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Newsbud Exclusive- Will Nikolai Patrushev be the New Prime Minister of Russia?

Why would Putin conduct the purge at this time & if the purge of Medvedev does indeed take place, who will be his replacement?

With the recent arrest of the Russian economy minister Aleksey Ulyukaev by the FSB, the Russian equivalent of the FBI, the president Vladimir Putin's purge of the liberal faction within the Kremlin nomenklatura is now in the full public view.[1] This faction is headed by the Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev who succeeded Putin as

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the president from 2008 to 2012. It now appears that Medvedev is in danger of losing his position and perhaps, just like Ulyukaev, his freedom as well. In fact, the last month's sudden cancellation of Medvedev's trip to Serbia,[2] which at this time is the only (and hence very significant) official Russian ally in East-Central Europe, demonstrates that his authority is already seriously eroded.

Therefore, there are two questions that require a thorough investigation. First, why would Putin conduct the purge at this time (or at all)? And, secondly, if the purge of Medvedev does indeed take place, who will be his replacement?

The Russian Liberals' Fault

We first need to define what it means to be a liberal in the Russian government today. The designation does not refer to political positions (like in the U.S.) as much as it highlights the approach to the economy. Liberals in Russia are those who believe that the role of the state should be minimized and that private, corporate ownership is the best way to run the economy. They are also advocates of Russia's full-fledged participation in the international economic system dominated by the so-called Bretton Woods institutions, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization. Obviously, this means a commitment to the so-called free trade and opposition to any policy of tariffs and import substitution.

The liberals were politically dominant in Russia during Boris Yeltsin's two-term presidency in the 1990s. Those who brought Putin to power in the late 1990s (the intelligence and military networks) made an uneasy compromise with the liberals, which lasted throughout Putin's first two presidential terms (2000-2008). The liberals even seemed in ascendance after Medvedev replaced Putin at the helm.

However, soon afterwards, in August 2008, a surprise military attack by the Georgian troops, heavily assisted by NATO and the U.S., on the rebellious enclave of South Ossetia defended by the Russian "peace-keepers" took place. Consequently, the Russian military directly intervened and the Georgians were pushed back. That was the first time since the end of the Cold War that the Russian military crossed the borders of Russia. This created a pattern that will later be repeated in Ukraine, Syria, and no doubt in other places in the future. The genie was out of the bottle.

This was the beginning of the end for the Russian liberals who counted on honest and friendly relations with the West and believed in the existence of a fair playing field for Russia in the global economy. It became clear that the West would allow nothing of the sort. No wonder then that Putin, who initially was ambivalent about running again, returned as the president in 2012.

In the late 2013, the conflict in Ukraine flared up. The U.S.-engineered coup in Kiev, the annexation of Crimea (or the re-unification, as the Russians call it), the rebellion in Donbass, the U.S. and the EU economic sanctions, all followed in quick succession. There was now no going back. The liberal road proved to be a blind alley.

The parliamentary elections in September 2016 put the last nail in the liberals' coffin. Though Medvedev is a nominal leader of the ruling United Russia party which won two-thirds of the seats, it is clear to all that the real leader is Putin. This is why it will come as no surprise when we soon read in the Russian press that Medvedev no longer heads the party.

Putin is now embarked on a different, non-liberal economic road for Russia. He plans to orient Russia toward building up regional economic and political alliances with its neighbors in East and Central Asia. The Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (in which China is a member), the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the BRICS grouping, will all be strengthened at the expense of the Bretton Woods institutions mentioned earlier and supported by the liberals. This is why liberals will increasingly be pushed out, with some of the most prominent ones arrested in order to send the waves of fear through their ranks.

The ordinary Russian people have no pity for the liberals because they know well the extent to which liberal politicians and their business cronies got rich abusing governmental power for private gain. The recently arrested Ulyukaev is the case in point. Most liberal politicians can easily move to the West - their apartments, yachts, and bank accounts are waiting for them. This is why the majority of the population will support Putin's purge, even though the purge will be far from democratic and may at times turn violent.

The New KGB Aristocracy

Putin will replace the purged liberals by his trusted allies from the intelligence and military structures. One of them Sergey Naryshkin, the former president of the Russian Parliament, has been appointed to the position of the chief of the Russian external intelligence agency (SVR) immediately after the elections results were in. I have discussed Naryshkin's appointment in detail in an earlier article,[3] but what is important to keep in mind here is that by appointing a long-time friend and fellow intelligence operative, Putin has cut off any possibility of the liberal insiders at the top leaking national security information to the West. In other words, Putin has built up another layer of protection around the future Russian military and intelligence agenda. In my opinion, he demonstrated that he had no trust left in the West and that he was getting the country ready for a possible military confrontation.

It is precisely this trend that I see continuing, regardless of the fact that, unexpectedly for many, Donald Trump, and not Hillary Clinton, was elected to be the next. U.S. president. In fact, those in the pro-Clinton defeated faction of the U.S. establishment, including the CIA and the Pentagon, who have built their careers and made their fortunes on the gospel of Russophobia, may precipitate a serious incident in Europe and blame it on the Russians, thus presenting Trump with a fait accompli when he gets inaugurated. The Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius, who calls Russia "not a super-power, but a super-problem," has already started the tour of NATO member states claiming to his interlocutors that Russia might use the U.S. presidential transition period to "test" Europe.[4] This statement has to be taken seriously because NATO has a long history of blaming the consequences of its own subversive activities on its opponents. One needs only to think of the Operation Gladio.

This is why I think that, parallel with his efforts to develop a detente relations with the U.S. under Trump, Putin will bring in more personal loyalists into the highest offices of the Russian government. Considering the power of the U.S./NATO lobby working against it, the chances of an authentic detente (unfortunately) do not look very good and Putin knows that he must not make a misstep. He may not have another chance.

In this kind of game with very high stakes, Medvedev, who was already criticized by Putin over his lukewarm reaction prior and during NATO intervention in Libya,[5] is simply not reliable enough. In my opinion, this is why Putin will replace him with Nikolai Patrushev, the current secretary of the Russian National Security Council and essentially Putin's national security advisor.

Patrushev is one of the top members of the so-called KGB aristocracy of whose mission to lead Russia he himself spoke in an interview more than 15 years ago at the time when Russia was in the midst of the Chechnya crisis that dangerously threatened its very foundations.[6] Such an early mention of this powerful group, which later came to yield tremendous power in the Russian political life, shows that Patrushev was one of its main driving forces.

Nikolai Patrushev's Political Profile

Over the years, Nikolai Patrushev has been even closer to Putin than Naryshkin. They are almost the same age and their friendship goes back to the 1970s KGB days in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). In the late 1990s, Patrushev's rise closely followed Putin's. It is very significant that it was Patrushev who succeeded Putin as the head of the FSB and held this position for nine years (1999-2008), which is longer than anybody since the Communist Yuri Andropov who was the KGB head from 1967 until 1982 and then became the leader of the Soviet Union (that is, the general secretary of the central committee of the Soviet Communist party).

This analogy may not be accidental. After all, in 2006, there was some speculation that Patrushev would succeed Putin.[7] However, the position went to Medvedev, a member of the liberal camp and not a KGB aristocrat. I believe that now the political tide has turned.

In his interviews with various Russian newspapers, Patrushev, who has a doctorate in law, reveals himself as a serious scholar of the post-WWII global politics. He is a strong critic of the U.S. foreign policy claiming that the U.S. involvement in the world is bent on regime change and state fragmentation.[8] He blames the U.S. for the break-up of Yugoslavia, the numerous so-called color revolutions, the putsch in Ukraine, and the carnage in the Middle East. In fact, he asserts that the wars of the Yugoslav succession were nothing else but the testing ground for the ongoing efforts to break up the former Soviet Republics, including Russia itself.[9] In all of this, he discerns a malicious Western anti-Russian prejudice that is grounded in the historical push for the control of the Eastern territories and resources. This puts Patrushev firmly in the tradition of the Russian Eurasianists. As a result, if chosen by Putin to be the next prime minister, he can be expected to formulate and oversee a very hawkish foreign and national security policy.

I think the odds of Putin making this decision sometime soon are high. In the difficult weeks and months ahead, he needs to stabilize the Kremlin and get it ready for likely provocations both inside the country and on its borders. Patrushev has proven that he can accomplish any tasks entrusted to him with flying colors while, at the same time, being absolutely loyal to Putin. Even though outwardly Putin will no doubt give both Trump and peace a chance, in the inner corridors of the Kremlin, Lubynka, and Yasenevo, preparations for a defensive war will continue unabated. Putin will allow no repetition of either 1941 or 1991. And neither will Patrushev.

# #  # #

Dr. Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/16/world/europe/russia-alexei-ulyukayev-detained.html?_r=0

[2] http://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2016&mm=09&dd=13&nav_id=99191

[3] http://www.newsbud.com/2016/10/05/why-did-the-russian-spies-get-a-new-boss/

[4] http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thehouse/ahead-of-trump-presidency-nato-braces-itself-for-possible-russian-test-1.3853585

[5] http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704355304576214803505330690

[6] http://www.kp.ru/daily/22458/7028/

[7] http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/russian/russia/newsid_4941000/4941998.stm

[8] https://rg.ru/2015/09/15/patrushev-site.html

[9] https://rg.ru/2014/10/15/patrushev.html

Newsbud Exclusive- The 2016 Balkan Spy War: NATO & CIA on the Offensive

Why Serbia has become the center of the recent spy and covert activities by both Western & Russian intelligence agencies

Introduction

History has shown that intensive spy and covert activities by intelligence agencies in a given geographic region precede and precipitate dramatic political changes. Often, these changes involve violent confrontations and the wide-spread destruction of lives and property. Ordinary civilians suffer the most, while the external actors who direct spy and covert efforts and whose interests the changes represent profit handsomely. Their geopolitical influence expands while extensive natural and human resources come under their control. Just as they have selected those who started the war, they also select those who make the peace. Frequently, these are the same people.

This scenario was played out quite clearly in the wars following the Yugoslav break-up in the 1990s. Those who were in charge in the warring republics during the descent into chaos also led the newly-independent states for years after the fighting was over. This was done with the blessings of the Western political leadership and intelligence community.

The cynical guiding idea was that these leaders, old as they were, would soon die in one way or another (the ex-Serbian president Slobodan Milošević died in the Hague prison under suspicious circumstances), and would be replaced by more pliable, younger individuals.

In contrast, the interests of the vast majority of the Balkan peoples were hardly taken into consideration by the Western elites and spymasters. By selecting, supporting, and directing those at the top of the Balkan political pyramid, they thought that the rest could be kept quiescent and obedient by the propaganda-entertainment complex, and that the rhetoric of democracy and the rule of law (which nowhere exist in reality) would do the trick politically.

And perhaps they would have succeeded in this strategy, had they been more patient and not so arrogant in demanding immediate gratification. They brutally pushed for rapid NATO expansion and for setting up the U.S.-NATO military installations in the Balkans. This led to the war over Kosovo which now, 17 years after the NATO attack on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, is still seething with unresolved political tensions.

Not even all NATO member states recognize Kosovo's independence and when the leaders of Kosovo Albanians visit NATO headquarters, there are no political functions written next to their names.[1] It is surprising that the opponents of NATO have not more extensively utilized and amplified this political contradiction within NATO itself.

In any case, out of all the ex-Yugoslav states, it is only Serbia that has officially codified the policy of stayed out of NATO. This is why Serbia has become the center of the recent spy and covert activities by both Western and Russian intelligence agencies. In other words, Serbia represents the most prominent frontline in what I call the 2016 Balkan spy war.

Spies, Spies Everywhere

It all started in earnest in early September 2016. The Belgrade media reported that the Serbian Security Information Agency (BIA) arrested a person who was suspected of being an agent of the Croatian Military Security Agency (VSOA).[2] His name was Čedo Čolović and he was a retired officer of the military of Republika Srpska Krajina, the ex-Serbian enclave within Croatia. Republika Srpska Krajina was de facto independent from 1992 until Summer 1995 when it was destroyed by the Croatian army, heavily assisted by the U.S.-NATO military and intelligence structures, and tens of thousands of Serbian civilians were violently expelled from Croatia.

The news reports alleged that Čolović worked for the Croatian intelligence in order to avoid being indicted for war crimes commiteed during Republika Srpska Krajina's existence. To save himself, he appears to have sold out his friends and colleagues. His spying activities led to at least nine ex-officers being charged for war crimes by the Croatian courts. Soon after the arrest, Čolović confessed that he was indeed a spy and was promptly convicted of espionage by the Belgrade High Court and sentenced to three years of imprisonment.[3]

What strikes the eye immediately in this case are two things. First, Čolović was arrested by the Serbian civilian intelligence agency, even though he dealt with the issues of military nature and Serbia also has the military intelligence agency called the Military Information Agency (VOA). One wonders what the VOA leadership and personnel were doing and why they were not the ones discovering and arresting Čolović. This definitely looks like a serious professional failure. In addition, it substantiates rumors that the Serbian military is closer to the U.S.-NATO military and intelligence community than the Serbian public is led to believe by the official narrative.

That there are some serious issues within the VOA is also proven by the fact that just a month after Čolović's arrest the chief of VOA, general Slavoljub Dabić, went into retirement, and was replaced by his deputy, colonel Zoran Stojković.[4] There are also indications that Stojković is only a transitional figure. This may signal that the pro-NATO forces within the Serbian military are losing out.

The second interesting issue concerning the Čolović case is the lightness of his sentence. In which country of the world would one get only three years of jail time for the espionage that appears to have compromized nine people and lasted for years? Obviously, something else is at issue here. No doubt Čolović agreed to spill the beans on everything he knew about his employer, the Croatian Military Security Agency (VSOA).

When we know that the VSOA is a NATO member intelligence agency and has worked in close cooperation with the Pentagon and the CIA for two decades (and is in fact their forward anti-Russian intelligence shield in the Balkans), the secrets that Čolović told the Serbian intelligence could be significant indeed. Hence he got only three years, instead of a life sentence, which is the typical sanction for the spies who have been caught red-handed, such as, for instance, the KGB-SVR mole within the CIA, Aldrich Ames.

The CIA Exposed

It could be that the information provided by Čolović soon led to a more significant arrest. On October 15, 2016, the same Serbian intelligence agency (BIA) which arrested Čolović also put behind the bars a high-level official from the Serbian Ministry of Interior alleging that he had been passing on confidential and secret information to the CIA operatives in Belgrade. This official, whose name has not yet been released publicly, is charged for spying on the Serbian minister of interior Nebojša Stefanović and for reporting on the movements and activities of the Serbian police forces.[5] It appears that he was arrested in a public park after he delivered a set of documents to his CIA handler.

It is very likely that this official is only one among several individuals involved in the same ring of CIA informants and this is probably why his name has been withheld. Therefore, one should not be surprised by additional arrests in the coming weeks and months. This will obviously depend on whether the Serbian and the U.S. goverment come to some sort of mutually acceptable compromise on many issues that divide them, of which the most significant and the least likely to be resolved any time soon is the issue of Kosovo indepedence. However, the issue of the Serbian goverment's refusal to impose sanctions on Russia is also not far down on the same list.

The U.S. Embassy in Serbia and the ambassador Kyle R. Scott declined to comment on the arrest and the allegations of spying.[6] This is the standard operating procedure in cases like this. I also expect that the U.S. intelligence officer who handled the arrested Serb official has already left the country.

The whole situation, however, was soon complicated by the political events in the neighboring Montenegro.

The Montenegro Election Day “Surprise”

Montenegro held parliamentary elections on Sunday, October 16, 2016. In several earlier articles, I have extensively chronicled the corrupt and criminal nature of the Montenegrin government led by the prime minister Milo Djukanović.[7] I have also written on Djukanović's status as one of the key players in the network of the U.S.-controlled leaders in East-Central Europe. This is why it was to be expected that the Western intelligence community would do all it can to make sure that its willing puppet Djukanović and his political party remain in power for another four years.

Considering that objective public opinions polls were showing extensive popular discontent with the status quo and that several strong and credible options were available in the political opposition, Djukanović and his mentors had to come up with something “extraordinary” in order to put pressure on the undecided voters either to stay home or to vote for him. This had to be done in addition to the already established ways of rigging the election through the faulty voter registration lists and more or less blatant voters' bribery.

In accordance to this plan, in the early afternoon on the election day, while the voting was in full swing, the police (under the control of Djukanović) announced that they arrested a group of 20 people under suspicion that they were planning a violent takeover of the Parliament building and the arrest of Djukanović himself.[8] At the same time, the software applications Viber and WhatsUp, which many Montenegrins use for daily communication, were blocked. As a result of the climate of fear and uncertainty thus created, the voter turnout fell sharply and this severely limited the chances of the opposition's winning the election. In the end, the opposition fell 2 seats short of the necessary parliamentary majority, thus enabling Djukanović's chosen sucessor to begin the talks on setting up a new government.

Obviously, the whole idea that a group of 20 people, including women and underage individuals, could accomplish what was described by Djukanović's supporters as “a coup d'etat” was ridiculous. The fact that this was an unmistakeable covert operation conducted by Montenegrin intelligence operatives in cooperation with one or more NATO intelligence agencies was soon exposed when most of those arrested were let out of prison without being charged for anything and those few that remained, including the alleged leader of the group Bratislav Dikić, a retired police general and former chief of the Serbian gendarmes, turned out to have a history of friendly relations with the Montenegrin authorities.[9]

In addition, Djukanović immediately sought to cement his shaky and shady electoral victory by accusing the Russian military intelligence agency (GRU) of planning, organizing, and trying to execute the supposed coup. This is exactly what his NATO intelligence mentors wanted: to keep him in power, while taking yet another propaganda shot at the supposedly aggressive and dangerous Russian behavior in Europe. Of course, the subservient Western mass media was there on hand to spread Djukanović's blatantly false conspiracy claims far and wide. The British newspaper Guardian, for  instance, was in the forefront of this propaganda blitz.[10]

The "Foreign Factor" and Nikolai Patrushev

The Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vučić, who shares with Djukanović some of the same covert links with NATO intelligence community, though for the sake of popular support in Serbia he has to pretend otherwise, also played a role in supporting Djukanović's narrative. He stated that there were indeed some “elements of a foreign factor” involved in assisting logistically and financially the group arrested by the Montenegrin police on the election day who all entered Montenegro from Serbia and were Serbian citizens.[11]

The U.S.-NATO controlled media network in Serbia, consisting of the daily newspaper “Danas” and news agencies BETA and B92, with links to the Russian liberal newspaper “Kommersant,” immediately launched the story that, as the punishment for the involvement in the “coup attempt” in Montenegro, Serbia expelled five Russian spies.[12] This story was immediately denied by the Russian government as "a pure invention."[13] However, to make it believable to the general public in Serbia, these U.S.-NATO funded outlets claimed that Nikolai Patrushev, the former FSB chief (1999-2008), who succeeded Vladimir Putin in this position, and is now the secretary of the Russian National Security Council, and who was visiting Serbia at this time, came with the express purpose of freeing the spies.

