged, is suppressing dissent with brutal force.

The truth is that a lot of the violence is emanating from groups linked to disgruntled elites who are opposed to the egalitarian policies pursued by Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

They are disseminating fake pictures through social media as part of their false propaganda about the Venezuelan government’s violence against the people – pictures which have now been exposed for what they are by media analysts.

Support for this propaganda and for the street protests in Venezuela comes from US foundations such as the National Endowment for Demo­cracy (NED). It has been estimated that in 2012 alone, the NED gave more than US$1.3mil (RM4mil) to organisations and projects in Vene­zuela ostensibly to promote “human rights,” “democratic ideas” and “accountability.”

The majority of Venezuelans have no doubt at all that this funding is to undermine a government which is not only determined to defend the nation’s independence in the face of Washington’s dominance but is also pioneering a movement to strengthen regional cooperation in Latin Ame­rica and the Caribbean as a bulwark against the US’ hegemonic agenda.

It is because other countries in the region such as Bolivia, Brazil, Argen­tina, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Paraguay know what the US elite is trying to do in Venezuela that they have described “the recent violent acts” in the country “ as attempts to destabilise the democratic order.”

A third country where a democratically-elected leader is under tremendous pressure from street demonstrators at this juncture is Thailand.

Though some of the issues articulated by the demonstrators are legitimate, the fact remains that they do not represent majority sentiment which is still in favour of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her exiled brother, former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

As in Ukraine and Venezuela, violence – albeit on a much lower scale – has seeped into the struggle for power between the incumbent and the protesters. However, foreign involvement is not that obvious to most of us.

Both Yingluck and the protest movement are regarded as pro-Western. Nonetheless, there are groups in Washington and London who perceive the current government in Bangkok as more inclined towards China compared to the opposition Democratic Party or the protesters.

Is this one of the reasons why a section of the mainstream Western media appears to be supportive of the demonstrations?

There are a number of other instances of democratically-elected leaders being overthrown by illegal means.

The most recent – in July 2013 – was the unjust ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt. In 1973, President Salvador Al­­lende of Chile was killed in a coup engineered by the CIA.

Another democratically-elec­ted leader who was manoeuvred out of office and jailed as a result of a Bri­­tish-US plot was Mohammed Mosad­degh of Iran in 1953.

It is only too apparent that in most cases the ouster of democratically-elected leaders have been carried out directly or indirectly by the self-proclaimed champions of democracy themselves! It reveals how hypocritical they are.

What really matters to the elites in the United States, Britain and other Western countries is not de­­mocracy but the perpetuation of their hegemonic power. Hegemony, not democracy, has always been their object of worship.

By Chandra Muzaffar – The Star/Asia News Network
> Dr Chandra Muzaffar is president of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST). The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
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