Category: Politics


 

Armed men outside an administrative building in Slovyansk, Ukraine. American officials say Russian troops or pro-Russian separatists under Moscow’s influence control such buildings. Credit Genya Savilov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry has accused Russia of behaving in a “19th-century fashion” because of its annexation of Crimea.

But Western experts who have followed the success of Russian forces in carrying out President Vladimir V. Putin’s policy in Crimea and eastern Ukraine have come to a different conclusion about Russian military strategy. They see a military disparaged for its decline since the fall of the Soviet Union skillfully employing 21st-century tactics that combine cyberwarfare, an energetic information campaign and the use of highly trained special operation troops to seize the initiative from the West.

“It is a significant shift in how Russian ground forces approach a problem,” said James G. Stavridis, the retired admiral and former NATO commander. “They have played their hand of cards with finesse.”

The abilities the Russian military has displayed are not only important to the high-stakes drama in Ukraine, they also have implications for the security of Moldova, Georgia, Central Asian nations and even the Central Europe nations that are members of NATO.

The dexterity with which the Russians have operated in Ukraine is a far cry from the bludgeoning artillery, airstrikes and surface-to-surface missiles used to retake Grozny, the Chechen capital, from Chechen separatists in 2000. In that conflict, the notion of avoiding collateral damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure appeared to be alien.

Since then Russia has sought to develop more effective ways of projecting power in the “near abroad,” the non-Russian nations that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has tried to upgrade its military, giving priority to its special forces, airborne and naval infantry — “rapid reaction” abilities that were “road tested” in Crimea, according to Roger McDermott, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation.

The speedy success that Russia had in Crimea does not mean that the overall quality of the Russian Army, made up mainly of conscripts and no match for the high-tech American military, has been transformed.

“The operation reveals very little about the current condition of the Russian armed forces,” said Mr. McDermott. “Its real strength lay in covert action combined with sound intelligence concerning the weakness of the Kiev government and their will to respond militarily.”

Still, Russia’s operations in Ukraine have been a swift meshing of hard and soft power. The Obama administration, which once held out hope that Mr. Putin would seek an “off ramp” from the pursuit of Crimea, has repeatedly been forced to play catch-up after the Kremlin changed what was happening on the ground.

“It is much more sophisticated, and it reflects the evolution of the Russian military and of Russian training and thinking about operations and strategy over the years,” said Stephen J. Blank, a former expert on the Russian military at the United States Army War College who is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.

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American Forces Press Service

 News Article

Stavridis Presses for More NATO-Russia Dialogue

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2013 – Noting increased cooperation between NATO and Russia in several key areas, the top NATO and U.S. European Command commander emphasized today the importance of working through stumbling blocks in what he called a “complicated partnership.”

In a blog post, Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis cited concerted efforts by both parties since NATO’s 2010 summit in Lisbon, Portugal, where the alliance’s 28 heads of state and government agreed on the need to pursue “a true strategic partnership” between NATO and Russia and noted in the strategic concept that they expect reciprocity from Russia.

Stavridis recognized several areas where increased cooperation has shown signs of paying off: counterpiracy; support for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, military exchanges and training exercises, counterterrorism and counternarcotics, among them.

“Overall, we enjoy cooperation and some level of partnership in a variety of important areas,” he said. “On the other hand, there are clearly challenges in the relationship.”

Stavridis noted Russia’s objections to the European phased adaptive approach for missile defense. “Russia sees the NATO missile defense system as posing a threat to their strategic intercontinental ballistic missile force,” he said. “We strongly disagree, and feel that the system is clearly designed to protect populations against Iran, Syria and other ballistic-missile-capable nations that threaten the European continent.”

NATO and Russia also disagree over Russian forces stationed in Georgia and NATO’s role in Libya, Stavridis said.

“We maintain that we operated under the U.N. Security Council mandate to establish a no-fly zone, provide an arms embargo and protect the people of Libya from attacks,” he said, calling NATO’s actions “well within the bounds of the [U.N.] mandate and the norms of international law.