The story does not hold water because Patrushev's visit, just like any visit of a high-level official of one state to another, was planned much in advance.[14] In my opinion, Patrushev came to Serbia as a replacement for the Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, whose October visit was announced months ago, but was then suddenly canceled. The cancellation of Medvedev's trip may have to do with the current power struggle within the Kremlin in which Medvedev's liberal, technocratic faction is losing out and may even mean that Putin is considering Patrushev for the prime minister's position. There is nothing in Patrushev's visit that points to the Montenegrin elections and the alleged Russian involvement there.

However, this is not to say that Patrushev did not discuss important intelligence issues with his Serbian hosts. He proposed that the two countries negotiate a special agreement on national security and other matters that, as he stated, Russia has only with its closest partners, the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.[15] There is no doubt that the conversations with the Serbian leadership also included the status of the Serbian-Russian "humanitarian" center in the southern Serbian city of Niš, which some Western observers consider a possible cover for the Russian military presence in the Balkans.[16] As witnessed by the articles in the U.S. public relations/propaganda media outlets in Europe, such as the Voice of America and Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, this visit caused quite a stir in the Western intelligence community and may have precipitated the mysterious event that happened just two days after Patrushev left.[17]

The Assassination Attempt?

According to the official narrative, on Saturday, October 29, 2016, a person walking in the woods one hundred yards from the Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vučić's family home in the Belgrade periphery of Jajinci stumbled upon a hidden arsenal of weapons, which included a portable anti-tank Yugoslav-produced weapon "Zolja" (Wasp) and four bombs.[18] The weapons were found not far from the narrow road that Vučić had to take to get to his home. Soon afterwards, the police also located a car which was seen near Vučić's home on the same day with more weapons and even explosives hidden inside. All evidence indicated that Serbia itself was now the object of a covert intelligence operation just as was the case with Montenegro two weeks earlier. In my opinion, the intelligence signature was the same as well.

Obviously, this is a serious matter. Serbia has had a history of high-level political assassinations, the latest being the assassination of the prime minister Zoran Djindjić in March 2003. Independent researchers have linked all these assassinations, even those that happened more than 100 years ago, such as the assassination of the Serbian king Aleksandar Obrenović and his wife Draga, to the activities of the Western intelligence agencies aiming to impose their own geopolitical agenda on Serbia and the wider Balkan space. There is no reason to expect anything different in this case.

The police investigation is still ongoing. There are traces pointing to various criminal networks, but, as in all cases of this nature, criminals are just the executors (and patsies) and the key question is who the planners, organizers, and financiers are. It is reasonable to conclude that they are the ones who are not happy with the present Serbian foreign policy course.

This is not to say that Vučić is not secretly committed to the U.S.-NATO geopolitical agenda as I have argued earlier when I discussed his close political ties to Djukanović. I think that this is precisely why the weapons and explosives were "discovered" before they could cause any real damage.

However, this could also be a warning to Vučić that he is not doing enough to advance the Atlanticist project, that he needs to do much more even if it goes against the interests of the Serbian people, or the "outcome" might be different. Perhaps it is only his speedy acceptance of Patrushev's offer that can save him from becoming the first high-level casualty of the 2016 Balkan spy war.

# # # #

Dr. Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_132083.htm

[2]http://www.b92.net/info/vesti/index.php?yyyy=2016&mm=09&dd=02&nav_category=167&nav_id=1172437

[3] http://www.vijesti.rtl.hr/novosti/svijet/1963987/sluzbena-potvrda-cedo-colovic-priznao-krivnju-i-dobio-tri-godine-zatvora/

[4] http://www.blic.rs/vesti/drustvo/novi-direktor-voa-zvanicno-stupio-na-duznost/k2rsh5v

[5] http://www.novosti.rs/vesti/naslovna/hronika/aktuelno.291.html:630096-Spijun-CIA-otkriven-u-MUP-Srbije

[6]  http://www.novosti.rs/vesti/naslovna/hronika/aktuelno.291.html:631813-Novosti-saznaju-Spijun-iz-MUP-pao-u-Zemunu

[7] http://www.newsbud.com/2015/02/05/bfp-exclusive-the-citizenship-policies-of-the-us-puppets-the-case-of-montenegros-milo-djukanovic/ ; http://www.newsbud.com/2015/02/17/bfp-exclusive-joe-biden-in-munich-incentivizing-the-us-balkan-vassals/ ; http://www.newsbud.com/2015/06/25/bfp-exclusive-the-breakdown-in-natos-balkan-expansion-strategy-the-case-of-montenegro/

[8] http://www.vijesti.me/vijesti/tuzilastvo-uhapseno-20-ljudi-planirali-da-uhapse-dukanovica-907707

[9] http://www.reporter.rs/2016-10-18/sandzacke-novine/blic-dikic-za-100000-%E2%82%AC-glumio-teroristu-angazovao-ga-vrh-cg%E2%80%9D-42988531.html

[10] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/25/montenegro-investigating-russia-alleged-election-coup-plot

[11]http://tanjug.rs/full-view.aspx?izb=279119

[12] http://www.tanjug.rs/full-view.aspx?izb=279959

[13] http://www.novosti.rs/vesti/naslovna/politika/aktuelno.289.html:632302-Moskva-Izmisljotine-o-proterivanju-Rusa-iz-Srbije

[14] http://www.nspm.rs/hronika/dmitrij-peskov-poseta-patruseva-srbiji-uobicajena-diplomatska-praksa.html?alphabet=l

[15] http://www.rtvbn.com/3838577/da-li-novi-hladni-rat-pocinje-u-srbiji

[16] http://www.blic.rs/vesti/srbija/sta-kriju-hangari-humanitarnog-centra-satori-sa-pecima-generatori-za-bolnice-camci-i/gh4pbzc

[17] http://www.glasamerike.net/a/kontroverze-oko-posete-ruskog-prvog-bezbednjaka-srbiji/3568717.html

[18] http://www.novosti.rs/vesti/naslovna/hronika/aktuelno.291.html:633002-POKUSAJ-ATENTATA-NA-VUCICA-Pronadjen-arsenal-oruzja-na-Novom-Beogradu

NATO Warmongering at the Highest Pitch: Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s Recent Book & the 21st Century Colonialism

NATO: The dark god of death that every day brings the world closer to a nuclear apocalypse!

Introduction: Rasmussen and Me

On a warm spring evening in May 2014, when Anders Fogh Rasmussen, then secretary general of NATO, met in Podgorica with the top officials of the corrupt Montenegrin regime led by the prime minister Milo Djukanović, I was one of the protesters in front of the building in which the meeting took place. In one hand, I remember holding the sign that said "No to War, No to NATO" and in the other, a flag of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro (MNMNE), a civic social justice organization where I am the chairman of the board.

Later that evening I issued a public statement, reported by the Montenegrin media, in which I accused Rasmussen of a direct meddling in the electoral process, because his visit came just a few days before the decisive mayoral election in Podgorica.[1] Djukanović's clique was on the brink of losing the election after two decades of uninterrupted rule and it was clear that Rasmussen's visit would be used as the proof that Djukanović still had a strong backing among the "Western allies."

The things eventually played out just as I had predicted. Djukanović's candidate won the election thanks in part to Rasmussen's support. In his role as NATO secretary general, Rasmussen thus played a significant role in keeping the corrupt and authoritarian, but geopolitically loyal elite in power for years to come. His actions openly exposed the deceptive nature of NATO's claims that it stands for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

Rasmussen's Political Profile

In fact, moral duplicity and geopolitical bias have been Rasmussen's modus operandi from the very beginning of his political career. Ever since his time as the prime minister of Denmark (2001-2009), Rasmussen acted as the staunch supporter of the U.S. neoconservatives' efforts to impose the hegemonic Pax Americana on the world. He saw the expansion of NATO into East-Central Europe, including the ex-Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia, and the extension of the U.S. imperial reach into the Middle East and Central Asia as political imperatives.

Rasmussen was also one of the most vocal supporters of the Iraq war and Danish soldiers went into Iraq almost immediately after the U.S. invasion. And when a Danish intelligence officer Frank S. Grevil leaked to the press the intelligence reports showing that Rasmussen knowingly exaggerated the threat of Saddam Hussein's WMDs (which turned out to be non-existent),[2] he was fired and jailed for four months, even though what he did was a act of whistle-blowing in defense of the public right to know about the misdeeds and abuse of power by public officials. In contrast, Rasmussen denied that he received the reports, or that he knew anything about them, and was able to stay in power successfully for another five years.

Even as recently as 2015, the Danish government blocked attempts by the opposition to have a thorough investigation into Rasmussen's decision-making process that led to the decision to go to war against Iraq. As some observers pointed out, the former British prime minister Tony Blair, another advocate of the Iraq war, was not so lucky and the Chilcot Commission's report condemned his actions in no uncertain terms.[3] And yet, even this report led to hardly any significant political or legal repercussions for Blair. Did anyone really expect that the corrupt British political elite and intelligence community would turn on one of its own?

The 12th NATO Secretary General

Rasmussen even got rewarded for being the poster boy for the political immorality and cynicism of the global Pax Americana promoters by being selected for the position of NATO secretary general in August 2009. During his entire five-year tenure (until October 2014), Rasmussen worked around the clock to push NATO military and intelligence apparatus further East and legitimize its bloody interventions in the Middle East and North Africa. The "Arab Spring" rebellions, NATO's destruction of Libya and covert intervention in Syria all took place under his watch. He was one of the main architects of the strategy of NATO's imperial expansionism, which I think should be referred to by its true name - the 21st century colonialism.

In addition, no secretary general before him was driven by such a deep-seated negativity towards anything Russian. He openly supported the Ukrainian coup in February 2014 and condemned Russia for the firm reaction to what was an unmistakable attack on its vital national interests, something that no state in the world would tolerate, not even the tiniest one, let alone a nuclear power. Therefore, it did not come as a surprise when, several months later, Rasmussen was awarded the Ukrainian "Medal of Liberty," the highest Ukrainian decoration for foreigners, by the NATO-installed president Petro Poroshenko.[4]

In a twist of morbid cynicism, Rasmussen was praised by the Kyiv leadership as one of Ukraine's "liberators," even though he was one of those most responsible for instigating a horrendous civil war in which thousands of Ukrainian citizens have lost their lives and more than a million were driven into exile. While this may sound like a scenario of the Ministry of Propaganda from George Orwell's dystopian novel "1984," it is even worse than that because it is not fiction, but real life.

The "Rasmussen Global" Consultancy Firm

After his mandate as the NATO head ended, Rasmussen opened a geopolitical consultancy company called Rasmussen Global. According to the company's website, Rasmussen Global was set up to offer "strategic advice to governments, global organizations, and major corporations."[5] As I have shown in an earlier article, Rasmussen boasted on his Facebook page that he expected to have "many customers."[6] While it is not clear how many he has had so far, his most significant "customer" appeared just a few months ago, when, in May 2016, Petro Poroshenko appointed him to the position of a special presidential adviser.

Rasmussen was hired to do what he was best at: to do as much damage as possible to the EU-Russian relations. For instance, in an interview in February 2016, even before he got the job, Rasmussen strongly condemned the construction of another Nord Stream gas pipeline connecting Russia and Germany.[7]

Every time Russia is concerned, Rasmussen has quickly abandoned his doctrinal insistence on market freedom and free trade. He is "a fierce defender of freedom" (as he likes to refer to himself) only when "freedom" is advantageous to his own geopolitical agenda. In all other cases, no freedom is to be allowed and even the legitimate public right to know can be punished by jail time as in the case of a whistleblower Frank S. Grevil mentioned earlier.

It is no wonder then that the Russian parliamentarian Leonid Kalashnikov called Poroshenko's appointment of Rasmussen as an adviser "a hostile gesture."[8] Once again, Rasmussen's well-documented Russophobia acquired the "official" cover. Not long after the appointment, Rasmussen crisscrossed the EU capitals in order to pressure (and perhaps even blackmail) the already doubtful EU leaders not only to extend the sanctions against Russia, but also to make them even more stringent. At the same time, he argued that Ukraine had already taken great strides on the road to democracy and respect for the rule of law. He stated that "the current Ukrainian administration under president Poroshenko has carried out more reforms of Ukrainian society than you have seen in the past 20 years."[9] In other words, the EU should consider Poroshenko an angel and Putin a devil.

Rasmussen is far from being alone in publicly pushing this narrative. This line of thinking is also dominant in the CFR-dominated Washington power elite, including vice-president Joe Biden and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That does not bode well for the future of the world.

Rasmussen As A CFR-Sponsored Theorist of the 21st Century Colonialism

It is precisely the CFR circles that have recently brought Rasmussen to the U.S. to promote his new book The Will to Lead: America's Indispensable Role in the Global Fight for Freedom, an apologia for the U.S. world dominance.

The thesis of the book boils down to the claim that the U.S. must [notice the imperative!] be the world's policeman, and not only that. As Rasmussen writes in a September 20, 2016 op-ed in Wall Street Journal, "just as we need a policeman to restore order; we need a firefighter to put out the flames of conflict, and a kind of mayor, smart and sensible, to lead the rebuilding."[10] So, in addition to being a global policeman, the U.S. should also assume the roles of a global firefighter and a global mayor.

There is no mistaking it: this is a call for the U.S. to colonize the entire world. It is a geopolitical narrative for the 21st century colonialism. Rasmussen's narrative fully reflects the megalomania of the U.S. neo-conservatives in its worst authoritarian manifestations as exemplified, for instance, in the Project for a New American Century. It is ominous that after the Project has been discredited by a decade and a half of failed wars and covert operations, Rasmussen is again recycling it for the U.S. audiences. Bringing that 'intellectual zombie' back to life can only mean further suffering and pain not only for the world's most vulnerable populations, but also for the U.S. citizens, especially those from the middle and working classes.

Rasmussen and his CFR sponsors are far from being oblivious to the inflammatory character of his statements. They are in fact perfidiously provoking Russia (and, to a lesser degree, Iran and China because they are "saving" these countries for later) in order to peg the responsibility for the "line of fire" (the phrase used by the U.S. secretary of state John Kerry) in East-Central Europe and Central Asia on the recent Russian activities. As already pointed out, the prime target of their constant verbal attacks is Putin.

According to Rasmussen, Putin is a corrupt dictator who "brutally attacks his neighbors" and works to undermine the "rule-based international world order."[11] The fact that NATO itself undermined the U.N. Charter and the U.S. Constitution, and hence the "rule-based international order" so dear to Rasmussen, by its military attack on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999, when Putin was still a relative unknown in the Russian political circles, is conveniently swept under the rug. It does not fit the narrative that NATO is a moral force for peace, democracy, and human rights.

In the worldview of those who advocate U.S. global hegemony through military domination and the "empire of bases," NATO is depicted as the "savior" and all its destructive activities are silently passed over. In the mid-to-long term, these activities are ideologically justified, minimized, or even filtered out completely in "scientific" research articles and history books by the geopolitically sympathetic, but corrupt academics.

In this respect, it is particularly revealing to note what Rasmussen writes about Libya, the relatively prosperous state brutally wiped off the map by NATO bombs and turned into a safe haven for head-chopping extremists. Referring to Libya, Rasmussen suddenly become strictly factual. He says that "in North Africa, Libya has collapsed and become a breeding ground for terrorists."[12] He provides absolutely no analysis as to why and how this happened. He makes it seem like a natural catastrophe. Out of the blue, the state collapsed and terrorists just moved in.

Most of Rasmussen's arguments are as infantile as this one and yet, on October 3, 2016, he was invited to present his book at Harvard University.[13] The championing of the U.S. hegemonic agenda, while, at the same time, seriously eroding the space for its critics, shows the near complete capture of the premier institutions of the U.S. higher education by the military-industrial-intelligence complex. Disrespect for other world's cultures and traditions and the overall "dumbing down" of the American society are the obvious consequences.

From the perspective of the U.S. global hegemonists, even a perfectly rational suggestion by Putin is made to sound like a war crime. Rasmussen tells of a meeting with Putin in 2009 when the latter said to him: "After the Cold War, we dissolved the Warsaw Pact. Similarly, you should dissolve NATO. That is a relic of the Cold War."[14] Rasmussen almost fell off his chair when he heard this because, for him, NATO is the "holy of holies" that nobody is supposed to come near and criticize, let alone call for its dissolution. And yet, what he and others from his ideological camp consider the "holy of holies" is none other than the dark god of death that every day brings the world closer to a nuclear apocalypse.

# # # #

Dr. Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud-BFP Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

***Newsbud Phase Two Campaign has launched! Please join our effort and support this one of a kind people funded media with integrity with your pledge. Thank you!

Notes

[1] http://www.vijesti.me/vijesti/rasmusen-dosao-da-podrzi-opstanak-autoritarnog-rezima-211868

[2] https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2004/04/denm-a24.html

[3] https://sputniknews.com/politics/201607141042953359-denmark-iraq-chilcot-rasmussen/

[4]http://www.ukrinform.ua/ukr/news/poroshenko_nadihnuv_rasmussena_na_podalshu_borotbu_za_svobodu_1961975

[5] http://www.rasmussenglobal.com

[6] https://www.sott.net/article/290303-SOTT-Exclusive-A-force-for-War-Anders-Fogh-Rasmussen-in-and-out-of-NATO

[7] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-11/bet-on-biofuels-not-russian-gas-former-nato-chief-tells-eu

[8] http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/progress-on-ukraine-reforms-can-boost-case-for-russia-sanctions---rasmussen/42186780

[9] Ibid.

[10] http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-united-states-must-be-the-worlds-policeman-1474412665

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/events/7133/will_to_lead.html

[14] http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-united-states-must-be-the-worlds-policeman-1474412665

 

The Clash of Patriarchs: Kirill I, Bartholomew I & the Future of the Orthodox Church

Just a few months after he was enthroned as the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia in February 2009, Kirill I travelled to Istanbul to meet with Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarch, historically the "first among equals" in the Orthodox Church hierarchy.

A mere six years older than Kirill, Bartholomew has held this prestigious position since 1991, the beginning of his tenure strangely coinciding with the break-up of the Soviet Union. An ethnic Greek born on the Turkish island of Gökçeada (called Imbros until 1970), Bartholomew spent much of his life in the West. He studied in Italy, Switzerland, and Germany, and served as the metropolitan of Philadelphia from 1972 to 1990.[1] Over the years, Bartholomew's political statements and actions have mirrored so closely the U.S. and NATO global geopolitical agenda that, as a result, he was fêted everywhere he went in the West. He received numerous honorary doctorates (in the U.S., at both Georgetown and Yale) and distinguished awards, including the Congressional Gold Medal, which, in addition to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is the highest U.S. civilian award.

To make it seem as if they had the top leadership of the Orthodox Christianity in their imperial camp, the U.S. mainstream media has routinely referred to Bartholomew as the "leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians." This designation is both de facto and de jure inaccurate because close to the two thirds of these 300 million live in Russia and ex-Soviet states and are under the direct jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Kirill. This fact obviously does not fit the narrative of the hegemonic Pax Americana being warmly embraced across all Orthodox regions and, as such, had to be censored by the mainstream media controllers.

