Archive for August, 2014

INTERVIEW: WILL A TUSK PRESIDENCY HELP EU LOOK EAST?

August 31, 2014

Radio Free Europe on August 30, 2014, published an interview with Joanna Wajda on Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk who has been chosen to replace Herman Von Rompuy as the president of the European Council at a gathering of EU leaders in Brussels to decide on the bloc’s top posts. Excerpts below:

RFE/RL: What would it mean for Poland if Donald Tusk became EU Council president?

Joanna Wajda: It would be a big success for Poland. In Poland, there’s a big demand for this kind of success, especially after the 10th anniversary [this year] of our entering into the European Union. So in Poland, both the opposition and the [ruling] coalition are keeping their fingers crossed.

RFE/RL: Do you think that the EU’s policy toward the Eastern Partnership program would change with Tusk as the EU Council president?

Wajda: This is the question. What could the president of the European Council do? Because he is, in my opinion, more of a coordinator, more of a person who is responsible for preparing the European summit and finding compromises.

But I think he could show all of Europe and the European leaders that, hey, we have the eastern part of Europe as well, and we have to look at them and see their problems. I think it could be a signal to Moscow, if he becomes the new leader, that the European Union is putting pressure on eastern issues as well.

RFE/RL: What sort of leader is Tusk?

Wajda: He is quite successful in Polish politics, because he’s been the prime minister for two terms, something that’s happening for the first time in Polish politics [since the fall of communism].

I think he has the ability to build consensus. He has the ability to be liked by other people, because he’s not an angry man or a shouter. He is rather open to compromise. So I think that he has the kind of abilities that can be helpful to him as a new leader in the European Union.

RFE/RL: The main criticism of him seems to be his lack of language skills. What languages does he actually speak apart from his native Polish and German?

Wajda: There are lots of legends out there about whether he can speak English or not…During the last European summit, for example, we could see from some shots from the meeting that he speaks to his counterparts in English.

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AT THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL LITHUANIA CONDEMNED RUSSIA’S INVASION OF UKRAINE’S TERRITORY

August 30, 2014

The Permanent Representation of Lithuania at the UN on August 29, 2014, condemned the invasion of Ukraine’s territory by the armed forces of the Russian Federation at the emergency meeting of UN Security Council on August 28. Excerpts below:

„Lithuania condemns in the strongest terms the invasion of Ukraine’s territory by the armed forces of the Russian Federation as an open and blatant violation of Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and a serious blow to peace, security and stability across the entire region and well beyond,“ said Lithuanian Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaitė.

Ambassador Murmokaitė stressed that such actions by Russia are a gross violation of the UN Charter and other fundamental principles and norms of international law.

„Ukraine does not need more Russian “humanitarian” convoys. What Ukraine needs is Russia‘s compliance with international law, and respect for the UN Charter”, said the Ambassador.

Lithuanian Permanent Representative noted the consequences of the humanitarian crisis. The conflict has claimed more than 2000 civilian deaths, 200.000 displaced persons, and around 4 million affected people living in areas directly affected by the conflict. „We must make sure all those who caused this tragedy must be held account,“ said R.Murmokaitė.

UN Security Council held the emergency meeting at the request of Lithuania as a response to information about Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine‘s territory.

SATELLITE PICTURES SHOW RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES IN UKRAINE

August 29, 2014

BBC News on August 29, 2014, reported that Nato released satellite images it said showed columns of Russian armed forces inside Ukrainian territory. Excerpts below:

Nato Brigadier General Niko Tak said more than 1,000 Russian troops were operating inside Ukraine, both supporting the separatists and fighting on their side.

He told the BBC there had been a “significant escalation in the level and sophistication of Russia’s military interference in Ukraine” over the past two weeks.

The Ukrainian and Russian ambassadors addressed an emergency session at the UN

At Thursday’s emergency session of the UN Security Council, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin accepted that there were Russian volunteers in eastern parts of Ukraine,…

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: ABDUCTION AND TORTURE BY PRO-RUSSIAN REBELS

August 29, 2014

At least 2,593 people had been killed in the conflict between mid-April and 27 August, the UN said in its latest report. Excerpts below:

Human rights violations like abduction and torture were “committed primarily by the armed groups”, referring to the rebels, it said.

Separately, Human Rights Watch said in a report that the rebels were subjecting civilians to torture, degrading treatment and forced labour.

UKRAINE PM: PUTIN HAS STARTED A WAR

August 28, 2014

CNN News on August 28, 2014, reported Ukrainian Premier Yatsenyuk suggesting tougher measures may be needed to curb Russia’s support for the rebels. Excerpts below:

“Unfortunately, the sanctions were unhelpful as to deescalating the situation in Ukraine,” he said, referring to the economic sanctions already imposed by the United States and European Union against Russian individuals and companies.