“Russia sees this differently,” Stavridis continued, “and whenever I discuss this with Russian interlocutors, we find little room for agreement. This tends to create a differing set of views about the dangerous situation in Syria as well.”

Stavridis noted Russian Ambassador to NATO Alexander Grushko’s stated concerns that these differences — and the installation of NATO military infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders — threaten to unravel progress made in their relations.

“Notwithstanding differences on particular issues, we remain convinced that the security of NATO and Russia is intertwined,” Stavridis said, quoting the NATO strategic concept agreed to in Lisbon. “A strong and constructive partnership based on mutual confidence, transparency and predictability can best serve our security,” it states.

Stavridis recognized areas in which the growing NATO-Russian relationship is bearing fruit:

– Counterpiracy: Loosely coordinated efforts by NATO and Russian ships have reduced piracy by 70 percent over the past year and caused the number of ships and mariners held hostage to plummet in what the admiral called “a very effective operation.”

– Afghanistan support: Russia contributed small arms and ammunition to the Afghan security forces and sold MI-17 helicopters and maintenance training to the Afghan air force. In addition, Russia provides logistical support, including a transit arrangement that helps to sustain NATO-led ISAF forces and redeployment efforts.

– Military exchanges and exercises: Russian service members are participating in more of these engagements with the United States and NATO. These exchanges, including port calls in Russia, have been well-received by both militaries, Stavridis noted.

– Arctic cooperation: Russia is collaborating with other members of the Arctic Council, including the United States, Norway, Denmark, Canada and Iceland, to ensure the Arctic remains a zone of cooperation.

– Counterterrorism: In the lead-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, NATO is offering assistance and information-sharing via a variety of channels, Stavridis reported.

– Counternarcotics: NATO and Russia are working together to stem the flow of heroin from Afghanistan, a high priority for Russia.

Expressing hopes that NATO and Russia can continue to build on this cooperation, Stavridis said areas of tensions and disagreements need to be addressed.

“No one wants to stumble backwards toward the Cold War, so the best course for the future is open discussion, frank airing of disagreements, and hopefully seeking to build the ‘true strategic partnership’ set out in the NATO strategic concept,” he said. “Clearly, we have some work to do.”

 

Contact Author

Biographies:
Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis
Related Sites:
NATO International Security Assistance Force
U.S. European Command
Special Report: U.S. European Command

 

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Employees stand near pipes made for the South Stream pipeline at the OMK metal works in Vyksa in the Nizhny Novgorod region, April 15, 2014.

Employees stand near pipes made for the South Stream pipeline at the OMK metal works in Vyksa in the Nizhny Novgorod region, April 15, 2014.

Reuters

— Russia’s controversial South Stream pipeline, which would transport gas via the Black Sea into Europe towards the end of the decade, received support from Turkey on Wednesday when Ankara said it may let the conduit pass through its territory.

Turkey would consider granting access for the line if Moscow made such a request, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said.

The subject is one of a series of issues including increased gas supply, gas price revisions and nuclear power that Turkey and Russia are set to discuss during talks in Ankara next week, according to Turkish officials.

The future of the 2,400-km (1,490-mile) line from Russia via the Black Sea to Bulgaria and from there further into the European Union, avoiding Ukraine, has been cast into doubt because of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

The Ukraine crisis has intensified EU efforts to reduce energy dependence on Russia, while Moscow has long sought to curb its reliance on Ukraine as the main pipeline route for sending Russian gas to Europe, its biggest market.

The European commissioner for energy, Guenther Oettinger, said in March that discussions with Russia over South Stream’s regulatory approval in the European Union were on hold.

The EU delay could offer an opportunity to Turkey, where gas demand is rising fast.

“We are open to assessing any request for the line to pass through Turkey’s territory,” Yildiz told reporters when asked about South Stream.