In addition, there has been a long-term effort in the U.S. to make Bartholomew a statesman-type celebrity figure, the equivalent of an Orthodox "pope." For example, he was a guest interviewee in the well-known CBS show "60 Minutes"[2] and the New York Times wrote about him in laudatory terms.[3] However, all along, he has been nothing more than a pliable religious figure who accepted the role accorded to him by the Western Establishment in exchange for political and personal privileges. As the relations between the West and Russia began to deteriorate in the mid-2000s, it appeared certain that Bartholomew would be increasingly "instrumentalized" by the emerging anti-Russian "war party" both in the U.S. and in Europe.

Bartholomew and Kirill

The prevention of precisely such a scenario seems to have been one of the most significant reasons for Kirill's visit to Istanbul in July 2009. The official statements made after the meeting sounded conciliatory enough. Bartholomew for instance spoke of the necessity of sending to "the pages of history, "clouds [which] have temporarily overshadowed ties between the brethren churches." Kirill, in his turn, called for "a unified Orthodox response to the challenges of our time."[4] However, significant disputes remained unresolved, one of which, regarding the status of the various contesting factions of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, has acquired even more prominence recently with the eruption of violent conflict in the Donbass region. One of the factions, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate, not recognized by the Moscow Patriarchate but courting recognition from Bartholomew, was sharply critical of the alleged Russian involvement. Its leader Patriarch Filaret compared Putin to Cain and claimed that Putin was acting under the influence of Satan.[5]

In another attempt to resolve their differences, Kirill and Bartholomew met in Moscow in May 2010. This time they met under the auspices of Dmitry Medvedev who was then the president of Russia, while Putin was the prime minister. Medvedev, who generally followed a more liberal Western-leaning political course than Putin did in his second presidential mandate (2004-2008), was interested in making lasting peace with Bartholomew and perhaps bringing him on to the Russian side. He stated that the "strengthening of the dialogue ... between two sister churches is .... especially important for Russia."[6] The same sentiment was echoed by Patriarch Kirill who once again insisted on the unity of the Orthodox Church. "We, all Orthodox churches, local Orthodox churches, are parts of one church: we belong to this single church: that is the right orthodox ecclesiology: there is only one Orthodox Church," Kirill said.

Bartholomew, however, was not swayed. He rejected Medvedev's and Kirill's pleas for the equality of all local Orthodox churches and for the politics of compromise in forming the unified Orthodox front. The role he had been assigned by the Western centers of power was to insist on his ultimate authority over all other patriarchs, because this meant the existence of permanent discord, which is in line with the long-term Western imperialist strategy of divide et impera in Eastern Europe and beyond. And so, as required by this script, Bartholomew prefaced his remarks with "we as the mother church,"[7]  emphasizing his supposed primacy. It was clear that no inter-Orthodox reconciliation was to be expected any time soon.

Who is the Pope's Best Friend?

The rivalry between Bartholomew and Kirill only intensified over time. It soon spilled into their relations with other religious leaders and the most globally prominent among them, the Pope. Considering that he was enthroned as the patriarch in 1991, Bartholomew has had very long and cordial relations with various popes. He met with Pope John Paul II no less than four times.[8] During their last meeting in November 2004, John Paul II returned to Bartholomew the relics of two very important figures in the history of Christianity, St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian, brought to Rome in the Middle Ages. This was interpreted as a significant step toward closer cooperation between the Western and Eastern branches of once unified Christianity.

It is important to note that in this way, just like the U.S. mainstream media, John Paul II constructed the public image of Bartholomew as his equal on the Orthodox side. It is likely that John Paul II, a native of Poland, also had other political and personal reasons for doing. He had always conceived his life-long theological opponent, the Russian Orthodox Church, as being under the control of the Russian intelligence community and serving the geopolitical goals of the Russian state, whether Communist or not.

After John Paul II passed away in April 2005, Bartholomew continued the same type of relations with his successors, Benedict XVI and Francis I. He even attended the inaugural mass of Pope Francis in March 2013.[9] The two of them have so far signed three joint declarations, the most recent being in April 2016 on the Greek island of Lesvos, calling on the international community, both in the West and the East, to address the tremendous and traumatic suffering of the refugees from the Middle East and Central Asia.[10]

However, the meeting on Lesvos took place under the shadow of Pope Francis's earlier, February 2016 meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Havana, Cuba. This was the first time in history that the pope met with the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. "Finally, brother" were the words with which Francis greeted Kirill.[11] This was a great breakthrough for the Russian Orthodox Church diplomacy and positioned it as a much more formidable rival to Bartholomew for the primacy in the Orthodox world than ever before. In fact, some observers claimed that this, in fact, was the main reason Francis also met with Bartholomew shortly afterwards.

The Pan-Orthodox Summit in Crete

Bartholomew's and Kirill's recent meetings with the pope were, in my opinion, attempts to rally domestic and international support for setting the agenda at another unique event in the history of the Orthodox Christianity, the Pan-Orthodox Council, the gathering of all universally recognized national Orthodox churches, which has not convened for more than 1,000 years. Initially scheduled to take place in Istanbul, it was moved to the Greek island of Crete (most likely for security reasons) and scheduled for mid-June 2016.

However, the rhetoric between the Patriarchate of Moscow and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, ultimately grounded in the different geopolitical commitments of their leaders, increasingly sharpened and the Russian Orthodox Church, together with three allied churches, the Bulgarian, the Georgian, and the Antiochian Orthodox Churches, decided to pull out of the meeting altogether.[12] The Serbian Orthodox Church vacillated until the last moment, but ultimately decided to attend, which can be seen as a victory of those who are closer to the pro-Western as opposed to the pro-Russian factions with the church. In the end, only 10 out of 14 recognized Orthodox churches participated in the work of the Council, making its deliberations and decisions invalid for most of the Orthodox world represented by the Russian Orthodox Church. In other words, those who have worked against the "united Orthodox front" called for by Patriarch Kirill had a reason to rejoice once again.

Bartholomew and Fethullah Gülen?

Not long after the conclusion of the Council, on July 15, 2016, a coup d'état was attempted against the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but was unsuccessful in attaining its objectives. Erdoğan accused the exiled cleric Fethullah Güllen and his network in Turkey and abroad for the planning and organization of the coup attempt. A few weeks later, an article entitled "Will Ankara Take Aim at Patriarch Bartholomew?" appeared in the online journal Oriental Review, an independent Moscow-based geopolitical publication.[13] It was signed by a retired U.S. ambassador and high-level State and Defense department official Arthur Hughes and chronicled the history of good relations between Güllen and Bartholomew.[14] The article implied that Bartholomew supported the coup-plotters and that therefore should be sanctioned (perhaps even exiled) by Turkey. Obviously, that would spell the end of his influence in the Orthodox world.

Soon, however, Hughes wrote to the editor of Oriental Review as well as to the various U.S. media outlets, denying the authorship of the article and calling it "a total fabrication."[15] He also refused to speculate as to who could have submitted the article under his name, claiming that he has "no experience or involvement in Turkish matters nor matters of the [Orthodox] Church." Well, the least that can be said is that Hughes must have had at least some involvement in "Turkish affairs" considering that he served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs in the 1990s.[16]

Be that as it may (and intelligence agencies have long been known for planting articles under the names of living, dead, or non-existing individuals), the claims of this article go directly in favor of Patriarch Kirill's positions. The fact that it was first published in Russia also raises suspicions. However, the links of friendship and cooperation between Bartholomew and Güllen can hardly be denied. After all, when asked in 2012 about Güllen's possible return to Turkey, Bartholomew replied: "We really love him. We hope he comes back soon."[17]

All this shows that the struggle for the institutional control over the future direction of the Orthodox Church, driven by rival geopolitical agendas, is picking up steam. Although Patriarch Bartholomew has had the upper hand for a long time, Patriarch Kirill's efforts should not be underestimated.

# # # #

Dr. Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud-BFP Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] https://www.patriarchate.org/biography

[2] http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/the-patriarch-bartholomew/?lumiereId=50081185&videoId=673079b8-8bdf-11e2-9400- 029118418759&cbsId=6001717&site=cbsnews

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/04/science/bartholomew-i-of-constantinoples-bold-green-stance.html

[4] http://incommunion.org/2010/01/10/news-fall-2009-2/

[5] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ukrainian-church-leader-likens-putin-to-cain-and-says-he-is-under-the-influence-of-satan-9716344.html

[6] http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/7851

[7] Ibid.

[8] https://www.apostolicpilgrimage.org/meetings-of-popes-patriarchs

[9] Ibid.

[10] https://www.patriarchate.org/common-declarations-between-popes-and-ecumenical-patriarchs/-/asset_publisher/mQachZJu0upV/content/joint-declaration-by-pope-francis-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-and-archbishop-ieronymos-ii-16-04-2016 ?inheritRedirect=false&redirect=https%3A%2F%2F www.patriarchate.org%2Fcommon-declarations-between-popes-and-ecumenical  patriarchs%3Fp_p_id%3D101_INSTANCE_mQachZJu0upV%26p_p_lifecycle%3D0%26p_p_state%3Dnormal%26p_p_mode%3Dview%26p_p_col_id%3Dcolumn-1%26p_p_col_count%3D1

[11] http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-pope-cuba-20160212-story.html

[12] http://interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=13017

[13] http://orientalreview.org/about/

[14] http://www.therussophile.org/does-turkey-need-patriarch-bartholomew.html/#forward#forward

[15] http://www.thenationalherald.com/135565/ambassador-hughes-denies-authorship-of-fabricated-article-against-patriarch-bartholomew/

[16] http://www.adst.org/OH%20TOCs/Hughes,%20Arthur%20H.toc.pdf

[17] http://hizmetnews.com/518/freedom-award-recipient-bartholomew-praises-gulens-peace-efforts/#.V_L_taQVA5s

 

Why Did the Russian Spies Get a New Boss?

Russia in preparation of a much more hostile relations with the U.S. & NATO in the coming period

The resounding victory of Putin-supported United Russia party in the September 18, 2016 parliamentary elections in which it won 343 out of 450 seats, helped greatly by the changes in the electoral system, will set the stage for the massive transformation of the Russian political system. United Russia, headed by the Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, now has enough votes to single-handedly change the Russian constitution, written under the U.S. tutelage in the 1990s. There is no doubt that it will soon avail itself of this power, further centralizing the Russian state apparatus and making its activities more prominent in all areas of social and economic life of the country.

While constitutional changes will probably take some time, personnel changes at the pinnacle of political power in Russia are already taking place. Just a few days after the Central Electoral Commission announced the election results, Putin had a meeting with Sergey Naryshkin, the speaker of the Russian Parliament since the last election in December 2011, and Mikhail Fradkov, the former Russian prime minister who has led the Russian External Intelligence Agency, better known in the West through its Russian acronym SVR, since October 2007. At this meeting, Putin announced that he was offering Naryshkin the position of the new SVR chief, while Fradkov would assume the position of the chairman of the board of the Russian Railroads, one of the biggest state-controlled companies in Russia.[1]

This move was no surprise. The rumor of the possible replacement of Fradkov by Naryshkin was circulated as far back as 2010 when the Russian spy activities suffered what the U.S. intelligence community considered a serious blow. In June 2010, the FBI rounded up and arrested a group of alleged Russian spies, known in the intelligence world as "illegals," since they operated without any official cover.[2] These individuals came from various walks of life and worked hard to present themselves as ordinary U.S. residents. One of them, Anna Chapman, gained international media fame as the result of the arrest and later became a celebrity in Russia with her own TV show.[3] Chapman and others (including Cynthia Murphy who allegedly developed a source close to Hillary Clinton)[4] escaped punitive sanctions by being exchanged for the Russians convicted of spying for the U.S. The scandal died down and Fradkov kept his position.

However, since 2010, the Western intelligence intrigues directed against Russia as well as the Russian counter-intrigues have proliferated and become much more elaborate and complex. Just like during the Cold War, Russia once again came to be labeled by the U.S. military-intelligence complex as the "main adversary." After nine years at the SVR helm, and allegedly plagued by poor health,[5] it appears likely that Fradkov himself wanted to withdraw from the intelligence business and, by taking the prestigious position of the chairman of the Russian Railroads, ease his way into retirement.

I think that the reports claiming that he was fired by Putin for overly optimistic intelligence estimates and operational blunders are not accurate.[6] The recent string of Russian overt and covert interventions not only in Syria and Ukraine, but also throughout Eastern Europe and Eurasia, which have no doubt been made possible, at least in part, by the efforts and assistance of the SVR operatives, have been largely successful. Overall, neither Putin nor Fradkov have any significant reasons to be dissatisfied with Fradkov's SVR leadership.

As to Fradkov's successor Naryshkin, it first must be pointed out that he is no stranger to the intelligence work. Even though he has been very reluctant to admit any intelligence connections publicly, the most recent example being his first TV interview after the announcement of the appointment,[7] it is well-known that he completed a KGB academy in St. Petersburg in the 1970s where he was likely a colleague and friend of Putin.[8] His career path also mirrors Putin's in that he was placed outside of the USSR. While Putin's position was in Dresden, East Germany, Naryshkin was sent to the Soviet Embassy in Brussels (the seat of NATO and the EU) in the late 1980s. Considering the importance of this location, it is clear that, just like Putin, Naryshkin belonged to the generation of the mid-level Soviet intelligence operatives who, instead of defending the system as they were supposed to, were forced to deal with the consequences of its demise due to the betrayal of their superiors. Still, just like many other former intelligence officers who later became involved in Russian politics, Naryshkin used his skills and connections to ride the wave of controversial privatizations of the state property successfully and became a very wealthy person in the process. His personal blog, filled with high quality photographs in luxurious settings, testifies that he is among the small minority of individuals who could be considered the main winners of the Russian "transition" to neoliberal market economy, which brought ruin, misery, and death to millions of ordinary Russians.[9]

The blog also presents Naryshkin as a successful academic with a PhD in economics, specializing in the area of foreign direct investment in Russia. He is the author of five books and almost fifty academic publications. In addition to economics, Naryshkin has an academic interest in Russian history and chairs the Russian Historical Society. In fact, in the TV interview cited above, he spoke about the possibility of opening certain SVR archives to historians in order to chronicle the successes of the Russian intelligence agencies.

However, some analysts are doubtful that Naryshkin's academic star is as bright as he wants to make it. The research organization "Dissernet" which has investigated many academic theses written by Russian politicians claimed for instance that 40 percent of his dissertation has been plagiarized.[10] Naryshkin denied the claim but did not pursue any legal action against the "Dissernet."

As already pointed out, Naryshkin led the Russian Parliament [the State Duma] for five years. This period was perhaps the most challenging in the post-Soviet Duma's history. The annexation of Crimea (which the Russians call the re-unification) and the subsequent economic sanctions and political isolation, including the suspension of the Russian parliamentary delegation from the Council of Europe, have placed the Duma in the uncharted and troubled waters. Naryshkin himself is under the sanctions regime and is formally banned from entering the U.S. and the EU, which may make the meetings with his Western counterparts difficult.

At the same time, the Duma under Naryshkin retaliated against the Western policies by passing laws intended to defend Russia from foreign meddling in its internal affairs, which the critics interpreted as imposing restrictions on basic democratic freedoms. This trend will no doubt continue under Naryshkin's successor. However, the fact remains that it was Naryshkin who made the Duma more assertive on the Russian and international political scene. The Duma's growing media visibility and the increased involvement in the foreign policy making process contributed to Naryshkin's being perceived as a successful leader and administrator.

It is likely that, coming on top of Naryshkin's intelligence background and their long-time friendship, this perceived success in leading the Duma under difficult conditions, led Putin to offer him the top position in the SVR. The SVR is the chief Russian intelligence actor abroad, even though the FSB [the rough equivalent of the U.S. FBI] has also been granted legal authority to conduct operations beyond the Russian borders. In addition, the Russian military has its own foreign intelligence service - the GRU -, considered to be more conservative and "Eurasianist" than the KGB successors, the SVR and the FSB.

It is well-known that the rivalry between the GRU and KGB marked the entire Soviet era and there are indications that it continues into the present. It is worth pointing out that the GRU also underwent the leadership change this year after a sudden death of its chief Igor Sergun under what some have claimed to be "mysterious circumstances" in the Middle East.[11] The official narrative, however, asserts that Sergun died of a heart attack in Moscow on January 3, 2016.[12] He was succeeded by his deputy Igor Korobov which signaled no change in the overall policy direction.[13]

It is not clear whether Naryshkin will able to smooth over the decades-old jurisdictional and ideological disputes between the Russian civilian and military intelligence operatives. However, there is no doubt that in running the SVR, he will carry out Putin's directives to the letter. This might even mean throwing his support behind the merger of the SVR with other civilian intelligence agencies under the centralized ministry of state security, the rumors of which were recently reported by the liberal Russian daily newspaper "Kommersant."[14] This move would in fact be consistent with Russia's preparing for a much more hostile relations with the U.S. and NATO in the coming period.

# # # #

Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud-BFP Analyst, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/52948

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jul/12/anna-chapman-call-father-fbi-spy-arrests

[3] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ex-sleeper-spy-anna-chapman-gets-tv-show-in-russia/

[4] http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/russian-fem-spy-cynthia-murphy-spooked-us/story?id=16061957

[5] https://slon.ru/posts/73868

[6] http://politikus.ru/articles/84442-naryshkinu-v-svr-pridetsya-koe-chto-ispravit.html

[7] http://www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=2802539

[8] https://www.gazeta.ru/politics/2016/09/22_a_10210121.shtml

[9] http://www.sergeynaryshkin.ru/

[10] http://en.news-4-u.ru/in-the-thesis-of-the-speaker-of-the-state-duma-naryshkin-found-40-of-plagiarism.html ; http://wiki.dissernet.org/wsave/NaryshkinSE2010.html

[11] https://www.stratfor.com/geopolitical-diary/mysterious-death-raises-questions-russia

[12] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35226131

[13] http://www.rferl.org/a/russia-putin-korobov-new-gru-chief-military-intelligence/27528279.html

[14] http://www.voanews.com/a/russia-kremlin-to-revive-kgb-style-security-behemoth/3522571.html

The Leaked Montenegrin Government Files: Part II – the U.S. Agents of Influence within the German Government

The Agents of the Anti-Russian U.S. "War Party" in Europe

In the previous installment of my analysis of the leaked Montenegrin government files, I discussed the U.S. visit of Igor Lukšić, who was then the minister of foreign affairs of Montenegro, and his meetings with Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, Charles (Charlie) Kupchan, a presidential advisor and director for Europe in the National Security Council, and three U.S. senators: John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services committee, Ron Johnson, chairman of the subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, and Christopher Murphy, vice-chairman of the same subcommittee.[1] Based on the confidential report of their conversations with Lukšić compiled by the Embassy of Montenegro in Washington, DC, I was able to show that there exists a significant rift within NATO as to whether the further expansion of the alliance is a good idea.

