There are some in this country who, at least on the surface, pretend to grant to a deity the ultimate power in the universe, but based on practice, it is doubtful that they are really ready to concede that much. Or, perhaps they are in a hurry for all of us to meet up with that deity... their motto must be "Let The Bombs Fall"...
And the rest of us are just standing around waiting for it to happen... letting it happen... acting as if there was nothing we could do to stop it...
Building Bridges of Peace Instead of Fear -
Citizen Diplomacy with Russia
by Ann Wright
After returning from the Black Sea, U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross sets sail in the Bosphorus strait, in Istanbul, Turkey, December 17. NATO is looking to introduce assurance measures around the Black Sea. (Photo: Murad Sezer/Reuters)
I just flew across 11 times zones — from Tokyo, Japan to Moscow, Russia.
Russia is the largest country in the world, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, nearly twice as large as the United States and has extensive mineral and energy resources, the largest reserves in the world. Russia has the world's ninth largest population with over 146.6 million people Russia. The population of the U.S is more than twice as large as Russia's.
I haven't been back to Russia since the early 1990s when the Soviet Union dissolved itself and allowed 14 new countries to be created from it. At the time I was a U.S. diplomat and wanted to be a part of the historic opening of U.S. Embassies in one of the newly formed countries. I asked to be sent to a new country in Central Asia and soon found myself in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Since the new embassies were being logistically supported out of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, I was fortunate to make frequent trips to Moscow in the short three months I was in Uzbekistan until the permanent Embassy staff was assigned.
Several years later in 1994, I returned to Central Asia for a two year tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and again made trips to Moscow.
Now almost twenty-five years later, after more than two decades of peaceful co-existence with a monumental shift from state operated institutions to privatized businesses and the Russian Federation joining the G20, the Council of Europe, the Asia-Paciic Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the World Trade Organization, the U.S/NATO and Russia are engaged in a 21st century cold war complete with large military "exercises" in which a small mis-step could bring war.
On June 16, I will join a group of 19 US citizens and one from Singapore in Moscow, Russia. We are going to Russia to do what we can to continue bridges of peace with the Russian people, bridges that our governments seem be having difficulty maintaining.
With international tensions high, members of our delegation believe its time for the citizens of all nations to loudly declare that military confrontation and hot rhetoric are not the way to resolve international problems.
Our group is composed of several retired U.S. government officials and persons representing peace organizations. As a retired US Army Reserve Colonel and former US diplomat, I join retired CIA officer Ray McGovern and retired Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East and CIA analyst Elizabeth Murray. Ray and I are members of Veterans for Peace and Elizabeth is the member-in-residence of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action. The three of us are also members of the Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
Long time peacemakers Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Non-Violence, Hakim Young of Afghan Peace Volunteers, David and Jan Hartsough of the Quakers, Nonviolent Peaceforce and World Beyond War, Martha Hennessy of the Catholic Workers movement and Bill Gould, former national president of Physicians for Social Responsibility are just a few of the delegates on this mission.
The delegation is led by Sharon Tennison, the founder of the Center for Citizen Iniatives (CCI). Over the past 30 years Sharon brought thousands of Americans to Russia and over 6,000 young Russian entrepreneurs to 10,000 companies in over 400 American cities in 45 states. Her book, The Power of Impossible Ideas: Ordinary Citizens' Extraordinary Efforts to Avert International Crises, is the remarkable story of bringing citizens of the US and Russia together in each other's country for better understanding and peace.
In the tradition of going where our governments do not want us to go to witness the effects of the breakdown of non-violent approaches to conflict resolution, we will be meeting with members of Russian civil society, journalists, businesspersons and perhaps government officials to express our commitment to non-violence, not war.
The Russian people know well the carnage wrecked by war, with over 20 million Russian killed during World War II. Although not on the same scale as Russian deaths, all too many U.S. military families know the agony of injuries and deaths from World War II, the Vietnam War and the current wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
We go to Russia to talk with the Russian people about the hopes, dreams and fears of the American people and to call for a peaceful resolution to current tensions between the US/NATO and Russia. And we will return to the United States to share our first-hand impressions of the hopes, dreams and fears of the Russian people.
Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book "Dissent: Voices of Conscience." (www.voicesofconscience.com)
Enormous, 'Seriously Destabilizing' NATO War Games Begin in Poland
The United States is providing around 14,000 troops for the exercise, more than any other participating nation
from Common Dreams by Deirdre Fulton
Anakonda-16 is a 10-day exercise involving 31,000 troops and thousands of vehicles from 24 countries. (Photo: US Army Europe/flickr/cc)
Drawing Russian rebuke, NATO members and partners on Monday launched what is being called the largest war game in decades—a 10-day exercise involving 31,000 troops and thousands of vehicles from 24 countries, none more committed than the United States.
Russia, NATO, and the Hubris of the US Political Establishment
by Ron Forthofer
Nato forces are staging the biggest war games in eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War. (Photo: PAP)
There are dangerous provocations along Russia's western border that have received little or incredibly one-sided coverage by the U.S. media. Thus the U.S. public is not aware of the possibility of a major conflict between two nuclear-armed powers occurring due to an accident or misinterpretation. The genesis of this current situation goes back in ancient history to 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
After the fall, the U.S. along with the West German leader Helmut Kohl, pushed for the reunification of West and East Germany. The Soviet Union allowed reunification based on the promise made by U.S. Secretary of State James Baker (under President H.W. Bush). Baker said if the Soviets would allow reunification, that NATO would not expand "one inch" further east.
This promise was key for the Soviets who remembered previous devastating invasions by Western European nations. For example, during WWII estimates are that the Soviet Union lost over 26 million people, about 13% of its 1939 population.
The Soviet Union was thus understandably concerned about a possibly hostile military group coming closer to its border.
After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the U.S. had unchallenged military power. Given this situation, the Washington establishment increased the risk of a new cold war and the possibility of an eventual war with Russia. President Bill Clinton started this process when, in violation of the promise made to the Soviets, he supported the eastward expansion of NATO.
In 1996, George Kennan, architect of the U.S. containment policy towards the Soviet Union after WWII, warned that NATO's expansion into former Soviet territories would be a "strategic blunder of potentially epic proportions."
In 1998, Thomas Friedman solicited Kennan's reaction to the Senate's ratification of NATO's eastward expansion. Kennan said: ''I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else."
Unfortunately, Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama failed to heed Kennan's wisdom and continued NATO's eastward expansion. Given Russia's weakened state in the 1990s, the political establishment thought there was little risk.
However, while the U.S. was destroying Iraq and Afghanistan, Russia rebuilt its military. Blinded by its hubris, the U.S. political establishment was slow to grasp the impact of the rebirth of a strong rival.
In April 2008 at a NATO summit in Bucharest, NATO temporarily postponed discussion of membership for Georgia and Ukraine. At the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin strongly opposed NATO membership for both of these nations on Russia's border, viewing their membership as a security threat.
Reinforcing this point, later in 2008 Russia used military force to protect two breakaway provinces of Georgia with the goal of preventing Georgia from joining NATO. Despite Putin's strong warning and military action, after the 2010 election of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, the U.S. increased its support of Ukrainians who favored connections with the West.
Removing Yanukovych, who opposed NATO membership, was the first step. In February 2014 after months of nonviolent protests, Yanukovych reached an agreement, mediated by EU foreign ministers, with the nonviolent political opposition for early elections. However, immediately following this compromise, members of the far right used violence and intimidation to oust Yanukovych.
George Friedman, CEO of Stratfor, a U.S. firm known as the 'Shadow CIA', said: "It really was the most blatant coup in history."
In response, in late February and early March 2014, Russia deployed some of its forces already in Crimea under a treaty and took control, conducted a vote that showed overwhelming support for rejoining Russia, and then annexed Crimea. The results of a vote in this situation may be suspect. However, it is likely that a vote conducted without the presence of the Russian troops would have yielded similar results.
The U.S. also alleges that Russia provided militarily support to the Ukrainians in breakaway areas who opposed the far-right coup. There was initially intense fighting in these breakaway areas. Even though there have been ceasefire agreements, attacks by the Kiev government continue today with neo-Nazis playing an important role in the violence against the coup opponents.