“It is said that there could be such a demand. If there is a request, we will consider it,” said Yildiz, due to hold talks with Alexander Medvedev, deputy head of Russian state-controlled Gazprom, in Ankara on Monday.

South Stream would carry around 60 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year to Europe towards the end of the decade, enough to meet more than 10 percent of its annual demand.

Officials said Russia’s annexation of Crimea created a risk for Turkey, noting 12.5 percent of its gas supplies passed through Ukraine, and that steps to prevent a supply problem could be on the agenda next week.

In a letter to European leaders last week, President Vladimir Putin warned Russia would cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine if it did not pay its bills and said this could lead to a reduction of onward deliveries to Europe.

To eliminate such transit risk for Turkey, Ankara proposes to have South Stream enter land in the Thrace region of northwest Turkey rather than Bulgaria, to avoid routing it directly from Russia into an EU country.

“That way Russia will be able to feed directly with the line the Marmara region of Turkey, which has the highest level of consumption,” said an analyst, who declined to be identified.

The construction of a second Blue Stream pipeline, complementing an existing one that runs under the Black Sea from Russia to central Turkey, could also come onto the agenda soon, sources close to the matter said.

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Nomi Prins Author of “All the Presidents Bankers“ on Upcoming Collapse

Nomi PrinsBy Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com

Best-selling author Nomi Prins warns, “Never before have the Government and the Fed collaborated so extensively by propping up the banking system to the detriment of the population.”  Prins lays out a long history of the relationships between U.S. Presidents and bankers that date back to Teddy Roosevelt and JP Morgan.   On her new book titled “All the Presidents’ Bankers,” Prins contends, “That connection with Teddy Roosevelt was a very powerful established entity between two people that has allowed all this stuff that has happened in the last hundred years to really happen.  The friendships, the social ties, the idea that the bankers could sort themselves out with Treasury Department help if it needed to.  Of course, it’s epic now.  All of that was solidified then.  Banks being hands-off with respect to the oval office was all solidified then.  We’ve only been consolidating that message throughout the century since.”   

Fast forward to JFK and the bankers of the day, and Prins points out the banks in the early 1960’s didn’t want a gold standard to restrict them.  It is dollar debasement history as Prins explains, “If bankers have a peg, if they have to put gold or any type of asset behind it or have any restriction, they don’t like it.  So at the time, they weren’t working on trying to demolish the regulations that happened from the 1930’s to separate bank speculation from depositors, but they saw something else, and that was getting off gold.  They really worked to push JFK off of gold.  JFK was a little less friendly with the bankers.  JFK, when he did invite bankers to the White House, he would have very short meetings.  It was like hello, goodbye and thank you.  Where LBJ, who came after JFK, was very friendly to the bankers and opened the White House to the bankers.”  

 

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Pro-Russia Militant Rejects Ukraine Pact

The leader of a group of pro-Russia separatists, Denis Pushilin, said he would ignore the diplomatic pact between Russia and Ukraine to de-escalate the crisis.

Credit Sergei Grits/Associated Press

 

KIEV, Ukraine — An American-backed deal to settle the crisis in eastern Ukraine fell flat on Friday as pro-Russian militants vowed to stay in occupied government buildings, dashing hopes of a swift end to an insurgency that the authorities in Kiev portray as a Kremlin-orchestrated effort to put Ukraine’s industrial heartland under Russian control.

But the agreement, reached in Geneva on Thursday by diplomats from the European Union, Russia, Ukraine and the United States, appeared to arrest, at least temporarily, the momentum of separatist unrest in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east. Armed pro-Russian militants, who have seized buildings in at least 10 towns and cities since Feb. 6, paused their efforts to purge all central government authority from the populous Donetsk region.

It was clear all along that for the pact to have a chance of success, the Kremlin would have to pressure the militants to leave the buildings they had seized. So far, it has shown no inclination to do so, blaming the Ukrainian government for the turmoil and denying that Russia has any ties to the rebels.