It is also interesting to note that the most revealing statements on this matter were made by the president Obama's advisor Kupchan. In fact, it was he who recommended to Lukšić to meet and closely consult with Christoph Heusgen, the advisor to the German chancellor Angela Merkel for foreign and security policy, during his upcoming visit to Berlin. In this way, in my opinion, Kupchan signaled that Heusgen was one of the key U.S. agents of influence placed in the top echelon of the German government and therefore a trusted aide in sustaining and furthering the U.S. geopolitical agenda in Europe, especially its aggressive, militaristic stance toward Russia. And, indeed, as I will show, the leaked confidential report of Lukšić's visit to Berlin, written by the officials at the Embassy of Montenegro in Berlin, bears this out.

Lukšić visited Berlin on March 24, 2015, about ten days after his visit to the U.S. He first met with the German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Steinmeier became the foreign minister of Germany in December 2013 as the result of the grand coalition between the two largest German political parties, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). While CDU's Angela Merkel kept her job as the chancellor, Steinmeier,  as the SPD leader, became the foreign minister. He was also a foreign minister in the earlier grand coalition arrangement from 2005 to 2009 and a vice-chancellor from 2007 to 2009.

What is very curious is that in the last few years, since the eruption of the Ukrainian crisis, Steinmeier has positioned himself in the public eye as the supporter of a less hardline approach toward Russia. He was for instance one of the key advocates of the Minsk Accords I-II, which he negotiated together with the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, and which probably offer the only realistic chance of putting an end to the conflict in Ukraine.[2] In addition, he has travelled to Russia frequently and met with the Russian president Vladimir Putin.[3] And yet, according to the leaked report, during the meeting with Lukšić, there were several instances where Steinmeier expressed a clear hostility toward Russia and the Russian influence in the Balkans.

First, Steinmeier stated that he was pleased with Montenegro in its ability to remain consistent in its foreign policy toward Russia (that is to say, in sustaining the anti-Russian policies, such as the economic sanctions and critical political rhetoric), even though it had found itself under the intense Russian pressure. He claimed that Russia was actively engaged in vastly expanding its influence in the Balkans and inquired whether Lukšić could describe the concrete cases of the Russian activities in Montenegro.

Lukšić appeared eager to comply and pointed out the presence of what he referred to as "the Russian propaganda" for which he accused certain opposition parties, non-governmental organizations, and the Serbian Orthodox Church. He stated that it was this Russian-financed "propaganda" which was responsible for low public support for NATO membership of Montenegro, as if the citizens of Montenegro had not been highly critical of NATO, even before the re-shaping of the Russian foreign and security policy under Putin. This attempt of Lukšić to ascribe the legitimate civic concerns to foreign manipulation was condemned by many Montenegrin public figures after the report was leaked to the press and led to a lawsuit against him by the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro (MNMNE), which is still ongoing.[4]

Lukšić also tried to assuage Steinmeier's fears about the Russian economic influence in Montenegro by claiming that after the sanctions were put in place, the volume of economic activity had drastically fallen and that the Russians were now generally present only as tourists. Even the number of Russian tourists was declining, Lukšić added (most likely with enthusiasm in his voice), as if this was a good thing and not a serious problem for the Montenegrin budget. This is yet another example of how ideological commitment to the "Euro-Atlantic" [NATO] agenda by the corrupt Montenegrin ruling class, to which Lukšić belongs, goes directly against the vital economic interests of the Montenegrin citizens.

Lukšić's next meeting in Berlin was with Christoph Heusgen, Angela Merkel's advisor, for whom, as I pointed out earlier, there is a strong reason to believe that he is more willing to serve the U.S. hegemonic foreign policy goals in Europe than the national interest of the government he is supposed to be advising. The national interest of Germany is economic cooperation and political detente with Russia, and not antagonistic relations pushed for by the NATO political and military figures and the "war party" in Washington, DC, which includes the members of both the Republican and Democrat political establishments and is ideologically legitimized by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Atlantic Council. The German-Russian animosities have proven disastrous for Germany not once, but twice during the last century and any repetition of hostility would lead to the same tragic outcome.

Heusgen, however, seemed indifferent to the abyss into which the further confrontation with Russia may push Germany, and, in his conversation with Lukšić, he displayed a sharp anti-Russian tone. He demanded to know whether any Montenegrin top officials would attend the Victory Day parade in Moscow scheduled to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of the WWII in Europe. As I have written at the time, there was a concerted effort on the part of the U.S.-NATO circles to make sure that no European head of state or government accepted Putin's invitation in order to deepen the isolation of Russia from the international community.[5] This effort was largely successful and the only European states that sent their top officials to attend the parade were Serbia and Macedonia.

Lukšić replied to Heusgen that the final decision about the parade had not been made yet, but took Heusgen's hint so seriously that not long after his return to Montenegro, the president Filip Vujanović announced that he would in fact not attend the parade, even though he had already accepted the invitation. This sudden U-turn created a diplomatic scandal as the Russian ambassador to Montenegro Andrei Nesterenko publicly expressed his surprise, underscoring the pitiful lack of independence in the Montenegrin leadership's decision making.[6]

Heusgen also told Lukšić that Germany would strongly support a positive decision on the invitation to Montenegro to join NATO at the meeting of NATO foreign ministers in December 2015. In fact, he promised that Germany would lobby for the Montenegrin cause among those NATO member states which have publicly stated their reluctance to vote for further expansion, such as France. In addition, Heusgen demonstrated very sophisticated knowledge of the U.S. domestic political process (no doubt due to his close cooperation with Obama's advisor Kupchan) in that he claimed that it would make it easier for the U.S. if the invitation was issued at this meeting rather than at the 2016 NATO Summit in Warsaw, because NATO expansion with just one country (and as small as Montenegro) would be "a difficult sell" in the U.S. Congress. Needless to say, this shows a high degree of conspiratorial non-transparency with the intention to mislead the legitimate representatives of the American people by those political forces whose grand geopolitical design is the militaristic encirclement of Russia.

Moreover, Heusgen promised Lukšić the German logistical and financial assistance in confronting what, based on Lukšić's complaints, he perceived as the Russian influence in the Montenegrin political life. The primary focus of these activities was to be directed at raising the public support for NATO membership (which hovers around 30 percent) as well as supporting the various pro-NATO media outlets and organizations. In fact, it was precisely this type of foreign money infusion that has enabled the pro-NATO camp to stay afloat in Montenegro all these years, considering that NATO membership has no internal grounding or domestic legitimacy in the vast segments of the Montenegrin population.

In conclusion, one can say that this leaked Montenegrin government report has revealed the full extent to which both the German foreign minister Steinmeier and the top Merkel's advisor Heusgen, contrary to their public appearance and rhetoric, have been willing to act as the agents of the anti-Russian U.S. "war party" in Europe. This is a serious matter that needs to be taken into consideration not only by the German people whose representatives they purport to be, but also by the citizens of other EU nations, considering that similar agents of influence operate within their political elites as well. Without the timely discovery and political replacement of these individuals, another big-scale war in Europe may be around the corner.

# # # #

Dr. Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud-BFP Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2016/09/14/the-leaked-montenegrin-government-files-part-i-a-rift-within-nato-confirmed/

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ukraine/11408266/Minsk-agreement-on-Ukraine-crisis-text-in-full.html

[3] https://sputniknews.com/politics/20160323/1036804101/kremlin-steinmeier-putin-meeting.html

[4] http://mondo.me/a446827/Info/Crna-Gora/Pokret-za-neutralnost-tuzi-MVPEI-i-Luksica.htm l

[5] http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2015/04/17/bfp-exclusive-guess-whos-coming-to-the-moscow-parade/

[6] http://www.cdm.me/politika/nesterenko-vujanovic-prvo-potvrdio-dolazak-u-moskvu-pa-se-predomislio

 

The Leaked Montenegrin Government Files: Part I- A Rift Within NATO Confirmed

In April 2015, Marko Milačić, a well-known Montenegrin journalist and then the director of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro, obtained a set of confidential Montenegrin government files focusing on the issues surrounding Montenegro's membership in NATO.[i] While the leaking of these files caused quite a commotion within the corrupt Montenegrin ruling circles and was widely reported in the Montenegrin media, not much of the scandal trickled down into the international arena. The actual content of the files has remained virtually unknown to the English-speaking audience, even though they contain very important insider's view of the functioning of the U.S., European, and NATO institutions as well as the private thinking of several political figures in the key leadership positions.

I have set out to remedy this situation as I have recently received the files from Milačić. I plan to present and discuss their content in the series of articles of which this is the first one. This is the first time that the files are analyzed in detail in English.

There is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the files because they contain the government filing numbers, the official government stamp, and the signatures of the relevant officials. In addition, as soon as the Montenegrin daily newspaper Dan began publishing news reports on the files, the government launched an in-depth investigation and threatened heavy sanctions against those who leaked the files.[ii] However, the investigation led nowhere and, remaining true to journalistic ethics and professionalism even under intense pressure, Milačić never revealed the name(s) of his source(s).

The U.S. Visit of the Top Montenegrin Official

In this article, I will focus on the report chronicling the U.S. visit of Igor Lukšić, who at that time was the deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. Lukšić has been one of the highest officials in the government of Montenegro for more than a decade. He was a prime minister from December 2010 to December 2012 and many considered him the political and ideological heir to the long-time authoritarian leader Milo Djukanović. However, it appears that Djukanović has recently changed his mind and Lukšić resigned all his government posts in April 2016.

As a consolation prize, Djukanović chose Lukšić to be the Montenegrin candidate for the post of the U.N. Secretary General, which, according to the informal U.N. rules, this time around is supposed to go to the candidate from East-Central Europe. However, just as I have predicted in a January 2016 article,[iii] Lukšić had no chances of getting selected whatsoever. In August 2016, he unceremoniously quit the race because he ended up at the bottom of the list during the latest U.N. Security Council straw poll.[iv] In other words, Lukšić simply wasted the Montenegrin taxpayers' hard-earned currency to feed his bloated self-esteem and reckless narcissism. All people of good will should hope that he will be held responsible for his profligacy once the corrupt Djukanović regime is thrown into the dustbin of history.

However, in March 2015, when he visited the U.S., Lukšić was still perceived and greeted by the U.S. policy makers as one of the key political decision makers in Montenegro. According to the leaked report, he met with Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, and Charles (Charlie) Kupchan, a presidential advisor and director for Europe in the National Security Council. Lukšić also met with senators John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services commitee, Ron Johnson, chairman of the subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, and Christopher Murphy, vice-chairman of the same subcommittee.

Lukšić's first meeting was with Victoria Nuland at the State Department. He delivered Nuland "a non-paper" (a non-official document that nonetheless provides accurate description of the given issue and serves as the basis of discussion) regarding the measures undertaken by the Montenegrin government in order to make the country more in line with NATO "standards". Lukšić emphasized that Montenegro was making great strides in becoming a full-fledged democracy and painted a rosy picture of the government's activities. He stated that the percentage of those who support NATO membership was 38 percent, whereas, at the same time, the government officials in Montenegro were claiming in the local media that the support was over 50 percent. This shows to what extent the Montenegrin officials have been willing to deceive and manipulate their own citizens in order to push NATO agenda forward. Even the figure of 38 percent in support of NATO membership can be disputed when the polling methodologies of various public opinion research companies, hired by the Montenegrin government, are closely examined.

Lukšić expressed the concern that the government of Montenegro had regarding the March 2015 statement of the French president François Holland that NATO would not be admitting new member states any more,[v] but claimed that the French Embassy in Podgorica and other "NATO allies" assured the government that Holland did not think of Montenegro, but of other possible candidates. In truth, however, it is far from clear whether or not Holland referred to Montenegro, which, if he did, would reveal the existence of a rift among NATO allies on the issue of further expansion. As I will show shortly, this rift truly exists as Lukšić's later meeting with Obama's advisor Charlie Kupchan proves beyond reasonable doubt.

Lukšić "informed" Nuland that he would soon be meeting with the German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and that he hoped to receive the full support for the Montenegrin NATO membership from him. He praised the activities of the German ambassador in Podgorica who publicly stated that Holland's statement did not refer to Montenegro. As was pointed out by some Montenegrin analysts at the time, in this way, the German ambassador Gudrun Steinacker violated the basic rules of diplomacy in that she publicly interpreted the speech of the president of another country, whereas the ambassador of the country in question made no comment.[vi] Her actions exposed the extent to which NATO agitators are willing to degrade and destroy any formal and informal international norms in order to make their ideological narrative seem invincible in the public eye. They are committed to keeping up the appearance that NATO is a harmoniously functioning organization with no internal problems, at any cost, no matter how hypocritical and deceitful their statements truly are.

Nuland was obviously happy to hear from Lukšić about the positive developments on the NATO-Montenegro front. She praised the activities of the Montenegrin government, even though it is, by objective standards, one of the most corrupt governments in East-Central Europe. She promised the help of the State Department in getting Montenegro into NATO, knowing full well (even from Lukšić's manipulative non-paper) that the majority of the Montenegrin population are against it. Curiously, however, she stated that the Department would not "press Obama too heavily" on this issue before the end of the year [2015]. This means that even within the Obama administration, some officials may have had second thoughts on the wisdom of further NATO expansion, including perhaps the president himself.

The second meeting Lukšić had in Washington, DC, the meeting with Charlie Kupchan of the National Security Council, was much more revealing than the meeting with Nuland. Kupchan also received the same non-paper from Lukšić, but elaborated more extensively on the issue of Montenegro's NATO membership. He bluntly stated that the crisis in Ukraine "divided NATO into two camps", which he interpreted as a very negative development. According to the first-hand information he had, one camp wanted to proceed with NATO expansion no matter what, while the other camp was more sympathetic to the Russian concerns. This camp, and one can safely include France and Italy (and perhaps also Slovakia and the Czech Republic) in it, claimed that expanding NATO would unnecessarily provoke Russia and therefore both short and long-term costs of expansion would outweigh the benefits. Their opponents, and one can include here Poland, Romania, and the Baltic states, argued that this reasoning gave too much power to Russia and therefore should be rejected as too apologetic and cowardly. Kupchan claimed that  the U.S. would side with this point of view and expected it to prevail in the end. Be that as it may, his statement represents no less than a full confirmation by a high-level U.S. official that NATO is being slowly, but irrevocably split by the aggressive anti-Russian orientation of some of its members and that therefore its inner disintegration has already begun.

If we now take into consideration that the crisis in Ukraine shows no signs of dying down, it is to be expected that these frictions and antagonisms will grow and eventually spill into the open. At the same time, it is also clear that the war-mongering party within NATO will do all it can, using the intelligence and other networks at its disposal, to bring into line the disobedient governments, such as the French, and make them comply. We may therefore expect to see more violent incidents in France and other NATO dissenters in the near future.

During the rest of the trip, Lukšić met with three U.S. senators. Senator John McCain has been one of the most vocal advocates for the Montenegrin NATO membership in the U.S. Congress. He himself visited Montenegro twice and celebrated his 70th birthday there, on board of a multi-million dollar yacht owned by the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who married Yeltsin's grand-daughter and is a good friend of the youngest Rotschild, Nathaniel. I have previously written in detail about their relations.[vii] Every high-level Montenegrin official visiting the U.S. met with McCain and received high praises for him, notwithstanding the government's dismal record in the areas of the rule of law and human rights. This goes to show to what degree McCain is really interested in the forward march of democracy in the world as opposed to the implementation of a U.S. hegemonic agenda and the profits of the military-industrial-intelligence complex. McCain told Lukšić that Montenegro "might unfortunately have to wait for another U.S. president to enter NATO," which again shows that there may be some disagreement at the top of the Obama administration about NATO expansion.

The other two senators, Ron Johnson and Christopher Murphy, repeated the same platitudes about the Montenegrin democracy as McCain, all the while emphasizing the importance of Montenegro's NATO membership not only for the U.S. geopolitical agenda in the Balkans, but also in the Mediterranean as a whole. After all, the coast of Montenegro is the only non-NATO coast left in its entire Northern part.

On the last day of his two-day visit, Lukšić was invited by Damon Wilson, the executive vice president of the Atlantic Council, to give a speech on "the future of NATO open door policy" to the audience of public figures, diplomats, and lobbyists. The Atlantic Council is a very influential Washington, DC think tank with offices throughout the world whose main aim is to help establish a global framework in which the U.S. acts as the world's policeman and all other Great Powers are under its control. Since Lukšić was preaching to the choir, his speech was well received. However, the political realities in Montenegro have since proven more intractable than he and his long-time political mentor Djukanović and their NATO sponsors have imagined.

# # # #

Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud-BFP Analyst, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[i] http://mnmne.org/the-cablegate-scandal-the-defeat-of-nato-propaganda-in-montenegro/

http://mnmne.org/marko-milacic-the-cablegate-affair-in-montenegro-cables-came-from-the-montenegrin-government-agency-for-national-security-and-the-council-for-nato/

[ii] http://www.slobodnaevropa.org/a/zahuktavanje-fere-depesa/26976377.html

[iii] http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2016/01/08/bfp-exclusive-will-the-next-u-n-secretary-general-come-from-the-balkans/

[iv] http://www.rtcg.me/vijesti/politika/139062/luksic-odustao-od-trke-za-generalnog-sekretara.html

[v] http://www.vijesti.me/vijesti/oland-nato-ne-treba-dalje-da-se-siri-odbiti-aplikacije-za-clanstvo-821977

[vi] http://www.rtcg.me/vijesti/otvoreno-o-nato-u/84025/izjava-stajnaker-diplomatski-skandal.html

[vii] http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2015/01/08/bfp-exclusive-a-rothschild-plot-against-putin-2/  This article became so popular that it was soon translated into Russian and Bulgarian.

 

 

 

Newsbud Exclusive- Living Dangerously: The Recent Arms Race in the Balkans

NATO expansion into East-Central Europe: The Proxy Re-Armament

It is hardly a secret that the most vocal advocates of NATO expansion into East-Central Europe were the U.S. weapons manufacturers and their lobbyists. For instance, one of the founders of the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO, a non-profit advocacy organization, was Bruce Jackson, a vice president at Lockheed Martin and a former U.S. Army intelligence officer.[1] As even the New York Times pointed out at the time, such a work biography was fairly common among those who pressured the Congress into expanding the Alliance, though the threat from its main enemy (as well as the main enemy itself) turned into dust. In just two years in the mid-1990s, the six biggest U.S. arms makers - MacDonnell Douglas, Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Textron Inc. - reported spending $51 million on lobbying, most of which went into the push for NATO expansion.[2] As the result, NATO almost doubled, expanding from 16 to 28 member states. Prodded by the big money, the Clinton Administration did not mind opening the Pandora's box of future European conflicts and the six giants of the U.S. military-industrial-intelligence complex could rub their hands with a great deal of satisfaction. The vast new weapons markets, closed to them until the East-Central European militaries were forced to become "interoperable" with NATO "standards," were theirs for taking. The East-Central European political elites, brought to power and/or infiltrated by these same corrupt corporate and lobbying networks, slashed their states' health, education, and social programs, but embraced high military spending with open arms. Even while there was less and less money for bread, the money for guns was always found.