Since these events, the U.S. and NATO have raised the ante by placing additional weapons systems and planning on rotating thousands of additional troops in Eastern Europe. The U.S. and NATO claimed their actions were prompted by Russia's actions in Crimea and the breakaway areas. In response to these moves, Russia announced plans to create three new divisions.
Posturing continues by both sides. During U.S. military exercises with Poland in the Baltic Sea in April 2016, two unarmed Russian jets came dangerously close to the USS Donald Cook, a guided missile destroyer. Adding to the tension, NATO recently concluded military exercises in the Baltic Sea area and also a massive military exercise with approximately 30,000 troops in Poland. The U.S. also has temporarily deployed a guided missile destroyer, the USS Porter, to the Black Sea for a brief tour there.
A mistake or misinterpretation could spark a conflict that no one wants. Given this possibility, why does the U.S. continue along this path when further expansion of NATO is not vital to U.S. security? Of particular importance and relevance, remember that this expansion is in violation of a U.S. promise not to expand NATO to the east. Since Russia views the expansion as a major threat to its security, Putin and Russia cannot back down.
Amazingly, when we need statesmen, the geniuses in our political establishment think provoking another nuclear-armed power is a sane policy. If this establishment doesn't face reality soon, Kennan's worst fears could be realized.
According to Stars and Stripes:
Thousands of troops have arrived in Poland to begin the 10-day series of engagements, including air-ground assaults and electronic warfare scenarios. Airborne units, infantrymen, medics, military police and aviation units will operate jointly throughout the exercise, which culminates in a massive live-fire event led by the U.S. Army’s 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.
A separate international naval exercise, Baltops-16, also involving NATO forces, began Monday in Finland, which is not a member of the global alliance.
The activity comes, as journalist Lucian Kim noted in an analysis published by Reuters, "just weeks after the United States inaugurated the first of two controversial missile-defense installations in Eastern Europe. Next year, the Pentagon plans to quadruple military spending in Europe to $3.4 billion and begin rotating an armored brigade through Eastern Europe—in addition to extra NATO forces to be deployed to Poland and the Baltics."
Indeed, in mid-May Moscow called the U.S.'s newly activated missile defense site in Romania a "direct threat" to security and part of "the start of a new arms race." Earlier this year, it was revealed that the U.S. was ramping up the deployment of heavy weapons and armored vehicles to NATO member countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
And last month, work began on a separate missile interception base at Redzikowo, a village in northern Poland—"turning the country," analyst Gilbert Doctorow wrote on Friday, "into a U.S. bastion and potential launch platform against Russia in possible violation of existing agreements governing intermediate-range nuclear weapons."
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized the uptick in activity near Russia's borders.
"We do not hide that we have a negative attitude toward the NATO line of moving its military infrastructure to our borders, drawing other countries into military unit activities," he said. "This will activate the Russian sovereign right to provide its own safety with methods that are adequate for today's risks."
Meanwhile, speaking of the Polish war games as well as the ongoing "SaberStrike" operation in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov told journalists that the exercises "carry a serious destabilizing component" and that their "main goal is to continue the aggravation of tensions."
At RT, author and journalist Robert Bridge offered a tongue-in-cheek thought experiment highlighting the ratcheting tensions:
For those who still aren’t convinced that Russia has some serious grounds for concern as the US-led war machine grinds ever closer, let’s put the situation into its proper perspective. Let’s imagine that the geopolitical chessboard were suddenly flipped and it is Russia that is now busy hatching a 28-member military alliance near America’s border, for example, in Latin America (and after Moscow had pledged not to increase the membership of the military bloc following the collapse of the Soviet Union).
But why stop there? Let’s roll the dice and see what Washington’s reaction would be if Russia had just dispatched three TU-160 Blackjack bombers to South America to participate in war games with the likes of Cuba, Venezuela and Brazil, for example, just weeks after Moscow dropped a missile defense system - which could go offensive with the flick of a switch – in, say, Colombia. Yikes! I dare say there’s not a straitjacket in the world that could restrain the writhing neocon convulsions that would break out across the Beltway.
A report issued last summer said ever-growing war games conducted by Russian and NATO forces feed a "climate of mistrust."