With militants vowing to ignore the agreement but halting what had been a daily expansion of territory under their control, officials in Kiev, the capital, voiced some hope that a settlement was still possible. They were skeptical, however, about Russia’s willingness to push the separatists to disarm and vacate occupied buildings.

“If Russia is responsible before not just Ukraine but the world community, it should prove it,” said Andrii Deshchytsia, the acting Ukrainian foreign minister, who took part in the Geneva talks.

Western officials said the United States planned to reassure Eastern European members of NATO by conducting company-size — about 150 soldiers — ground force exercises in Estonia and Poland. The exercises would last a couple of weeks and would most likely be followed by other troop rotations in the region.

In a sign of the chasm separating Russian and Ukrainian views, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Friday that made no mention of the pro-Russian militants driving the unrest. It said the call for militants to disarm “meant in the first place” the disarming of Ukrainian nationalist groups hostile to Russia, like Right Sector “and other pro-fascist groups which took part in the February coup in Kiev.”

The state-run Russian television channel, Rossiya, reporting from an occupied building in Horlivka in the Donetsk region, featured a masked gunman who pledged to “fight to the end for his convictions.” He displayed an armband emblazoned with a swastika-like symbol, which he said had been seized from supporters of the Ukrainian government.

Doubts about the Kremlin’s readiness to push pro-Russian militants to surrender their guns have been strengthened by its insistence that it has no hand in or control over the separatist unrest, which Washington and Kiev believe is the result of a covert Russian operation involving, in some places, the direct action of special forces.

“I don’t know Russia’s intentions,” Mr. Deshchytsia said, noting that during the negotiations, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, had repeatedly asserted “that Russia was not involved.” He said Mr. Lavrov had been “cooperative and aggressive at the same time.”

 Russia’s denials have stirred concerns that it went along with the agreement not to curb the turmoil in eastern Ukraine, but to blunt American and European calls for tougher sanctions that could severely damage Russia’s already sickly economy. Western sanctions have so far been limited to a travel ban and asset freeze on a few dozen individuals and a Russian bank.

Secretary of State John Kerry called Mr. Lavrov on Friday and urged Russia to ensure “full and immediate compliance” with the agreement, a senior State Department official said. Mr. Kerry, the official added, “made clear that the next few days would be a pivotal period for all sides to implement the statement’s provisions, particularly that all illegal armed groups must be disarmed and all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners.”

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In Ukraine, Pro-Russia Radicals Reject Call To Leave Occupied Buildings

By RFE/RL
Pro-Russia radicals occupying official buildings in eastern Ukraine say they will only leave if the pro-Western government in Kyiv resigns.

Denis Pushilin, the self-declared leader of the radicals in Donetsk, told reporters on April 18 that he did not consider his men bound by a compromise agreement between Russia and Ukraine to disarm and vacate occupied buildings.

The agreement was reached at four-party talks on April 17 in Geneva also involving the United States and the European Union.

Pushilin said the government in Kyiv was illegitimate and also must vacate public buildings that he said it was occupying illegally.

Local media reports on April 18 said none of the government buildings seized across eastern Ukraine had yet been vacated.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told parliament on April 18 that the government had drafted a law that would offer an amnesty to insurgents who would lay down their arms and leave the occupied buildings.

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“History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice,” laureates write.

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Jimmy Carter with his grandson Hugo. Photo: Jeffrey Moore/The Elders

 

A group of 10 Nobel Peace Prize laureates including former President Jimmy Carter has sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry urging them to reject the “linchpin for tar sands expansion” — the Keystone XL.

The open letter, which appears in a full-page ad in Wednesday’s Politico, is the third sent by a group of Nobel Peace Laureates to Obama urging him to reject TransCanada’s tar sands carrying pipeline, and the first one to which Carter has added his name. Carter is now the first ex-president to voice opposition to the pipeline.