This is the trend that continues to this day with obviously tragic consequences: the more these states are pushed into accumulating heavy weaponry, the more likely it is that existing deep antagonisms between and within states, instead of being reconciled in a peaceful manner, will turn violent. This is especially true in the Balkans because the ruling Balkan elites have lost political legitimacy and electoral credibility in eyes of the majority of the population and the only way they have left for homogenizing their voter base is the manufacturing of an inside and/or outside threat from the "usual" suspects.

The U.S.-NATO military-industrial-intelligence complex has always been ready and willing to assist its political clients in the Balkans in augmenting their militaristic image and projection of power. However, recently, the Russian government and its weapons makers have also gotten into the same business, helping its client states. This makes the probability of a proxy war in the Balkans not as remote as it may have appeared just a couple years ago.

The Proxy Re-Armament

In October 2015, it was announced that the Pentagon would donate 16 M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) to the military of Croatia with strings attached: Croatia would have to buy rockets from the U.S. manufacturers. There was even talk of some of the rocket systems being re-designed to fire ballistic missiles, each missile coming with a hefty price tag of $2 million.[3] This further increases Croatia's dependence on the U.S.- produced heavy artillery as all its existing Russian-made rocket systems (inherited from the Yugoslav army), at least some of which were still in working order, will be scrapped.

The Pentagon also promised Croatia 16 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters. They were to replace the Russian-made Mi-24s, which Croatia got rid of a decade ago when it was making final preparations for joining NATO. The first five of these helicopters were delivered to Croatia by the U.S. Army C-5 Galaxy transport plane at the end of July 2016.[4] The Croatian government agreed to pay all the taxes and the pilot training: the price tag - $30 million.

The dramatic increase in the number of rocket systems and attack helicopters in Croatia has seriously undermined the already shaky balance of power in the Balkans, established after the wars of Yugoslav secession in the 1990s. It appears that this is a part of the overall militarization strategy for Europe's East drawn up by the Pentagon in recent years, supported by the Obama Administration, and heavily funded by the Republican-controlled Congress. When the profits of the U.S. military-industrial-intelligence complex are concerned, there are no differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. And so, the Pentagon's 2017 East-Central European budget was quadrupled with a bipartisan blessing: from $789 million in 2016 to $3.4 billion.[5]

The tensions that this rapid U.S-engineered militarization is engendering in the Balkans are particularly noticeable with regards to Croatia's relations with Serbia and vice versa. The Serbian government could hardly remain indifferent to Croatia's increasing its military power projection and, predictably, it turned for help to Russia, its historically most important strategic ally.

In January 2016, Serbia was visited by Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian deputy prime minister in charge of defense matters. Rogozin is well known as Russia's former ambassador to NATO (2008-2011) who earned Western dislike by his skilful defense of the Russian conduct in the 2008 war against Georgia. He published a book about his experiences at NATO headquarters under the title НАТО точка Ру [NATO dot Ru], which became a best-seller in Russia.[6] Rogozin was consulted by the Serbian government about the procurement of various types of military equipment. As a gift to the Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vučić, Rogozin brought a plastic model of the Russian long-range surface to air missile system S-300 and stated that had Serbia had this system in 1999, NATO would not have dared to attack.[7]

However, as Vučić, who is not particularly inclined toward Russia, but has to appear so due to the popular pressure, pointed out the negotiations about Serbia's acquiring S-300 may take "many months." Still, the very thought of Serbia's installing it on its territory leads to a lot of nervous laugher in the corridors of power in Brussels and Washington, DC. In other words, the U.S.-NATO strategists may get more than they bargained for when they started going about pumping the militaries of their clients in the Balkans. Moreover, some media outlets also reported that Rogozin and Vučić talked about the possibility of Serbia's buying MIG-35s, the Russian newest fighter aircraft.[8] However, the price is prohibitive for the Serbian budget: $27 million per jet.

Since Rogozin's visit, there have been a lot of reports in the Serbian media about the Russian weapons being sent to Serbia. The stories were typically promoted by the pro-Russian Serbian media outlets (especially the tabloid publications), whereas the Western-sponsored Serbian media and NATO friendly political analysts and journalists have done everything they could to minimize and/or deny the reports.[9] This is all to be expected as each side attempts to sway the public opinion in the direction of its political agenda, though there seems to be no doubt that some shipments of the Russian military equipment to Serbia are taking place.

However, as already pointed out, it should be kept in mind that the current government of the prime minister Aleksandar Vučić is the most pro-NATO Serbian government on record and that the Ministry of Defense it controls prefers to cooperate and collaborate with NATO than with Russia. In February 2016, Vučić's government prepared a wide-ranging agreement with NATO, granting NATO troops the unrestricted freedom of movement and diplomatic immunity in Serbia, which was later signed into law by the Serbian president Tomislav Nikolić.[10] Vučić argued that this was something that was already negotiated by the previous goverments, but avoided to answer directly as to why the Russian military personnel was not granted the same privileges. Clearly, Vučić has to engage in the carefully crafted, underhanded effort to promote NATO interests, considering that the vast majority of the Serbian population is firmly against closer ties with NATO. It appears certain that Vučić's political rating will plunge once the extent of his pro-NATO policies becomes more apparent to the general public.

At the same time, Vučić's pro-NATO intrigues are made very complicated by the anti-Serb political rhetoric of the Croatian ruling elites, which have a clear backing and support of the U.S.-NATO networks. After all, the current president of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, was also the Croatian ambassador to the U.S. (2008-2011) and NATO assistant secretary general for public diplomacy (2011-2014). I have written extensively on the events surrounding her January 2015 election for president.[11] Together with the leaders of the two major Croatian political parties, the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) and the Social-Democratic Party (SDP), as well as the recently formed third major party "Most," Grabar Kitarović has, in the last few months, amplified the aggressive political messages directed against Serbia. This rhetoric was accompanied by various nationalist provocations, such as for instance the unveiling of the monument to Miro Barešić, an extreme Croat nationalist who assassinated the Yugoslav ambassador to Sweden, Vladimir Rolović, in 1971. The unveiling was attended by several key members of the Croatian ruling political elite.[12]

Some analysts place this heated nationalist political discourse in the context of the early parliamentary elections scheduled for September 11, 2016. They argue that faced with the worsening economic crisis and the rapidly increasing public debt, which the allegiance to the ideology of neoliberalism imposed from the West makes even more fatal, the Croatian political heavy-weights can find no other way to make voters turn out and vote. In other words, they are seeking to raise their flagging legitimacy by ratcheting up the threat from Serbia. While the implementation of this political tactic is undeniable, there could be more to it than that.

This is so because there appears to be a consensus forming in certain U.S.-NATO circles that some kind of large-scale violent conflict with Russia in the coming years is likely and that therefore the Balkan peninsula may provide an ideal ground for testing that conflict's initial stages. This is why they have pushed for the increased Pentagon's weapons shipments to their Balkan client states, not only to Croatia, but also to Romania and Albania. In this context, it is especially troubling to note the reported transfer of U.S. nuclear weapons from the Incirlik military base in Turkey to the Deveselu base in Romania, thus significantly shortening their distance to Russia. The Deveselu air base already houses the new U.S. missile shield. Although the nuclear missiles transfer has been denied by the Romanian government, it was confirmed by reliable independent sources.[13]

There is no doubt that the Russian government is planning a set of counter-measures, which, in my opinion, will include the dramatic increase of the Russian military presence in the Balkans, including the delivery of powerful rocket and other weapons systems and hardware to the traditional allies, such as Serbia, the Serb Republic in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and perhaps even Macedonia.

The weapons of such tremendous destructive power have not been seen in the region since the demise of the extremely well-armed (but poorly commanded) Yugoslav People's Army in the early 1990s. Left in the hands of the corrupt Balkan politicians who have absolutely no moral considerations for their constituents and serve at the whim of their Great Power sponsors, these weapons make possible catastrophic outcomes.

# # # #

Dr. Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud-BFP Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://www.globaldashboard.org/2014/09/04/bruce-jackson-man-took-nato-east/  Jackson was also the chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/1998/03/30/world/arms-contractors-spend-to-promote-an-expanded-nato.html?pagewanted=all

[3] http://www.jutarnji.hr/vijesti/hrvatska/veliki-posao-morh-a-i-pentagona-hrvatska-kupuje-mocno-oruzje-koje-ce-potpuno-promijeniti-vojnu-ravnotezu-u-regiji/175255/

[4] http://www.express.hr/brifing/putin-u-sloveniji-sad-helikopteri-u-hrvatskoj-sve-isti-dan-6335

[5] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35476180

[6] http://militera.lib.ru/research/rogozin_do01/index.html

[7] http://balkans.aljazeera.net/vijesti/rogozin-rusija-razmatra-srpski-zahtjev-za-raketama-s300

[8] http://www.blic.rs/vesti/politika/otkrivamo-rogozin-dosao-da-nam-proda-oruzje/ql3q8r5

[9] http://rs.n1info.com/a182671/Vesti/Vesti/Srbija-ne-nabavlja-oruzje-od-Rusije.html

[10] http://www.novosti.rs/vesti/naslovna/politika/aktuelno.289.html:591737-Potpis-na-zakon-o-NATO

[11] http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2014/12/23/bfp-exclusive-the-balkans-presidential-december-a-test-for-the-us-nato-empire/ ; http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2015/01/29/bfp-exclusive-the-balkans-elections-update-croatia-greece/

[12] http://www.jutarnji.hr/vijesti/hrvatska/foto-otkriven-spomenik-miri-baresicu-dosli-gotovina-medved-hasanbegovic-coric.../4574636/

[13] http://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/us-moves-nuclear-weapons-from-turkey-to-romania/

 

Unfinished Business in the Balkans: Biden in Belgrade & Prishtina

Biden's Balkan business is not only unfinished; it is unfinishable!

From the very first days of the Obama administration, the vice president Joe Biden has taken over running the U.S. foreign policy agenda for the former Communist bloc in Europe. This self-appointed mandate applied not only to the ex-Soviet states, the best known cases being Ukraine and Georgia, but also to the states of ex-Yugoslavia in the Balkans. He has met with the proverbially corrupt Balkan political leaders on many occasions, either at the margins of international gatherings, such as the annual Munich Security Conference, or when they visited Washington, DC., and he called them his friends.

Biden has also "toured" the Balkans himself, most recently in mid-August 2016, taking with him his entire extended family. In general, he has behaved like an imperial pro-consul for the Balkans. As I have written in an earlier article, in which I examined in great detail the Biden business in the Balkans, in both his statements and activities, Biden has embodied the essential spirit of the U.S. global hegemony. In order to justify hegemonic projects, he has been willing to turn the truth upside down, so that "fancy words covered up torture chambers and targeted killings, wars masqueraded as peace, and imperial dictates were presented as sovereign decisions of free nations."[1]

However, the world today is much less pliable to the logic of U.S. hegemony than it was when Biden started his first vice presidential term in 2009. Obviously, the manner in which he and others in the Washington corridors of power played their hand has had much to do with this outcome. There is no way to turn back the clock now. As F. Scott Fitzgerald's Gatsby, one of the greatest characters in American fiction tragically realized, "you can't bring back the past." Whoever becomes the president (and the vice president) next will have to pick up and deal with the broken pieces that Biden and Co. so arrogantly and carelessly left behind. Considering the choices available in November, there is no reason to expect that the global situation will get better any time soon. Quite the contrary.

At least one of such "broken pieces" with the power to hurt for many years to come is located in the Balkans. This "broken piece" was the main reason for Biden's mid-August visit to Belgrade and Prishtina and it had to do with the relations between Serbia and Kosovo. Biden has advocated the unilateral Kosovo independence so vociferously and for so long that he could actually be considered one of Kosovo's founding fathers. The Kosovo Albanians definitely treat him so. During the press conference with the Kosovo president Hashim Thaçi on August 19, 2016, Biden openly revealed the extent to which he had been willing to lobby for Kosovo's recognition by the international community of states. Referring to Thaçi, he said: "Every time you've come to my office, you've said, will you call the following presidents, Joe? He gives me a list when he comes as to what countries that hadn't - you know I'm not kidding."[2] And Biden sure called those presidents. He did not think that would be the degradation of the office of the U.S. vice president because Kosovo has all the features of a true U.S. economic and military (colonial) dependency.

After all, one of the most strategically important U.S. military bases - Camp Bondsteel - was constructed in eastern Kosovo almost immediately after the ending of NATO military intervention against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999. The base has since become a control & command outpost and a key facilitation point in the recent U.S. wars in the Middle East. Its significance (as well as belligerency) will only grow as both Russia and China become more involved in the Balkans, filling out the power vacuum left by the infighting and structural weaknesses within the European Union.

This is why Biden announced new financial injections for Kosovo, including "a new development assistance compact" headed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. foreign aid agency (functioning independently from USAID and the State Department), which is supposed to bring to Kosovo hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayers' dollars. This is in addition to about $2 billion that, according to Biden, the U.S. has already funneled into Kosovo since its proclamation of independence in 2008. Biden must be well aware that it is only this money that keeps Kosovo afloat considering that its ruling political elite, including Thaçi, is tightly linked with the networks of organized crime and wide-spread corruption and has very little regard for the living standards of the ordinary citizens of Kosovo, whether they are Albanian or Serb. However, for geopolitical reasons, Biden had nothing but praise for Thaçi, even saying at one point "and the rest of the world is following your leadership."

It is possible that there is also something else which is motivating Biden's praise for the Kosovo leadership. After all, during the same press conference, he himself admitted that "all politics is personal, particularly in international relations." If we take into consideration how profitable business opportunities "suddenly" opened up for his son Hunter after the pro-U.S. coup in Ukraine,[3] which the elder Biden did all he could to legitimize in the eyes of international community, it may not be unreasonable to suppose that something similar is in the works in Kosovo. However, at this time, only certain symbolic honors and rewards are publicly visible. For instance, the Kosovo Parliament decided to name a highway leading to Camp Bondsteel after Biden's recently deceased son Beau.[4] Beau Biden worked in Kosovo as an official of the U.S. Justice Department in the early 2000s. He died of brain cancer and one wonders whether his health was affected by the impact of depleted uranium left over in Kosovo from the hundreds of NATO bombs. It would not be the first time in history that the children pay for the sins of their fathers.

Belgrade in Croatia?

Prior to visiting Prishtina, Biden made a stop in Belgrade. Some critical observers claimed that as soon as he arrived, he right away made a breach in the diplomatic protocol. The protocol demands that every visiting foreign dignitary bow to the host nation's flag held by a member of the special military guard. However, Biden seems to have ignored the Serbian flag, especially when compared to how the Russian president Vladimir Putin, the Chinese president Xi Jinping, and the German chancellor Angela Merkel acted in the similar situation.[5] Was this a sign of Biden's still harboring animosity against Serbia stemming from its resistance to NATO? Or a sign of his disapproval of Serbia's close economic relations with Russia? One can only speculate.

However, a much more embarrassing diplomatic faux pas was made by Biden later, when during the press conference with the prime minister Aleksandar Vučić, he thanked Vučić for his "positive vision for the future of Croatia(!)".[6] Biden also stated that his first visit to the Balkans was "back in 1997, before the break-up of Yugoslavia," which is historically inaccurate because Yugoslavia fell apart in 1991. In addition, he recalled meeting with the aging Tito in the company of the aging Averell Harriman, a top U.S. WWII diplomat, but also a Wall St. banker with financial links to Fritz Thyssen, one of the key Nazi financial sponsors in the 1930s. According to Biden, Tito and Harriman reminisced about some WWII events and spoke of "Franklin and Joe Stalin and Franklin Roosevelt". Wasn't there a Churchill instead of one of the Franklins?

Joking aside, Biden had some very serious messages to convey to the Serbs. He stated that he saw Serbia as a member of the "Euro-Atlantic" community which is a code word for NATO membership. Considering that the vast majority of the citizens of Serbia are against membership in NATO, Biden's statement implied that the U.S. would engage, both overtly and covertly, in trying to break and dissolve that social consensus. How this is done can easily be understood if we recall the similar pro-NATO psychological operations in other Balkan states, some of which have been pushed into NATO, even without a national referendum. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were poured into the NATO-friendly political parties, media outlets, non-governmental organizations, and think tanks, while the opponents of NATO, even though they represented the majority opinion, were demonized as undemocratic, violent, ignorant, and "primitive". To make his point even more forcefully, Biden openly praised "a strong military-to-military relationship" between the U.S. and Serbia and urged the Serbian leadership to facilitate the "increasing Serbian military's interoperability with NATO forces."

For the end of the press conference, Biden saved what he thought would a great PR boost for NATO promotion. Some pro-NATO media organizations immediately picked up the cue and announced that Biden publicly apologized for the 1999 NATO military intervention.[7] However, that is far from being the accurate interpretation of Biden's words. Biden actually said: "I would like to add my condolences to the families of those whose lives were lost during the wars of the '90s, including as a result of the NATO air campaign, in terms of responsibility". As can easily be seen, the sentence is fairly convoluted. First of all, it hides the pernicious acts of war and war crimes against the civilian population under the innocuously sounding "air campaign". Secondly, it buries NATO military intervention (which represented the violation of both international law and the U.S. Constitution) under the general heading of the "wars of the '90s". And, thirdly and most importantly, it does not clearly pinpoint those who could be held accountable in the court of law. Therefore, notwithstanding the media spin, this "so-called" apology will have no impact on the Serbian public opinion. The majority of the population will remain impervious to the U.S. and NATO "overtures" until those who committed crimes and/or carry command responsibility are not ready to atone for them, not only symbolically, but materially as well by paying damages to the families of innocent victims, such as the family of a three-year old Milica Rakić.[8] Neither Biden nor anybody in the U.S. and NATO leadership has even the slightest intention of doing that. This is just one of many indicators of the extent of their cruel arrogance and hypocrisy.

This is why Biden's visit, though obviously personally rewarding, will do nothing to address even the short-term issue of the political stability and economic prosperity in the Balkans, let alone the prospect of its mid to long-term peaceful future. In large part due to the U.S. and NATO geopolitical engineering in which Biden was one of the chief engineers, the region has been permanently and fatally destabilized. Biden's Balkan business is therefore not only unfinished; it is unfinishable.

# # # #

Dr. Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud-BFP Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2015/06/07/bfp-exclusive-bidens-balkan-sphere-of-influence/

[2] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/08/19/remarks-vice-president-joe-biden-conclusion-bilateral-meeting-president

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/05/14/hunter-bidens-new-job-at-a-ukrainian-gas-company-is-a-problem-for-u-s-soft-power/

[4] http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/2016/08/17/road-kosovo-named-after-beau-biden/88895644/

[5] The videos of various leaders' reaction can be seen here: http://www.b92.net/info/vesti/index.php?yyyy=2016&mm=08&dd=17&nav_category=11&nav_id=1166860

[6] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/08/19/remarks-vice-president-joe-biden-conclusion-bilateral-meeting-prime

[7] http://www.naslovi.net/2016-08-16/srbijadanas/bajden-uputio-javno-izvinjenje-izrazavam-saucesce-svima-koji-su-izgubili-voljene-u-nato-intervenciji/18834498

[8] http://www.blic.rs/vesti/drustvo/milica-rakic-lice-bola-srbije/243h862

 

Newsbud Exclusive- China & the Balkans Revisited

The U.S. & Chinese geopolitical agendas for the Balkans show the signs of likely future clashes

In December 2014, I wrote an article on the intensification of the Chinese political and economic presence in the Balkans.[1] I discussed the Chinese relations with the Balkan states chronologically and underlined the importance of the annual "16+1" summits between China and 16 East-Central European states, including those states in the Balkans which are not EU members. I pointed out the special importance of the Balkans in the long-term Chinese geopolitical and geo-economic plans for Europe.