Yatsenyuk suggested one way to halt “Russian aggression” could be to freeze all assets and ban all Russian bank transactions until Russia “pulls out all its military, equipment and agents” from Ukraine.

“Vladimir Putin has purposely started a war in Europe. It is impossible to hide from the fact,” he said.

In a foreign policy address in Paris, French President Francois Hollande said that if there’s evidence that Russian soldiers are on Ukrainian soil “it would be intolerable and unacceptable.”
NATO officials are due to give a briefing on August 28 on the situation in Ukraine.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Wednesday highlighted the latest reports of heavy fighting around Novoazovsk and Donetsk airport, as well as of”additional columns of Russian tanks, multiple rocket launchers and armored vehicles” heading for communities in southeastern Ukraine.

“These incursions indict a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway in Donetsk and Luhansk,” she said. “Clearly that is of deep concern to us.”

She accused Moscow of not acting in a transparent manner when it came to the Russian people, as well as Ukraine and the rest of the world.

“We’re also concerned by the Russian government’s unwillingness to tell the truth even as its soldiers are found 30 miles inside Ukraine,” she said.

“Russia is sending its young men into Ukraine but are not telling them where they’re going or telling their parents what they’re doing.”

SWEDEN, FINLAND INCREASE TIES TO NATO

August 28, 2014

Washington Times on August 27, 2014, published an article by AP on Finland and Sweden planning to work more closely with NATO by signing a pact that allows assistance from alliance troops in the Nordic countries in emergency situations, officials said. Excerpts below:

The move comes as NATO prepares for a summit next week in Wales amid heightened tensions with Russia over the crisis in Ukraine. Finland shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia.

The Finnish government said the Host Nation Support agreement applies to situations which include “disasters, disruptions and threats to security.” It also enables joint training exercises and military cooperation.

Finnish Defense Ministry senior adviser Mika Varvikko said Finland intends to sign the agreement at next week’s NATO summit. Sweden is also expected to do so.

Both countries already train and work closely with NATO in international operations,…

“There is a very sharp difference between being a member and not being a member,” Swedish Defense Minister Karin Enstrom told The Associated Press. “We are an active partner with NATO and we want to deepen our partnership with NATO.”

HAGEL:‘OPERATIONS HAVE ALREADY BEGUN’ TO ACCELERATE ARMS SHIPMENTS TO KURDS

August 27, 2014

The Washington Times on August 26, 2014, reported that Kurdish forces battling Sunni radicals with the Islamic State group will receive accelerated arms shipments from the U.S. and its allies. Excerpts below:

“In addition to support from the U.S., and the central government of Iraq in Baghdad, seven additional nations — Albania, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom — have committed to helping provide Kurdish forces urgently needed arms and equipment,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on August 26.

Mr. Hagel added that “Operations have already begun and will accelerate in the coming days,” The Hill reported.

UKRAINE: RUSSIAN TANK COLUMN ENTERS SOUTHEAST

August 26, 2014

Washington Times on August 25, 2014, published an AP report that a Ukrainian official was saying that a column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles has crossed into the country in the far southeast, away from where most of the intense fighting has been taking place. Excerpts below:

Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security Council, told reporters the column of 10 tanks, two armored vehicles and two trucks crossed the border near Shcherbak after the nearby city of Novoazovsk was shelled during the night from Russia.

The reported incursion and shelling could indicate an attempt to move on Mariupol, a major port on the Azov Sea, an arm of the Black Sea.

US SENATOR MCCAIN GETS MORE SUPPORT FOR HAWKISH PLAN FOR ISLAMIC STATE, BUT WILL OBAMA FOLLOW?

August 25, 2014

FoxNews on August 24, 2014, reported that Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain, one of Congress’ most hawkish members, called on President Obama on August 24 to show greater leadership in the international fight to eliminate Islamic State and to present a more comprehensive plan to eliminate such terror groups in the Middle East. Excerpts below:

“The president has to articulate the challenge and what we need to do to meet it,” McCain, a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, told “Fox News on August 24.” “That’s what has to be explained to the American people. And I think they will follow.”

His remarks follow the startling rise of Islamic State in northeast Syria through northern Iraq, and, most recently, the group’s beheading of American journalist James Foley — allegedly in retaliation for U.S. air strikes in Iraq.

McCain also continued his criticism of the administration’s foreign policy — calling it “feckless” — but expressing optimism that tough talk last week by top White House and U.S. military officials will lead to a more aggressive, comprehensive approach toward stopping the militant group Islamic State.

Michigan GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the United States and its Arab allies need to engage in a more “robust campaign” against Islamic State’s safe havens in Syria.

“They are one plane ticket away from U.S. shores,” he said. “This is an opportunity for the president to take a step back (and) change his presidential guidance on how we disrupt terrorism around the world, including al Qaeda that has been slowing down. We have missed dozens and dozens of opportunities to take really bad people off the battlefield in the recent — last two years.”