This additional letter shows “the growing urgency we feel for the hundreds of millions of people globally whose lives and livelihoods are being threatened and lost as a result of the changing climate and environmental damage caused by our dangerous addiction to oil,” the signatories, which also include landmine activist Jody Williams, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, write.

“You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change. As you deliberate the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, you are poised to make a decision that will signal either a dangerous commitment to the status quo, or bold leadership that will inspire millions counting on you to do the right thing for our shared climate,” the laureates write.

As for the argument some have made that if the pipeline is rejected the Alberta tar sands crude will just travel by rail, the laureates write that this is “a red herring” because “[i]ndustry experts agree that the Keystone XL project is the linchpin for tar sands expansion and the increased pollution that will follow, triggering more climate upheaval with impacts felt around the world.”

Photo: Steven Tuttle/cc/flickrSusan Casey-Lefkowitz, International Program Director at NRDC, one of the groups sponsoring the Politico ad, writes:

As leaders struggle with what the need to fight climate change means in terms of energy decisions at home, the voice of moral leaders such as these Nobel Peace laureates becomes more important than ever. And they are sending a clear message that political leadership is essential to stand up to entrenched fossil fuel interests and to take the kinds of decisions that will put us on the path of a cleaner energy future.

“History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice,” the laureates’ letter states.

The State Department recommendation on the project is expected soon. While the State Department’s review is required because the northern leg of the pipeline crosses an international border, the final decision sits with President Obama, who has indicated his decision could come in the next few months.

Next week, Carter will join two fellow members of The Elders, Pakistani pro-democracy activist Hina Jilani and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, in leading a discussion on climate leadership and activism Paris.

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Calgary Herald

Nobel laureates condemn Keystone as climate-change trigger

Nobel laureates condemn Keystone as climate-change trigger

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter sits down for a conversation with Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Presidential Library, on the first day of the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library on April 8 in Austin, Texas. Carter is one of 10 Nobel Peace Prize winners who have issued a letter urging President Barrack Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would connect Alberta’s oilsands to refineries on Texas’s Gulf Coast.

Photograph by: Ralph Barrera-Pool/Getty Images/File , Postmedia News

WASHINGTON — Ten Nobel Peace Prize winners from as far afield as Yemen, South Africa and Argentina have signed a letter asking U.S. President Barack Obama to deny a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport oilsands bitumen to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

The laureates, who include former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, argue that denial of a permit would send a strong signal to the world that the U.S. is rejecting a fossil fuels future.

“Let this reflect the growing urgency we feel for the hundreds of millions of people globally whose lives and livelihoods are being threatened and lost as a result of the changing climate and environmental damage caused by our dangerous addiction to oil,” the letter says.

Rejection of the pipeline would set “a powerful precedent” and “would signal a new course for the world’s largest economy,” the letter says.

“History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice.”

The letter underscores Obama’s dilemma: By allowing the assessment process to take so long, he has awakened both national and international interest in a project that normally would garner only passing concern.

 

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US Puts off Decision on Keystone XL Pipeline

 

The Obama administration is putting off its decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, likely until after the November elections, by extending its review of the controversial project indefinitely.

In a surprise announcement Friday as Washington was winding down for Easter, the State Department said federal agencies will have more time to weigh in on the politically fraught decision — but declined to say how much longer. Officials said the decision will have to wait for the dust to settle in Nebraska, where a judge in February overturned a state law that allowed the pipeline’s path through the state.

Nebraska’s Supreme Court isn’t expected to hear an appeal to that ruling until September or October, and there could be more legal maneuvering after the high court rules. So President Barack Obama will almost surely have until after the November congressional elections to make the final call about whether the pipeline carrying oil from Canada should be built.

Approving the pipeline before the election would rankle Obama’s allies and donors in the environmental community, but nixing it could be politically damaging to vulnerable Democrats running this year in conservative-leaning areas.