My article has been one of the very few that have delved into this matter from the standpoint of the Great Powers' rivalry in the Balkans. I claimed that the increased presence of China, even without any coordination with Russia, was making nervous the top decision makers in both Brussels and Washington. They knew that they could not match the types of credit and investment deals that China was able to offer the struggling economies in the Balkans. In fact, the economic model ingrained in the IMF and World Bank functioning is very different from the one propounded by the Chinese government-owned companies and banks. While the IMF and the World Bank are interested in the rapid ideological re-shaping of the economic sphere, including various socially painful, but ideologically justified austerity measures, the Chinese government is oriented toward funding long-term infrastructure projects, which over time demand the permanent presence of the Chinese workers, experts, and agents of influence. In this way, the local government officials, having become dependent on the Chinese economic and logistical support, inevitably fall more and more under the sway of the Chinese foreign policy. This is nothing new, or unique to the Balkans. In fact, we are witnessing the same process in some parts of Latin America and Africa.

Since the neo-liberal West appears incapable of offering a better economic option, the only way that it may try to delay and/or stop the emerging geopolitical tilt to the East is to create internal unrest and social chaos in those states which are most vulnerable. In fact, considering that the overall political instability in the Balkans has greatly increased in the last several months, we may actually be witnessing exactly such a covert strategy being implemented.

The 2015 "16+1" Summit

Since the December 2014 summit in Belgrade which I discussed in my previous article, there has been just one more "16+1" summit. This summit took place in the city of Suzhou in China's coastal Jiangsu Province, just north of Shanghai, in November 2015. It was the fourth summit and the first one to take place on the Chinese territory. To recall, the first summit took place in Warsaw in 2012 and the second in Bucharest a year later.

The location of the 2016 summit will be in East-Central Europe once again. It is scheduled to take place in Riga, the capital of Latvia, in November. This is interesting, considering that Latvia has been in the forefront of the recent NATO's anti-Russian campaign and will host additional NATO and U.S. troops this year. It is possible that Latvia's organization of the summit, in close cooperation with China, might represent a positive step toward easing the tensions in the region. At this point, however, it is too early to gauge the impact of the summit on the Russian-Latvian relations.

The importance of the 2015 summit is underscored by the fact that almost all East-Central European states were represented by the heads of government. Out of 16 states, only Poland, Croatia, Romania, and Slovakia did not send their prime ministers.[2] I suspect this had to do with the dynamics of internal politics and was unrelated to the significance these states assign to the economic and political links with China.

The participants of the summit adopted a joint declaration called the Suzhou guidelines for cooperation between China and Central Eastern European countries (CEEC). The guidelines called for the strengthening of the relations between the Secretariat (established within the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and headed by Wang Chao, deputy foreign minister) and the national coordinators representing the 16 CEEC.[3] In other words, much firmer, formal institutional structures are to be established in the coming period, which are intended to facilitate the transmission of the Chinese foreign policy agenda to the East-Central European decision makers.

The guidelines also mentioned specific projects and initiatives being engaged in by China and CEEC. Their number has grown exponentially since the last summit. In addition to the already existing cargo transportation agreement with Poland and the Road and Belt initiative signed with Hungary, there are many more similar agreements and initiatives with other states in the region. Notable among them is the initiative on customs clearance procedures among China, Hungary, Serbia, and Macedonia which will enable the cost-free import of Chinese goods into Europe via the ports in Greece. This is all a part of the ambitious and geopolitically significant China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line which will irrevocably alter the China-Europe trade balance in favor of China and may, in the mid-to-long term perspective, lead to Europe's economic subservience.[4]

Moreover, the guidelines also described in detail the concrete steps to be taken to intensify the China-CEEC cooperation in the fields of agriculture, forestry, science, technology, health, higher education, cultural exchange, and arts. The vast majority of these activities are supposed to be financed by the Chinese state budget and it appears that there is no shortage of funds. In many ways, the immense amount of money China is willing to invest in East-Central Europe resembles the U.S-engineered, post-WWII Marshall Fund. Historians have shown that with the Fund's vast resources, the U.S. was able to buy itself the position of the hidden puppet master of Western European politics for many years to come. The same outcome can now be reasonably expected in the case of China. It is true that in the Suzhou guidelines, there is no mention of military, national security, or intelligence cooperation, but once the Chinese agents of influence are in place, it may not be difficult to penetrate these areas as well. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

The Balkan Leaders in China

All Balkan heads of government, except the prime minister of Croatia Zoran Milanović who had just lost the parliamentary elections, attended the summit in Suzhou. They used this opportunity to send their supporters back home the positive political message of China's investments being beneficial to their countries' economies. For instance, the prime minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić boasted that Serbia was the country that signed the most contracts with the Chinese companies.[5] He officially met both with the Chinese president Xi Jinping and prime minister Li Keqiang and praised the steadily increasing Chinese economic presence in Serbia.

The other Balkan leaders also held high-level meetings with the Chinese officials. These leaders' corrupt and socially destructive economic policies brought their countries to the edge of bankruptcy and the overall state collapse. It is not surprising therefore that they are glad to receive any financial inflows, no matter what strings are attached. They have no long-term political vision, except holding on to political power for as long as possible and at any price (even if it means the brutal use of police and intelligence networks against their political opponents). Just as in the case of Louis XV, at the eve of the French Revolution, their moto is "after me, the deluge." And the Chinese government officials are willing to oblige: they do have a long-term political vision.

Xi in Belgrade

The special importance of the Balkans in the long-term Chinese geopolitical plans was further emphasized by the president Xi's visit to Serbia in June 2016. Xi brought to Belgrade a numerous delegation of the Chinese government officials and business leaders. During the meetings with the top Serbian leadership, including the president Tomislav Nikolić and the prime minister Aleksandar Vučić, twenty-two cooperation agreements were signed, dealing with various aspects of inter-state polical and economic relations. What may be particularly nettlesome for the U.S. and NATO is that Serbia and China agreed on the collaborative projects in the field of defense industry.[6] In addition, Nikolić decorated Xi with one of the highest Serbian state decoration and stated that Serbia was "China's trusted partner" and that he expected the relations between the two countries "to be deepened based on what was passed on to us by our predecessors".[7] It is interesting to note that Nikolić, a well-known anti-Communist, is so willing to appropriate the diplomatic heritage of Tito's Yugoslavia when it suits the advancement of his political agenda.

Xi concurred with Nikolić that the relations between their respective countries are following a very positive, upward trajectory and the two presidents signed a joint declaration on the "overall strategic partnership". This means that we will be seeing the rapid growth in the number of Chinese investment projects in Serbia in the coming years. The first on the list is the Chinese takeover of the gigantic Serbian steel factory complex in Smederevo. Nikolić and Vučić believe that the Chinese will save the complex from bankruptcy and rescue them from having to deal with thousands of unemployed workers.[8] However, as I already pointed out, it will not take long before the robust economic presence begins translating into direct political influence.

While in Belgrade, Xi also met with Milorad Dodik, the president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, who announced several new joint ventures and projects with the Chinese government.[9] Considering that these projects will contribute to the economic strengthening and self-sufficiency of the Serb Republic, the Chinese government decisions fly in the face of the recent efforts of the EU and the U.S to make Bosnia-Herzegovina more centralized. And so it is in Bosnia, too that the U.S. and Chinese geopolitical agendas for the Balkans show the signs of likely future clashes.

Generally speaking, China is a relative geopolitical new-comer to the Balkans, but its increasingly tangible influence may present the biggest long-term challenge to the U.S.-NATO plans for the region since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

# # # #

Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud-BFP Analyst, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2014/12/15/bfp-exclusive-china-the-balkans-this-geopolitical-battle-in-its-beginning-phases/

[2] http://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/policy/multilateral-relations/cooperation-between-central-and-eastern-european-countries-and-china/the-suzhou-guidelines-for-cooperation-between-china-and-central-and-eastern-european-countries

[3] The Secretariat has its own website - http://www.china-ceec.org/eng/index.htm

[4] http://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/policy/multilateral-relations/cooperation-between-central-and-eastern-european-countries-and-china/the-suzhou-guidelines-for-cooperation-between-china-and-central-and-eastern-european-countries

[5] http://www.blic.rs/vesti/politika/samit-u-kini-premijer-vucic-mi-smo-zemlja-koja-potpisuje-najveci-broj-sporazuma/z0wdb38

[6] http://www.rts.rs/page/stories/ci/story/1/politika/2356817/sta-su-sve-potpisale-srbija-i-kina.html

[7] http://www.rts.rs/page/stories/sr/story/9/politika/2356590/drugi-dan-posete-kineskog-predsednika-srbiji.html

[8] http://www.rts.rs/page/stories/sr/story/9/politika/2357468/predsednik-kine-si-djinping-u-smederevu.html

[9] http://www.rts.rs/page/stories/sr/story/9/politika/2357267/dodik-i-si-izrazili-zelju-za-nastavak-saradnje.html

 

 

Newsbud Exclusive- Putin in Slovenia: An Analysis

The Hidden Subtext Behind Putin's Third Slovenia Visit

Putin is no stranger to the ex-Yugoslav republic of Slovenia. In fact, in June 2001, when Slovenia was still neither an EU nor a NATO member state, it was chosen as a neutral meeting place for the first official meeting between him and the U.S. president George W. Bush. Ironically, the meeting took place in the Brdo Castle near Kranj, one of the long-time Communist leader Tito's summer residences. At that time, the U.S. high level officials did everything they could to flatter Putin and get him to accept their hegemonic geopolitical agenda for Eastern Europe, Russia, and Eurasia in general. For instance, during the press conference that followed their two-hour long discussions, Bush stated that he could fully trust Putin in international matters because "he's an honest, straight-forward man who loves his country. He loves his family. We share a lot of values. I view him as a remarkable leader. I believe his leadership will serve Russia well."[1]

But, when Putin, unlike Yeltsin, whose hand-picked successor he was, proved unwilling to play along with the U.S. plans, his stature in the U.S. foreign policy discourse quickly deteriorated from that of "a remarkable leader" and an honest patriot to that of a brutal dictator and even "a thug". This of course should come to surprise to nobody because, as Henry Kissinger stated long ago, paraphrasing perhaps the most Machiavellian 19th century leader (in very heavy competition), the British prime minister Lord Palmerston, in the conduct of (realist) foreign policy, there are "no permanent friends or enemies, only interests."

And yet, even at that time, one could see possible fissures in the U.S-Russia relations, especially regarding the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the expansion of NATO. At the press conference, Putin showed a declassified document from the Soviet archives indicating that in 1954 the Soviet government asked NATO member states for closer association and even participation in NATO structures. This request was rejected and Putin pointed out that Russia got the same reply from Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright when it filed an almost similar request in the 1990s. This was Putin's subtle, diplomatic way of exposing the long-term, persistent anti-Russian orientation of NATO. However, as neither the Bush nor Obama administrations had either understanding or patience for diplomatic subtleties and rational compromises, NATO expansion into Eastern Europe continued unabated. That is why now, fifteen years later, instead of being a stable zone of peace and prosperity from Lisbon to Vladivostok, Europe finds itself on the brink, not just of a new Cold War, but of a possible nuclear confrontation.

The Second Visit

More than 10 years passed before Putin visited Slovenia again. He was already in his third year as a prime minister (having served out two presidential terms) when he came to the Slovenian capital Ljubljana in March 2011. He met with the then-Slovenian prime minister Borut Pahor and the then-president Danilo Türk. The focus of their discussions was at the time very prominent topic of the South Stream pipeline which was supposed to supply Southeastern Europe with the Russian gas. The Chairman of the Russian state-owned gas giant Gasprom Alexey Miller and the Chairman of the Slovenian gas company Geoplin Plinovodi Marjan Eberlinc even signed an agreement on forming a joint company to build and manage the Slovenian component of the pipeline.[2] However, as is well known, the whole project was abandoned soon afterwards under the intense political and economic pressure by the EU Brussels bureaucracy and the Obama administration first on Bulgaria, and then on other Balkan countries.

Still, at the time, the prime minister Pahor spoke of "a strategic partnership" between Slovenia and Russia. Strategic partnership implies long-term political cooperation on transnational issues that transcend daily politics, such as international terrorism, radical extremism, organized crime, climate change, etc. as well as the strengthening of economic links and projects. If we know that the Slovenian foreign policy, since independence in 1991, has been very closely coordinated with the Germanic bloc of Austria and Germany, it is not difficult to see that behind the Slovenian embrace of cooperation with Russia, one can see the Berlin-Vienna handwriting. The same thing is true these days and, in my opinion, explains one of the key reasons for Putin's third visit to Slovenia which took place on July 30, 2016.

The Hidden Subtext Behind Putin's Third Visit

Putin's July visit to Slovenia was described in the influential Western mass media outlets under the headline of Putin's supposedly "testing Western resolve" and unity on the anti-Russian sanctions.[3] There is no doubt that both Washington and Brussels would have preferred if Putin had stayed home. However, it seems a stretch to imagine that the Slovenes invited Putin on their own without close consultations with their allies in the EU and NATO. In fact, I'd say that the approval they sought and received was from the Austrian and German political establishments. This shows that there is a growing rift in the Brussels corridors of power between the pro-American (Atlanticist) faction and the pro-European (Continental) faction regarding the future of relations with Russia.

I expect this internal conflict, which may even threaten the existence of the present European Union institutions, to spill into the public view more clearly in the coming months, especially as the Russian parliamentary elections, the first in four years, are scheduled to take place on September 18, 2016. The two factions are bound to back the opposing sides, both covertly and overtly. The Atlanticists will do all they can to assist, financially and logistically, the Russian neo-liberal opposition, while the Continentals would like Putin and his political partners to win again. However, considering that the U.S. political establishment is currently distracted by the U.S. presidential race, it appears that Putin will not have a hard time in defeating his political opponents. Perhaps this is the main reason why the date for the parliamentary elections was moved from December to September by the State Duma in 2015, though the decision was officially justified by budgetary savings.[4] The Russian presidential elections planned for March 2018 are of course a different story, but a lot of water will pass under the bridge until then. One can only hope that some of it will not be bloody.

Putin's third visit to Slovenia was described as informal by the Slovene government. Just as during the previous visit, Putin's main host was Borut Pahor, who is, since 2012, the president of Slovenia. It is important to note, however, that the presidential position in Slovenia is largely ceremonial and that the real political authority is wielded by the prime minister Miro Cerar (who comes from a different political party). This fits with the Slovene government's characterization of the visit. Otherwise, it would be a serious diplomatic downgrade directed at Putin.

Pahor and Putin appear to have developed friendly personal relations over the years. It was reported that when they first met officially in 2011, they decided on the project of building a memorial for the Russian and Soviet soldiers killed in the WWI and WWII on the territory of Slovenia.[5] Now, five years later, Putin was present at the unveiling of that memorial in Ljubljana. He also gave a speech in the Slovenian mountains near the Vršič Pass at the site of a chapel built by the Russian WWI POWs in the memory of their fallen comrades. Evidently, while in the Baltics and Poland, the memorials for the Russian and Soviet soldiers are being removed, in the Balkans, they are being built and renovated. This is yet another sign of the rift between the pro-Atlanticist and pro-Continental EU member states mentioned above.

Some analysts connect Pahor's apparent friendliness toward Putin and the Russian leadership in general to his youthful membership in the Yugoslav Communist party. Couldn't he have been "turned" by the KGB as an ambitious young Communist politician in the late 1980s? This, in my opinion, is not a likely scenario. Pahor was one of the most fervent advocates for the Slovenian membership in NATO to the point of alienating even some members of his own Social-Democratic party. After Slovenia entered NATO in 2004, he has continued to campaign heavily for NATO membership of the rest of the ex-Yugoslav republics.[6] In addition, Slovenia and Island were the first two countries to ratify NATO protocol with Montenegro on June 8, 2016.[7] Therefore, it is unlikely that Pahor is a Russian agent of influence. What is closer to the truth is that he is a pragmatic politician on a mission assigned to him by more powerful Western allies (in this case, the German chancellor Angela Merkel).

A Slovene U.N. Secretary General?

In addition to that, there is another reason why Slovenia would want discrete Russian support. The Slovenian media reported that one of the political luminaries at the Vršič Russian chapel event was Danilo Türk, former president and current Slovenian candidate for the post of the U.N. secretary general. As I have already written in January 2016, Türk, who has had extensive diplomatic experience in the U.N., first as the Slovene ambassador (1992-2000) and then as the assistant secretary general for political affairs (2000-2005) has a great chance of being chosen for that post.[8] In order to do so, he needs at least the tacit, if not the public, approval of all five Security Council members who hold the power of the veto. I have stated that I believe that Türk has already gained the support of China. The support of Russia, which I am sure Pahor lobbied for, would mean that Türk could get ahead of the other candidates who appear much more polarizing in their political and geopolitical outlook.

All in all, Putin's visit to Slovenia, following on the heels of his recent visit to Greece, another Balkan EU and NATO member state, shows that Russia is far from being politically isolated in the Balkans. On the contrary, in fact, it seems as if its influence is slowly but surely taking on more and more weight. It is only a matter of time before we see the resurgence of Russian-sponsored large economic projects in the region, such as the South Stream, for instance. However, one thing we can be sure of already. The response of the other side will not be long in coming.

# # # #

Dr. Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud-BFP Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/06/20010618.html

[2] http://www.blic.rs/vesti/svet/putin-u-sloveniji-osnovano-rusko-slovenacko-preduzece-za-juzni-tok/rftg9zr

[3] https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/world/putin-tests-wests-sanctions-resolve-on-visit-to-slovenia/ar-BBv3f3U

[4] http://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/news/2015/06/19/597158-gosduma-prinyala-v-pervom-chtenii-zakonoproekt-o-perenose-viborov

[5] http://www.rts.rs/page/stories/sr/story/11/region/2403299/putin-u-poseti-sloveniji.html

[6] http://dailycaller.com/2010/01/29/it-is-past-time-for-macedonia-to-join-nato/

[7] http://www.slobodnaevropa.org/a/27787115.html

[8] http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2016/01/08/bfp-exclusive-will-the-next-u-n-secretary-general-come-from-the-balkans/

The Russian “Hollywood”? The Orthodox Church as Instrument of Soft Power in the Balkans

The Christian church split in 1054 into the Western and Eastern branch. The Western branch with its center in Rome came to be known as the Catholic church (further splitting during the Protestant Reformation several centuries later). The Eastern branch with its center in Constantinople (Istanbul) was not able to maintain unity as long as the Western branch. Already with the fall of Byzantium and the conquests by the Ottoman Turks, it split into more than a dozen churches tied to the particular monarchs and nations. The Eastern equivalent of the pope, the ecumenical patriarch, remained a politically weak figure.