…he and South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, a fellow member of the Armed Services Committee, will propose a plan when Congress returns from August break to repeal so-called sequestration, which has put tight limits on the defense budget.

U.S. SENDS SECOND CARRIER TO ASIA AMID TENSIONS WITH CHINA WHICH IS DEMANDING END TO U.S. SURVEILLANCE

August 24, 2014

Washington Free Beacon on August 23, 2014, reported that the Navy is sending a second aircraft carrier strike group to the Asia Pacific region amid new tensions with China over a dangerous aerial encounter between a Chinese interceptor and Navy P-8 surveillance craft. Excerpts below:

The strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson departed San Diego for the Pacific on August 22, the Navy said in an announcement of what it terms a “planned” deployment.

China’s military on August 23, meanwhile, demanded an end to all U.S. monitoring flights and called U.S. criticism of dangerous Chinese jet maneuvers false.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby on August 22 called the maneuvers by the Chinese J-11—a Russian design Su-27—a dangerous and unprofessional encounter and said the military has protested the incident to the Chinese military.

“We have registered our strong concerns to the Chinese about the unsafe and unprofessional intercept, which posed a risk to the safety and the well-being of the air crew and was inconsistent with customary international law,” Kirby said, adding that the pilot of the J-11 was “very, very close; very dangerous.”

The Carl Vinson strike group will patrol “both 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility,” the Navy statement said The 7th fleet covers the Pacific and the 5th Fleet is responsible for operations in the Middle East.

The guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill and three guided missile destroyers, the USS Gridley, USS Sterett, and USS Dewey also deployed with the Vinson.

The Vinson will join the Japan-based USS George Washington strike group.

Earlier, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jeff Pool said in a statement that the aerial incident took place 135 miles east of Hainan Island when the J-11 came within 20 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

“The intercept was aggressive and demonstrated a lack of due regard for the safety and well-being of the U.S. and Chinese aircrews and aircraft,” Pool said, adding that the incident was of the most dangerous aerial encounters with the Chinese since the April 2001 EP-3 mid-air collision with a Chinese J-8.

The P-8 was on a routine mission in international airspace when the Chinese jet sought to intimidate the crew with several dangerous maneuvers, including a barrel roll over the top of the militarized Boeing 737 jet.

“On three different occasions, the Chinese J-11 crossed directly under the U.S. aircraft with one pass having only 50 to 100 feet separation between the two aircraft,” Pool said. “The Chinese jet also passed the nose of the P-8 at 90 degrees with its belly toward the P-8 to show its weapons loadout.”

“In doing so, the pilot was unable to see the P-8, further increasing the potential for a collision,” Pool said. “The Chinese pilot then flew directly under and alongside the P-8 bringing their wingtips within 20 feet and then before he stabilized his fighter he conducted a roll over the P-8 passing within 45 feet.”

The latest incident followed earlier intercepts that the Pentagon said were “nonstandard, unprofessional and unsafe intercepts of U.S. aircraft.”

Additionally, the aggressive interceptor was based at the same unit on Hainan Island that conducted similar aggressive intercepts in March, April, and May of 2014.

“We are concerned that the intercepting crews from that unit are acting aggressively and demonstrating a lack of regard for the regard for the safety of our aircrews,” Pool said. “We have raised our concerns over this unsafe behavior to the PRC.”

Deputy White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters the Chinese aerial encounter was “a deeply concerning provocation.”

Both the Pentagon and White House comments were unusually harsh for the Obama administration, which has sought to play down dangerous and threatening military developments by the Chinese.

Yang stated that “massive and frequent close-in surveillance of China” endangers air and maritime security and is at the root of accidents.

Pool, the Pentagon spokesman, said in his statement on August 22 that U.S. monitoring is legal.

“Under international law, as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, military activities may be conducted within the Exclusive Economic Zone of another nation as an exercise of the freedoms of navigation and overflight,” he said. “Coastal states, including China, shall have due regard for the rights and duties of other States, including in the exercise of these freedoms.”

The aerial encounter comes amid a toughening posture by China in the South China Sea.

U.S. officials said Chinese official statements related to the ASEAN Regional Forum in early August revealed that China had no plans to back off aggressive claims in the South China Sea and is pushing hard to block U.S. involvement in the regional dispute.

China also announced it was stepping up activities in disputed areas of the sea, challenging claims by Vietnam, Philippines and other nations.

Until the Defense Ministry statement Saturday, China’s government had remained silent on the Su-27 encounter with the P-8.

Most state-run news outlets in China did not cover the affair, with major newspapers and wire services ignoring the story. Only CCTV, the state television network, reported on the Aug. 19 incident.

The White House said on August 22 through Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisers, that the Chinese jet, which conducted a barrel roll over the P-8 some 135 miles east of Hainan Island was a “provocation.”