“This decision is irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable,” said Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, who faces a difficult re-election in oil-rich Louisiana. Landrieu said Obama was signaling that a small minority can tie up the process in the courts, sacrificing 42,000 jobs and billions in economic activity.

In an ironic show of bipartisanship, Republicans joined Landrieu and other Democrats like Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska in immediately condemning the announcement — the latest in a string of delays in a review process that has dragged on for more than five years.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Obama of kowtowing to “radical activists” from the environmental community, while House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the decision “shameful” and said there were no credible reasons for further delay.

“This job-creating project has cleared every environmental hurdle and overwhelmingly passed the test of public opinion, yet it’s been blocked for more than 2,000 days,” Boehner said in a statement.

But environmental groups fighting the pipeline hailed the delay, arguing that it shows the State Department is taking the arguments against the pipeline seriously.

“This is definitely great news,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president for the League of Conservation Voters. “We are very confident as they continue to examine the issues with the lack of legal route in Nebraska and the terrible climate impacts, at the end of the day the pipeline will be rejected.”

Keystone XL would carry oil from western Canada’s tar sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The project requires State Department approval because it crosses an international border. The State Department vowed to move forward with other aspects of its review even while the situation in Nebraska remains in limbo.

“The agency consultation process is not starting over,” the State Department said in a statement.

State Department officials said other U.S. agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, won’t be notified of their new deadline for comment until the legal situation in Nebraska becomes clearer. Driving the delay is a concern that the legal wrangling could lead to a change in the pipeline’s route that would affect agencies’ assessments, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to comment by name and demanded anonymity.

 

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ABC News

US Extends Keystone Review as Pipeline Supporters Cry Foul

By Ali Weinberg

Apr 18, 2014 3:16pm

The State Department says it needs more time to make a decision about whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project, citing uncertainty about the route’s direction through Nebraska, which is currently under litigation there.

The department is delaying the deadline for eight federal agencies to submit their recommendations to on the pipeline, which President Obama had requested they do via an executive order. The original deadline was early May, but because Nebraska’s Supreme Court is hearing a case on the proposed Keystone route through that state, the agencies will have about two weeks after the case is closed to submit their recommendations.

The process ahead, including whether the State Department will have to redo its initial assessments on the project, now depends on the outcome of the Nebraska case – the conclusion of which a senior State Department official declined to speculate about Friday.

“I can’t render a judgment on when the final decision could take place. We want this to move as expeditiously as possible,” the official told reporters on a conference call.

The officials also noted that there had been an unprecedented 2.5 million public comments regarding the pipeline, which State Department staff and private contractors are still going through. Usually, the official said on the call, there are less than 100 public comments on pipeline projects.

 

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Iran Asks UN to Address US Refusal to Issue Envoy Visa

FILE - Hamid Aboutalebi, an Iranian diplomat, who was recently named as Iran's ambassador at the United Nations, speaks at his office in Tehran, Iran.

FILE – Hamid Aboutalebi, an Iranian diplomat, who was recently named as Iran’s ambassador at the United Nations, speaks at his office in Tehran, Iran.

VOA News

Iran is asking a United Nations committee to hold a special meeting on the refusal of the United States to issue a visa to Iran’s choice for its ambassador to the U.N.

American officials object to Iran’s selection of Hamid Abutalebi because of his alleged involvement in the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. White House spokesman Jay Carney said last week the choice is “not viable.”

In a letter Monday, Iran’s mission to the U.N. said that decision has “negative implications” diplomatically and creates a dangerous precedent. It says denying a visa to a U.N. member state goes against the U.N. charter and international law.

Iran wants the U.N. Committee on Relations with the Host Country to urgently address the issue.

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Trend .az

U.S. adopts harsher tone in U.N. envoy dispute with Iran

Photo: U.S. adopts harsher tone in U.N. envoy dispute with Iran / Iran

The United States adopted a harsher tone toward Iran’s proposed U.N. ambassador on Tuesday, calling Tehran’s choice of Hamid Abutalebi “unacceptable” and tying him to the 1979-1981 U.S. hostage crisis in Tehran, Reuters reported.