The same situation persists to this day. The leaders of the national Orthodox churches, 14 in number, are much more powerful in influencing the domestic and foreign policy agenda of their respective countries than the current ecumenical patriarch, Bartholomew I.[1]

Since the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the unshackling of religious expression in the former Soviet political space, the Russian Orthodox church has tried to assert its authority within the community of Orthodox churches. Though this process already started during the last years of the tenure of the patriarch Alexy II (1990-2008), it attained its full public expression in the current mandate of Alexy II's successor, Kirill I. It has closely matched the strengthening of the Russian state and its geopolitical position in the world engineered since mid-2000s by Vladimir Putin.

In fact, as I will argue in this article, the Russian Orthodox church is one of the primary instruments of soft power that Putin has at his disposal to influence political elites and populations in the majority Orthodox states in the Balkans, such as Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, Macedonia, and the Serb entity within Bosnia-Herzegovina, Republika Srpska. This carries a great deal of geostrategic significance since both Bulgaria and Greece are members of the increasingly anti-Russian NATO military alliance and the rest are in various stages on the NATO membership path. The recent events which I will chronicle in this article show that the soft power of the Orthodoxy (православие) has already become one of the foundational components of Putin's Balkan policy. This spells serious trouble for the two-decade long U.S.-NATO Euro-Atlantic project in the Balkans.

Playing the Orthodox Card

The essence of soft power is its ability to sway the "hearts and minds" of the other states' elites and populations to support particular domestic and foreign policy goals without resorting to military power or any other kind of coercion. During the Cold War, the U.S. political and intelligence establishment has successfully used the products of popular culture, such as Hollywood movies, rock and roll, blue jeans, and Coca Cola, to create dissatisfaction with the conditions and quality of life in the enemy Communist Bloc. However, the destruction, suffering, and pain brought on by the process of neoliberal economic transition proved to be overwhelming and, in many cases, outweighed the benefits of the supposedly democratic political transition, which was in itself incomplete and corrupt. The norms and habits established during the Communist period crumbled and there was very little that neoliberalism offered as moral and spiritual compensation. As the result, most people began looking for psychological support and comfort in the past religious traditions and beliefs. Hence the strong resurgence of the Orthodox religious feeling and trust in the church institutions all across the former Communist Balkans.

In fact, if we take a look at public polling across the majority Orthodox states in the Balkans, we will see that the Orthodox church is generally considered the most trustworthy and credible public institution. While the approval of politicians and political parties is hardly beyond 20 percent, the Orthodox church has consistently had the approval rating of around 50 percent. In some states, such as Montenegro, the approval rating has been even higher.[2] This means that the "hearts and minds" of the majority populations are open to being swayed by the policy positions of the Orthodox church, including its strong anti-NATO stand.

If more than 20 years of the intense, well-financed NATO integrationist propaganda has not been able to reverse this trend, it is clear that the future does not bode well for the NATO advocates in the Balkans. The sweeping infiltration of the political elites, the militaries, and the intelligence structures has not paid off. The millions of U.S. and West European taxpayers' dollars, which could have been spent in fixing severely underfunded social, educational, and health care programs, have been wasted. The Western military-industrial-intelligence complex has grown exponentially, enriching the scores of executives and contractors in the process, but its expansionist foreign policy agenda in the Balkans is being subverted from the inside by the traditional grass-root political forces.

Notwithstanding the self-congratulatory rhetoric of the pro-NATO Balkan political leaders, we may witness their fall from power in near future. The first on the list appears to be the corrupt, seven-time prime minister of Montenegro, Milo Djukanović. The recent strengthening of the ties between the Russian and Serbian Orthodox church points to one of the key channels for the Russian support against Djukanović. In fact, in late December 2015, the Russian patriarch Kirill I wrote to the metropolitan Amfilohije, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, that he "could always count on the help of the Russian Orthodox church, which knows and respects [him] as an old and dear friend."[3]

Putin on the Throne of Byzantine Tsars

During his state visit to Greece at the end of May 2016, Putin visited the Russian Orthodox enclave on Mount Athos. He was joined by Kirill I who, as the key holder of the soft power of the Orthodoxy, appears to have assumed the role of the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov with regard to the Balkans. The formal occasion was to celebrate the thousand years of the presence of the Russian monks in Greece. However, the political subtext was much broader. It involved the narrative that the Russians, as the most populous Orthodox population and the most powerful majority Orthodox state, are the "natural" and indispensable protectors of all Orthodox Balkan populations from hostile foreign influences, whether they come from the West or the East.

In this respect, what was generally passed without comment in the mass media, but had a great deal of political significance, was the fact that all the Orthodox monks (not only the Russian monks) served the liturgy in Putin's honor while he sat on the throne that allegedly belonged to the Byzantine tsars.[4] This meant that Russia's successor status to the Byzantine empire was publicly confirmed and affirmed in present time. Geopolitically speaking, this may be the most dramatic event since the collapse of the Soviet Union and it is likely to have long-term consequences that will affect not only the balance of power in the Balkans and the Middle East, but also in Europe and Eurasia in general.

It is important to keep in mind that even though there seems to be some kind of rapprochement at this time between Putin and the embattled Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, if Russia was to assume the Byzantine geopolitical project, then the hostilities between these two former empires appear to be inevitable and will be readily exploited by their opponents in the West. This has happened many times in the past, the most bloody examples being the Crimean war (1856-1859) and the Russo-Turkish war (1877-1878). In both cases, first Russia, then Turkey, fell victim to the territorial and economic machinations of the Western powers.

The Church Relations in the Orthodox World

Even though all Orthodox churches share a common religious doctrine, the relations among them have been far from harmonious. In fact, their representatives have not gathered in one place since 787. However, spurred on by the aggressive NATO pressures from the West and the terrorist threat of radical extremists from the East, intense efforts have been made recently to coordinate the Orthodox churches' positions more closely. Earlier this year, all the churches agreed to hold a historic meeting (Sabor) on the Greek island of Crete from June 20 to June 27, 2016. However, the problems soon surfaced as to who would set the agenda and have the ultimate decision making power in formulating future policies.

The main conflict appears to be between the ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew I and the Russian patriarch Kirill I. Kirill I is interested in having the Orthodox churches more directly ally themselves with the Russian geopolitical agenda, while Bartholomew I, an ethnic Greek who is a Turkish citizen, seems to be resisting. In the end, the conflict could not be contained and resulted in the Russian and three other Orthodox churches (the Bulgarian, the Georgian, and the Antiochian (Syrian)) cancelling their participation in the Crete meeting.[5] The cancellation caused a rift within the Serbian Orthodox church, which spilled into the public view, but was eventually resolved by the decision to attend the meeting after all.[6] However, the Serbian church also promised to look out for the interests of those churches which were absent. This places it in the important position of the mediator for the negotiations which will no doubt take place soon.

The still unresolved tensions and disagreements within the community of the Orthodox churches show that Putin's policy of using the Orthodox church as a tool of soft power still faces certain obstacles at the top of some churches' hierarchies, very likely infiltrated by NATO's agents of influence. However, the grass-root pressures from below which demand an unmistakable anti-NATO policy turn, in tandem with the probable "palace coups" at the top, will diminish the number of resisters in the coming years.

# # # #

Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud-BFP Analyst, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] There are several other Orthodox churches, but, for various political reasons, they have not been recognized as legitimate by the already established churches.

[2] http://crna.gora.me/vijesti/politika/najvece-povjerenje-u-predsjednika-i-spc/  What has also to be taken into consideration is that public polling in the Balkans is generally conducted by Western-funded and pro-NATO oriented organizations which have a political stake in underreporting the strength of their opponents.

[3] http://www.in4s.net/patrijarh-ruski-kiril-mitropolitu-amfilohiju-svagda-mozete-racunati-na-pomoc-ruske-pravoslavne-crkve/

[4]http://www.b92.net/info/vesti/index.php?yyyy=2016&mm=05&dd=28&nav_category=78&nav_id=113699

[5] http://www.blic.rs/vesti/svet/ruska-crkva-otkazala-ucesce-na-saboru-svih-pravoslavnih-crkava-na-kritu/emkyxbt

[6] http://www.tanjug.rs/full-view.aspx?izb=251915


Newsbud-BFP Exclusive- What the CIA Sent Me About Its 1990s Foe Slobodan Milošević: The Gimmick of Declassification

What kinds of documents does the CIA have on world leaders? What do they involve and how detailed are they? Do the CIA assessments differ from the ones we are familiar with from the mass media? And if they do, in what respects? Are they more sober and less sensationalist? Are they free from ideological bias? What is the methodology used and what sources?

These are some of the questions that led me to file a FOIA request to the CIA regarding the politician whose activities have marked the entire decade in the Balkans after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the violent destruction of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ): the former Serbian and Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević (1941-2006). Milošević was NATO's main enemy in the war it waged against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in Spring 1999 and was presented as the European equivalent of Saddam Hussein. He was overthrown in October 2000 with the help of the Western intelligence agencies, including the CIA. Milošević ended his days in the Hague Tribunal prison unit in March 2006 under the circumstances many still consider suspicious.

Nobody has (publicly) asked the CIA about Milošević before and, as he died more than 10 years ago, it was reasonable to expect that I could be provided with some interesting, historically significant, and newsworthy information.

What I got, after the whole process was over, was definitely interesting and newsworthy (otherwise, I would not be writing about it), but hardly historically significant. In fact, I should say that, from what the CIA sent me, I learned more about the seriousness (and the lack thereof) of its information declassification and release process than any hidden secrets about Milošević.

The Process

It all started on February 17, 2016, when, via the Muckrock news site, I filed a FOIA request asking for "all files relating to Serbian politician Slobodan Milošević (1941-2006)." I included in the request the link for Milošević's biography on Wikipedia and stated that no proof of his death should be required because it was widely reported by the media all over the world.

I did not wait very long for the reply. On March 14, 2016, Michael Lavergne, CIA Information and Privacy coordinator, wrote back stating that my request had to be modified. Allegedly, my request was "so broad as to impose an unreasonable burden on the Agency" and hence could not be processed. He added that my request should be made more specific and (curiously) gave the example of requesting "biographical reports with the date range between 1989 and 2000."

I decided that this was a hint, and I wrote back on April 2, 2016 requesting "all biographical reports regarding the Serbian politician Slobodan Milošević between 1982 and 2000." I changed the starting date on purpose because I knew that Milošević began to be directly involved in Communist politics in the early 1980s while he was still the chief banker of the Bank of Belgrade. In the end, this made no difference as I only got the documents from the

1990s anyway. Apparently, the CIA had already decided what to release at the time of my first letter.

And, so, two and a half months later, on June 15, 2016, I received another letter from Michael Lavergne. He told me that my request was successfully processed and that the CIA search turned up 8 documents on 15 pages, which, as I could see myself, were approved for release on June 10, 2016.

One document was released in full, while the seven others were collated together and moderately redacted, allegedly, on the basis of the statutory FOIA exemptions b(1) and b(3). As I will show, the CIA arbitrary imposition of these exemptions is actually the most interesting and newsworthy element of this whole FOIA epistolary adventure.

The Content[1]

The document which was released in full is a one-page lapidary presentation of Slobodan Milošević's biography: professional history, education, personal data, and languages spoken. It bears the date of August 7, 1997. All the information provided here is well-known. The only curious piece of data is that it stated that Milošević "drinks scotch and smokes cigars." Why was this included? Most likely, to exploit these personal preferences as Milošević's weaknesses. Perhaps it signaled a way to make him feel at ease, or bribe him, or even, more dramatically, to poison him. During the Cold War, this was apparently the standard operating procedure for the CIA's main opponent, the KGB. The Mitrokhin Archive for instance revealed that the KGB planned to poison the long-time Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito with a jewelry gift box.[2] It was only the sudden and mysterious death of Stalin that put a definitive end to these plans.

The other seven documents are more lengthy summaries of Milošević's activities and personal traits and (as already pointed out) are moderately redacted. They cover the period from June 23, 1992 (the date of the first document) until August 12, 1999 (the date of the last document). For the ease of presentation and understanding, in the analysis and discussion below, I will refer to them as DOC-1, DOC-2, etc.

DOC-1, written on June 23, 1992, when the war in Croatia was in full swing and the war in Bosnia had just begun, describes Milošević as "a clever tactician" who knows well how to manipulate the Serbian and Yugoslav political scene in order to remain in charge. It also chronicles Milošević's influence over the Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia, to the point of quoting the statement of the Croatian Serb politician Jovan Hadžić that Milošević was "the greatest politician alive." It describes Milošević's strategy as based on "an emotional national appeal" and judges it to be successful.

DOC-1 also broadly addresses the political forces and actors critical of Milošević. In fact, the focus on the opposition will be one of the key features of all seven DOCs. The number of the opposition actors discussed will multiply as the time goes by and as Milošević comes to be seen as more and more of an obstacle to the goals of the Clinton administration foreign policy in the Balkans. For now, however, Milošević appears to be held in high esteem. In the section entitled "One on One," which obviously relied on those who knew Milošević personally, he is described as "as impressively articulate, self-confident, and in command of his brief in face-to-face meetings." DOC-1 goes on to state that he is not only "usually affable and relaxed during meetings in his office," but also "a master at thinking and acting under pressure." One gets the impression that the CIA was enthralled by him.

However, and this is very important to note in order to understand the CIA modus operandi, this whole paragraph completely disappears from DOC-3 and all subsequent reports. In other words, after 1995, as Milošević is quickly being morphed into an enemy of the U.S. foreign policy agenda in the Balkans, the CIA censors its own reports. Nobody (not even those with security clearances) must know that not so long ago, Milošević was described as "affable," "impressively articulate," and "a master at thinking and acting under pressure." Milošević now has to be turned into a villain, an evil-doer, and soon enough, in the last report (DOC-7 of August 12, 1999), he will be described as an indicted war criminal. But the key question we need to ask is who really changed the most. Was it Milošević, or was the U.S. foreign objectives? Was the rest, then, fabricated to fit the story of the day?

Another example is even more striking in this respect. It concerns one sentence and its radical revisions by the CIA report writers. Considering that the sentence dealt with an event in the 1980s, nothing in the event itself could have changed. However, as I will show, the interpretation was doctored by the CIA in order to make it more in line with the politically profitable negative image of Milošević.

In DOC-1, there is a following sentence: "In April 1987, Milošević captured international attention with his dramatic appearance at a protest meeting of Kosovo Serbs, where he initiated an inflammatory campaign to 'right the wrongs' they were suffering and demanded rapid progress toward full democracy and a market economy." Now the second part of the sentence about "rapid progress toward full democracy and a market economy" does not fit at all with the Milošević narrative we know today. How can a politician who advocates such goals become a public enemy of the U.S.? Obviously, he can't. And so, the CIA decided to doctor this part of the sentence. It was first modified and then it completely disappeared.

Already in DOC-3 of December 7, 1995, the sentence is different. Instead of "[he] demanded rapid progress toward full democracy and a market economy," it states "[he] issued demands for rapid progress toward full democracy and a market economy, according to press [redacted] reporting." So now it is no longer a statement of fact (the way it was in 1992), but it is "according to press [redacted] reporting." The degree of reliability has been intentionally decreased by the CIA report writer, not because new information suddenly surfaced about the April 1987 event, but in order to sow doubt about the apparently positive impression of Milošević (as the champion of democracy and free market) in the minds of those reading the report.

That my interpretation is correct is further confirmed by the fact that this entire second part of the sentence is completely left out of DOC-6 of October 15, 1998 and the sentence itself is radically reformulated. In DOC-6, the sentence reads "in April 1987, Milošević captured international attention with his dramatic appearance at a protest meeting of Kosovo Serbs, where he initiated an inflammatory campaign to right the wrongs he claimed they were suffering (emphasis mine)."

Not only were the mentions of democracy and market economy gone, but now even the sufferings of the Kosovo Serbs were put in question. While the 1992 CIA report writer had no doubts about them (from the source more reliable than the press), for the 1998 CIA report writer (writing 11 years after the event), the sufferings themselves were no longer genuine, but were only "claimed" (alleged) by Milošević. When we put this in the political context of the day by pointing out that it was precisely in 1998 that the U.S. (as the leader of NATO) was putting the finishing touches on the plan for the Kosovo war, it appears understandable why the sufferings of the Kosovo Serbs at the hands of the Kosovo Albanian nationalists in the 1980s had to be denied by making them a figment of Milošević's imagination.

The Redactions

There is also a word to be said about the redactions in these reports. Allegedly, they were made on the basis of the statutory exemptions (b)(1) and (b)(3) which deal with the issues relating to the presidential executive orders and the CIA Act of 1949. However, considering that the same information was often repeated from one report to another, I was able to discover several instances where the same sentences that were declassified in one report were (again) classified in another and vice versa.

For instance, in DOC-1, one reads that "his [Milošević's] father, an orthodox priest,[3] abandoned his family and then committed suicide. Milošević's mother also killed herself, according to the press reports." These two sentences come after the sentence "Milošević was born in Požarevac on 20 August 1941," and precede the sentence "Milošević joined the Communist Party at 18." However, in DOC-2, I found that the sentences about Milošević's parents have been redacted. There is a blank space between the statement on Milošević's birth and on his becoming a member of the Party. The redaction is supposedly based on both the (b)(1) and (b)(3) exemption, but how can that be the case if the same sentences have already been declassified in the earlier report?

There are such appearing/disappearing redactions in every report. Remember the sentence about Milošević's preferences for scotch and cigars. It has been redacted in all the reports except one. In addition, there are also cases where it seems that the blank space of a redaction hides something trivial, or even nothing at all.

This leads to two important questions to consider. Is this process of making selective redactions the outcome of shoddy, irresponsible work on the part of those in charge of declassifying the CIA documents? Or, alternatively, perhaps there is nothing of real significance in the documents released to the public (because genuinely secret documents are securely locked away or destroyed) and the blank spaces of redactions are used to give the documents the fake aura of importance as they act like some kind of empty fantasy screen for the projection of various "conspiracy theories"? There is probably something of both, though I would lean toward the second alternative.

Conclusion

In the end, the most significant take-away from the FOIA files the CIA sent to me has very little to do with Slobodan Milošević, his personality, allies, and political activities. All information about him provided in these reports has been in the public domain for a long time ago, and some of what was reported was not even factually correct.

The most important lesson from all of this is that the CIA is ready and willing to censor and doctor its own reports in order to make them suit the foreign policy agenda of the given presidential administration. What we learn from the reports is that the CIA tells its government clients what they want to hear about given geopolitical issues or foreign leaders, and not what it should do as the impartial, non-partisan intelligence agency: tell it the way it is and stick to the facts.

Do I need to stress how toxic this kind of "politicizing" of intelligence analysis can be for the U.S. national security as well as its image in the world? And yet there is no evidence that what is done today is any different from what we now have a proof was done in the 1990s with the files on Slobodan Milošević.