While it did not detail what the veteran diplomat may have done during the period, when radical Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy and held 52 U.S. hostages for 444 days, the State Department for the first time linked the U.S. decision not to issue him a visa to those events.

“He himself has said he was involved and, given his role in the events of 1979, which clearly matter profoundly to the American people, it would be unacceptable for the United States to grant this visa,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily briefing.

Abutalebi has said that he acted only as a translator.

Previously U.S. spokespeople used softer language, saying the choice was not “viable.”

 

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Washington Examiner

EXography: State government dependence on federal funding growing at alarming rate

By David Freddoso | APRIL 15, 2014 AT 5:18 AM

Source: Annual Survey of State Government Finances, U.S. Census Bureau

Only 11 states depended on the federal government for more than one-third of their total revenues in 2001. By 2012, 24 states found themselves in this situation.

State-by-state data from the U.S. Census Bureau, compiled by the State Budget Solutions nonprofit, illustrates the trend of increasing state dependence on federal financial assistance.

Forty-one of the 50 states have become more dependent on the federal government since 2001 — with federal dollars accounting for an increasing share of their total revenues.

This trend of increased state dependency on Washington reduces state and local control, while threatening the states’ long-run autonomy.

The reason is that with federal patronage comes federal leverage. The original Obamacare plan, for example, was to force states to expand Medicaid by threatening them with loss of all federal matching Medicaid funds if they refused.

Although that particular scheme was struck down by the Supreme Court, state governments hate to turn down revenue, and federal dollars have strings attached that force states either to operate as Washington prefers or lose the money.

This problem is exacerbated by the federal government’s control of the currency and ability to borrow virtually unlimited amounts of money.

 

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EU spy chief rules out Russian military presence in Ukraine

Published time: April 16, 2014 13:27
Pro-Russia protesters gather in front of a barricade outside a regional government building in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine April 11, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

Pro-Russia protesters gather in front of a barricade outside a regional government building in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine April 11, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

There is no large Russian military presence in East Ukraine, head of EU intelligence, Commodore Georgij Alafuzoff, has said. The spy chief has dismissed multiple accusations from the West alleging Russian involvement in the unrest in the region.

In an interview with Finnish national news broadcaster, Yle, Alafuzoff said the Russian military had nothing to do with the seizing of government buildings in eastern Ukraine.

“In my opinion, it’s mostly people who live in the region who are not satisfied with the current state of affairs,” said Alafuzoff, referring to the situation in East Ukraine. He went on to say that the people are worried for the welfare of those who speak Russian as their first language in the region.

Alafuzoff echoed the words of the Russian government which has categorically denied interfering in the ongoing unrest. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a press conference on Monday that Moscow is not interested in destabilizing Ukraine and wants the country to remain united.

Anti-Kiev activists in the southeast of Ukraine have seized local government buildings as a mark of protest against the coup-appointed Ukrainian government. In response to the unrest, Ukraine’s interim President Aleksandr Turchinov announced the beginning of an “anti-terrorist” operation in eastern Ukraine.

 

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Dozens of Ukrainian troops surrender APCs in Slavyansk, refuse to ‘shoot at own people’ (PHOTO, VIDEO)

Published time: April 16, 2014 14:21
Edited time: April 16, 2014 20:18

Men wearing military fatigues sit by a Russian flag and a white flag reading "People's volunteer corps of Donetsk" as they ride on an armoured personnel carrier (APC) in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on April 16, 2014. (AFP Photo)

Men wearing military fatigues sit by a Russian flag and a white flag reading “People’s volunteer corps of Donetsk” as they ride on an armoured personnel carrier (APC) in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on April 16, 2014. (AFP Photo)

Dozens of army troops sent to the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk for an “anti-terrorist operation” refused to follow orders and surrendered their weapons and armored vehicles. Some troops openly voiced support for the eastern Ukrainians.

Follow RT’s LIVE UPDATES on military operation in eastern Ukraine

According to Interfax, citing local self-defense activists, some 300 Ukrainian troops agreed to lay down their weapons and “go home” following negotiations in Slavyansk.

“We managed to negotiate with them. About 300 military – only some of those who closed around the city – decided to lay down their arms and go home,” a self-defense activist was quoted as saying.

Reports from the scene said that the locals would not allow the soldiers to take back the APCs, but they were allowed to keep their rifles. The people were cheering the troops.

Meanwhile, the anti-government activists guarding the armored vehicles have said that they did not “seize” them as the media claimed, and that the troops “switched sides” peacefully.

“They were not seized by the self-defense forces. In fact, the Ukrainian troops arrived here flying a Russian flag. In this way, they have taken the side of the people,” a Slavyansk activist told Russia-24 TV.

 

Photos from the scene now show women and children climbing onto the APCs and taking photos with the armed men in camouflage with St. George ribbons.

A Ukrainian soldier interviewed by RIA Novosti in Slavyansk said the troops were told they are being sent against “Russian invaders who have taken the local population hostage and are waging war at us,” and that they must “free Donbas from occupants.”

“This morning, we started our attack, but the picture we saw in Kramatorsk turned out to be completely different. We saw in front of us a crowd of locals, mostly adults, women and men. They explained to us that there are no occupants here and there is no one to fight. Instead, they gave us food and talked to us,” the soldier was quoted as saying.

He added that the troops vowed “not to follow orders to shoot at these people.” Some soldiers chose to take the side of the locals, some decided to stay “neutral.” They are now “waiting what comes next.”

Photo from Twitter/@oivshina

Photo from Twitter/@oivshina

Similar developments were also seen in another Donetsk region city, Kramatorsk, where Ukrainian troops began entering Tuesday after taking a nearby airfield by force, captured a day earlier by armed self-defense activists.

As Ukrainian armored vehicles rolled into the city’s center Wednesday, they were surrounded by locals and surrendered. Some of the APCs were filmed flying Russian flags in support of the locals. Kiev eventually confirmed that six APCs were taken away in Kramatorsk but claimed that they were “captured by the extremists.” Earlier, coup-imposed Kiev officials dismissed the news as “fake” and even claimed that by raising Russian flags the troops “infiltrated” the areas “controlled by Russian Army units and separatists.”

In the village of Pchyolkino, south of Kramatorsk, locals blocked part of a large convoy of armored vehicles. The people are demanding that the troops turn back their vehicles and leave for Dnepropetrovsk, where they are stationed.

 

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Local residents trying to block troops on APCs in the same region were filmed showing bullets that they say were fired by the Ukrainian military as warning shots but in the direction of the people. At least one person was injured by such warning shots, according to reports.

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Witnesses:  Fighter jet was shot down Over Kramatorsk Airport

 

© Reuters/Michael Počuev
April 15, 18:31 UTC +4

Troops land in terminal area

 

Kyiv, April 15. /ITAR-TASS/.  Fighter  shot down over Kramatorsk Airport .  Reported by eyewitnesses on the scene.
In particular, they report that four fighter jets flew over Kramatorskom  , the Su-27, allegedly opened fire over the local airfield. Whose aircraft and who is responsible for  the fighter jet is still unknown. Witnesses noted that  an ambulance arrived on the scene to tend to  victims on the airfield.
Newspaper, News of Kramatorsk”, reports that three  were circling over the airfield.   According to  information,  a group of people had gathered near the aerodrome , some of them in camouflage uniforms, many local residents with  children. According to preliminary data, shooting in the aerodrome area wounded one person.

 

About 500 troops with military equipment  entered  Slavyansk
Witnesses report that troops had landed in the terminal area, there are no  more details available at this time.
The situation in Ukraine. Chronicle of events. 15 April
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