# # # #

Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud-BFP Analyst, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] The entire correspondence and the documents are available at https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/slobodan-milosevic-cia-23990/

[2] http://www.vreme.com/arhiva_html/460/28.html

[3] This information is not correct. The father of Slobodan Milošević was not an orthodox priest. Although he completed the Theological Faculty in Belgrade, he was never ordained and instead became a professor of Russian language in Montenegro. Milošević's uncle also committed suicide. See http://bosnjaci.net/prilog.php?pid=48256

Newsbud Exclusive-The Travels of NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg: An Analysis

An exposé on the expansionist agenda of NATO which shows no intention of slowing down!

We travel to people and places important to us. If somebody looked at our travel itineraries over time, it would not be difficult to discover our priorities, our likes and dislikes, our beliefs and fears, the general pattern of how we live our lives and what we think about.

The same applies to political figures. Whom they travel to meet can reveal a lot about their current political agenda and the way they go about putting it into practice. It might even be possible to predict certain of their future moves.

Considering that, at this time, NATO activities are bringing Europe one step closer to another global conflagration (so familiar from both recent and more distant European past), it is worth examining the travels of its Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and seeing what they can tell us about current and future NATO moves.[1]

Jens Stoltenberg is a long-time Norwegian politician of centrist social-democratic orientation and was the leader of the Norwegian Labour Party.[2] His father Thorvald Stoltenberg was also a well-known figure in the same political party and, at different times, held the posts of defense minister (1979-1981) and foreign minister (1987-1989 & 1990-1993).[3] The younger Stoltenberg served two times as the prime minister: 2000-2001 and 2005-2013. It should be noted that he was in charge of Norway during the July 22, 2011 bomb attack on the government building in Oslo and the subsequent Breivik massacre.

Stoltenberg's party lost the majority in the parliamentary elections of September 2013 and, as a result, he lost the post of the prime minister. Conveniently, the chief NATO position became open a year later and he was chosen to replace the neo-liberal Iraq-war Bush ally Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the NATO summit in Wales in September 2014. It appears that Stoltenberg's nomination received the strongest support from the German chancellor Angela Merkel who was able to convince other NATO leaders to vote for him.[4]

This is interesting in light of the fact that both Merkel and Stoltenberg have been alleged to have had contacts with the Soviet KGB in their youth. All throughout the last decade there were occasional reports in the Norwegian media about the alleged "grooming" of the young Stoltenberg by the KGB agents in Oslo in the 1980s under the code name Steklov.[5] Stoltenberg denied any wrongdoing and claimed that the allegations were a part of the brutal campaign by his right-wing opponents. It is curious though that Stoltenberg toned down the aggressive anti-Russian rhetoric of his NATO predecessor Rasmussen. However, it is the actions that count and they are no different than Rasmussen's.

The 13th Secretary General

Stoltenberg's first day on the job as NATO's Secretary General was October 1, 2014. He is the 13th Secretary General since NATO's founding in 1949 and let's hope that this number is not a sign of bad luck for him, Europe, or the world.

Stoltenberg's first foreign trip took place just 5 days later and it was to Poland. This choice of the first destination is very revealing. Poland is the most populous among East-Central European NATO members and plays the key role in the new NATO doctrine of putting pressure on Russia in the North. It is also the  most important ally of the pro-NATO government in Ukraine and is actively engaged in assisting the Kiev side in the civil war. The fact that the next NATO Summit will take place in Warsaw in July 2016 was likely also the topic of discussion.

Stoltenberg's second trip exposed even more clearly the contours of a logic that has the encirclement of Russia as its main driving force. It was a two-day trip to Turkey on October 9-10, 2014. Just like Poland in the North, Turkey is the most important NATO member in the South. At the same time, due to its numerous internal problems and imperial historical tradition, Turkey is the most "troublesome" of all NATO allies. We have witnessed the exponential increase in the hostilities between Turkey and Russia within the last year, linked, primarily, to the Russian military intervention in Syria, but also to the situation in Crimea and the general Black Sea region. It is worth remembering that Russia and Turkey have fought a long series of wars in the past centuries and that this region has now once again become one of the most explosive places in the world.

This was not Stoltenberg's only visit to Turkey so far. He visited it much more recently on April 21-22, 2016 and this should be taken as an indicator of the further deterioration of the Russo-Turkish relations. At the same time, Stoltenberg visited the squadron of NATO ships based in the Aegean Sea, the official purpose of which is to monitor the refugee situation, but which at the same time keeps a very close watch on the Russian navy activity in the area.

Every time Stoltenberg visits Turkey, he also has to visit Greece in order to appear fair to both NATO members which have a lot of unresolved issues, including the division of Cyprus. Hence he visited Greece right after Turkey on both occasions, the first time on October 30, 2014, and the second time on April 22, 2016. Recently, Greece has intensified relations with Russia as  exemplified in the May 2016 visit of the Russian president Vladimir Putin. Of extreme importance in this respect was Putin's visit to the Orthodox monastic community on Mount Athos.[6] This Christian Orthodox connection may turn out to be the eventual undoing of NATO, but that is a topic that requires a separate studious treatment.

Stoltenberg also visited two ongoing NATO operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo. He visited Afghanistan twice, first, quite early in his tenure on November 6, 2014 (which shows the high priority of this operation), and then on March 15, 2016. He visited Kosovo only once on January 23, 2015. It is very important to note that his visit was officially announced as the visit to the KFOR troops, even though he met with the entire Kosovo Albanian leadership. This was done in order to save NATO itself from an embarrassing and open dissension among its members, considering that four NATO member states do not recognize Kosovo's independence: Spain, Slovakia, Romania, and Greece. This issue remains an Achilles heel of NATO and will no doubt be even more exploited by its opponents in the future.

Moreover, is it surprising that the country most visited by Stoltenberg so far is neither Poland nor Turkey nor the U.K. and the U.S., but Germany? In fact, Germany is the only NATO member state in which Stoltenberg met not only with the leadership, but also addressed the meetings of political parties. He gave a speech at the annual meeting of the conservative Bavarian CSU parliamentary group in Wildbad Kreuth on January 8, 2015 and the social-democrat SPD conference in Berlin on February 8, 2015. This intense focus on Germany shows to what extent the support of German political elites is crucial for the continued existence of NATO. Let's not forget that one of the most concise definitions of NATO was given by its first Secretary General Lord Ismay when he said that the purpose of NATO is "to keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down."[7] Stoltenberg also took part in the Munich Security Conference, the annual gathering of the erstwhile Cold Warriors, on February 6-7, 2015.

Forums and Conferences

In addition to the Munich conference, it is interesting to see which other international conferences and forums were attended by Stoltenberg because this will give us a sense of the network of NATO-friendly international non-governmental organizations. One of these is the Snow Meeting organized every year by the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, which Stoltenberg attended on January 15-16, 2015. Another is the Brussels Forum organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and attended by Stoltenberg on March 20, 2015 and again on March 18, 2016. This not-for-profit organization has been one of the strongest advocates of the NATO expansion in Europe and sponsors the whole variety of activities connected to NATO promotion. One can say that the GMF is one of the most significant tools of NATO soft power. It is financially supported by the German government as well as many corporate sponsors. The close association between the GMF and Stoltenberg is also revealed by the fact that one of his first speeches in office was the address to the GMF in Brussels on October 28, 2015.

Tightly related to the GMF is the POLITICO magazine, considering that its Editor-in-Chief John F. Harris is on the GMF Board of Trustees.[8] And, indeed, Stoltenberg attended the launch party for the European branch of POLITICO in Brussels on April 23, 2015. No doubt that POLITICO is a new addition to the usual suspects of the U.S. public diplomacy (propaganda) warfare in Europe, such as the Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America.

While he was in the U.S. on May 25-27, 2015, Stoltenberg delivered a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) based in Washington, D.C., another think tank whose raison d'être is to promote NATO interests in Europe and beyond. Stoltenberg visited the U.S. on two more occasions, most recently, on April 4-7, 2016. He also took part in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 22-23, 2016.

Non-NATO states

The key part of the job of a NATO Secretary General is to lobby  - using the stick, the carrot, or both - the (remaining) non-NATO states in Europe, the post-Soviet region, North Africa, and the Middle East to closely tie their foreign policy to NATO goals and projects, even if they stop short of becoming actual members. Obviously, the pressure to integrate into NATO is the strongest in Europe and it is therefore not surprising that Stoltenberg visited almost all militarily neutral European states. The first on his list was Finland which he visited on March 4-5, 2015, then came Sweden on November 9-10, 2015, Serbia on November 19-20, 2015, and Switzerland on January 22-23, 2016 (on the occasion of the World Economic Forum in Davos). All these states (barring perhaps Switzerland) are currently under intense propaganda barrage by the external and internal NATO-friendly political forces to give up their traditional military neutrality and join NATO. Stoltenberg's visits were an important component of the carefully designed psychological operation to turn up the heat on the unwilling general population of these states. This is especially evident in the case of Montenegro which Stoltenberg visited twice, first, on June 10-11, 2015 and, then, again on October 14-15, 2015. His visits were used by the Montenegrin regime of Milo Djukanović to increase the popular support for NATO membership. The regime's attempts were not successful as the majority of the Montenegrin citizens still remain opposed to NATO.

Stoltenberg also visited two former Soviet states, Georgia on August 26-27, 2015, and Ukraine on September 21-22, 2015. The ruling elites of both states have become willing collaborators in NATO's Eastern expansion, which turned these states into overt and covert battlefields with Russia. Both the winners and the losers of this NATO-Russia geopolitical chess game are known. The winners are the military-industrial-intelligence complexes and the losers are the ordinary people. On all sides.

It should also be noted that Stoltenberg visited several non-NATO states in the Middle East and North Africa. He visited Jordan on December 8-10, 2014 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the NATO-sponsored organization Mediterranean Dialogue, which includes seven states: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunis.[9] He continued on to Qatar on December 10-12, 2014 to mark another anniversary: the 10th anniversary of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, a NATO-led project that brings together NATO member states and Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Bahrain.[10] Stoltenberg paid another visit to the region more recently. He visited Kuwait on February 29, 2016, Iraq on March 1, 2016, and the UAE on March 2, 2016.

Overall, in the period included in this analysis (October 2014 - June 2016), Stoltenberg made slightly less than 90 trips. His travels expose the expansionist agenda of NATO which shows no intention of slowing down. However, the intention is one thing and its becoming reality quite another.

# # # #

Filip Kovacevic is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

Notes

[1] All the information about Stoltenberg's travels comes from the official NATO website

www.nato.int and concerns the time period from his becoming the Secretary General until early June 2016 when the analysis was conducted.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jens_Stoltenberg

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorvald_Stoltenberg

[4] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29424512

[5] http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=ba6_1413068110

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/putin-visits-orthodox-monastic-community-at-mount-athos/2016/05/28/af53bf56-24d0-11e6-b944-52f7b1793dae_story.html

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/16/opinion/16iht-edwheatcroft16.html?_r=0

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Marshall_Fund

[9] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_60021.htm

[10] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_58787.htm?

 

The Alliance of Neutral States (ANS): Putin’s Anti-NATO Grand Design for the Balkans

Capitalizing on the popular dissatisfaction with the neoliberal Atlanticist political & economic status quo

For about two decades, it appeared that the end of the Cold War in Europe left the Balkan states with no long-term geostrategic option except the so-called Euro-Atlantic integrations underwritten by the ideology known as Atlanticism. This option reached the peak of its strength after NATO's military intervention in the Bosnian conflict in 1995 (which was its first out-of-area military operation since the founding in 1949) and NATO's 78-day long war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999. More covertly, NATO forces also intervened in the Macedonian-Albanian conflict in 2001.

As the result of these offensive military undertakings, Bosnia and Kosovo essentially became NATO protectorates with the civilian administrations being supervised by the EU, while the U.S. military bases and auxiliary facilities were quickly established in both. In addition,  Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Romania became the members of NATO in 2004 and Croatia and Albania in 2009. All remaining Balkan states, surrounded by NATO members from all sides, rapidly developed close military and intelligence linkages with NATO headquarters in Brussels. This process was greatly helped by the fact that the ruling political elites in these states, except to some extent in Serbia and the Serb Republic (a political subunit within Bosnia), openly acted as NATO's agents of influence and advocated membership, even though this contradicted the political will of the majority of the population.

These Balkan political elites have been allowed to compensate for the obvious lack of internal democratic legitimacy by the endless praise from the high-level officials in Brussels, Berlin, Paris, London, and Washington, DC. Organized crime, corruption, lawless privatizations, massive unemployment, widespread poverty and hopelessness have simply been swept under the rug. The typically loud defenders of human rights and the rule of law have looked the other way. Evidently, the Atlanticist end justified all and any "dirty" means. Geography trumped democracy.

Progressive Resistance

It is true that even during this period there were political forces which advocated alternative scenarios, mostly based on the Titoist policy of non-alignment and the "third way" in international affairs. However, their activities were constantly being subverted by the well-oiled,  imported NATO propaganda machinery in the government, in the media, and in the non-governmental sector. Their members were generally young people who were enthusiastic, honest and genuinely committed to the public good, but were plagued by the lack of funding and faced with frequent media blackout and open discrimination. Nonetheless, their programs articulated the most promising and humane geopolitical vision for the Balkans. They conceptualized the Balkans as a territorial bridge between the West and the East rather than as the place of persistent confrontation, or the "line of fire" as formulated by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015.[1] They wanted the Balkans to become a force for peace and human dignity in the world.[2] Their vision still remains the best option for the Balkan peoples.

However, even though these progressive groups still continue to be active with no less enthusiasm than before, they are being increasingly superseded in their anti-NATO efforts by the revival of the once vanquished (and left for dead) U.S. Cold War opponent. Since the beginning of conflict in Ukraine in early 2014, Putin's administration has returned to the Balkans with political force and funding not seen since the days of the tsar Nicholas II.

Enter Putin (in the footsteps of Nicholas II)

It is worth remembering that in summer 1914 Nicholas II entered what came to be known as the WWI in order to protect Serbia and the Serbian people from the Austro-Hungarian invasion. Some political circles in both Russia and Serbia understand the decades-long NATO's military activities in the very same historical key, especially with regard to the status of Kosovo. While the possibility that history will repeat itself in this respect is, thankfully, still far remote, it cannot be denied that recent developments go a long way in creating the ominous atmosphere for the eruption of localized violence in the near future.

These developments all relate to the declining popularity of the Atlanticist geopolitical narrative in the Balkans and the foremost among them is the public articulation of a new Balkan grand design by the Putin administration. Just as the fundamental component of the U.S. grand design for the Balkans is its eventual full integration into NATO, Russia has now articulated a clear and precise counter-design. Instead of joining NATO, the remaining non-NATO Balkan states (Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, and Macedonia) are to form the alliance of neutral states (ANS).

The Lovćen Declaration

What the ANS means in practice can best understood if we examine the first formal document in which it has been articulated. This so-called Lovćen declaration was signed by the representatives of the United Russia party (founded by Putin and currently chaired by the Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev) and the Montenegrin opposition party Democratic People's Party in the historically significant Montenegrin village of Njeguši on May 6, 2016.[3]

Njeguši is the birthplace of the Montenegrin royal dynasty of Petrović-Njegoš which ruled over Montenegro for more than 200 years and developed very close political and family ties with the long-ruling Russian dynasty of Romanovs. Moreover, the declaration was signed in the house in which one of the most famous rulers of the dynasty, Petar II, known as the Montenegrin Shakespeare, was born. The name of the declaration also has an important historical connotation as it comes from the nearby mountain Lovćen on the top of which the Petar II's mausoleum is located.

One of the most powerful political figures in Montenegro, the metropolitan Amfilohije, the chief bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, was present at the signing and gave his blessing. Though in the past Amfilohije has been known to support the authoritarian and pro-NATO prime minister Milo Djukanović around the election time, he has always publicly opposed NATO membership and has given fiery speeches on its "evil nature" to the point of accusing NATO for continuing Hitler's anti-Slavic project.[4]

Even more importantly, Amfilohije's involvement with the Lovćen declaration reveals one of the fundamental components of Putin's overall geopolitical plan - the nurturing and intensification of the religious Christian Orthodox connection between the Russians and the Orthodox peoples of the Balkans. This includes not the Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians, but also the Greeks and Bulgarians whose states are in NATO and whose religious "awakening" can easily subvert NATO from the inside. The strength of this connection and its future implications have seriously been underestimated by the Atlanticist circles. There are clear indications that these circles have been taken by surprise and now, in their first reactions, seek to minimize the importance of Putin's ANS efforts.

The Atlanticist Response

For example, the journalist Gennady Sysoev, Balkan correspondent for the Russian newspaper Kommersant, who is known in Montenegro for his NATO-friendly commentaries, claims that Putin's undertaking is bound to end in failure because the partners of the United Russia in the Balkans are in the political opposition and the ANS goes against the officially proclaimed policies of the Montenegrin and other Balkan governments.[5] However, Sysoev is intentionally silent on the fact that, given the present political instability in Montenegro, Bosnia, and Macedonia, the United Russia's political partners, which, it is true, are now in the opposition, might be able to come to power at some point in the not too distant future. Indeed, they have entered the partnership with Russia's ruling political party precisely because they intend not to be the opposition any longer and expect financial and logistical help from Putin in their electoral political activities. They will hardly be disappointed. The Lovćen declaration spells out in detail all aspects of political, economic, and social relations in which the Russian support will be forthcoming.

The NATO-controlled media in Montenegro quickly seized on Sysoev's article and summarized it under the title "Putin's party relies on marginal figures."[6] The speed of translation and publication suggest the high degree of coordination. However, the title of the article is misleading because the very same method has been used by the U.S. and NATO intelligence services to control the governments of East-Central European states since the collapse of communism. Countless small parties with just a handful of parliamentary deputies were formed with the money coming from the various "black budgets" with the task of entering the governing coalition and then steering the entire government in the direction charted by their foreign founders and mentors. These parties have had minimal public legitimacy, but have made a great political impact with their "blackmail" potential. As they also don't cost very much, the CIA, the MI6, and the BND regularly create them for every new election cycle.

Now the Russians (primarily, the SVR and the GRU) are using the same rulebook for their own geopolitical interests. In addition, however, Putin's grand design for the Balkans embodied in the ANS is also likely to prove durable not only because it builds on the traditional cultural and religious ties linking Russia and the Balkans, but also because it rides on the wave of the enormous present popular dissatisfaction with the neoliberal Atlanticist political and economic status quo.

# # # #

Filip Kovacevic is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=5a7_1425064348 ;  See also my previous BFP article on the destabilization factors in the Balkans, http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2015/03/03/bfp-exclusive-who-is-trying-to-destabilize-the-balkans/

[2] Consider for instance the activities of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro and similar organizations across the ex-Yugoslav political space, http://mnmne.org/

[3] http://ruskarec.ru/politics/2016/05/06/u-crnoj-gori-je-potpisana-lovcenska-deklaracija-sa-jedinstvenom-rusijom_591025

[4] http://www.dan.co.me/?nivo=3&rubrika=Drustvo&datum=2015-07-21&clanak=501981

[5] http://kommersant.ru/doc/2982518

[6] http://www.vijesti.me/vijesti/putinova-stranka-se-oslanja-na-marginalce-887562